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(1)國立臺灣師範⼤學翻譯研究所碩⼠論⽂ A Thesis Presented to the Graduate Institute of Translation and Interpretation National Taiwan Normal University. 《使⼥的故事》從小說到影集的改編 Shifting Grounds and Moving Tales: The Adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale from Novel to Television. 指導教授:李根芳 Advisor: Dr. Lee Ken-fang 研究⽣:黃美馨 Advisee: Ng Meixin ⼆〇⼀九年⼀月 January 2019.

(2) Abstract In Adaptation Studies, much attention has been paid to literature to film adaptations, but relatively few studies have been conducted on literature to television adaptations. The nature of a television series differs from that of a movie; furthermore, the advent of the age of digital television has brought about fundamental changes to the medium of television itself in terms of its affordances, reach, and audience, among other factors. This study examines the 2017 Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, a 1985 novel written by Margaret Atwood, and investigates the what’s, how’s, and why’s of the shifts that occurred during the cross-medium move. The concepts of shifts in cohesion and shifts in coherence put forth by Blum-Kulka (2000) provides a theoretical framework to guide our comparative textual analysis. Blum-Kulka’s theory was first proposed to be used to study inter-lingual translations, but for this paper, we have applied it to an instance of an inter-semiotic translation. Through this study, we have not only differentiated between the various kinds of shifts that occurred in the adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale to the screen, but also discussed the reasons behind these shifts, be they due to the nature of the medium or the agenda of the adapters. Lastly, by looking at how The Handmaid’s Tale has become an icon of resistance and empowerment in social movements in the real world, we observed that the adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale 30 years after the novel was published has its unique contemporary resonance, serving as both a product of its time and also a commentary on current events. Keywords: Adaptation, The Handmaid’s Tale, shifts, cohesion, coherence, television series. I.

(3) 摘要 小說到電影的改編已有不少從事改編研究領域的學者深⼊探討,但小說到影集 的改編則較乏⼈問津。電視影集的性質和電影的性質有異,且近年來各個線上 影音平台的興起也改變了電視媒體的面貌。無論是電視的預設用途、收看⼈數 、觀眾群等,都從根本上產⽣了巨⼤的改變。本研究通過分析《使⼥的故事》 從小說到影集的改變,探討這項符際翻譯中所發⽣的轉換及其背後的原因。此 小說為加拿⼤作家瑪格麗特·愛特伍 1985 年出版的作品,並於 2016 年由 Hulu( 線上影音平台)改編為影集。本研究立基於改編研究理論,並以 Blum-Kulka (2000)提出的「⼀致性轉換」(shifts in cohesion)和「連貫性轉換」(shifts. in coherence)兩個概念作為分析的框架。Blum-Kulka 所提出的概念原為語際翻 譯研究的框架,但本研究試將此理論植⼊符際翻譯的⽂本對比分析,希望不僅 能將《使⼥的故事》改編中發⽣的轉換歸⼊幾⼤類,同時探究這些轉換背後的 各種原因,例如線上平台的性質或改編團隊製作影集的目的等。《使⼥的故事 》影集和小說產⽣的年代相差 30 年,但影集的出現也讓「使⼥」在近幾年的時 間成為了抗爭和爭取⼥性權益的象徵。⽂本面貌帶有時代烙印,同時也對所屬 時代產⽣述評,該⽂本與讀者之間的共鳴本身具有其獨特的時代意義。. 關鍵詞:改編、使⼥的故事、轉移、⼀致性、連貫性、影集. II.

