Fans take matters into their own hands

By Anna Stolarek

“We are not here to provoke! We are here to be heard.”

Any fan who has watched Anne with an E can tell you without hesitation that this beautiful yet thought-provoking quote has been said by none other than our most beloved red-haired kindred spirit, Anne Shirley-Cuthbert, in Season 3, Episode 7, titled: “A Strong Effort of the Spirit of Good.” In this particular episode, Anne, her friends and her loved ones stand for what is right, by spreading the word that freedom of speech is a human right. Around that time no one would have predicted that a couple of months later, after the episode aired, this quote would appear on hundreds of fan art and billboards that were created by the fandom, in order to save their beloved show.

In late November, fans from all over the world were struck by the upsetting news that Anne with an E has been cancelled. Netflix and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) decided to announce it right after the last episode aired, giving no official reason for its abrupt end. Could things get any worse than that? Apparently so. Allegedly, cast members of the show admitted that they were also left gobsmacked, as they had found out about everything around the same time as everyone else. No phone calls, no word of pre-warning. Absolutely nothing.

Needless to say, this news caused quite an uproar.

After sending thousands of emails and messages demanding some real answers from the networks, the fans of Anne with an E was met with radio silence. Eventually, CBC and Netflix reached out, but their only response was an apology, stating clearly that the cancellation cannot be undone and that the decision has already been made by the higher-ups.

Although this answer clearly affected the fandom, they refused to give up and pushed onward, simply taking matters into their own hands. It did not take long for hashtags #renewannewithane and #annewithaneseason4 to trend on Twitter, and before they knew it, the cast reached out to show the viewers how much they appreciated their support.

Seeing the messages of approval and sincere gratitude coming from the cast members themselves only seemed to fuel the fandom even more. As a result they became even more persistent, and, before they knew it, they funded their very first promotional billboard, to spread the word about the show. Soon after that, thousands of pictures were posted online with fans posing in front of the billboard at Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown of Toronto, to show just how proud they were of their community. To their utter glee, the cast had made the effort to pose in front of the fan-funded billboard, too, as they were truly touched by the fandom’s unwavering dedication.

From my observations, it appears that the fans of the show are not stopping anytime soon. In fact, their persistence is only increasing day by day. You can see that in the numbers that are proudly presented in an online petition to renew the show. As of right now, they hit over 500,000 signatures, so it is only a matter of time before they officially reach 1 million.

I then talked to Michelle, also known on various social platforms as Mimi1239, who is a university student from Toronto. Her YouTube channel has over 10,000 subscribers, which is not surprising in the least, as anyone who watches her Anne with an E related videos can confirm how much work, love and dedication she is putting into her content. The community that she created is beyond impressive, so, naturally, I was really curious to hear her point of view in regards to the show and its upsetting news.

Out of sheer curiosity, I asked her whether she expected the cancellation or was she genuinely shocked by the news, as there was a fair number of people who had a gut feeling that something like that would eventually occur.

“A bit of both actually,” she admitted to me. “Since I had only just watched the final episode of Season 3 before finding out it was cancelled on Instagram. I did think the conclusion seemed like it could be the ending of the show, however I felt that way about Season 2 ending as well. Both seasons had a somewhat uplifting finale with the potential of exploring more topics and storylines with a fresh new season.” She added: “The issue with Season 3 ending is the way they glossed over the bigger plot line which was the Indigenous and residential schools storyline arc. It was only subtly mentioned once in the last episode, and therefore it made me feel like that couldn’t be the conclusion of Ka’kwet and her family; so when I found out it was, I was shocked.”

The residential school issue has been a big topic in Canada, and certainly is not something to be glossed over. The residential school system, an ugly part of Canadian history, began in the late 1800s in an effort to remove Indigenous children from their parents and community in an effort to “kill the Indian in the child,” as it was commonly seen. The last residential school closed in 1996.

When I realized that Michelle went to see the Yonge-Dundas Square billboard that the fans had created and paid for, I had to ask her how she felt at that given moment. As I expected, she went through a rollercoaster of emotions that day.

“I felt hopeful and ecstatic,” she said. “I always love seeing the show being promoted in such a big way. I don’t believe there were any billboards in Dundas Square for the CBC premiere of Season 3, so the fact that fans were willing to put their hard earned money into funding one just demonstrates how dedicated and passionate they are for the show to be renewed. There were four fan funded billboards that they managed to put up in total. I saw three of them in person. Each of them had me in awe. They were so beautiful.” She continued: “I went with my sister to go check the first billboard and I filmed a mini vlog which is up on my channel. I couldn’t stop taking pictures with it even though it was super cold that day.” She chuckled, clearly looking back on that memory with fondness.

It was very clear to me that a lot of fans are still very much involved in their campaign and they refuse to give up on the show anytime soon. One can easily see their dedication by taking a look at the numbers on the petition pushing to renew the show. Still, I had to ask Michelle whether in her opinion this movement has a lot of potential, because there are some people who are genuinely convinced that at the end of the day all these virtual signatures are irrelevant numbers on a pixel screen.

“Yes, of course! The numbers are not irrelevant,” she exclaimed. “I think I will only fully lose hope for a renewal when I stop seeing people tweeting about it daily on my Twitter feed. The movement can only persist with the continuous dedication of fans, but also realistically after that, it is the job of the people in higher up positions at Netflix, CBC or any other streaming service/network to recognize that Anne with an E still has the potential to continue telling its stories.” She went on: “With the high demand for a Season 4 that is very evident right now, especially with the petition reaching thousands of signatures every day, I think anything is possible.” She had a good point there.

Finally I asked her how she would describe Anne with an E to someone who has not seen it before and what makes it so different from other shows, as there is a fair number of people who are unmistakably intrigued by the show, due to its successful promotion by the fandom.

 “I would call it a reimagined version of the classic and idealistic Anne of Green Gables story,” she said. Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, is a classic in Canadian literature, first published in 1908. “The beginning of the show will intrigue you with its gritty and realistic portrayals” of life on Prince Edward Island, a province in eastern Canada, in the late 1800s, she noted. “It’s about a feminist icon that interacts and explores the marginalized areas that are not paid attention to in the source material. I feel that there is an underlying tension between modernism and anti-modernism which still holds relevancy in today’s world. Its depiction of this while being set in the Victorian era is what I believe sets it apart from other current shows.”

I highly recommend all of you to check out Michelle’s channel in your spare time. Her social media accounts and the petition itself is linked below. If you are a huge fan of TV show theories, light-hearted humour and community interaction then surely you will find her content interesting.

So, is it all really worth it? It appears so. The fandom’s power is undeniably strong. We find ourselves in a new reality, where one cannot simply leave their home because they feel like it. Now, most people are stuck inside, binging on their old favourite shows, such as Full House, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Friends, which I cannot blame them for, as they really are incredible shows. But, perhaps we should give another TV series a chance. Try new things and test the waters, since there is no better time than now to give Anne with an E a shot. If you are still unsure about it, perhaps some words of wisdom from Ryan Reynolds and Sam Smith will change your mind. After all, no one would dare question their taste. – Link to the Petition – Michelle’s Channel – Michelle’s Twitter – Michelle’s Instagram – Michelle’s Tumblr