I am incredibly excited to discuss the The Handmaid’s Tale with my book club tonight. After reading it, we’d also talked about watching the show on Hulu. We had all heard good things, but I put it off because I thought it would be intense. Today, if for no other reason than I was running out of time, I finally worked up the nerve.
I only got two episodes in, but here are my thoughts so far.
If you read my post about the book, you know I liked the way Margaret Atwood dropped the reader into the story. The show didn’t work that way. Episode one opens with Offred and her husband’s attempt to escape, a scene that was shown as a flashback about halfway through the book. The change made sense, as the visual format needed a more dramatic introduction to the story.
The change I liked most was the casting of actors of color. In the book, society’s downfall is directly related to an overwhelming wave of racism. That is a very important and relative message and I think everyone should read the book so that they can see that effect. However, in a TV show, it would just seem like an excuse not to cast non-white people. (Granted, there still weren’t enough people of color cast, but maybe it’s better than none at all?)
They also made the population problem more dramatic. In reading the book, my understanding was that birthrates were down due to abortions and birth control. In other words, people were choosing not to have children en masse. In the show it was clear that infertility was an epidemic. It had gotten so bad that someone tried to kidnap the main character’s baby.
I’m still waiting for more of the corrupted religion aspect to play in. They’ve shown the Ceremony and talked about the Bible story that inspired it, but haven’t discussed why Offred became a Handmaid. One of my favorite scenes in the book was Serena Joy telling Offred that the Commander was her husband, til death do they part. That scene still appeared, but lacked the final line that gave it power: “That’s what we fought for.”
I also really hated what happened with Ofglen. In the book, she’s a rebel fighter, using the term “Mayday” to judge who may be on her side and informing Offred about the rebellion. The show already seems to have done away with her without giving Offred any of this information…although IMDB has Alexis Bledel credited for two more episodes, so maybe they have something else figured out.
The visual media is always going to be different than books. Some aspects can be portrayed more clearly one way or the other. As far as adaptations go, time will tell how the Hulu series does. I’m interested in how they will move the story along going forward and if they’ll answer the question I’ve been dying to know since I finished the book: What happened to Offred?