When did Anne of Green Gables become a pin-up girl? A recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featured four covers of classic works of literature which have received sexy makeovers. Granted, the new covers do indeed pack a lot of eye-appeal, but how far is too far when it comes to creating book covers that inaccurately represent a book’s content?
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The new Anne of Greene Gables cover drew the strongest, and most vehement, response from me. As a girl, and into my early 20’s, I read and connected with this series of stories which revolves around a spirited orphan and her journey of personal growth. A little research revealed a self-publisher was responsible for the wildly-off base cover which has since been removed from Amazon, though the wildly entertaining reactionary reviews remain:
This is nuts, offensive even. That cover image has to be a joke.
The “Updated” cover of this product is terrible. First of all, Anne has red hair. RED HAIR. It’s a key part of her character and is a strong influence on her words and actions. Secondly, Anne is 10 at the start of the series. What is up with the bedroom eyes? Did they just do a Google image search for Sexy Farmgirl? Does anyone publishing this book have any idea of what the stories are actually about?
I can’t wait to read about what this chick gets up to. Great boobs and blondes have more fun, I believe.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Nor did the chick-lit appeal of The Bell Jar’s new cover sit well with me. A woman’s descent into depression can hardly be conveyed by the need to gaze into one’s make-up compact. Some online sleuthing led to a page on GalleyCat which showcases numerous parody covers created in reaction to The Bell Jar cover produced by Faber, a UK publisher, to commemorate the book’s 50th anniversary.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The obviously Twilight-inspired cover for Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte struck me as lacking originality and pandering to the masses. I may only dabble in gardening, but I doubt many withered roses are to be found on the windy Scottish highlands. Plus it made me a little sickened to see the novel touted as “Edward and Bella’s favorite book.” Still, I found this re-imagining of a classic cover the least offensive.
Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
My reaction to the new cover for Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day drew a neutral response. Perhaps because I do not readily connect to her writing style when it comes to fiction, although I absolutely love her essays. The new cover just feels a little too America’s Next Top Model inspired.
What’s your reaction to the cover comparisons given here? Do other examples of sexified covers come to mind?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2013.
I could not agree more. This is a slap in the face to the authors of these classics and the readers who love them. It is also deceptive and misleading to new readers unfamiliar with these classics.
Yvonne, more so than the other three covers, I bet the Anne of Green Gables cover was done to purposely cause an uproar. Which is just sad that any clever designer can take a work that is no longer copyrighted and put a misleading cover on it to make a few quick dollars before reader uproar gets it yanked from Amazon’s shelves.
Do you get the idea neither the artists nor the product managers have read these books?
As reprints of classics, their editors and authors are long gone. Only their fans know what they are about — or care.
Al, I definitely get the sense there is a disconnect between much of the media produced and those who consume it. Authenticity when it comes to intent and design seems less of a priority all the time.
The claim of Bella and Edwards favorite book, screams more of desperation than anything else. For me it is the worst change of these covers by its blatant referrence to pop culture.
I guess the question would be, why are they trying so hard to placate the masses? Instead of letting the works stand on their own merit, they are telling people how to think.
Jon, I felt the same way upon seeing Bella and Edward’s names plastered across the book. Unfortunately, pop culture will always rule the day… On the flip side, some readers will get tuned into “better” literature based on these sexy covers, not that I’m happy about these covers one bit 🙁
I agree. Why do they have to change everything? I don’t think the covers should be changed by anyone but the author. I love Wuthering Heights and the new cover looks ridiculous. I’m surprised they didn’t wrap a tie around the rose. There are some things in life that shouldn’t be tampered with and that is classic literature, classic music and…Mary Janes.
Denise, I too have the same feeling regarding classic literature. To vamp-up the covers so they appear contemporary really does not do any justice to the contents in any way shape or form.
My goodness these are all terrible. Every single one is completely inappropriate & deserves to be on the pulp pile. This kind of sexist bs just really irritates me. Pretty nifty image changing on your site though. Very cool. And perfect for this purpose. Really interesting post Jeri. Thanks for showing up this issue for the tacky stuff they are trying to foist on us.
