The Handmaid’s Tale has never been easy viewing.
Demanding the entirety of our attention, the show – based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name – takes place in Gilead, a near-future version of North America in which the Constitution has been overthrown, and women’s rights and identities have been stripped away.
It’s impossible to scroll mindlessly through your phone when, on the screen before you, fertile women are being rounded up, red tagged, and forced into a life of sexual servitude and surrogacy. You can’t chomp popcorn along to scenes of torture, mutilation and execution. And you can’t chat while watching an escaped Handmaid revealing that she will carry the physical and psychological scars of her ‘service’ with her forever.
That being said, though, The Handmaid’s Tale remains one of the most important on television. Because, as Atwood has pointed out time and time again, every aspect of Gilead’s culture has really happened at some point in history, somewhere in the world. And, from the abortion bans to the migrant detention centres, it seems life continues to mirror the events portrayed in the dystopian drama.
It is for this reason that Elisabeth Moss – who plays June, the show’s titular Handmaid – gets so angry when people tell her show is “hard to watch”.
“When people say the show is hard to watch, I get my hackles up,” she told the Radio Times.
“If you can’t face our show, then how are you going to face what’s actually happening in the world?”
Moss described The Handmaid’s Tale as “shockingly relevant” – and insisted that it’s because the show is so difficult to stomach that we must force ourselves to do so.
“It’s important to hold that mirror up to society and to ourselves to try to get people to face what’s going on, before it’s too late,” she added.
Moss previously warned viewers against binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale – instead recommending that we take in each episode individually before moving on to the next.
“I just think that it’s important in a show like this to watch, step away and think about it,” she said.
“It’s something where you may need a second to step back and think about what you’ve seen.”
We second that.