Due in part to Project Gutenberg and a lot of boring temp jobs, I’m more than passingly familiar with the Anne of Green Gables series. It’s fun, and I feel like it holds up well as an adult, or at least that you can derive amusement out of it from different angles. (Like, the secondary protagonist in Anne’s House of Dreams has *all* the angsty backstory. Seriously. It’s like she was created in a Victorian chicklit version of the Traveler system.) (For those less geeky and old than me.)
Netflix announced a series based on the book, and I liked that idea; I’d seen the original miniseries and liked it, but wasn’t super attached. (A child of the Disney era, I’m pretty chill about remakes as a rule.) Make it a gritty exploration of the orphan-workhouse-bizarro-Victorian life? Sure, why not? I’m decent at viewing the original as separate from the film version.
So I watched three episodes. The storyline wasn’t bad (one character was *way* more about The Feels than she should have been at that point in the narrative, and I do not love how people who turn historical fiction into cinema think we’re all incapable of understanding emotional nuance; like, I can get that people are feeling things even if they don’t go up to eleven when expressing them, KIERA KNIGHTLY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) and the costumes and setting were great.
And then…the dialogue in Episode 3.
“Feminism” in 18whatever I can fanwank–it got used in France in 1857, Canada has a big French population, sure, I’ll roll with it.
And then a Victorian schoolboy says “Hey, buddy, how’s it going?” to another, and I cringed. Because: no. Slang changes. Dialects change. Pre-teens in the nineteenth century shouldn’t sound like the fratboys of my undergrad days. THAT IS NOT HOW LANGUAGE WORKS.
I thought, okay, maybe it’s a fluke, everyone makes a mistake…so I rolled with it, until fifteen minutes later, when the word “homeschooling” got used like we were watching the Real Housewives of fucking Marin County.
People: I don’t demand complete historical accuracy. I’m fine with costuming and hair erring on the “looks good” rather than “exactly as it was, complete with stupid fashions” end. If you’re working with Middle English or Vikings or other sources from times when we don’t know how people actually spoke and/or it was super alien, you get more latitude–and I’m not inclined to care that much about ten or twenty years’ difference either way.*
But when you have recorded dialogue that a modern audience could easily understand, and you choose instead to use words from a clear hundred years in the future, either a) you’re lazy as hell, or b) you think your audience is stupid. I’m not fond of either quality in a scriptwriter.
*Though the editorial department at Sourcebooks is great about letting me know when my vocabulary is jarringly out-of-time, and their resource does seem to hit within the ten-or-twenty year mark, even for medieval stuff. They have Skills, those people.