“Misselthwaite Archives” reimagines “The Secret Garden” with a bisexual character

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Inspired by the story of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the new web series Misselthwaite Archives follows an updated teenage version of Mary Lennox, the snarky, selfish girl we remember best from the British books and films. In this modern series, Mary is sent to live with her uncle at his home along Misselthwaite Creek in Oregon after her parents die.

The web series premiered in January and boasts 11 episodes, plus vlogs and other featurettes—with many, many more on the way. Created by Pencil Ink Productions, based in Portland, Oregon, the web series is produced and directed by Pencil Ink founders Amanda Daly and Aileen Sheedy. The team is inspired by other literary web series like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy and Classic Alice. But what makes this web series so unique is the viewer interaction—those tuning in are encouraged to send in submissions, like fan fiction, art, and mixes.

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Mary Lennox (Sophie Giberson) is settling into life at her uncle’s home in a town she can barely pronounce, near a creek that’s notorious for flooding, with the dreaded, jaded idea that she’ll soon be living in a new bedroom as soon as she gets used to this one. Her Aunt Sarah (Kelsey Tucker) who Mary begrudgingly calls only “Medlock” (a bit different looking than Maggie Smith) catches her smoking cigarettes, so she gets her a tutor: Phoebe Sower (pronounced “Sour” like Mary’s attitude and played by Jack Wells) who was apparently born on a house boat, raised by wolves, and has seven siblings. Mary suggests via her so-called Wikipedia research that having that many siblings must mean at least 1.5 of them are gay.

“I can speak to that point five,” says Phoebe, slyly noting her bisexuality. (They’re both wearing turtlenecks in this moment, which I love and accept as perfectly right.) Ah, but there’s no time to dally over sexual orientation when Mary’s been hearing spooky sounds coming from the basement. She’s sure they’re demons.

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In one episode called “Last Will and Testament of Mary Lennox” Mary is recording a video out on her new explorations of the woods, and says her friend Jess can have her Hello Kitty vibrator should anything happen to her. Hopefully, this doesn’t turn into a Blair Witch situation, right? Though the woods look more like a bog, dirtying up Mary’s cool burgundy combat boots as she trots through the brush, adventure abounds—there’s a black cat on the loose! Mary chases after the feline, and even though Medlock refuses to let her keep it, Mary ignores her and keeps “Robin” as her newest pet, friend and woods-exploring buddy. (Robin surely becomes the name as an ode to Robin the red robin in the original story.) Gahhhd! Don’t make her get rid of the cat, Medlock!

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Mary’s still not sure she believes in fairytales though, despite her new tutor Phoebe’s grandiose ideas of the enchanted world. Back out in the woods, Mary follows Robin the cat through the Oregon rain, stubbornly damning things aloud and professing her complaints to any nearby bird who’ll listen. Like in the original story, with the bird up ahead showing Mary into a secret passage, Robin the cat leads Mary into an area she hasn’t explored yet. IS THIS—COULD IT BE?

You’ll have to check out the entire web series to see what secrets Mary discovers—which may or may not involve lots of nature porn, pentagrams (but I promise, no Blair Witches) lots of mud, and zero sightings of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Though, as Mary puts it, here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s “like living inside the Twilight Zone, or Twilight, because everyone who lives here is creepy and pale anyway.”

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Feel like submitting some of your own work to Pencil Ink? Want to catch up on all 11 episodes? Why not let the writers know what you think—maybe you dig Phoebe the bisexual tutor and you want to make her a mix CD!

Find out more, and watch episodes at: misselthwaitearchives.com

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