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YMMV / The Secret Garden

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The book:

  • Anvilicious, but Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The book takes several Author Tracts towards the end to smack the idea of "Go outside and run around in the fresh air, and if you think you're ill it'll make you ill and if you think you're healthy it'll make you healthy, and believe in the Magic!" But then again, who can wholeheartedly argue with that kind of Aesop?
  • Designated Hero: Mary's harshness towards Colin is presented as right, because he changes afterwards, but most, if not all of what she says, is as applicable to her, as it is to him. Also, in the film version, when Mrs Medlock blames Martha for letting her in, Mary doesn't say the truth, that Martha had nothing to do with it, and actually tried to stop her. It is Colin who orders Medlock out. To be fair, even Medlock's not complete Jerkass as she clearly does care about him and her duty.
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  • It Was His Sled: On the first time through the book, Colin's existence is quite a shock.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Colin and Mary both, pre-Character Development. They're spoiled brats and rude to everyone around them. But that's only because they've never been shown love from their parents and have grown up essentially alone. Through others being kind to them, they are able to become nicer people.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The mere fact that Mary spent who knows how long wandering around an estate full of dead people, not realizing what's even going on. If the soldiers hadn't showed up, she might well have starved, surrounded by decaying corpses.
  • Toy Ship: A three-way version. Mary has Ship Tease with both Dickon and Colin. She's not paired with either, allowing shippers to fill in the blanks for themselves.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • In 1911, The British Empire was in full swing, and it shows in this book. Indian people are referred to as "blacks" and they're considered less respectable than white people. The narration even refers to Mary having used violence against her servants in the past.
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    • On a less serious note, Mary, a ten-year-old girl, is often and bluntly referred to as "ugly" by both the narrator and other characters and often to her face. Also, compare the approving references to her getting "fatter" (i.e. healthier and less scrawny) with today's concerns with obesity.
    • Mrs. Medlock, and even some of the more sympathetic characters like Martha and Mrs. Sowerby, also often refer to Mary as sour, contrary, or with adjectives that indicate a perpetually bad attitude. One wonders how much self-fulfilling prophecy played into her character.
    • Also, this: "She used the wrong Magic until she made him beat her." Ben Weatherstaff mentions a woman in the local village who nagged her husband until he beat her up and left for the pub. Colin's response is that she used the "wrong Magic" and Ben agrees.
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    • More a case of Society Marches On, but we're supposed to see Mary - at least through Martha's eyes - as dysfunctional and hopelessly coddled because at the advanced age of nine she never goes anywhere by herself. In the same part of the world now, Mary would be at about the minimum age that children would start going out of sight of home without an adult.
  • Values Resonance:
    • Mary's treatment of her Indian servants - including getting violent towards them - is used to illustrate her as a Spoiled Brat. Martha also scolds Mary for her racist attitudes when she gets angry that Martha thought she would be an Indian. That's not to mention that it's implied that bringing a little girl up to believe that she's inherently superior to those around her - even her caretakers - is what made Mary so dysfunctional in the first place.
    • The book is also surprisingly ahead of its time for criticising neglectful parenting among upper class families. Both Mary and Colin are spoiled and dysfunctional because they've essentially never been raised by a proper parent. Mary's parents ignored her and had her servants take care of her - and as a result she grew up into a cold little brat, with huge abandonment issues. The story shows that even non-malicious neglect can still cause problems. Lord Craven is just too afraid to care for Colin in case he dies like his mother - but the lack of attention he showed his son still had a negative effect on him. The story points out that children do need love and proper care from their families - in an era where upper class children would still be sent to nannies and governesses, and treated more as heirs to pass property onto.
  • Wangst: Colin is like this until Mary gives him a good talking-to.

The various adaptations:

