We’ve been holding our breath in anticipation of Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale. First there was the news that Top of the Lake star Elisabeth Moss would take the lead, followed by that mind-melting trailer. Now, finally, the first three episodes (it’s a 10-part series) premiere today (April 26).
Like the book, the show is set in a dystopian near future where women are systematically removed from the workplace and lose the right to control their own finances. It’s all very alarming, though most people believe the situation will blow over. But, it doesn’t… “I was asleep before,” narrates Moss’s character in the chilling trailer. “When they slaughtered congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists, and suspended the constitution, we didn’t wake up then, either. Now I’m awake.”
The situation deteriorates as fertile women are placed, against their will, in the homes of barren upper-class couples for the purpose of breeding. Wait, what? Yep, you read that right.
OK, we’re officially holding our breath, again. The story, chillingly deemed speculative fiction when first published in 1985, is INTENSE.
Moss, who takes on the title role of Offred, talked about how the themes explored may relate to modern-day issues, as part of a panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival this past weekend (April 22): “Offred’s a wife, a mother, a best friend. She has a job, and she is a person who is not supposed to be a hero. She falls into it and she kind of does what she has to do to survive…,” reports The A.V. Club.
There’s no getting away from it: Offred is a total badass. Without giving away spoilers, here’s why we’d want her to have our back.
1. She runs for her life.
In the trailer, and early on in Atwood’s book, we meet a young woman (Moss) running through the woods with her small daughter. We soon know the fleeing woman as Offred, but that wasn’t always her name. Her new moniker signifies that she now belongs to her keeper, the Commander. She is “Of-Fred.” Alas, her escape does not go to plan but we give her huge kudos for at least trying to get away. She fought back, she resisted, she failed. But, she did not resign.
2. She quits thinking.
Take that with a grain of salt, because it’s not entirely true. But to survive, Offred knows she has to shut off intrusive thoughts. “Thinking can hurt your chances,” she surmises. She knows she can’t worry herself into a tizzy, or, worse still, give up. So, Offred doesn’t think — or at least does a good job of presenting that persona to the people observing her, most notably, the Commander’s Wife, the Marthas (servants) and other Handmaids. She puts on a good act.
3. She’s still funny.
Clearly, she does think, a lot, and deeply, because she’s the one telling us this tale. And we can totally see her sassy true self in her storytelling — thank goodness. When the Handmaids are paired up for safety, Offred is teamed with Ofglen, played by Alexis Bledel. We watch as the pair meet at the gate and Ofglen comments, “Offred? Are you okay?” Offred can smell her disingenuousness and thinks to herself — and lets us in on her thoughts — “Yes. You pious little shit.” Tell us what you really think of Ofglen.
4. She curses.
Offred has a mouth on her, which, ironically, she currently only uses inside her own head. Her thoughts are the only thing she has ownership of these days. She dresses the part, wearing her long red frock with a white hood to block her face from onlookers. But, on the inside, we get to see that she’s still there. And, she’s pissed. Anger, sometimes, can be enough fuel to carry on. She talks about traveling in twos, saying, “It’s supposed to be for our protection. For companionship. It’s bullshit. There are no friends here.” She’s awake and aware.
5. She appreciates.
Offred now knows what freedom is. In the book, she looks back at her life and laments, “We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?” She and her husband were just going about life as usual. You don’t know how good things are, until they’re gone. We see Offred’s life as it was, pre-dystopia, in flashbacks. She may not have freedom at the moment, but she knows what it is, and she wants it back.
6. She remembers.
Her only alone time — really alone — is when she takes a bath. She uses these fleeting moments to indulge in her memories, daydreaming about her little girl. How old is she is now, she wonders. What might she look like? Offred holds onto hope that her daughter is still alive, which helps sustain her.
7. She removes herself.
It’s at the Ceremony, the ritual during which Offred is called upon to do her duty as a Handmaid, that for the first time we don’t hear her thoughts. It’s as if she goes somewhere else mentally. There is no crying, or pleading, just… nothing. She’s a silent soldier. Her ability to switch off, though a little unnerving, will likely prove to be invaluable.
8. She keeps her sh*t together.
Her words, not ours. The Handmaids who can’t hold onto their sanity are re-categorized as Unwomen, alongside females who are infertile or deemed unseemly for whatever reason. The Unwomen are sent to the Colonies to clean up toxic waste, where sooner than later, their skin will peel off. Offred refuses to think about such things. Instead, at night, she keeps calm by focussing on the moon: “They haven’t changed that,” she says.
9. She takes chances.
The Handmaids are taught to mistrust each other — that someone perceived as a friend could turn on you, and the next day you’re down an eye: “If my right eye offends thee, pluck it out.” But when Ofglen reveals she’s not quite the believer she’d presented herself as, Offred takes a risk and confides in her. And it’s a good thing she did. As we saw in the trailer, Ofglen delivers a valuable warning, right before Offred turns to go inside, “There’s an eye. IN. Your house. Be careful.”
10. She intends to survive.
Yes, yes, #1-9 imply she’s a fighter and she won’t give up, but later she actually comes out and says it: “Someone is watching. Here. Someone is always watching. Nothing can change. It all has to look the same. Because I intend to survive. For her.” She won’t give up, ever.
And that’s just from episode one. Phew!
You can check out The Handmaid’s Tale over at Hulu. The first three episodes premiere today (April 26), with a new installment rolling out each week.
We don’t know what’s to become of Offred, but her strength of character gives us hope.
Moss thinks Offred is pretty badass, too, when we asked her about it at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival (2:26):
Are you going to binge-watch the first three episodes? Let us know your thoughts when caught up!Read More