Book or TV Series: The Handmaid’s Tale is some scary sh*t

By Ann Varner

Last week, the UMKC Women’s Center bought the book The Handmaid’s Tale and less than a week later I finished reading it. My interest, like many others, first sparked when Hulu premiered The Handmaid’s Tale series last year. The second season recently premiered on April 25 which coincided with Denim Day, a national campaign that raises awareness of the misconceptions of sexual assault and rape – a very fitting coincidence. Only a few episodes in, and I already think that this season is more terrifying than the first. Despite the TV series doing a very good job of following the storyline of the book, I did notice a few differences in the TV series that may have been added to appeal to today’s TV audiences.

Many of the differences between the book and the TV series center on the characters. For instance, one of the biggest differences is that in the book, Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, and the Commander himself are actually a much older couple than portrayed in the Hulu series. In the series, they are a young, beautiful couple. The biggest plot difference is that Janine (or OfWarren) does not give birth to a healthy baby. In the book, the baby dies after a few days; whereas, in the show, the baby is healthy but Janine cannot give it up and attempts suicide and threatens to kill the baby. In the show, this causes Aunt Lydia to try to force the Handmaid’s to stone Janine to death. At the end of the first season, June (or OfFred) refuses to stone Janine and the other Handmaid’s follow. This is the first sign of revolt and the Handmaid’s refusing to follow orders.

Although the first season of the series was a complete retelling of the book, the producers have used the second season to explore the details of June’s character more deeply. For example, the second season addresses June’s affair with her husband who was married when they met. We also learn more about her relationship with her extremely feminist mom who ends up in the colonies. These glimpses into June’s past help to define the choices she makes to survive her current situation.

After reading the book, I am pleased to say that the writers of The Handmaid’s Tale series have done a great job sticking with the story line in the book, but are also using some creative license to expand the plot (with author Margaret Atwood’s involvement). The show is a horror story that I can’t stop watching, but it’s also a grim reminder of why we must continue to fight for women’s rights.