A.K., sexist and irritating are most certainly apt descriptions for these covers. I’m glad you like the slideshow I used to feature each cover. I’ve been trying to find ways to better feature images in my posts since I tend to use to many.
I burst out laughing at the Anne of Green Gables cover, I thought it was a parody. The only thing the model on the cover has in common with the Anne that I remember is that she’s female. Imagine the surprise new readers will encounter when they get to the stories so poorly portrayed by the covers. Fortunately, the surprise should be a pleasant one.
Debra, The Anne of Green Gables does smack of parody. The irate reviews on Amazon regarding this cover are well worth the read!
I didn’t realize I had an opinion about updated, modern, sexified covers until I saw Anne of Green Gables, a book I am about to re-read. The whole point of that book is for young women to relate to the principal character and I certainly didn’t think of myself as a vamp at 13. Got some interesting discussions going, but, I agree with the consensus, what were they thinking?!
Carol, plus the vamp on the Green Gables cover is far from 13!
You’re right about the sexed up covers, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Just look at the outfits that our high school co-eds are wearing to the prom these days. Prom? What is this word? Certainly nothing bearing any relationship to the sexed up galas masquerading as… All right.. all right…shut up pops and put your teeth back in. I think of classics as being books that I have never even considered starting let alone finishing. Not that I shouldn’t at least start them. That’s the operative word: should. Books I should read if I were anything but the lout that I really am. “Name one mouth breather,” someone says. Dante’s Inferno. Wonderful book for the ages. But alas, not for me.
Larry, your comment reminds me of the first and only prom I chaperoned. Even the students from the rural community dressed liked it was show-your-flesh week, so I guess you’re right. None of us should be surprised by these covers at all.
Good grief, is nothing sacred? It does such an injustice to the book’s contents. I understand the need to draw the current generation to these amazing books, but I’m not sure its necessary to go that far. Just my thoughts. 🙂
Susan, one thing I tend to like about literary works and classic literature is how the covers tend to resist falling prey to current trends of most genre fiction, but I guess maybe that approach is going out the window. Next thing we know, covers will look more and more like the cover of Maxim magazine in an attempt to lure more male readers!
The Anne of Green Gables cover is god awful. It reminds me of an ad for a dating service or something. And how sad that they resort to referencing the Twilight series to help sell a classic. I really don’t think they need to market these books this way. It’s sad really.
Karen, if I was still in the classroom I would love to take a poll from students who have not read these books in order to get their opinion.
I actually get filled with anger at this kind of thing; so much so that I have to contain my response. The need to ‘sex up’ classics says so much more about our society today than simply what these book covers suggest; it seems if a book, or many things for that matter, is not about sex or vampires or zombies or even romance related – it’s a story, or otherwise, not worth looking at. And picking up about what you said about it possibly introducing good literature to unsuspecting readers, hmmm… can’t help but think when they quickly realize the cover has absolutely no correlation to the story, that the writing’s actually intelligent and God forbid might make you have to think, they’ll be abandoned in favour for one with a various shades of grey jacket written by someone with absolutely no creative writing training whatsoever.
Incidentally, here in Vancouver, the local news-team did a segment on the new Anne – all, without fail, unable to conceal their disgust at the changes to this Canadian icon. It’s absolutely offensive – what next; Huckleberry with abs?
SP, Huckleberry Finn with ripped abs is probably definitely in the works! While cover artists are at it, they may as well morph him into a vampire or werewolf hybrid 😉
My first reaction is – What the hell. Especially with Anne of Green Gables. It would be interesting to read their rationale for doing something so stupid and i bet many who buy because of the cover will be surprised when they start reading. Dumb idea.
Susan, I can only imagine how more and more classic book covers will be re-made with the hopes of appealing to the lowest common denominator. Let’s hope a lot of them won’t be as horrid as what happened to poor Anne…
They are so ridiculous that they are almost funny. My daughter would be appalled by the depiction of Anne of Green Gables. The braids, the red hair, the carefree spirit – hello? Did the publisher read the book?
