How does one even begin to write about Anne and Diana? Anne of Green Gables (the book and the film) is a sacred text for a certain type of bookish woman. There are rituals and invocations; there are chants to recite (Carrots, bosom friends, puffed sleeves; carrots, bosom friends, puffed sleeves); there is the Holy Land of Prince Edward Island. “Femslash” is the first Google auto-fill after searching “Anne Diana.” Megan Followes herself ships them.
(A brief aside about romantic friendships and Boston marriages: they existed. They provided a lovely cultural context! For a modern example, see She’s My Person: Christina Yang, Meredith Grey, and The Real Love Story of Grey’s Anatomy. Sometimes the existence of romantic friendships is tossed about to explain away the possibility of historical same-sex relationships, which I find both silly and boring. See also: We’re Just Really Good Friends (I Mean I Love Her But I Don’t Love Love Her Or Anything): The Story of Mallory’s First Girlfriend.)
One of the problems (“problems”) with non-canonical slash pairings is deciding what to do with the original love interest. I have no answers here. I like Gil terribly well (let us all agree to leave the strange old man from Anne of Avonlea well out of it). He says “sorry” in a deeply and pleasantly Canadian fashion. He dresses like a lesbian, which is a quality I find very charming in a man. He and Anne care for each other very much; if I could create two Annes, one for Gilbert and one for Diana, I would.
But since I cannot, I must throw my lot in with Anne/Diana. Anne loves Gilbert — he is smart and wry and will always get in math fights with her for school medals — but he does not inspire in her the sort of ardency and longing that Diana does. With Gilbert, Anne is content to be peacefully and quietly loved. With Diana, Anne becomes a gentleman:
(It does not hurt, by the way, that Anne spends a great deal of the latter half of Green Gables looking quietly attractive in menswear.) The way Anne pursues Diana bears all of the hallmarks of courtly love: she is instantly smitten by the dark hair and quiet manner of her lady, she pursues her recklessly and vehemently. When they are separated (damn that cordial; damn Diana’s weak lips and weaker liver), she grows sick and pale and only half herself. She finds tokens and signals and signs to keep in constant contact with Diana. She is the fervent Tristan to Diana’s rapturous Isolde.
Diana, for her part, loves Anne unceasingly and without needing to understand her. She is not good in school the way Anne and Gil are; she is not a writer; she is completely and perfectly herself. She supports Anne’s work wholeheartedly, even if she does not always grasp the finer points of it (the baking soda contest comes to mind). They cling to each other. They improve each other. Through Diana Anne finds hope of refinement and of smoothing her more impulsive edges; through Anne Diana is made bold and wild and happy. They walk by the sea together. Anne walks by the sea with no one else.
Anne’s sick and desperate face upon hearing that Diana is marrying the meek and worthless Fred (I love Bruce, but you must admit he was not fit to untie Anne’s shoelaces) says everything. Diana goes through with the wedding, but she kisses Anne first. Anne was always first.