  • Adaptation Displacement:
    • Some details from the 1993 film are sometimes taken as happening in the book - such as Mary's parents dying in an earthquake rather than cholera, and Medlock being an overbearing caretaker.
    • The musical's Adaptational Name Change of Lilias to Lily makes some people assume that Harry Potter's Lily must be named after her, since both characters are Missing Moms and Lost Lenores.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The 1987 version uses Chopin's Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72, #1 as its theme music.
    • The 1993 film has some very beautiful theme music, too.
    • The score for the 1975 miniseries? Yeah—freaking awesome.
    • "Lily's Eyes" and the various Storms in the musical version.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The 1993 film has a scene where Colin is taking photos of Mary and Dickon on the garden swing. When they look into each other's eyes rather lovingly - for too long - Colin angrily says "hey!" and looks furiously jealous. A love triangle between Mary, Dickon and Colin is never explored, Mary doesn't show romantic interest in either boy again and the incident isn't mentioned again. The very next scene has the children playing happily together only a few minutes later.
  • Designated Villain:
    • The 1993 film and the anime series designate Mrs. Medlock as an overbearing caretaker, even though in the book her initial antagonism fades as the narrative progresses. Although, even in the 1993 movie, she genuinely believes her treatment of Colin is what he needs to make him better, while Mary probably does need to learn to be more self-sufficient and less spoilt. Also, she, like everyone else, is moved to tears at the climax.
    • The musical designates Neville Craven, a doctor whom Mary accuses of wanting Colin to die so he can inherit his brother's estate – while it's never stated whether this is true or not, he's still the primary antagonist. In the book, he is in fact a deeply caring man who took up medicine to help his older brother.
    • The anime series not only does this to Medlock, but creates a character for this: Max Hawkins. He actually turns out to be a decent person once we get to know him, but he was badly broken in the past and thus he can't forgive Archibald Craven for his Break the Cutie experiences.
  • Die for Our Ship:
    • The 1987 film has a bit of this outside of the story. Since the film makers made it so Colin and Mary aren't related, they had to get rid of Dickon. The only way to do that was to kill him.
    • The sequel to the 1987 version Back to The Secret Garden also does this when Dickon gets a fair bit of mention from Martha and Mary as he died in the war before the end of the last film resulting in Mary and Colin ending up married.
    • The 1993 version gives Dickon a Happy Ending, although the Ship Tease between Mary and Dickon and Mary and Colin gets a more Ambiguous Ending.
    • Speaking of Back to The Secret Garden, Lizzie Buscana is a Heartwarming Orphan who travels to Mistelthwaite Manor from America at Lady Mary Craven's request to take the place of one of the orphan's now living at the manor in desperate need of surgery at an American hospital. When Lizzie arrives she quickly gains two Love Interests in the form of Robert and Steven, orphans who now live and go to school at Misselthwaite Manor.
    • Ship Tease ensues, particularly between Lizzie and Robert the Belligerent Sexual Tension becomes more obvious over time to the point where Everyone Can See It.
    • Lizzie's new friend Geraldine, a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who later turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, actually spurs on the plot by encouraging Steven to take the blame for Lizzie when she steals her Orphan's Plot Trinket, the key to the Secret Garden, from Martha Sowerby's desk drawer.
    • Lizzie and Robert become an Official Couple during their Fetch Quest to find the original door to the Secret Garden which was replaced when Martha Sowerby was unable to find it after Mary left for America with Colin.
  • Funny Moments:
    • Mary's deadpan reactions to Martha the maid's enthusiasm in the 1993 film. Most notably, when Martha deliberately leaves Mary's turtleneck unfolded over her face.
    Mary: Let me out of here.
    She pulls the neck down.
    Mary: What do you think you are doing?
    Martha: Ah there you are, Miss Mary. I wondered where you'd gone.
    • And then Martha puts a hat over Mary that falls into her eyes. Mary deadpans "I can't see."
    • It's both funny and Awesome when Mary tells Colin off because no one else has. He tries to justify his Wangst by saying he's ill, but Mary remarks "no one ill could scream like that."
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • In any of the film adaptations, Mary walking through the house to find Colin can be deeply unsettling. The 1987 version takes this Up to Eleven with scary music and a lightning storm raging outside the manor — and let's not forget the cutaways to the light playing off of the dark, ugly statues.
    • There's also the opening from that same movie, where Mary's wandering through a house where everyone except her is dead or dying from cholera, and she doesn't even understand what's happening. Special mention goes to the lingering shot on Mary's dying parents, with their faces twisted up in pain.
    • The 1993 film replaces the cholera epidemic with an earthquake. The scene built around said earthquake, while short, could still be a case of Nightmare Fuel.
    • The 1993 film also gives Medlock a very creepy Leitmotif.
    • The Dreamers in the musical, especially in the various Storm songs.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Colin in the 1949 adaptation is Al.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The 1993 film has a sequence where Mary in her first morning wanders around Mistelthwaite and finds her aunt's room. She hears crying and Medlock shouting "Martha!" - which turns out to be Foreshadowing that Colin is hidden away in the house.
  • The Woobie:
    • The '93 movie gives us a dream sequence of a toddler Mary being abandoned by her mother in the jungle, and crying piteously. It's pretty heartbreaking.
    • You could consider that scene to be foreshadowing for the end of the movie, when Colin and his dad run off through the garden and leave Mary alone. That's what finally drives her to tears.
    • The anime series gives us the Canon Foreigner Camilla. She and her mother were hated for being Roma, then her mother dies, later Lillias takes Camilla in as her lady-in-waiting and she falls for her young accountant Hawkins... and loses them both, so she has to leave the Craven's manor while being accused of killing Lillias since she got up the tree to get her a gorgeous flower as a birthday gift. She is epically broken, and it's a miracle she doesn't commit suicide or something and remains kind to Mary.


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