(4) Acknowledgements They say time flies when you’re having fun. Little wonder that five semesters flashed by in a blink, and I have come to the end of my Masters journey. Compared to the person I was before I came to Taiwan, I dare say I have both been completely changed yet grown truer to my heart. I have the following people to thank for the metamorphosis (into a cockroach or a butterfly, you decide). Words cannot express my thanks to Professor Lee Ken-fang, who has been so much more than a professor to me. Literally all the classes I took under her played a part in the final direction that my thesis took, from the introduction to adaptation studies in the Film and Translation class, to the analysis of queer characters in movie adaptations in the Gender and Translation class, then to the reflections about the realworld power that adaptations can have in the Globalisation and Translation class. Besides her extensive knowledge, what makes Professor Lee a great mentor is her heart. She genuinely cares about her students, and her advice and care kept me afloat when I was drowning. Once again, thank you, Professor Lee. I will also like to thank my thesis committee members Professor Daniel Hu and Professor Kate Liu Chi-wen. Professor Hu has been a ray of sunshine in my time in GITI. Greek and Latin are difficult languages to learn, but he is an easy man to love. Professor Liu provided me with extremely useful pointers both during and after my defence. I thank her for being so generous with her advice and knowledge, without which my paper would still have a lot more blind spots. The fondest memories of school will always be that of our dearest peers. Thank you Gina, for being the most important part of my GITI journey over the past 2.5 years. You are one of the most hardworking people I’ve met, yet also one of the most fun to be around. Thank you for the food and show recommendations, stifled III.

(5) laughter, and Messenger chats and pictures; basically, thank you for ruining so many things. I was glad that it was you who went through hell with me. Mingkai and Weicheng, thanks for being the bananas in pajamas. You each made me laugh in your own way. Alex and Héctor, thank you for being my bodyguards and making me feeling like a star all the time (and also for helping me with my Spanish homework). I cannot thank my support system beyond the school enough. Thank you Bunny, for holding me, but not holding me back. You will always be the one who understands me the best. Thank you 尉遲衛德, for (not) feeding me (to the dogs) during my thesis-writing period. You have added so much colour to my life (and my hair). And to my loves in Singapore, thank you Jon, Cheeling, Shuyu, Shuzhen, Yeesoo, and everyone else who had to put up with my whining and rumblings, especially when I was feeling alone and lonely in a foreign land. You remind me that I still have a place in your lives, and for that I’m thankful. Last but not least, to my family, for allowing me to pursue my dreams instead of following the conventional path. I’m sorry for making you worry about me, but I might still not be home for a while, so please bear with me as I try to figure myself out. The world is large and confusing, but time is finite. I guess no one really knows what s/he is doing, and we are all just making it up as we go along. So, as I fumble and stumble, I’m glad to have met all whom I’ve met, and done all I’ve done. A chapter might have closed, but the story continues.. IV.

(6) Table of Contents Abstract .................................................................................................................................. I 摘要 ....................................................................................................................................... II Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................... III Chapter One. Introduction .............................................................................................. 1 What is Adaptation? .................................................................................................................... 3 What are Shifts? ............................................................................................................................ 8 Cohesion ...................................................................................................................................................... 9 Coherence ................................................................................................................................................... 9 The Handmaid’s Tale ............................................................................................................... 13 The Novel (1985) .................................................................................................................................. 13 The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) -- Why, and why now? ............................................................ 14 Chapter Two. Putting the Visuals into Television – Shifts in Medium .......... 21 Oh, television, how you have grown! ................................................................................ 22 Visually Stunning, Visibly Shocking ................................................................................... 32 Explicitating Pain – Visual Violence .............................................................................................. 34 Changes in text meaning – Breathtakingly Beautiful ............................................................. 51 Conclusion .................................................................................................................................. 71 Chapter Three. And the Plot Thickens – Shifts in Plot Structure .................... 72 Reader-focused shifts ............................................................................................................. 73 Text-focused shifts .................................................................................................................. 77 Narrative Point of View ...................................................................................................................... 79 Plot Structure .......................................................................................................................................... 82 Conclusion ................................................................................................................................ 110 Chapter Four. Come Out, Lash Out, Get Out – Shifts in Characters ............... 112 Moira, Fierce and Free ......................................................................................................... 116 Emily, Cut and Caged ............................................................................................................. 124 Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall – Moira and Emily as a pair of mirror characters . 129 Conclusion ................................................................................................................................ 134 Chapter Five. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis – Conclusion ............................................. 137 References ....................................................................................................................... 144 Appendix A – Screenshots .......................................................................................... 156 Appendix B – Photographs of Characters ............................................................. 156 Appendix C – Summary of Tables ............................................................................ 157.

