When I first saw the new—and suddenly buzzed about —cover for the reissue of the classic series Anne of Green Gables, my mind went instantly into cynical and jaded mode with reflex speediness. I flashed to the classic (okay, well feminist classic) No Comment photos. Because, let’s face it, someone in the marketing world decided to “rebrand” Anne in ways that anyone who knows the books will find offensive.
How bad is it? It’s pretty darn terrible, that’s how bad.
The books, as described in someone’s Amazon review:
“The Anne of Green Gables Series is a wonderful collection of tales about a bright, spirited, lovely young woman.”
The reviewer offers five stars and the promise that the books are great for girls, boys and adults, too.
The Anne on the new cover is seated in a chest-first manner and appears to have had her hair not only styled, but also airbrushed. Come-hither Anne is no rugged country girl. Nor is the “real” Anne blonde.
So now we’ve got: One Green Gable? Avonlea 90210?
It’s possible that like so many inappropriate messages kids and teens get there could be some enterprising teen protesting—as happened with Seventeen Magazine last year, for example, when a plea for more realistic depictions of young women was met (after a great deal of pressure was exerted). The “No Photoshop” pledge was largely due to determined efforts by a fantastic eighth-grader named Julia Bluhm.
I hate to imagine that teenagers have to fight for every image they see—or don’t see. As much as I flipped to the No Comment photos first when Ms. Magazine arrived, the truth is that mindset—look how terrible and maybe we can shame x company to change for the better—is really an exhausting one. It’s not the way I wish for my sons and daughter to have to see the world (obviously, I am grooming them to do just that, though; advertisers and marketers and the machines of sports, Hollywood and even politics determine that they must be literate, grumpy media consumers if they are to consume at all).
The idea that if we just “sexy-up” the book’s cover it’ll become that much more appealing is so assaultive to the book’s merits, the intelligence of girl (and boy) readers and almost to the act of reading itself. It’s like saying that you can’t read a book unless you are lured into the mundane act by the promise of a little sex appeal. We—and our girls and boys—are so much better than that.
Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain Child Magazine, Huffington Post and Salon, amongst others. She keeps a personal blog, Standing in the Shadows. Follow her on twitter–@standshadows