A brutish future meets the present
A new TV series is a cautionary tale given current events, says one of its stars
THE Handmaid’s Tale takes viewers into the harsh world of a dystopian future created by a twisted fundamentalist regime, but while shocking, the story is one of hope.
That’s the view of Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski who plays seemingly heartless Serena Joy. Serena is the infertile wife of a powerful commander who is forced to take in a handmaid, or sex slave, Offred, in order to have children.
“The show shows so much brutality but in the face of that there is still hope,” Strahovski tells Weekend.
“At the end of the day it is the story of this woman, Offred, who really has no power and there’s no way out for her really, but she still finds ways to fight against what is happening around her and find her moments of power.”
The 10-part series, also starring Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes and Alexis Bledel, is based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name and is set in Gilead, formerly the United States, which is plagued by environmental disasters and a plunging birth rate.
The totalitarian regime in control treats women as property, and while Strahovski’s character is perhaps better off than the handmaids, the Marthas (house servants), or those banished to work in areas of nuclear fall-out, she is also trapped.
“In the novel she’s written as very cold, very brutal and we do have that obviously in the show, but it was important to me to try and find her vulnerabilities and her human moments,” Strahovski says. “I discovered a lot of things about her, but just generally there was stuff to do with how she used to have a voice and how she now doesn’t and how she’s been stripped of a lot of things that used to define her in a way, you know, like her work and how she was a writer once and a spokeswoman.
“And now she’s not allowed to do any of that stuff... she’s not even allowed to be intimate with her husband. “There’s all kinds of things that add to her sadness and bitterness.”
Viewers in the US, where the show has already aired, have drawn parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and the views of President Donald Trump and Strahovski says it serves as a cautionary tale for Australians. “One of the most amazing things to watch about the show airing is everyone speaking up about how it impacts them,” she says.
“It’s alarming to watch. We’ve just had an extremely divisive presidential election in the States and there’s lots of headlines coming out to do with women’s rights which is obviously at the forefront of the show.
“The parallels are incredibly real and I think that is what is really speaking to people.”
Like Offred does, and in her own way, like Serena does, Strahovski says it’s important to keep fighting, despite what’s happening in the world around you.
“Everyone is trying to stay alive in their own way, in their own right, and that is really what this is about.” The Handmaid’s Tale – SBS On Demand – Available to stream from Thursday, July 6
◗ Offred, one the few fertile women known as Handmaids in the oppressive Republic of Gilead, struggles to survive as a reproductive surrogate for a powerful Commander and his resentful wife, played by Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski (below).