The line wasn’t in the script.

ZOOMER Magazine - - ZOOMING -

IT WAS DAY 1 on the set of the six-part tele­vi­sion se­ries Alias Grace, based on Mar­garet At­wood’s award­win­ning 1996 novel, which it­self was based on the true story of Grace Marks, an Ir­ish im­mi­grant to Up­per Canada who was con­victed for a no­to­ri­ous 1843 dou­ble mur­der. (Whether she com­mit­ted the mur­der, abet­ted it or was in­no­cent is still un­known; the shift­ing na­ture of “truth,” fil­tered through the sex­ism of the era, is the story’s real sub­ject.) Sarah Pol­ley had writ­ten all six hours of the screen­play, and Mary Har­ron ( Amer­i­can Psy­cho) was di­rect­ing them. At­wood her­self was there to do a cameo, as a neigh­bour scan­dalised that Thomas Kin­n­ear (Paul Gross), a wealthy un­mar­ried landowner, was flaunt­ing his lover, Nancy (Anna Paquin), and their new house­keeper, Grace (Sarah Gadon), in church. (Grace gets pulled into the drama, and things end badly for all three. It’s a Mar­garet At­wood story.)

At­wood had a char­ac­ter name: Dis­ap­prov­ing Woman. She had a trailer with that name on its door. She had a cos­tume – draw­ers, camisole, corset, pet­ti­coats, over­skirt, jacket, capelet, shawl, bon­net and boots – and two dressers to rope her into it. Dis­ap­prov­ing Woman sits in a pew; view­ers see lit­tle of her cos­tume. But they wanted her to feel au­then­tic.

Her scene was sup­posed to be shot in day­light, but first days are tricky, and the hot Au­gust af­ter­noon dragged into evening. A search­light was aimed through the set’s win­dows to evoke morn­ing. “I was fry­ing,” At­wood re­calls now, sip­ping a green smoothie on a restau­rant pa­tio near her Toronto home. Small grin. “No won­der I looked dis­ap­prov­ing.”

But when the cam­eras rolled, At­wood got into the spirit. Way in. “She gave her­self a line,” Pol­ley re­calls, with a grin of her own.

The script su­per­vi­sor asked if At­wood’s im­prov – “It’s dis­grace­ful. Dis­grace­ful!” – was okay. “I would think it would be,” Pol­ley replied. The sound per­son hur­riedly tucked a mi­cro­phone un­der Dis­ap­prov­ing Woman’s capelet. When the episodes air on CBC and Net­flix this fall, At­wood’s line will be there, de­liv­ered with enough ve­he­mence to make her sig­na­ture gray curls shake.

At age 77, with 16 nov­els, eight short fic­tion col­lec­tions, 17 po­etry col­lec­tions, eight chil­dren’s books, 10 non-fic­tion books, three tele­vi­sion scripts, two opera li­bretti, one graphic novel, 24 hon­orary de­grees (in­clud­ing Ox­ford, Har­vard and the Sor­bonne) and at least 25 ma­jor awards to her name (in­clud­ing a Giller Prize, Booker prize and the Com­pan­ion of the Or­der of Canada), the Ottawa-born At­wood is hot­ter than ever. Last April, The New Yorker pub­lished a lauda­tory pro­file, timed to the re­lease of the tele­vi­sion se­ries based on At­wood’s 1985 novel The Hand­maid’s Tale – about a dystopian near-fu­ture in which the U.S. is a theoc­racy, and women are bru­tally sup­pressed into be­ing wives, ser­vants or breed­ers (hand­maids). In July, that se­ries was nom­i­nated for a whop­ping 13 Emmy Awards, in­clud­ing Out­stand­ing Dra­matic Se­ries and Lead Ac­tress for Elis­a­beth Moss, who plays the hand­maid Of­fred.

As of mid-July, The Hand­maid’s Tale novel was near the top of the New York Times best­seller list for its 14th week – 32 years af­ter its pub­li­ca­tion. Af­fec­tion­ate par­o­dies pep­per the in­ter­net, such as the one on Funny or Die, called “Fi­nally, a Hand­maid’s Tale for Men.” (“I used to be CEO of a large cor­po­ra­tion,” a man in­tones darkly. “Now I’m CEO of a large cor­po­ra­tion but with some fe­male col­leagues.”) And or­di­nary women are don­ning the hand­maids’ strik­ing red gowns and white bon­nets and stag­ing peace­ful sit-ins in state leg­is­la­tures across the U.S., to protest the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cuts to women’s health care.

