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In Episode 3, Anne With An E Strikes Back
Mean tweens get the best of our plucky heroine in 'But What Is So Headstrong As Youth'?
Throughout human history, certain things have always been true, like the fact that no one can be as cruel as tween girls. Tweens have an innate talent for being mean, no matter what century they're in. This unfortunate truth is something that Anne Shirley learns firsthand when she starts school in Avonlea.
Anne is obviously no stranger to the cruelty of others, having been tormented by older kids in the orphanage, to say nothing of the horrible treatment she received from families she lived with before the Cuthberts took her in. But Anne has never attended a proper school before and is unprepared for the catty, cliquey horrors that await her.
It's immediately clear that the other children have been instructed to be wary of Anne. Even sweet Diana Barry, who has sworn to be Anne's best friend forever, isn't allowed to walk with her to school. When Anne arrives at the schoolhouse, Diana introduces her to her gaggle of girlfriends, but not all the girls are as welcoming as Diana: they mock Anne's plain dress and make snide comments about her past. But Anne takes it in stride.
Later, through one of the school's windows, Anne and Diana spy their teacher and one of the older girls, Prissy Andrews, huddled together in a back room. The teacher puts his hand on Prissy's, and Anne declares to Diana that the pair must be having "intimate relations." Anne, always the loquacious one, tells Diana that one of her foster moms told her that all men have a "pet mouse" in their pants and how, if you touch it, you'll have a baby. (Is this this grossest metaphor for sex ever? Quite possibly.)
Armed with the hottest gossip in school, Anne and Diana are quick to tell the other girls what they saw. Anne again states her ideas about "intimate relations" and mouse-petting. The school's resident mean girl Josie Pye prods Anne about how she would know about such things. Anne says that she often heard her foster parents having intimate relations and never knew how to interpret the sounds they made while they were having them. Clearly scandalized, the other girls pick up their lunches and move away from Anne. As they get up to go, Josie calls Anne "filthy trash." You can see that Anne can't quite tell what she did wrong. Diana goes after them in attempt to smooth things over, but the damage is done.
The next day, on her walk to school, Anne is accosted by Prissy's younger brother, who threatens to beat her up for spreading lies about his sister. He's getting ready to hit her when Gilbert Blythe, another boy from their school, shows up. Gilbert defuses the situation and asks a rattled Anne if she's okay. Gilbert, who's been travelling with his father, hasn't heard about Anne or her checkered past, but despite his best efforts, Anne refuses to talk to him the entire way to school. They enter the schoolhouse together, which throws the other girls into a tizzy. It turns out that one of Josie's friends, Ruby, has a crush on Gilbert, and none of the other girls is allowed to speak to him: Ruby has dibs. Anne really cannot catch a break with this crew.
During class, Anne is called on to read and, Anne being Anne, she gives a grand, dramatic reading instead of stumbling through the text as her classmates do. Instead of making the other kids see how imaginative and passionate Anne is, the reading only serves to alienate her further.
As she sits in the schoolyard by herself, bumming hard, Gilbert approaches her again, offering her an apple from his family's orchard. Anne tells him that she's not supposed to talk to him, and hurries away.
Gilbert, befuddled and frustrated by Anne's refusal to engage with him, tries one last-ditch approach -- throwing things at her and taunting her, a classic schoolboy move if there ever was one. He slips out of his desk and goes over to Anne's, pulls her hair, and calls her "Carrots."
And that's when Anne snaps. In this one moment, all of her insecurities and frustrations bubble over.
"I'm not talking to you!" yells Anne. Gilbert, who seems only mildly bemused for someone who was just hit in the face, retorts, "You just did."
Anne has a shorter fuse than most -- she's a redhead, after all -- and it was only a matter of time before the kids at school pushed her to her breaking point. But, I can't help wishing that the subject of Anne's chalky vengeance had been that little monster Josie Pye. But maybe that's just my inner tween talking.