(7) Chapter One. Introduction Adaptation Studies have gained traction in the academic field in recent years, blurring the boundaries between formerly-disparate fields such as Media Studies, Literature and Translation Studies, just to name a few. Globalisation and advancements in technology have also further broken down barriers, in that people, material resources, and creativity flow across geographical and political boundaries, enabling collaborations and exchange of ideas to take place on a real-time basis. These interactions have also opened up new possibilities for adaptations and other forms of “afterlives” of existing texts and tales, with the numerous adaptations of films based on novels in the market today. Adaptation is a form of inter-semiotic translation, which is an idea put forth by Roman Jakobson in On Linguistic Aspects of Translation, published in 1957. Jakobson also terms inter-semiotic translation “transmutation”, which he defines as “an interpretation of verbal signs by means of signs of nonverbal sign systems”. Henceforth, the scope of Translation Studies expanded beyond the study of interlingual translation and became a much wider field that crosses boundaries and challenges borders, much like its process and products do. In his 2007 essay Adaptation, Translation, Critique, Lawrence Venuti writes that adaptations ought to be examined as “cultural objects in their own right”, reinforcing the legitimacy of adaptations as meaningful and even powerful works. In the same essay, Venuti further writes, “the interpretant is an essential category for studying adaptation.” The interpretant used in an adaptation is like a cultural filter that determines the final product of this process, which is, in the case of this paper, a television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 work of speculative fiction, The. 1.

(8) Handmaid’s Tale. With a gap of more than 3 decades between the first publication of the novel and the launch of the television series, a closer look at the adaptation strategies and decisions adopted by the television production crew could clue us in on how the show creators interprete this literary canon. In the words of Venuti, to “analyse the interpretants… the critic would need to focus on shifts, on the additions, deletions and substitutions that come to light in the adaptation when it is compared to its prior materials” because “as a rule, shifts show the film altering its prior materials so as to signify a particularly strong interpretation of them.” (p.29) On the topic of shifts that occur during the process of translation, we can consult Shoshana Blum-Kulka’s work. In her essay Shifts of Cohesion and Coherence in Translation, Shoshana Blum-Kulka writes about how translation can be viewed as an act of communication, and that as observers of this act, readers ought to consider “both the process and the product of the communicative act” (Blum-Kulka, 2000). She also reminds us that these processes and products “necessarily relate to at least the linguistics, discoursal and social systems holding for the 2 languages and cultures involved,” before moving on to discussing the idea of shifts, which will form the framework for our juxtaposed comparison of the novel and television versions of The Handmaid’s Tale. This paper will focus on the shifts between the novel and the television series via contrastive textual analysis, and explore the significance of these shifts in terms of their re-contextualisation of The Handmaid’s Tale, especially in connection with current events in the world today. We believe that the timing of the release of the television series was not fortuitous, and changes to the plot of the original novel not. 2.

(9) meaningless. Through this discussion, we would like to understand the strategies that television adapters might possibly adopt in order to achieve the objectives they set for their adaptation of the novel, and hopefully to extrapolate the findings derived from the analysis of this text to the study of adaptation of novels to the screen. The analysis will be based on The Handmaid’s Tale novel and Season One of its television adaptation. As of the time of writing, the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale has already gone into Season Two, but the story in Season Two has moved beyond the novel and takes on an entirely new trajectory. In other words, Season One of the series is “adapted from” the novel, but Season Two is, at the very best, “inspired by” the novel. Hence, we will only be discussing the shifts in Season One in this paper. Prior to a discussion on the texts, we believe that it is imperative to first define some of the key terms of this paper. What is Adaptation? For all its surface simplicity, “adaptation” defies simple definition, for its status as a cultural product, as well as its scope, has been in flux, in part due to its many, and many forms of, manifestations. In her book Adaptation and Appropriation, Julie Sanders dedicates an entire chapter to the definition of these terms. On the processes and modes involved in adaptation, Sanders points out that “adaptation can be a transpositional practice, casting a specific genre into another generic mode, an act of re-vision in itself.”. 3.

