Life and death under fascism
This 10-part series, which landed in its entirety on SBS On Demand late last week, is a television masterpiece: troubling, timely and thoughtprovoking.
Based on Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, it struck a chord with American audiences when it recently aired there on Hulu, particularly those concerned about the tone of politics in the US.
The main protagonist is Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss ( Top of the Lake, Mad Men, The West Wing). She is a “handmaid”, a young woman enslaved for her reproductive potential by a Christian-themed fascist regime. (The opening scenes reveal that she was previously free, with a husband and a daughter.)
Offred’s days include both the banal and the grotesque. She goes to the supermarket to pick up fruit before participating in sanctioned killing with her bare hands; there are bizarre slut- The Handmaid’s Tale shaming rituals (one of which features Atwood in a cameo), and non-consensual attempts by Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) to impregnate her, supervised by his wife Serena (Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski).
The cast includes Alexis Bledel ( Gilmore Girls) as her assigned friend Ofglen, Max Minghella as the Commander’s driver, and Samira Wiley ( Orange is the New Black) as another handmaid.
The series comes as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is experiencing a renaissance in book sales and stage adaptations — illustrating, along with Atwood’s work, the capacity of great literature to speak to us across time and place.
This adaptation will be much discussed and, come awards season, it is destined for acclaim. Don’t miss it. Demand. streaming on SBS On
Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel in a scene from the dystopian