I won’t be buying any of these. Does it give publishers more sales? That seems to be the reason for this ridiculousness.
Leora, I think you nailed the approach to these sexified covers in one word: ridiculousness.
Wow. I am far from impressed here and shocked I did not know this was occurring. (I feel like I live under a rock to be cliche for a moment.) I am so tired of sexified images. I can’t even watch TV with my boyfriend anymore with out feeling uncomfortable at the images of other women constantly flashing on the screen. I am the least jealous person and I am very secure in my relationship but I feel like the only thing on TV, in magazines, talked about is the female body and it is getting ridiculous.
Mary, you are the second person to refer to how ridiculous it is that women have to put up with all these overtly sexual images. One answer would be to have more women in advertising, but who knows how long that shift will take.
The consensus seems to be bad, bad, bad. And having been told that I resemble Megan Follows (who played Anne of Green Gables for many years on the Canadian series), I take personal offense to being replaced by a sexed-up blond. Bring back the freckles!
Laura, I absolutely loved the Canadian series of Anne of Green Gables. It’s what drew me into the books. Yeah, Anne without freckles is not Anne at all!
Interesting – A classic is a classic and should be left alone.
Jeannette, I agree. Though a classic cover can be updated in a contemporary way, but not like this.
You wonder what they were thinking of when they decided on these covers. No doubt they’ve done focus groups and research to “sex” up the covers so they sell. It’s a pity because they authors aren’t alive to defend themselves. Also, it’s deceiving because readers will be expecting something quite different than the actual content — unless they messed with that, too.
Jeannette, I don’t think the actual content of these books has been changed, just the covers. However, I have caught wind here and there of certain books and fairy tales being written to have a sexier twist. So long as the copyrights are expired, the tales can be twisted as any writer sees fit, which is a bummer since so many of them end up in the wrong hands.
The first two covers are just ridiculous! Just like someone who commented on the Anne of Greene Gables cover, my first thought was, “She’s a red head! And it’s kinda a big deal in the book!”
Adrienne, exactly. How can Anne of Greene Gables be portrayed as a blond? Ugh.
It is just ridiculous. Seems to me that they will turn more people off than gain buyers by going this route. It is really sad…
Cheryl, part me thinks the covers were a ploy for attention and it looks like it worked.
The most difficult thing for a book cover designer is to be unique and original. There is a whole ocean of great book covers with a lot of magnificent ideas. Even if you have seen it all and read it all, no advice can help if you don’t have the “X” factor as a designer. This is why some designers will always stay remembered while others will only be mentioned.
Alexander, agreed though what the X-factor is seems to be quick fickle at times.
I think about every thing Ii wanted to say has been said here… so I’ll settle for how very sad this made me. yes…SAD!!!! There is o use in change just for change’s sake. Seems noting is sacred now. How long before they re-write the very words to make it more appealing to whoever???? Oh I know…copyright infringement but still…you know they’ve thought of it!
Jacquie, I’m sure as the copyrights fade, the very words will be re-written as well. Kinda like what I’ve done with Poe stories 😉 In all honesty though, the way sex is used to sell everything just always makes me shudder.
Some of these covers just seem to completely misrepresent the book. The Bell Jar is the one that struck me. Kind of reminds one of the old saying about not judging a book by its cover.
Ken, exactly. I would be very unlikely to pick up any book with one of these re-vamped covers, but some will be drawn to them thanks to all the attention given to unrealistic beauty expectations.
Clearly a marketing ploy but one that is so misguided that it kind of made me look at it as a joke. Anne of Green Gables never conjured up images of a hottie farm girl to me. On a more serious note though it is very disrespectful to the original book and author.
Tim, yeah I don’t get the hottie farm girl vibe from Anne either 😉
All I can say, is that’s not right. Also, why change Anne of Green Gable into a blonde? I bet the marketing wizards who came up with that, probably have never read a book anyways.
William, but why read books when image is everything? Just joking..