At­wood had a cameo in The Hand­maid’s Tale, too, as a hand­maid trainer who slaps Of­fred’s face. “I’m get­ting type­cast,” she says, dead­pan. Oh, how to de­scribe At­wood’s voice? Deep, nasal and metic­u­lously enun­ci­ated, it sounds flat at first. But quickly you tune in to how her small­est in­flec­tion bends se­ri­ous into mis­chievous, or wry into mirth­ful.

“I’m hav­ing a mo­ment,” she con­tin­ues. “Who would have pre­dicted that?” Ask if there’s a rea­son, and she emits a small ex­plo­sion. “Of course there’s a rea­son! Trump got elected. He’s a symp­tom of stuff that was al­ready go­ing on, even more in re­cent years than in 1985. Back then, some crit­ics could say, ‘This is ab­surd. It could never hap­pen.’ No­body is say­ing that now.”

Alias Grace is sim­i­larly timely. It’s a true-crime story with an am­bigu­ous end­ing, in the vein of the pod­cast Se­rial or the minis­eries The Peo­ple vs. O.J. Simp­son. It’s a med­i­ta­tion on the shift­ing na­ture of truth, per­fect for this era of fake news and al­ter­na­tive facts. It’s an im­mi­gra­tion story, about a ma­ligned group strug­gling to sur­vive in a new coun­try. It’s about sex­ism, how women aren’t con­sid­ered re­li­able nar­ra­tors of their own sto­ries.

And it’s an un­flinch­ing, fem­i­nist­minded deep dive into an un­der­told chap­ter in Canada’s colo­nial his­tory, when lower-class serv­ing women such as Grace were de­ployed like

can­non fod­der to sat­isfy the sex­ual needs of their up­per­class masters, so they could pre­serve the sanc­tity of the women they mar­ried. Women like Grace were rou­tinely phys­i­cally and sex­u­ally abused; if they got preg­nant, they took dras­tic mea­sures or were cast into the streets. So vis­cer­ally does Har­ron de­pict the af­ter­math of a back-al­ley abor­tion – a prac­tice which the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seems de­ter­mined to re­vive – that At­wood had night­mares af­ter see­ing the episode, even though she’d had none while writ­ing the book.

“What’s ex­cit­ing for me about [the se­ries] The Hand­maid’s Tale and Alias Grace com­ing out in the same year,” Pol­ley says, “Hand­maid’s Tale of­fers us a peek into the fu­ture of what life could look like for women, and Alias Grace gives us a look into the past, of what life did look like. It puts our par­tic­u­lar place, where we have rights and free­doms we take for granted, into con­text as a very small blip in his­tory. One that can eas­ily be eroded. It’s a win­dow we have to keep open with all of our force.”

“Last Nov. 9,” At­wood agrees – the day af­ter Don­ald Trump’s U.S. pres­i­den­tial vic­tory – “both The Hand­maid’s Tale and Alias Grace mor­phed into dif­fer­ent shows. Not be­cause the pro­duc­tions had changed but be­cause they were framed dif­fer­ently. Ev­ery­one un­der­stands that. But it’s noth­ing to do with me. I was just sit­ting there.”

At­wood has spent lit­tle of her life “just sit­ting” any­where; she’s al­ways cook­ing up some­thing. As a grad­u­ate stu­dent at Har­vard in the 1960s, she stud­ied 19th-cen­tury Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture. She was deep in the un­der­ground stacks at the Wi­dener Li­brary (“These were the days when, as a woman, you couldn’t get into the po­etry li­brary,” she says), pok­ing around the Witchcraft sec­tion, when she stum- bled on a stack of Cana­dian books some­one had stashed away. (“That per­son must have died be­cause it cut off abruptly,” she says with some glee.) Among them was Su­sanna Moodie’s Life in the Clear­ings, which con­tains Moodie’s ver­sion of Grace Marks’ story.

At­wood read the book, then had a dream in which she’d writ­ten an opera with only one char­ac­ter: Moodie. “When you read her, you have this gen­tle­wom­anly voice go­ing along the top, and un­der­neath you have this rage that she’s not quite ex­press­ing,” At­wood says. (The same can be said for Grace.) She wrote the po­etry that be­came 1970’s The Jour­nals of Su­sanna Moodie, fol­lowed by a TV play about Grace Marks. Then, in Zurich in 1982 – “home of Carl Jung,” At­wood says, arch­ing an eye­brow – a piece of writ­ing flowed out of her onto ho­tel notepa­per dec­o­rated with swans. “It was the first chap­ter of Alias Grace, much as you have it,” she says. “I thought, ‘Grace Marks wants me to take an­other look at this.’” Thank you, who­ever amassed those books in Wi­dener.

