The pandemic has caused us, like others, to up our TV screen time. So now, instead of watching the PBS Newshour only on Fridays, mainly to hear Brooks’ and Shields’ latest wisdom, we tune in every night, even sometimes for the half-hour Weekend edition. Then, we’re finding our way to our Apple TV clicker way more than in the good, old pre-Covid days. Mainly we go to Netflix. First there was Outlanders—who can resist the steamy romance of Jamie and Clare?—then Unorthodox, and now we’re a third the way through Season 2 of Anne with an E, the newish CBC-Netflix screen version of Anne of Green Gables.
Most of the episodes so far turn on Anne’s PTSD-based concern that her red hair and freckles make her ugly. In the last one we saw, she used the supposedly black hair dye bought from a friendly Russian-Jewish peddler to try to solve the first problem. Instead, her hair turned green! “Don’t be so vain, child! Her adoptive mother, Marilla, instructs her when Anne finally shows herself. Marilla is not wrong, of course. Still, Anne has spent most of her 14 years being taunted for her looks. (In reality, she’s adorable.) So you can’t blame her for her sensitivity.
Contemporary Western culture is similarly dominated by concern for outer glory—not only in looks but fancy houses, financial assets, success, and fame as well. Spiritual maturity suggests that we should lay up our treasure elsewhere. If I were Anne’s adoptive parent, I would first say that (1) she is really cute, (2) she is really nice, and (3) she is super-smart. As her classically beautiful best friend, Diana, tells her, “I would trade my looks for your brains and feel that I had gotten away cheaply.” Then I would add, “Dear Anne, you are already beautiful inside. Look how you defended Cole, your schoolmate horribly teased by the other kids for such betrayal of gender as preferring drawing to playing sports.”
In a world that idolizes superficial things, we should remember that the inner always trumps the outer—a verb I use intentionally. Consequently, we should spend our time and effort on beautifying not our bodies only but mainly our minds, hearts, and souls.
Let’s work to develop eyes as clear and shining as those of our baby great-goddaughter, Maddy Cronin.