Elisabeth Moss and the rest of the cast of new TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” were on hand for a Q&A panel during the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, and some of the statements made during the discussion seemed to rub people the wrong way.
During the panel, actress Madeline Brewer described “The Handmaid’s Tale” as “a story about a woman. I don’t think this is feminist propaganda. I think this is a story about women and about humans. The three people hanging on the wall were all men. This story affects all people.”
Elisabeth Moss — who plays Offred in the screen adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel — added her own thoughts. “I really echo what Maddie said before,” said Moss. “It’s not a feminist story, it’s a human story, because women’s rights are human rights. I never intended to play Peggy [from ‘Mad Men’] as a feminist and I never expected to play Offred as a feminist.”
One of the people in the audience was MTV culture writer Rachel Handler, who took to Twitter to take exception to the actresses’ statements, noting that the show is actually very good but that the marketing folks who prepped the cast for the panel need to “get the message that feminism isn’t a dirty word or a bad PR strategy.”
Following Handler’s tweets, a number of Twitter users weighed in with their own thoughts on this hot-button issue:
In fact, Margaret Atwood herself did deign to offer her own take on the controversy, implying that the intent of the statement may have been skewed due to semantics, with the addition of few words changing the message dramatically.
“They needed an ‘only,’ and ‘also,’ and a human rights definition of the F word, imho,” tweeted the author, which would have seen Moss’s statement altered to “It’s not only a feminist story, it’s also a human story.”
In fact, Atwood actually addressed this exact issue in a recent essay she wrote for the New York Times: “[I]s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ a “feminist” novel?” writes Atwood. “If you mean an ideological tract in which all women are angels and/or so victimized they are incapable of moral choice, no. If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behaviour that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure and plot of the book, then yes. In that sense, many books are ‘feminist.'”