Beloved Canadian, coming-of-age TV series “Anne with an E” was canceled after the third season. This piece of information isn’t news — the story broke in November 2019.
I finished “Anne with an E” (based on the classic “Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery) a few weeks ago. After seeing multiple fan edits on my Tumblr dashboard, I first started watching the series in 2017. The deeply filtered screencaps of the show, along with their overlaid captions, caught my attention with their candid humor and their shockingly beautiful rural landscape. These fan edits, which are incredibly common on social media for many shows, still find their way onto my Instagram explore page, despite me not interacting with any posts about the show or cast.
Many of these posts are recent but still captioned with the hashtag #renewannewithane. How could this movement possibly still be going strong? It’s been over a year, so why do fans continue to petition for its renewal?
“Anne,” later rebranded “Anne with an E” after the first season, focuses on the lives of Anne Shirley-Cuthbert, her friends and her family within the town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, feels intensely personal. As they grow up, Anne and her friends write stories together, discover their sexual identities and lie to their parents. The show introduces young viewers to heavy topics such as child abuse, racism, sexual assault and governmental treatment of Indigenous communities. Still, it maintains an ultimately hopeful tone in a way that resonates with viewers.
In late 2019, Netflix and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation jointly canceled “Anne with an E” because it didn’t do well enough in the “25-54 age range,” cited as the show’s “specific target” — which is odd, considering that “Anne” is a children’s show about tweendom/early-teendom.
For the personal, touching show that is “Anne” to be suddenly canceled for corporate reasons felt ridiculous; its abrupt cancellation caused nothing short of an uproar across social media.
This is a common trend among other canceled beloved shows: In the case of the comedies “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “One Day at a Time,” it only took users (as well as quite a few celebrities) a few days worth of tweets to get NBC’s attention for the former while the latter took a bit longer as Sony looked for the right network to sell the show to. Other famously canceled shows — such as “Sense8” — at least graced fans with a feature film for closure after their own Twitter storms.
And the movement has existed for more than a year; feelings of passion and anger from moderate fans have since burned away, leaving only a small, devoted fanbase that works tirelessly yet struggles to earn significant attention for its cancellation.
They may not be the large, 25-year-old to 54-year-old demographic that Netflix prefers, but this die-hard group watches every episode, creates social media fan accounts and recommends the show to everyone they know. Algorithms be damned — it’s disheartening to see such a beloved show get canceled.
It makes one wonder: Does the number of people campaigning on social media really matter to networks? Or does it depend on who makes the noise?
The majority of people who’ve campaigned for “Anne with an E” are young teenagers — mostly girls. The cast and crew often retweet and repost — having made posts of their own at the time of the cancellation — but the majority of the campaign’s traction comes from the Annes, Dianas, Gilberts, Coles and Ka’kwets around the world.
They’ve been fighting nonstop for the show’s renewal — creating websites with email templates, fan art and even billboards in Times Square. The official website, annenation.com, consistently organizes events and distributes email templates and official data analysis. Even today, while reading through recent comments on the petition, it’s impossible to ignore the voices of young teenagers from around the world who aren’t yet discouraged, convincing themselves that renewing the show is inevitable.
At first, I couldn’t help but find it odd, hopeless and a little annoying: the show was canceled more than a year and a half ago, and it’s clear Netflix will not listen — what more is there to do?
At the top of the Change petition that received upwards of 1.4 million signatures, the author blytheshirley101 writes, “Anne would want us to fight!”
They’re right. She would. In a parallel that feels eerily on-the-nose, season 3, episode 4, follows Anne as she leads a community march to defend her freedom of speech. She speaks explicitly to the old rich white men who oversee the local newspaper who tried to ban her after she wrote a supposedly outrageous feminist piece. The teenager teaches young people to speak up for the things they care about in the ways they know how.
These teenagers not only watched the show, but they live by these core tenets to a T; I feel nothing but respect for the young teenagers leading the movement. Many know all too well what it feels like to be a teenage girl –– to be part of a group that is often overlooked, if not the butt of every joke. Young teenage girls are often pliable to the world around them, and how couldn’t they be? There are expectations in every direction concerning how they should look, behave and act (which is often for the benefit of others), resulting in many feeling powerless.
Whenever I see the line “Anne would have wanted this,” embarrassingly, I get a lump in my throat. “Anne with an E” simply accepts teenagers as they are, flaws and all, and gently encourages them to become more caring, politically-active people. This empathy is what makes “Anne with an E” a piece of art that feels so deeply human; it feels absent from the sensationalism and overt hyper-sexualization of young teenagers so often portrayed in adolescent TV shows.
Instead, “Anne with an E” promotes kindness, political activism, freedom of speech and diversity in a way that resonates with viewers, so much so that they’ve taken to petitioning on social media for years to revive their beloved show or at least receive some closure.
Daily Arts Contributor Meera Kumar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.