What Is Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ About?

Under his eye. If you’re looking to start a new series, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a drama you’ll binge for hours. Now on its third season, fans are still in love with characters like Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss. Here’s a spoiler-free explanation behind the red cloak and bonnet hype.

The Handmaid's Tale
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Hulu started ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in 2017

The streaming service produced The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017, a drama series based on the novel by Margaret Atwood. It won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Television Series – Drama” and the Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Drama Series.”

Three seasons later, viewers are still hooked on the story of Gilead and the future of Offred, a Handmaid in this totalitarian world. The third season of The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on June 5, 2019.

The main character, Offred, is played by actress Elisabeth Moss, who portrayed Kitty Tyler in Jordan Peele’s Us and Sophie in The One I Love. Other actors include The Social Network’s Max Minghella and The Merchant of Venice’s Joseph Fiennes.

Elisabeth Moss
Actress Elisabeth Moss | Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

It follows the story of Offred

In this futuristic, dystopian world, there is a drastic decline in the world’s birth rate, due to pollution. As a result, the nation of Gilead employs handmaids, the few fertile women, to increase the population against their will.

Each handmaid, dressed in a red cloak, is paired with a commander, a man of importance in the nation. Then, the commander, the commander’s wife, and the handmaid perform “the ceremony,” in a strict, structured environment.

The life of a handmaid is very restricted — they learn how to behave from lessons with their “aunts.” If someone breaks a rule, there are consequences, sometimes mutilation, and even death. Through Offred, the protagonist of the story, viewers see the hardships handmaids face in this dystopian society. The story is a little dark and twisted, but so is the world of Gilead.

Viewers watch as Offred adjusts to this new world and her new commander, while still coping with separation from her husband, her daughter, and her best friend, Moira.

The Handmaid's Tale
The Hulu series ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ | Photo by Calla Kessler for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Is the story of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ based on anything?

Some fans create parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale to real events in United States history. However, the Hulu series is based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, originally published in 1985.

Since then, the red cloak and bonnet have been a symbol of protest for women worldwide, from “heartbeat bills” to the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. The cloak is meant to symbolize stripping away women’s rights; women wearing it to protest packed a punch for some cast members.

“When we first started, there was no way that we could all imagine the impact that it is having right now,” Samira Wiley, who plays Moira, said in an interview with Page Six. “But to be able to see people dressed in handmaids’ costumes in this country, protesting, using it as a real force for change, it really makes you take a step back and realize the magnitude of the television show that you’re creating.”

Season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale is now available for streaming on Hulu.