“My main objective was to track a woman’s journey through a man’s world where she’s endlessly harassed, abused, and expected to remain silent,” explains Sarah Polley, the Canadian actress-turned-writer responsible for adapting Alias Grace from one of Margaret Atwood’s female-focused, dystopian novels into the six-episode miniseries currently on Netﬂix – which many are hailing as the most relevant show on TV, no less.
If Polley’s sentiment feels uncomfortably close to the bone, we can thank a post-Weinstein world for making it so. The slew of harrowing reports of abuse that have emerged in the weeks after his initial accusal have had an eerie synergy with Atwood’s work – making now more than ever the most important time to engage with it. Knowingly or not, Atwood has proved herself to be somewhat of an oracle, writing Alias Grace – the story of a poor Irish immigrant accused of two murders she can’t remember – in 1996, and the equally chilling The Handmaid’s Tale in 1986; a runaway TV hit earlier this year.
“Suddenly it was dangerously close to the climate that we were starting to live in,” Samira Wiley, who plays handmaid Moira, told The New York Times. “We were hoping to be relevant, but we weren’t hoping it would be this relevant.” Coinciding with Trump’s rise to power and the misogynistic rhetoric surrounding his campaign, the show hit a nerve with many; sales of it spiking 200 per cent in the three months after Hillary Clinton lost. With Alias Grace, Atwood has yet again tapped into our current collective psyche. “[The show] explores what it meant to be a woman at that time, but also what it means to be a woman at any time,” Polley said. “I think a lot of women can relate to that, right now and at every period in history.” It couldn’t have come at a better time.