Stop and picture Anne of Green Gables for a minute. Chances are, even if you haven’t read the book, you’ll be able to cite Anne’s most defining feature — her bright red hair. My mom read the book aloud to me when I was only five or six, so the stories of Anne’s escapades on Prince Edward Island became ingrained in my imagination early on.
I’ve always felt such an affinity to Anne. She made me proud to be a redhead at an age when it wasn’t very cool. Her spitfire personality infused me with energy. I loved the scene at school when Gilbert Blythe called her “carrots” and she responded by smashing her slate over his head. (There were several times I wished for an old-fashioned slate at school so I could do the very same thing to Derrick Kent when he whispered nasty things. Alas, my only tool of retaliation was my tongue.) Author L.M. Montgomery did a masterful job at entwining Anne’s personality with her hair colour, as if all her feistiness comes directly from the brilliance of her locks.
So the idea of a blond Anne is just ridiculous, yet that’s precisely what a new version of the book portrays on its front cover. Besides the obvious fact that her red hair is such an integral part of the story, the picture is doubly offensive for its blatant sexualization of a children’s book from 1908. The blond girl featured on the cover is sultry, sexy, and buxom, dressed like a cowgirl as she trails fingers through her hair, which is totally out of place, considering that there’s not a speck of sex in the book.
It would appear that someone didn’t read the book before designing the cover, or else they seriously misinterpreted the scene in which Anne does try to dye her hair, with disastrous results. The colour she wanted was raven-black, not blond:
“Anne Shirley, what have you done to your hair? Why, it’s GREEN!”
Green it might be called, if it were any earthly color–a queer, dull, bronzy green, with streaks here and there of the original red to heighten the ghastly effect. Never in all her life had Marilla seen anything so grotesque as Anne’s hair at that moment.
“Yes, it’s green,” moaned Anne. “I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. But now I know it’s ten times worse to have green hair. Oh, Marilla, you little know how utterly wretched I am… I dyed it.”
“Dyed it! Dyed your hair! Anne Shirley, didn’t you know it was a wicked thing to do?”
“Yes, I knew it was a little wicked,” admitted Anne. “But I thought it was worth while to be a little wicked to get rid of red hair.”
I’m angered by the publisher’s decision to give little girls yet another sexy blond heroine — as if that’s what they need. We live in a time when redheads are still bullied and teased at school. There’s even such a thing as “Kick a Ginger Day,” an annual event held every November 20 when people are urged to go out and kick or beat up gingers, inspired by a South Park episode. (There’s even an accompanying website for this movement that I discovered today while researching online — which makes me sick.)
Why we redheads must be deprived of our single most famous female redheaded heroine and have Anne replaced by some ubiquitous blond chick, I don’t know and I don’t like it. I’ll be boycotting that edition for certain and urge everyone else to stand united behind the redheaded Anne that we’ve loved for over one hundred years.