Yes, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is ‘Absolutely Feminist,’ Showrunner Clarifies

Bruce Miller, co-stars tell TheWrap why lead Elisabeth Moss wasn’t exactly right

Despite confusing comments made by Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” cast at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it premiered last weekend, the show’s creator and actors have confirmed that the new series is indeed feminist. They just hope it’s also “inclusive” and appeals to everybody.

Series lead Elisabeth Moss caused a stir when she declared Margaret Atwood’s source material to not be feminist.

“[‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is] not a feminist story. It’s a human story because women’s rights are human rights,” Moss said Saturday at Tribeca.

But showrunner Bruce Miller disagreed with his star when speaking with TheWrap this week, although he clarified that he doesn’t want to impose a specific viewpoint on any audience member.

“This show’s absolutely feminist,” Miller affirmed. “[The book is] such a rich view of feminism and a really complicated view of feminism, and you hope you can start those conversations as well. But that’s just fingers crossed.”

Cast members Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Stahovski also weighed in on the comments made not just by Moss, but by costar Madeline Brewer, who plays handmaid Janine, and backed Moss’ comments at Tribeca.

“It’s just a story about a woman. I don’t think that this is any sort of feminist propaganda. I think that it’s a story about women and about humans,” Brewer was quoted as saying. “This story affects all people.”

“It’s the great seminal piece of feminist literature,” Fiennes countered to TheWrap. “I feel it would be inclusive to an audience outside of feminism to say ‘come read this. It’s important.'”

“I think the comment was more about being inclusive rather than to say it’s not feminist,” Fiennes added. “Every cast member knows it’s a piece of feminist literature and a feminist narrative.”

The internal disagreements seem to stem from definitions of the word “feminism” among the cast and crew and how they feel people should view the show. Author Margaret Atwood, who wrote the original novel, has stated in previous interviews that she didn’t want to use the term unless it was defined first.

“When we use that word, feminism, I always want to know: What do you mean by it? What are we talking about? If the person can describe what they mean by the word, then we can talk about whether I am one of those or not,” Atwood said in an interview with Time.

Moss even clarified her statements to the Huffington Post on Tuesday.

“I wanted to say ― and I’ll just say it right here, right now ― OBVIOUSLY, all caps, it is a feminist work. It is a feminist show,” she said.

It’s impossible to ignore the implications. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is about an alternative future where politicians and the powerful control women’s bodies, specifically in terms of reproduction and sex. Many have commented on the parallels between the story by Atwood and new legislation, as well as ongoing political debates, in America.

Strahovski said that while she didn’t think about it much while playing the character of Serena, after the fact, it became apparent.

“When I sit back and watch the pilot episode of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the gut,” she said. “I wake up in the morning and I read headlines about men trying to decide what women are supposed to do with their bodies and what rights we’re supposed to have and then I look at the show I’ve been a part of… It is alarming.”

At its most basic interpretation, feminism is asking for equality for all sexes. “The Handmaid’s Tale” itself is about the dangers of fundamentalism as it pertains to women and other marginalized groups. At the core of the novel and the show is that very speculation into the future of women. So, when Moss appeared to sidestep the “f-word,” it seemed like a callous — especially to fans of the bestselling book on which the new series is based.

But the point, as “Handsmaid Tale” actors and the creator told TheWrap, is to get everybody to watch the show — even people who don’t identify as feminists. The words simply came out wrong.

“This show is going to speak to feminists. It’s going to speak to non-feminists. I think it’s going to offend a lot of people maybe and it’s going to inspire a lot of people,” Strahovski said. “I hope it creates a lot of conversation.”

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