(10) (Sanders, 2006, p.18) Here, we observe that she writes about two aspects of adaptations, namely, one, the change in genre as a text is adapted from one medium to another; two, what Sanders terms a “re-vision”. For the first point, Sanders goes on to provide a comprehensive but hardly exhaustive list of the various forms that adaptations can take, including but not limited to “novels into film; drama into musical; the dramatisation of prose narrative and prose fiction; or the inverse movement of making drama into prose narrative.” (p. 19) Since Sanders’ book was published, further inroads have been made into the study of adaptations, and even more modes of adaptations, for instance, adaptations of works of literature into video games and amusement park attractions, have been discussed and analysed by scholars in the field, one of whom is Linda Hutcheon, whose work we will be examining further in a bit. Sander’s second point about adaptation being a “re-vision” compels readers to delve further into this term she coins. An adaptation can be a “revision” of an earlier text, “it can parallel editorial practice in some respects, indulging in the exercise of trimming and pruning; yet it can also be an amplificatory procedure engaged in addition, expansion, accretion, and interpolation” (Sanders, 2006, p.18). A study based on this concept of “revision” would find its emphasis placed on the changes between the source text and the adaptation, for instance, on the differences in plot and characters (including presence and absence of characters, or the relative importance accorded to them in their various reincarnations). However, even more important is the concept of “re-vision”, as it casts the spotlight on the intention(s) of the author(s) of adaptations. If the previous point can be seen as the “what” and “how” of adaptations, this second point is thus the “why” of. 4.

(11) these works, also a key focus of this paper. In Sander’s words, the re-visioning “is achieved most often by offering a revised point of view from the ‘original’, adding hypothetical motivation, or voicing the silenced and marginalised.” (p.19) We will explore the intentions of the authors (plural form used due to the complexity of authorship in the production of television adaptations) of The Handmaid’s Tale in this paper, and see how the authors give characters that were silenced and/or marginalised, specifically, lesbian characters, in the novel a new and powerful agency in the television adaptation. As for a “revised point of view from the ‘original’”, we know that narrative strategies in television series are vastly different from literary ones, and we will be examining this shift in Chapter 3. The functions of adaptations are many, and one of them, achieved by the abovementioned strategy of “adding hypothetical motivation, or voicing the silenced and marginalised”, can offer readers/viewers of the adaptation a commentary on a source text, in the sense that the authors of the adaptation can produce a critical derivative of the source text by (1) pruning the “excesses and redundancies” (2) exploring the as-yet-unexplored aspects and potential of the source text. In the same vein, adapters could also “make texts ‘relevant’ or easily comprehensible to new audiences and readerships via the processes of proximation and updating. This can be seen as an artistic drive in many adaptations of so-called ‘classic’ novels or drama for television and cinema.” Sanders also believes that, “The motive behind updating is fairly obvious: the ‘movement of proximation’ brings it closer to the audience’s frame of reference in temporal, geographic, or social terms.” In our analysis of the television version of The Handmaid’s Tale, we will point out the “updates” in the story, and discuss why the adapters made these changes to the original narrative, as well as the motivations behind making these shifts.. 5.

(12) Owing to the concern towards the context in which an adaptation is born and lives, this paper will adopt what Sanders calls “an aesthetic and historicised critical study of adaptation”. In other words, even though this paper will adopt Blum-Kulka’s framework for studying shifts between a source text and its adaptation, we do not seek to provide any value judgment on the merits and/or demerits of the television series. As Sanders points out, “On what grounds, after all, could such a judgment be made? Fidelity to the original? As I hope this volume indicates, it is usually at the very point of infidelity that the most creative acts of adaptation and appropriation take place.” (p.20) Linda Hutcheon shared a similar idea in her book A Theory of Adaptation, published in 2014, when she writes, “An adaptation’s double nature does not mean, however, that proximity or fidelity to the adapted text should be the criterion of judgment or the focus of analysis.” (p.6) Hence, this paper does not aim to discuss fidelity, even though we will focus on discussing shifts between the source text and the adaptation. In other words, in our approach to a discussion of the adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, it does not mean that a higher degree of fidelity to the source text means that the adaptation is better. Rather, we will just seek to understand the process, ideology, and methodology (Sanders, 2006) of the adaptation, especially against the context within which it was conceived. Last but not least, in the Afterword of Sanders’ book, she explores the multiple possibilities of the word “after”: ‘After’ can be a purely temporal epithet… But ‘after’ can also mean allusive to or referential… Yet could we not also riff on the word further and suggest that to go ‘after’ something would be to pursue or chase it?... Coming ‘after’ can mean finding new angles and new routes into. 6.

