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Margaret Atwood says Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale adaptation ‘goes farther’ than the book

Margaret Atwood says Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale adaptation ‘goes farther’ than the book



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The Handmaid’s Tale

In a Reddit AMA yesterday, Margaret Atwood shared her impressions of the first three episodes of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, said America is dangerously close to dystopia, and pretended that it’s not cool to like Mel Brooks. She really covered all the bases.

“Based on what I've seen it's a 10,” she said, when asked to rate the overall quality of the series. “My criteria: puddle of goo on the floor [by the] end of Episode 3. Gasp. Shriek. It goes farther than I did in the book…”

Atwood also fielded lots of inevitable questions about the famed dystopian novel’s renewed relevance during our current era — one in which the American GOP is taking a deranged interest in controlling / killing women by rescinding their health care and reproductive options. Atwood did not attempt to calm anyone’s fears. “Who knew that this would ever have to be defended?” she asked. “Childbirth care, pre-natal care, early childhood care — many people will not even be able to afford any of it. Dead bodies on the floor will result. It is frightful. Then there is the whole issue of sexual violence being used as control — it is such an old motif.”

“dead bodies on the floor will result.”

“If I were a younger woman I'd be taking a self-defense course. I did once take Judo, in the days of the Boston Strangler, but it was very lady-like then and I don't think it would have availed.” Aside from self-defense training, Atwood advised Americans: “Support your leaders who are standing against unconstitutional laws; keep informed, as best as possible. Everything is ‘as best as possible’ right now.”

When asked to compare the Hulu series to Volker Schlöndorff’s film adaptation of the novel, which debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1990, Atwood said the most striking contrast is that we now live in “different times,” and the world of The Handmaid’s Tale is “closer now!”

“Also, then, many people were saying ‘It can't happen here.’ Now, not so much…”

The AMA was almost entirely bleak, which is Atwood’s modus operandi. But she did offer a glimmer of positivity: “I cannot tell you how strange this feels. I wrote the book hoping to fend it off, and I believe it will be fended off: America is very diverse, a lot of people have been jolted out of political slumber and are paying attention, and the Constitution still stands.”

On a lighter note: the most peculiar part of the AMA was Atwood’s response to a question about her guilty pleasure films. She named classics from every genre — films most people would be far more embarrassed to admit not having seen. For example, Margaret Atwood claims Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, one of the most lauded comedies in American film, as a guilty pleasure. Also: Singin’ in the Rain, the gold standard for the movie musical. She described Night of the Living Dead, George Romero’s masterpiece, as “a classy low budget horror film.” And charitably, she acknowledged Miss Congeniality as “very funny.”

No disrespect to Margaret Atwood, whose novels are great and whose tweets are much less offensive than some of her contemporaries’, but this is a classic freshman-year film-bro move. “Oh, you know I’m so embarrassed, because it’s really Hitchcock’s most pedestrian work, but I just can’t help loooooving Vertigo.” Lady, we’re all charmed by national treasure Sandra Bullock, and pretending to be embarrassed about it is frankly a leg up for the patriarchy.

Atwood also complimented the miniseries as a narrative format (join the club!), saying “Longer forms allow deeper exploration, series of connected episodes work like old serial fiction, i.e. Dickens — a cliffhanger at the end of each! But I'm kind of a sucker for that.” The main difference between a miniseries and a novel, she said, is that in novels, you can “do smells.” I guess Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale won’t have smells.

The 10-episode series, which stars Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss and Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel, debuts on Hulu on April 26th. One Reddit user asked Atwood if she feels weird about the fact that Moss is a member of the Church of Scientology — an organization which has been accused of slave labor, murder, and blackmailing John Travolta, among other things — but Atwood didn’t answer.