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A few years ago I was going to the beach for a few days and needed something to read, so I searched around for a recommendation. On one of those ubiquitous “Books That All Young Women Should Read!!!” themed lists, I picked out The Handmaid’s Tale. Written by acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood and published in 1985, it tells the story of a world that we would like to think is dystopian, but that actually feels uncomfortably possible after a certain election and the impending inauguration of a certain sewer troll. Set in a version of the United States where fanatics have taken over and women are categorized and used for specialized purposes, some people have classified the book as science fiction, but Atwood herself has described The Handmaid’s Tale as “speculative fiction,” and I’m inclined to agree.
It’s become one of my favorite books. (TN’s Boozy Book Club read The Handmaid’s Tale a few years ago, and you can watch the discussion here.) It’s not the breeziest, most pleasant read, but it’s an important one. Reading interviews that Margaret Atwood has given about writing the book is frankly depressing. So many of the elements of our society that she took as inspiration are rearing their ugly head with a new vengeance. If you want to be informed on these issues, you should check them out. On the other hand, if you want to have a pleasant day without a horrific feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach, maybe put it off for a bit.
Luckily, and just in time, Hulu is premiering their 10-episode series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale this spring, and a few images giving us a first look have recently been released.
Directed by Meadowland’s Reed Morano, the drama tells the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly part of the U.S. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a twisted religious fundamentalism that treats women as property of the state. As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (played by Elisabeth Moss) is a handmaid in the Commander’s (Joseph Fiennes) household, one of the caste of women forced into sexual servitude as a last desperate attempt to repopulate a devastated world.
The cast includes Samira Wiley, Max Minghella, Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer, Yvonne Strahovski and O.T. Fagbenle.
This is why the arts are important. This story has always (and unfortunately) been relevant for the United States, but it is especially so now. We need this fresh in our minds as the new Presidentail administration kicks off. A recent study found that readers of Harry Potter were much more likely to dislike Donald Trump, so stories are undeniably impactful. It’s an often asked question if art mirrors or influences society, and I think it’s actually a combination of both. There’s time to read The Handmaid’s Tale before the April 26th release date of the series, and I’ll mention again that I think it’s more than worth your time to check it out. This is something that’s going to stay on our radar here at TN, and even from these first few images it looks like the series is well on its way to doing the story justice.