(13) something, new perspectives on the family, and these new angles, routes, and perspectives in turn identify entire novel possibilities. (p.157) Similarly, a text, like a word, could offer us numerous opportunities for interpretation and adaptation, limited only by our cognition and circumstances. Regardless whether it is a text or a word, the point is that adaptations “are not merely belated practices and processes; they are creative and influential in their own right” (Sanders, 2006, p.160). Hutcheon (2014) puts it across elegantly – “an adaptation is a derivation that is not derivative—a work that is second without being secondary. It is its own palimpsestic thing.” (p.9) Hutcheon’s contribution to the field of Adaptation Studies is in framing adaptations in the contexts in which they occur, with these contexts of creation and reception being “material, public, and economic as much as they are cultural, personal, and aesthetic.”(p.28) Hence, we see that adapters are not merely passive pawns of their temporal, historical, and cultural settings, but rather active agents in determining their approach and strategy towards adapting a text. Their motivation could stem from the macro environment they are sited in, or from private agendas or issues they are personally invested in. In our study of The Handmaid’s Tale, paratexts in the forms of interviews and commentaries by producers and directors, albeit not being academic material in the strictest sense, become a vital source of information nonetheless to help us understand the motivation of the authors in the way they chose to bring the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale to life. Following from her emphasis of contexts in her study of adaptations, Hutcheon echoes Sander’s view about proximation and updating, and writes that many adapters update “the time of the story in an attempt to find contemporary. 7.

(14) resonance for their audiences,” as “even in today’s globalised world, major shifts in a story’s context—that is, for example, in a national setting or time period—can change radically how the transposed story is interpreted, ideologically and literally.” (p.28) Sanders also writes about the respective contexts of the source text and the adaptation, and points out that “we are often working with reinterpretations of established texts in new generic contexts or perhaps with relocations of an ‘original’ or source text’s cultural and/or temporal setting.” (p.19) In other words, a source text and its adaptation might each bear the traces of the circumstances of their conception in the form of different symbols and signifiers as well as motivations behind their production. This point is particularly evident in the adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, for the setting of the narrative had been moved forward 30 years from the novel’s setting, updated to that of our modern world, to make the issues discussed more chillingly familiar and uncomfortably poignant for the contemporary audience. If the temporal setting of the story had not been updated to the 21st century, the viewers’ awareness of issues highlighted in the series might not have been so heightened. What are Shifts? As mentioned above, this paper will focus on the shifts that occurred during the adaptation process from the novel to the television series, and Shoshana BlumKulka’s paper Shifts of Cohesion and Coherence in Translation will provide the main framework for our discussion. As such, it is imperative for us to first attain a good understanding of Blum-Kulka’s work.. 8.

(15) Cohesion Blum-Kulka defines “cohesion” as “an overt relationship holding between parts of the text, expressed by language specific markers” (p.299). In the case of interlingual translation, the “language specific markers” refer to the ways in which relationships between words or phrases in the source text are made more explicit in the target text in terms of grammatical and stylistic features in the target language, which often result in a TL text which is more redundant than the SL text, but also less ambiguous. In the case of inter-semiotic translation, the focus of analysis will be on the affordances of the target medium for the explicitation of elements in line with the intentions of the adapters. For the purpose of this paper, the target medium is that of digital television, so we will be discussing how the adapters of The Handmaid’s Tale capitalised on the advantages offered by this medium in order to reinforce the messages that they want to bring across to the audience. Coherence Blum-Kulka defines “coherence” as the “a covert potential meaning relationship among parts of a text, made overt by the reader or listener through processes of interpretation” and “the realisation(s) of the text’s meaning potential” (p.298). In other words, the study of coherence is one of analysing the various ways in which elements of a text, be they themes, motifs, the relationship among characters etc, are made explicit in the process of interpretation, which is integral to the process of adaptation. Blum-Kulka argues for the following points:. 9.