DAY 58 (OF 65) on the Alias Grace set. At­wood isn’t here to­day but her pres­ence hov­ers. Ev­ery mem­ber of the crew men­tions how they hope to do jus­tice to her.

Pol­ley stands near the mon­i­tors, squeez­ing a piece of pink Play-Doh (a pizza slice made by one of her two young daugh­ters, who’d in­structed her to bring it to set and “show ev­ery­body”). “The high­light for me, and a lot of us in our careers,” Pol­ley says, “was show­ing Mar­garet At­wood the sets of her novel, walking her through the spa­ces she’d writ­ten, show­ing her the ob­jects, like the head-mea­sur­ing de­vice we bor­rowed from a mu­seum [used on Grace], which she’d never seen be­fore. It was the most ex­tra­or­di­nary, sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The se­ries’ ex­cec­u­tive pro­ducer, Noreen Halpern, points out the wall­pa­per in the ser­vant’s bed­room (of good qual­ity but ripped and stained with age) and the grooves in a stair­case (to sug­gest wear). In a novel, you can write, “She got on a train.” In a film, you have to know which train. The preserves in the mur­der cel­lar were made as they were in the 1830s: topped with a piece of wet pigskin tied with string, which would seal as it dried. Even At­wood hadn’t known that. (“It says bot­u­lism to me,” she says juicily.)

Halpern walks by an­other set, the hold of the ship on which the Marks fam­ily sailed from Belfast to Canada. It rests on a ma­chine that pitched and rocked it to cre­ate the ter­ror of a storm at sea. Thousands of gal­lons of water were pumped through it, along with 16 rats, un­der the di­rec­tion of a pro­fes­sional rat han­dler.

Pol­ley made sure she was on set that day. It was the scene she’d fought hard­est to keep. “One of the most press­ing is­sues in the se­ries is about im­mi­gra­tion, class,” she says. “We look at refugees and im­mi­grants now, and we for­get the squalor and hor­ror they went through to get here. There’s al­ways a stigma. So that was my line in the sand: this is what we need to see right now.”

She brought her chil­dren to watch, too. “Mostly they just played with the rats,” Pol­ley says. “My two-year-old told me, ‘I love your work!’”

Tonight, all eyes are on the gover­nor’s study, an el­e­gant set in which Grace re­lates her story to a doc­tor, Si­mon Jor­dan (Ed­ward Hol­croft), who wants to ex­on­er­ate her. Shot over six in­tense days, then cut through with flash­backs, this 70-page con­ver­sa­tion forms the se­ries’ spine. It looks like a Ver­meer paint­ing, but the pe­riod di­a­logue is a mouth­ful, and Gadon has to per­form it while sewing quilt patches.

“If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we’d all be hanged,” Gadon/Grace says.

“Could you do one that’s slightly guiltier?” Har­ron asks. Gadon does.

“And now one where you might be remembering some­thing?” Har­ron asks. Gadon does.

To make things even tougher, the stu­dio is on an air­port flight path, so ev­ery five min­utes a plane’s roar in­ter­rupts the ac­tion. “Sarah will have a tear quiv­er­ing on her eye­lid, and we’ll have to hold for the plane,” Halpern says. “Mary will say, ‘Hold that tear.’ And Sarah can.”

“If I were her, I’d be cry­ing by now for real,” Pol­ley says.

Har­ron asks Pol­ley if Grace should touch Si­mon’s hand. “All I can think is, ‘What would Mar­garet At­wood say?’” Pol­ley replies. “I think about that a lot.” She imag­ines At­wood’s an­swer would be, “It’s not very Vic­to­rian.” Si­mon’s hand re­mains un­touched.

