Margaret Atwood: 'The Handmaid's Tale' Reflects Trump's America

By Kay, Jeremy | Screen International, July 6, 2017 | Go to article overview

Margaret Atwood: 'The Handmaid's Tale' Reflects Trump's America


Kay, Jeremy, Screen International


“After the US election [we] said, ‘We’re no longer making a fantasy tale, we’re making a documentary’.”

While it would be perverse to suggest Margaret Atwood owes anything to Donald Trump, his fledgling White House administration has sparked a resurgence of interest in the Canadian author’s celebrated work, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Together with an impressive new small-screen adaptation, old fans and a new generation of readers are being drawn to her 1985 novel, which is set in a near-future totalitarian society in which women’s rights are curtailed and some, called the handmaids, are kept purely for reproductive purposes.

Previously made as a feature by German director Volker Schlöndorff in 1990, with a cast including Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, rightsholder MGM has now teamed up with US VoD platform Hulu to bring a new version to the screen starring Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Samira Wiley and Joseph Fiennes.

Atwood (below), who agreed to “some kind of consultant” role, was delighted her book would serve as the template for a series adaptation, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and debuted on Hulu in late April to immediate acclaim. The author asserts that all of the incidents in The Handmaid’s Tale are based on actual events throughout history, which is why she terms it “speculative fiction” rather than science fiction.

And, as production got underway in Canada in 2016, Atwood was in no doubt about how Trump’s campaign would impact the show. “The cast and crew woke up the morning after the US election and said, ‘We’re no longer making a fantasy tale, we’re making a documentary’,” she says.

The 10-part series immerses itself in the milieu of totalitarian rule. “This was a puritanical regime where nobody has any fun,” she says, referencing the book’s Gilead, a revolutionary movement that usurped the former US and forced fertile women, such as protagonist Offred played by Moss, into sexual slavery. …

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