(16) 1. That there is a need to distinguish between reader-focused and text-focused shifts of coherence, and that probably, the former are less avoidable than the latter. 2. That text-focused shifts of coherence are linked to the process of translation per se, while reader-focused shifts are linked to a change in reader audiences through translation. 3. That both types of shifts can be studied to a certain extent by psycholinguistic methods of text processing. (p.304) Reader-focused shifts In her discussion of reader-focused shifts of coherence, Blum-Kulka writes that a text could form a coherent discourse for a reader if the reader can “apply relevant schemas (e.g. based on world knowledge, subject matter knowledge, familiarity with genre conventions) to draw the necessary inferences for understanding both the letter and the spirit of the text.” (p.304) Blum-Kulka then further divides reader-focused shifts into two types, namely shifts based on audience types and shifts that are traceable to the process of translation per se. Blum-Kulka’s argument informs us that these ideas are tied to the idea of schemas. Essentially, she is arguing that some shifts occurred as a result of the translator’s (or in our case, the adapter’s) attempt to relate to the schemas that his target audience is familiar with, so the translator/adapter has to be aware of and sensitive to the cultural assumptions, norms, and reference network of the target audience. Adherence to the target audience’s reference network, including “allusions to persons, places or other texts” (p.306), may play a key role in building up the coherence of a given story, in the sense that the story becomes more relevant and. 10.

(17) familiar to the target audience, which might be markedly different in terms of their cultural background as compared to the intended audience of the original text. As mentioned above, the updating of The Handmaid’s Tale’s setting to the 21st century is an intentional shift designed by the adapters in order to relate to the schemes of the series’ target audience and bring the adaptation closer to their everyday life by connecting with their reference network. So, the reader-focused shift based on audience type here will be a shift in the reference network from that of a reader in the 1980s and 1990s, to that of an audience of a digital television series in the 2010s. As for the second type of shift discussed here, i.e. shifts traceable to the process of translation per se, the crossing of the story from the printed medium of a literary novel to that of a story told on the small screen undoubtedly involves multiple shifts in the mode of narration. A simple example would be how to translate the protagonist’s stream of consciousness, which makes up the main narrative strategy in the novel, to television, for the novel writer can rely on following the stream of thoughts of her protagonist, but the television adapter will have to tap on other modes of expression, like the visual and auditory, to achieve a similar end (not that sameness/equivalence/adequacy has to be the ultimate goal of an adaptation). In Blum-Kulka’s view, “for reader-based shifts, the translator is in the position of the practitioners of preventive medicine: his role is to foresee the possibilities of ‘damage’ to interpretation in the TL and to apply means to minimise them.” (p.309) Hence, considerations for reader-focused shifts are made before the actual act of translation is performed, as opposed to text-focused shifts that are made in the process of translation itself.. 11.

(18) Text-focused shifts Extending the medical metaphor from the earlier section, Blum-Kulka writes that “with regard to text-based shifts, the translator is in the position of the physician administering treatment” (p.309), and that “text-based shifts of coherence are linked to well-known differences between linguistic systems.” (p.309) In the case of our discussion, “linguistic systems” can be substituted with “modes of communication”, since we are looking at the television adaptation of a novel. Blum-Kulka also points out that the act of translation possibly limits the dialogue’s interpretative options, thus causing a shift in the text’s structure of coherence. Hence, as translators, adapters have to make decisions on what to include, exclude, or shuffle in the product of adaptation. In The Handmaid’s Tale, there are additions, omissions, as well as the re-shuffling of plot points. While we, as viewers, could only try to infer the process from the product, it should not be a stretch to say that these shifts occurred as a result of the intention of the adapters to reinforce the messages of the narrative for their intended readers (viewers) within the capacity of digital television as a medium. Blum-Kulka’s conclusion to this segment is a concise summary of her concerns when it comes to shifts in translation, “Translation is a process by which what is said might become obvious and clear, while what is meant might become vague and obscure.” (p.312) How did The Handmaid’s Tale fare in this respect? Were just the form and surface elements of the tale (what is said) adapted for television, or were the messages (what is meant), having been updated for a new audience, carried forward and brought across successfully? We will examine these shifts in further detail in the next three chapters.. 12.