POL­LEY, 38, has had At­wood’s voice in her head since she was 17, when her agent handed her a copy of Alias Grace and sug­gested she op­tion it. “I got lost in it,” Pol­ley says now. It’s June, a few days af­ter she, as ex­ec­u­tive produ- cer, helped lock the fi­nal edit of Alias Grace. She’s in a Mex­i­can restau­rant in Toronto, eat­ing chips and gua­camole. “It raised ques­tions for me, ques­tions I’ve made work about in the 20 years since. About mem­ory, ver­sions of sto­ries, what it means to for­get, what hap­pens to rage, who are the many peo­ple we are, what nar­ra­tive does to us.” (Her award­win­ning semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal doc­u­men­tary, Sto­ries We Tell, which uses a sim­i­larly lay­ered ap­proach to truth, was in­spired by Alias Grace.)

Not sur­pris­ingly, At­wood’s agent didn’t think a 17-year-old was ready to op­tion it. Over the next 20 years, how­ever, as the rights bounced from com­pany to com­pany, Pol­ley be­came a suc­cess­ful writer-di­rec­tor. At 30, she checked on the book’s sta­tus and dis­cov­ered that the rights had be­come avail­able two weeks ear­lier. “It was the most amaz­ing an­gel choir singing mo­ment,” she says. She snapped them up.

Be­fore writ­ing a word, though, Pol­ley met with At­wood. She needed to know what mat­tered most to her about Grace’s story. At­wood’s an­swer: its am­bi­gu­ity. “I’d looked at ev­ery piece of ev­i­dence, and there is no one an­swer,” At­wood says now. “It’s like those op­ti­cal il­lu­sions: look at it one way and it’s a bird, an­other way it’s a stair­case.”

For a year, Pol­ley typed in snatches dur­ing her tod­dler’s naps. Then she got preg­nant again. “Which meant Mar­garet, who had this very hot prop­erty, had to wait an­other two years,” Pol­ley says. “But in­stead of be­ing pissed, she was send­ing me flow­ers in the hos­pi­tal, pick­ing up lit­tle dresses for my daugh­ters in Mex­ico and talk­ing about moth­er­hood with me. That bog­gled me. Ev­ery­one talks about how hon­est At­wood is and bold and clear and some­times hard. But I find her to be ex­tremely nur­tur­ing and ma­ter­nal. I kept ex­pect­ing her to get an­gry about how long I was tak­ing, and all I got was, ‘You asked for the rights years ago, and I had to say no. Now I’ve said yes. If it means wait­ing, it’s still yes.’”

Pol­ley’s fin­ished script ran 700 pages long. But if she cut it down to fea­ture length, she’d lose ev­ery­thing she loved about it. She booked a cof­fee with At­wood. She didn’t sleep for a week be­fore­hand. But the minute she opened her mouth, At­wood fin­ished her sen­tence. “‘Should it be a six-part minis­eries? Yes,’” Pol­ley re­calls, in pitch-per­fect At­wood-ese.

Next, Pol­ley re­cruited Halpern. The pro­ducer had loved At­wood “since I started read­ing.” She read all six scripts in one sit­ting. Her first thought: “I love this.” Her sec­ond: “We’re go­ing to have to raise a mas­sive amount of money.” Pol­ley agreed: if they couldn’t get US$30 mil­lion, they shouldn’t do it at all. “I was only able to in­sist be­cause I was still slightly afraid of Mar­garet,” Pol­ley says, laugh­ing.

Next step: a di­rec­tor. Usu­ally when she wrote a script, Pol­ley could see ev­ery shot. Half­way through Alias Grace, she re­al­ized she couldn’t – the am­bi­tion was too sweep­ing, the tone too raw. She thought im­me­di­ately of Mary Har­ron. “She has an in­tense, dark sen­si­bil­ity that’s closer to At­wood’s than mine is,” Pol­ley says. “I loved the novel too much to not put it in the right hands.”

And frankly, the book was driv-

ing Pol­ley a bit mad. “It spoke to a du­al­ity I have in me that I find dis­turb­ing,” Pol­ley ad­mits. “The sense of be­ing one per­son but also car­ry­ing a lot of things you haven’t ad­dressed. What hap­pens to that anger or dam­age when it’s not al­lowed to be ex­pressed? There’s that Emily Dick­in­son quote, ‘our­self within our­self con­cealed.’ Who are we that we haven’t dis­cov­ered yet? I thought, ‘It’s too close to some­thing dan­ger­ous for me.’”

Gadon un­der­stands that. “When you’re a young ac­tor, iden­ti­ties are pro­jected onto you,” she says. “That hap­pened to Grace – at a young age, other peo­ple took con­trol of her iden­tity. I con­nect with that. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if Sarah Pol­ley did, too.”

Har­ron signed on im­me­di­ately – she’d read English lit­er­a­ture at Ox­ford so was steeped in the form that At­wood and Pol­ley were re­work­ing. “I saw Alias Grace as a Vic­to­rian novel but with all the cen­sored bits left in,” Har­ron says over a plate of deep-red beef carpac­cio at a Toronto restau­rant. “It’s more than just a drama. It’s an im­por­tant piece of hid­den his­tory. Peo­ple don’t know what these girls went through. It’s been san­i­tized.”

The CBC also signed on: “There’s some­thing time­less and timely about Grace,” says pro­gram­ming chief Sally Catto. “Peo­ple project onto her what they want to see, based on their own bi­ases,” which makes her per­fect for this po­lit­i­cal mo­ment. “It’s his­tor­i­cal yet pro­gres­sive at the same time.”

There re­mained the small mat­ter of the $30 mil­lion. Pol­ley, Har­ron and Halpern headed to L.A., where they pitched eight co-pro­duc­tion en­ti­ties in three days. Most of the ex­ec­u­tives were women. Three made bids. Net­flix won. (Net­flix and CBC also part­nered on the se­ries Anne.) Thanks to their cash, “We were able to film this Cana­dian book, writ- ten by and star­ring Cana­di­ans, in the prov­ince where the events took place,” Har­ron says.

The next hur­dle: cast­ing Grace. Be­fore Pol­ley se­cured the rights, Kiera Knight­ley and Cate Blanchett had flirted with the role. Pol­ley and Har­ron’s first choice was Sarah Gadon, 30. Her star was as­cend­ing, from Belle and Maps to the Stars through In­dig­na­tion and 11/22/63. But even she had to au­di­tion three times to prove she could play Grace from ages 15 to 40.

Be­fore film­ing, Gadon sat in her gar­den and read the script aloud to Har­ron to de­lin­eate dif­fer­ent ver­sions of Grace: good Grace, bad Grace, neu­tral Grace. Gadon also at­tended “pe­riod boot camp” at Pi­o­neer Vil­lage, where she learned to sew, quilt and milk cows. To pre­pare for a key hyp­no­tism scene, Gadon’s fa­ther, a psy­chol­o­gist, hyp­no­tized her, and her mother filmed it, so Gadon could see what a trance was like and how she looked while in one.

Now, sit­ting over drip brew in her neigh­bour­hood cof­fee shop, she re­calls how over­whelm­ing it felt: the Belfast ac­cent, which at one point locked her jaw. Work­ing with her hero, Pol­ley, on a project that was so im­por­tant to her. “When I was first act­ing,” Gadon says, “Sarah was the only ac­tress I knew of who worked in­ter­na­tion­ally with in­cred­i­ble directors in stu­dio films yet lived in Toronto. She gave me the glim­mer of pos­si­bil­ity that I could have that, too.”

And, of course, there was At­wood. “She’s an icon of mine,” Gadon says. “I grew up read­ing her books in school. And she’s tough. She doesn’t mince words. I wanted so des­per­ately for both her and Sarah to ap­prove of me. I’d get so rid­den with anx­i­ety that I’d have to just go run. Even talk­ing about it now, I’m go­ing to break into a run.” She laughs. “Bye!”

Dur­ing the shoot, Gadon stopped sleep­ing at night. She’d never ex­pe­ri­enced that on a job be­fore. The phys­i­cal de­mands were ex­treme. She was in nearly ev­ery scene. She had to do three ver­sions of Grace for ev­ery take. She was do­ing pe­riod house­work, car­ry­ing heavy buck­ets, scrub­bing floors. “On cam­era, you see me ac­tu­ally ag­ing as if I’d been in pri­son for 15 years,” she chor­tles. But she also re­al­ized, “What a gift. Will I ever be chal­lenged that much cre­atively again?”

Through it all, Gadon felt the pres­ence of so many women be­hind the cam­era, es­pe­cially dur­ing scenes of violence or sex­ual as­sault. “There were so many times we’d be block­ing a scene, and Mary would re­mind ev­ery­one, ‘No, it has to be from Grace’s per­spec­tive,’” Gadon says. “De­cid­ing where to put the cam­era has such an im­pact. That be­comes the gen­dered lens we all talk about.

“Not that a man can’t tell a beau­ti­ful story about a woman,” she con­tin­ues. But Grace Marks was such an ob­ject of de­sire and fas­ci­na­tion, and her story was “claimed by so many men.” A group of women re­claim­ing her story felt im­por­tant.

