Reaction to the death of Canadian actor Jonathan Crombie, who suffered a fatal brain hemmorhage at 48 last week, shows that the Anne of Green Gables star was quite a teen heartthrob in his younger years.
Following the announcement Saturday of Crombie's death, many on Twitter referred to Gilbert Blythe, the character that the actor first brought to life on CBC TV in 1985, as one of their "first crushes."
"Gilbert was many people's first love," wrote Sarah Larson for The New Yorker on Monday in one of several pieces about this very phenomenon. "Crombie gave Gilbert caring, intelligence, and dreaminess: qualities that enchant seventh-grade girls."
Plenty of women who were in their adolescence during the late 1980's have indeed been mourning the loss of the handsome man who portrayed Gilbert Blythe on screen — but they're far from alone.
It would appear as though, just like the wider Anne of Green Gables franchise, Crombie has continued to rack up new fans from all over the world since the final film aired on CBC TV in 2000.
For a Canadian actor who isn't Ryan Gosling, Crombie's online fandom is actually quite impressive.
Here are just a few of the ways that fans have been paid tribute to Anne Shirley's "perfect boyfriend" on Tumblr, on their own blogs and through romantic fan fiction over the years:
Gilbert Blythe fan art
Finding artistic tributes to Crombie's best-known character is a lot easier than whittling down a selection of these pieces to share. Dozens of illustrations and digitally-enhanced stills from the film series can be found by searching for "Gilbert Blythe" on the creative community deviantart.com, while elsewhere on the web, thousands of Gilbert videos, image macros and even clothing items can be found — many of them themed around Crombie's character's relationship with Anne Shirley, played by Megan Follows.
The fan fic community is large and prolific, with nearly 2.2 million users registered to the largest network of writers, fanfiction.net, as of 2013. According to Adweek, this type of material makes up approximately 33 per cent of all book-related content online.
Seventy-one stories with the name "Gilbert Blythe" can currently be found on fanfiction.net, the majority of them tagged as either "romance," "general," or "humour."
Tumblr and Pinterest fandoms
While fan fiction may be created as part of one, fandoms are more of a community organized around a particular show, series or artist. Dedicated members of some large fandoms convene at events, incorporate fandoms into their digital identities, and refer to themselves with a collective name (think "Trekkies," "Whovians," or even "Beliebers.")
On Tumblr and, to a lesser extent, Pinterest, these fandoms are played out through sharing GIFs, images, and quotes, often with comments.
While nowhere near the scale of a Dr. Who or Star Trek fandom, there is indeed evidence of Anne of Green Gables fandoms on both Tumblr and Pinterest.
"Follow Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe as I unveil their inspiring love story and the lives of other kindred spirits from Avonlea," reads the bio on anneshirleygilbertblythe.tumblr.com.
This Tumblr, and several others like it, post predominantly images and animated GIFs of Crombie and Follows as Gilbert and Anne, which are then reblogged throughout the network.
Like Sarah Larson did in her New Yorker article mentioned above, several bloggers and reporters have publicly professed their love for Gilbert Blythe and/or Jonathan Crombie in recent years (and even more so in recent days.)
"Thank you for the way you brought to life the Gilbert I read of in Lucy Maud Montgomery's books. You embodied him like no one else could," wrote Jessica Turner on themomcreative.com Sunday. "Jonathan, you and your Gilbert, will always be a part of my childhood story. Honestly, you'll always be a part of my life story."
"I know you are unattainable. You are fictional. I get it, Gilbert. You and Anne are meant to be," wrote Sara Mirowski on samuelfrench.com in 2012. "I think it's best for me to stop gushing sooner rather than later. But remember, you are the most handsome, sweetest, loving, caring, and special male being ever. And, in case you were wondering, I'm not a stalker… your kids are safe."
The Gilbert Blythe boyfriend meme
One of the most consistent pieces of material we've seen pop up in our travels around the digital world of Gilbert Blythe are image-based macros featuring Crombie's image, overlayed with pieces of user-generated text or quotes from the film series.
Often, the text in these images alludes to the fact that Blythe is an ideal romantic partner, or is of a generally romantic nature like this valentine.
Here are a few of the most widely-shared we've seen: