When Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale was released in 1985, it was a work of speculative fiction: In the near future, a puritanical, militarized sect has taken over most of the United States, now known as Gilead. All of Congress has been killed; the Constitution has been suspended. Because of deteriorating fertility and plummeting birth rates — a pandemic of miscarriages and birth deformities have been caused by environmental toxicity, and healthy babies are rare — a new system has been put in place to ensure population growth: Handmaids are women with healthy ovaries who serve powerful, childless couples. They submit to a monthly ritual called the Ceremony, in which a Commander, a member of Gilead's ruling class, tries to impregnate a Handmaid as she lies in his wife's lap. Handmaids are actually in a relative position of privilege compared to other women, who work as house staff, are wives to lowly workers, or are sent to the faraway Colonies to clean up nuclear waste (and die from it).
"Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel has terrified readers for decades. But Hulu's TV adaptation is premiering in Donald Trump's America, giving it a new, terrifying meaning" Kate Arthur, BuzzFeed News reporter wrote in a recent article.
Dominic Patten, TV critic for Deadline thinks that if ever a television series could border on being too relevant, Hulu’s gripping, chilling and brutal adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale would be the one.
Author Margaret Atwood, Booker Price winner and one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2017, wrote recently in the New York Times, "basic civil liberties are seen as endangered, along with many of the rights for women won over the past decades."
In her article, Arthur explains how Atwood’s book and its imagery have been used as powerful symbols in protests and marches this year. “On Jan. 21, as people marched around the world for women's rights, some held signs that read, "Make Margaret Atwood fiction again," "The Handmaid's Tale is not an instructional manual," and "No to the republic of Gilead." A couple of months later, a group of women dressed as Handmaids — in rich red cloaks and starchy white bonnets — showed up in Texas's state Senate to protest measures that would curb abortion rights.”
Actress Elizabeth Moss, who plays main character Offred, who’s point of view and voice tell the story, explained during an interview last January, "I asked Margaret Atwood, 'Do you feel like you predicted the future?' And she said very firmly, as she does: 'Everything I wrote in that book was happening at that time, or had already happened.
"'It just wasn't happening in America.'"
Bruce Miller, a veteran of network and cable television, is the creator of the book adaptation. He first read Atwood's novel in college and it became his favorite book. His vision for the TV adaptation is to make the story as close to the real world as possible — in order to create fear in viewers. "You're building a world, and if that world doesn't feel like our real world in a lot of ways, then it isn't scary anymore," he said.
His version of Handmaid’s Tale has received praise not only for its spectacular cast, but also for its excellent narrative, the masterful production design, and the symmetrically composed and agile direction of the series's director Reed Morano.
This production team definitively has given Margaret Atwood the adaptation her acclaimed book has always deserved.
The book was previously adapted for the big screen back in 1990 and starred the late Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Elizabeth McGovern and Aidan Quinn. It has also spawned a graphic novel, an opera and a ballet.
READ THE BOOK BEFORE BINGE-WATCHING
The Handmaid's Tale isn't a long book, is just 311 pages, so before binge-watching the TV series, go ahead, plunge into the book’s pages and imagine a world where women’s rights were stolen from them.