When Pol­ley first read Alias Grace, she was the age Grace is at the be­gin­ning. Now she’s al­most the age Grace is at the end. “I’ve put more hours of work into this than I’ll put into writ­ing any­thing,” she says. She did that

be­cause she gen­uinely be­lieves that “film and tele­vi­sion can look back on his­tory and give a voice to a group that was pre­vi­ously squashed or si­lenced.” That’s the work she wants to keep do­ing.

“I spent my child­hood on CBC in this bu­colic vi­sion of this time that never ex­isted in this coun­try,” Road to Avon­lea, she con­tin­ues. “So to be back on CBC in this bru­tally hon­est look at what it was ac­tu­ally like for women, and peo­ple get spat­tered in blood, was ex­tremely cathar­tic.”

AS OF THIS WRIT­ING, At­wood has seen most of The Hand­maid’s Tale and much of Alias Grace. She’s thrilled with both. Not be­cause she needs more awards: “Thank you very much, they’re lovely, but I ac­tu­ally don’t,” she says. Not be­cause they bur­nish her fame. “I’ve al­ways been the Wicked Witch to some peo­ple. And Glinda the Good to oth­ers,” she says. “Sta­tus waxes and wanes. It’s very nice when you’re hav­ing a mo­ment. Peo­ple think you’re im­por­tant. But there will come an­other mo­ment when they don’t.”

At­wood is pleased with these tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tions be­cause they take se­ri­ously what she takes se­ri­ously. “I be­lieve in fos­ter­ing writ­ing and read­ing as a very im­por­tant part of democ­racy,” she says. “Maybe I was im­prop­erly so­cial­ized, but there are quite a few things I don’t give a shit about. I’m not a politi­cian. I’m not run­ning for of­fice. I don’t have a job. The only way to fire me is to ban all my books. Or stand me up against a wall and shoot me. That’s been done a lot. That’s why I sup­port PEN Canada and Cana­dian Jour­nal­ists for Free Ex­pres­sion. And why I think there should be a me­mo­rial to mur­dered jour­nal­ists in High Park. Why were they killed? Try­ing to get the story for you. I do give a shit about that.”

It’s been 150 years since Grace was fi­nally freed from pri­son. But At wood and Pol­leyk now that women still suf­fer as she did. “We’ve seen it a lot this year: When you’re a vic­tim of sex­ual violence, you are si­lenced, ridiculed,” Pol­ley says. “It’s still not a safe world to come for­ward. Our anger and rage have had to be tamped down. We’re not com­fort­able with women ex­press­ing that.

“We’re not even com­fort­able with women be­ing clear,” Pol­ley con­tin­ues, heat­ing up. “When I first be­came a di­rec­tor, I man­aged it by play­ing a grate­ful baby girl. On my sec­ond film, I didn’t do that any­more. I just told peo­ple what I wanted in the clear­est way I could.” She wasn’t be­ing ag­gres­sive – she’d seen enough ag­gres­sive directors to know the dif­fer­ence. “Still, I got a lot of com­ments from men: ‘Whoa, you’ve changed a lot. You’re re­ally con­fi­dent.’ And they didn’t say it as a com­pli­ment.”

Gadon, too, knows how per­ti­nent Grace’s story still is. Re­cently, she was on a Toronto-New York flight that was grounded on the tar­mac. Four men in their mid-20s sit­ting be­hind her be­gan to com­plain ag­gres­sively to the flight at­ten­dant. The at­ten­dant of­fered to de-plane them. They de­murred. But as she walked away, one of them loudly said, “Bitch.” A sec­ond later, they were drop­ping the c-word, feel­ing fully en­ti­tled to. The in­sults con­tin­ued for two hours.

Ev­ery­one in Ga don’ s row squirmed. No one spoke up, in­clud­ing Gadon. Their ag­gres­sion si­lenced her. “This ac­cepted level of sex­ism – I haven’t been able to stop think­ing about it,” Gadon says. “It’s so im­por­tant that we tell sto­ries like Grace’s and re­ally look at our in­grained, sys­temic, ac­cepted in­equal­ity.” She pauses. “It was such an aw­ful mo­ment,” she says, “when we landed at LaGuardia, and those men just walked away.”

That’sthe kind of mo­ment At­wood, Alias Grace and all the women be­hind it want us to look at, to think about and never to for­get.

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