‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Author Found Her Cameo Scene ‘Upsetting’

Margaret Atwood, author of the book The Handmaid’s Tale, had a cameo during the first episode of the show. Despite being the creator of the fictional world of Gilead, Atwood still found her cameo very “upsetting.” Here’s what she had to say about the scene and what it represents.

Elisabeth Moss with awards and women in 'The Handmaid's Tale'  outfits
Elisabeth Moss with women in The Handmaid’s Tale outfits | Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Hulu

Margaret Atwood appeared in this scene of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

In the lead-up to the premiere of the television version of The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood published an article in The New York Times discussing why she wrote the book in 1984. In addition, she discussed the book’s many adaptations. She revealed she had a cameo in the show as an Aunt. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance that lasts a matter of seconds.

“The scene is the one in which the newly conscripted Handmaids are being brainwashed in a sort of Red Guard re-education facility known as the Red Center,” Atwood wrote. “They must learn to renounce their previous identities, to know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.

“The Handmaids sit in a circle, with the Taser-equipped Aunts forcing them to join in what is now called (but was not, in 1984) the ‘slut-shaming’ of one of their number, Jeanine, who is being made to recount how she was gang-raped as a teenager. Her fault, she led them on — that is the chant of the other Handmaids.”

A trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale

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Why Margaret Atwood was so upset by that scene of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Although Atwood was acting, she found her cameo scene “horribly upsetting.” She felt it was too real because women hurt other women in real life — even in contexts where women are oppressed. Atwood noted the actors in the scene were less perturbed than she was, as they giggled on their lunch breaks after the sequence was over.

Star Elisabeth Moss had a similar view. She told Observer she hoped the show wouldn’t traumatize people.

A trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale

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How Elisabeth Moss felt about meeting Margaret Atwood for her cameo in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

During her interview with Observer, Moss discussed meeting Atwood for her cameo. Moss found the experience very exciting. She said she had to “geek out” because she met the author who invented the fictional world she was bringing to life.

In addition, Moss said Atwood was ultimately very pleased with the show and how it deviated from the book. After all, Moss wanted the show to be understandable for viewers who weren’t familiar with the book. So while Atwood was upset by her cameo, she likes Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale overall.

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