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When I’m a famous movie director…

2009 March 29
by The Doctor

(Which’ll be about the same time I get my novels published, win an Eisner Award, and learn to sing…)

Two huges changes I’d put into place for a remake of the Handmaid’s Tale: modern day setting + animation.

One of the issues with making adaptations of any work is how to get the story to fit in not just a different medium, but also a different context. I think Atwood’s novel is a good book, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been almost a quarter of a century since the book was written and it feels like a little update would go a long way. Just think of what’s happened to us in the past not-quite-25 years: Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, economic crises, an end to the Cold War, the internet, cell phones, reality television, and the entire realm of politics. There’s a different language used now than in the 80s when we’re talking about really scaring The Average American. What if Gilead had started as a grassroots movement on the internet, mobilizing millions of followers at once against their state’s legislative bodies? What if there had been more major terrorist attacks, or what if we decisively won Iraq and lead a new crusade for the rest of the Holy Land? The focus of the story could still be about the supression of women and sexuality (as well as homosexuals – I liked that idea a lot), but with modern tech I think Gilead’s forces are much, much scarier.

There are a couple reasons I wave flags for an animated Offred. Number one, you can do anything in animation. Was the ’90 movie too bright for you? Think of dark, depressive, and gorgeously detailed backdrops of urban decay, or Stepford Suburbia in washed-out sepia. Dingy and broken environments with the strongest colors being, of course, red, blue, and green. Two, animated movies feel like they age better. The ’90 move will always scream to me late ’80s/early ’90s, but animated movies around that time – Disney and Don Bluth, I’m looking at you – feel less rooted to the time they were made. Three, I really want America to let animation out of the just-for-kiddies box. It’d be an interesting juxtaposition; animation, usually reserved for kids, used to portray a terrible future where a religious regime enforces ‘normalcy’ by destroying anything that offends their morals.

2 Responses
  1. George permalink
    March 29, 2009

    I think that you are right, an update would definitely be needed to create an effective adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. But we could look at things both for the broad “American” fears (such as the examples you have listed like the internet, terrorist attacks, etc.) and for the fears that affect women and people who would considered sexual deviants in Gilead (sex for pleasure, homosexuality, people who have had abortions). I am thinking of course of Proposition 8 and other similar amendments to state constitutions which are removing rights from homosexual couples. I am thinking of the “morning after pill” and how people think that it might promote promiscuity in women, as though that were an awful thing to do. I am thinking of the movement to lower the penalty for rapists because they receive sentences which are too long.
    Atwood’s novel stretches out the problems that have already existed in the nation and takes them to their extremes, to the point that they are almost unrecognizable.
    On a quick change in subject, I think that your animated film idea is fantastic. I agree that animation does not have to be just for kids. Take Waltz with Bashir, an Israeli animated-documentary. It is a powerful story that allowed the director to put to life things that normally would not have been able to be seen in a documentary (such as when the director recounts a nightmare he had and animated it). It depicts war, death, violence, sadness, etc. I also would not recommend it for children who are too young to see that sort of thing. So I second your motion to animate The Handmaid’s Tale.

  2. Baibh Cathba permalink
    March 30, 2009

    Oh my god, I love your mind! I agree with George that there’s an awesome chance to stretch things into unrecognizable shapes if taken to the present. It’s like silly putty of awesome with current events!

    Also, the idea of animation rocks my socks. I’m an anime geek and proud of it. ^_^
    I think anime gets a bad rap because it is often thought of as holding onto childhood too hard… and as such it would add a perfect contrast to the “sleeker” world of the adult.

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