Hulu's highly anticipated series The Handmaid's Tale, based on Margaret Atwood's iconic and chilling dystopian novel, introduces a world where women are controlled by men and stripped of all their basic human rights. The concept of men holding the position of power is nothing new (most of President Trump's Cabinet picks have been white men) — but the most disturbing element of this scenario by far is the fact that the story is set at some point in the near future. This isn't some flawed piece of American history — it represents the possibility of what the future could hold. And while actor Yvonne Strahovski's character on The Handmaid's Tale, Serena Joy Waterford, may have the most ideal set up as a Commander's wife in the new regime, she's still living in a male-dominated world, with very limited power. "It is very timely and relevant right now," Strahovski says. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't strike a chord with me when I sit back and I watch it now in 2017 when you've got all these headlines coming up about women's issues and rights."
Since his inauguration, Trump has initiated policy changes that directly impact women's health, such as the resurrected and greatly expanded Global Gag Rule, which denies government funding to organizations that provide abortion information. And, of course, there are his efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Strahovski hopes seeing such a radical, totalitarian rule like Gilead (a dictatorship formerly known as the United States of America), will help to spark some much-needed conversation about the direction the country could be headed.
Strahovski plays a younger Mrs. Waterford than the one in the original novel, a detail that might stand out to those who've read the book. The change, says Strahovski, highlights that something is very wrong in Gilead and makes Serena's infertility "even harder to swallow." In the book, Mrs. Waterford is barren, potentially because of her middle age, but the show's depiction puts Serena at an "age where she should be having a baby," Strahovski states, adding that it also ups the emotional stakes for Serena as well. "I think as a woman who would want to have a child... when you suddenly have to hand that responsibility off to somebody else and watch it happening, that's really difficult."
Despite her humanizing struggle, Serena is not someone who fans will root for. She is a villain in the show — one with her own demons — who helped build the oppressive society she now resides in. "She's surviving in something she created," states Strahovski, referring to how instrumental Serena Joy was in making Gilead. "It wasn't like someone put her in a cage. She actually created the cage herself." Granted, she may be at the higher end of the class system than Offred (Elizabeth Moss), but even her power has limits — limits that one day may make her regret ever helping to set this new world into motion. In fact, Strahovski thinks that is actually misplaced anger toward herself: "I think a lot of her rage is due to maybe a lot of unrecognized regret... in making a world like this."
There are super strong parallels to what's going on in the real world and this show.
In The Handmaid's Tale, democracy has fallen and injustice has prevailed. Women are treated like cattle and subjected to electric prods when they speak up against the regime. It's an extreme look, but then again... we're well-acquainted with a government (made up of mostly men) that tries to control women's bodies. As much of the early commentary around the show has noted, bits of The Handmaid's Tale feel eerily familiar. "There are super strong parallels to what's going on in the real world and this show," Strahovski states. "I hope there's some conversation that arises out of this."