The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic feminist novel by Canadian author, Magaret Atwood. Hulu, the streaming network, has given the approval to have it go straight to series. It will appear in a 10 episode series that will star Elizabeth Moss, who is known for starring in Mad Men.
The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985 and is a futuristic story of a “handmaid” named Offred. It takes place in a future on Earth that is under the rule of the Republic of Gilead. The ruling elite do not have their own children. Instead, the make use of handmaids, who bear their children for them.
IndieWire describes the setting as, “a dystopian society in which infertility is an epidemic, and women now live under brutal patriarchal rule inspired by specific passages from the Bible.”
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred, who will be played by Elizabeth Moss, is a handmaid that has been assigned to carry a child for a rich couple. This is not new to her. She has given birth before and she is torn up about having to give away her first daughter and not being allowed to see her. She must decide whether to stay alive and fight to be able to see her daughter, somehow, or fight back against the rules that are being forced upon her and risk her life. Offred is not a revolutionary though. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred wants to live.
The idea of a handmaid is based on the Biblical story of Rachel (in the book of Genesis) who allowed her handmaid to bear children for her husband when it was believed that Rachel was infertile. But in The Handmaid’s Tale, the handmaids do not have a choice. They are trained for motherhood and they must become pregnant or risk death.
The series will be adapted and written by Bruce Miller, who most recently has been writing for The 100, the CW series that has had a great deal of success. He’s very qualified to write about a dystopian world that has strong women so it should be interesting to see how he will adapt this classic novel for a series.
According to Slate, Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, “will serve as a consulting producer,” while the executive producers will be Miller, Fran Sears, Daniel Wilson, and Warren Littlefield.
This is not the first time that The Handmaid’s Tale has been adapted. In 1990 it was made into a movie by Volker Schlöndorff and Harold Pinter. It had some big name stars for the time period that include Robert Duval, Natasha Richardson (who played Offred), and Faye Dunaway. The movie, The Handmaid’s Tale, was riveting and touching and shocking in some ways.
The Handmaid’s Tale has also been adapted for radio, ballet, opera, and even as a one woman show. IndieWire says, “Something about a story in which Christian fundamentalists use the threat of Islamic terrorism to consolidate power and control women’s bodies seems to resonate, for some reason.”
The Handmaid’s Tale will not be Hulu’s first book adaptation. In the past they have adapted the Stephen King book, 11-23-63 as a mini-series. The Handmaid’s Tale is expected to be on ongoing series though, so it will be interesting to see how the producers handle this.
Have you read the book, The Handmaid’s Tale, or seen the movie? If you have, you will likely want to see this new series to find out if it can measure up to them. Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is beloved and the movie stuck by the main principles of the book so it will be interesting to see what Hulu does with it.
[Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images]