The Handmaid’s Tale may depict a fictional dystopia, but somehow since being published in 1985, Margaret Atwood’s novel has only become more relevant. The novel and Hulu drama detail the life of a Handmaid named Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her treatment at the hands of the patriarchal society Gilead.
Season 2 of the Hulu series, which is currently streaming, is coming at a particularly interesting time, when movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up have become part of everyday conversations. At The Handmaid’s Tale roundtables, the producers and actors of the series spoke about the importance of the show in light of these current social movements.
We Are the Spark
“One of the reasons I love The Handmaid’s Tale so much is that it seems to light a fire under everyone,” says Amanda Brugel who plays Rita. “I’m not suggesting we were responsible for the #MeToo movement at all, but I most certainly think that it’s responsible for… keeping the conversation relevant.” Brugel continues that this is especially true now, as it seems the #MeToo conversations are already starting to slow down.
“This season of The Handmaid’s Tale is 13 episodes and for 13 weeks we will basically be living #MeToo on screen. I do love the fact that it ignites the conversation again or I do anticipate that it will. So I do think that the #MeToo movement and the show are certainly hand in hand.”
The Handmaid’s Tale tackles everything from the small ways women and minority groups’ rights are stripped away to emotional abuse to rape (under the guise of the official sounding “Ceremony“). It’s hard to watch this violence enacted against fictional characters, but even harder when fans are reminded that such things are not far from what’s really happening in our own country and around the world. “Everything in the show has happened somewhere,” says executive producer and showrunner Bruce Miller.
Despite the bleak reality of the characters’ circumstances, producer Warren Littlefield says the show does not try to recreate what is happening on the news. “We’re not a documentary, but we feel the responsibility of dealing with the themes that we are living with each and every day of our lives.” Miller adds, “I would be very happy to be completely irrelevant very soon.”
Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum
The Handmaid’s Tale has become something much more than a TV show. The Handmaid’s costumes, which were created by costume designer Anne Crabtree, have become a symbol, worn by women at marches across the country. Slogans from the book are featured on signs at protests. Resistance is a key theme of the series and that message is being reflected in real life. Even the actors themselves have been changed by playing these characters.
Madeline Brewer shared how playing Janie helped her come to terms with her own #MeToo moment. “Janine has helped me a lot in realizing that things that have happened to you in your past, they don’t need to define you. They are something that happened, they’re there, they’re not going away, but they do not make you who you are. You make you who you are.”
One of Brewer’s favorite parts about Janine is how she manages to persevere and move forward despite all of the terrible things that have happened to her. “It’s been a really profound experience as a woman to be a part of the show from the beginning, but now moving forward being empowered by the Time’s Up movement and the #MeToo movement.”
“It’s a huge responsibility and a huge honor to get to do it,” says Alexis Bledel, whose character Emily will face a hard life in The Colonies this season for her “crime” of being a lesbian (among other things). “I’m so glad that people are wanting to see it and responding to it so intelligently and really correlating everything just the way it’s intended to be by our incredible writers.”
Everyone involved in The Handmaid’s Tale said they were proud to be part of a show they felt was on the right side of history. “It seems like we’re a part of the resistance,” says Littlefield, “so that’s a pretty incredible honor.”
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 premieres April 25th on Hulu. Season 1 is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.