"That they not make a sort of soft porn film called 'Maidens
in Leather' or something, which has always been a temptation to
certain kinds of filmmakers," the Canadian author told Reuters.
"The whole thing about such a puritanical society is that sex
isn't supposed to be fun. I've seen some people taking a crack
at ('Handmaid's Tale') and going in that direction and it was
always wrong," she said.
First published in 1985, "The Handmaid's Tale" imagines a
totalitarian near future when fertile women are forced into
sexual servitude in a bid to repopulate a world facing
environmental disaster. Women are forbidden to read, cannot
control money and are forced to wear modesty clothing. Everyone
spies on everyone.
Thirty years on, the new TV miniseries for Hulu, premiering
April 26 and starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred, seems relevant.
Atwood, 77, calls it one of her "speculative fiction" novels but
said every scenario was drawn from real events - from Puritan
society to environmental pollution, infertility, the fight for
women's rights, the Cold War, book burnings and slavery.
Even so, the premise of "The Handmaid's Tale" seemed far-fetched
in 1985. "It seemed preposterous even to me. But I don't mean to
say it was preposterous. I didn't think it was going to happen
in that moment," she said.
"When politically inclined people say they want to do such and
such, I always believe them, so why be surprised? Then the 2016
U.S. election happened and all this became much more immediate,"
In an hour-long conversation, Atwood never mentioned Hillary
Clinton, U.S. President Donald Trump, nor any political party.
Her passions are more fundamental and widespread, ranging from
innovations in biotechnology to North Korean literature and the
protection of birds.
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While she is widely regarded as one of the foremost living feminist
writers, it is not a label she would choose. Women's rights and
civil rights are inextricably linked, she says, but women have
become complacent in the last 20 years.
"It's always a terrible idea for women when civil rights themselves
get smashed, unless you take the view that women aren't human
"People have forgotten that civil rights themselves had to be hard
fought for and have to be fought to maintain because someone is
going to take them away from you if they get the chance... I think
whole generations came along who didn't have to fight for those
things, and weren't too worried," she said.
Atwood, who has a background in amateur theater, has a small cameo
in the 10-part TV series but even she was taken aback by how
chilling the new version of "The Handmaid's Tale" turned out.
"It was, did I do that?!" she said on seeing the finished series.
With her talent for speculative fiction that is all too credible,
Atwood is used to people asking for her take on what might be ailing
society in 20 years time.
She has a direct answer.
"That's going to be your problem, because I'm going to be dead."
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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