(19) The Handmaid’s Tale The Novel (1985) A dystopian novel set in a not-too-distant future, The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, was first published in 1985. In a world in which the human population is facing a dangerously low birth rate, a group of theonomist radicals have overthrown the United States government and established a new nation named Gilead. In this totalitarian nation, fertile women are forced to fulfill their “biological destiny” and bear children for the state by serving as Handmaids to Commanders and their Wives. A Ceremony takes place once a month in the household, when the Handmaid is most fertile, so as to maximise the chances of her conceiving a child. During the Ceremony, the Handmaid lays in the lap of the Wife, a woman complicit in the monthly state-sanctioned rape, in a ritual legitimised by the state under the narrative of increasing the nation’s birth rate. In Gilead, women are not allowed to hold money, property, or jobs; they are not even allowed to read or hold a pen. Instead, “legitimate women” take the roles of Wives (of Commanders), Daughters (young girls growing up in Gilead, trained to be Wives when they reach puberty), Handmaids (fertile women), Aunts (women who train Handmaids), Marthas (domestic servants), and Econowives (wives of soldiers and guards), while “illegitimate women” take the roles of Unwomen (sent to a nuclear wasteland to experience a slow death) or Jezebels (prostitutes). As for men, they are divided into 4 categories: Commanders (leaders of Gilead), Angels (Soldiers), Guardians (armed guards), and Eyes (informants).. 13.

(20) Thought control is virtually absolute. When Handmaids meet one another, the standard greeting is “Blessed be the fruit”, while the standard reply is “May the Lord open”, both references to their fertility. Citizens of Gilead, Handmaids or not, have to answer with “Praise be” when they receive good news. The people of Gilead are constantly under surveillance, most noticeably by the Eyes and Guardians. Even between Handmaids, there is no complete trust; one could report the other if she suspected the other of being defiant against the Gileadean government. There is also distrust within the household because of the different position each person occupies, and they each have to protect themselves and safeguard their own interests. The protagonist of the tale is Offred1. In the novel, she speaks to readers in her own voice, and the narrative is later revealed to be a series of cassette tapes that she records after her escape from her Commander’s household. In the television series, she is played by Elisabeth Moss and given the name of June. The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) -- Why, and why now? The Handmaid’s Tale television series is created by Bruce Miller and had Margaret Atwood as the supervising producer. The list of directors includes Reed Morano, Kate Dennis, Floria Sigismondi, Kari Skogland, and Mike Barker. As one might notice, the majority of the directors are female. Even though essentialist arguments such as “female directors will produce feminist shows” are flawed and fallacious, it could also be hard to deny that the choice of the team of directors hints at a deliberate emphasis on greater sensitivity towards issues related to women, since the story is also about women, written by a woman. Or, as Shohini Chaudhuri writes in 1. The Handmaids are named for the Commander they serve. Since our protagonist serves a Commander named Fred, she is known as Offred (Of Fred). If or when she is given a new posting, her given name will change according to the new of her new Commander.. 14.

(21) Feminist Film Theorists, “Increased numbers of women directors by themselves would not necessarily transform the dominant means of representation in films, but one is unlikely to occur without the other.” (p.6) The series received critical acclaim and won eight Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series. It is the first series on a streaming platform to win an Emmy for Outstanding Series.2 Even more recently, the series received 2 Golden Globes awards, USA (2018).3 The timing of the release of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu piqued the interest of many, given the shifting grounds under our feet as an aftermath of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The overwhelming success of The Handmaid’s Tale could be credited in part to what Hutcheon (2014) refers to as “the “rightness” of the historical moment.” (p.143) Sanders (2006) writes about how “the moment in time when they [certain texts] become active, can provide some very specific clues to a text’s possible meanings and its cultural impact, intended or otherwise,” (p.19) and perhaps the success of The Handmaid’s Tale is a testament to the truth of her observation. Production on the series began two years before its release on Hulu, before Trump’s inauguration 4 . The circumstances leading up to Trump’s election and. 2. The full list of awards include Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More), Outstanding Cinematography for a SingleCamera Series (One Hour), Outstanding Drama Series (Source: The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5834204/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt) 3 Best Television Series – Drama, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama. (Source: The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), IMDB, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5834204/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt) 4 It was still the Obama era when Hulu pursued the property two years ago, as part of a strategy to broaden its identity from a glorified video recorder to a producer of original programming. (Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/20/arts/television/the-handmaids-tale-elisabeth-moss-samira-wileymargaret-atwood-hulu.html?_r=0). 15.

(22) subsequent events made the narrative increasingly reflective of real world issues, a coincidence that the production team did not foresee. In an interview with The New York Times (Onstad, 2017), Elisabeth Moss, who plays the protagonist June and is also one of the producers of the television series, said: There was no effort to rewrite the series in light of the new national mood because there was no need. As filming progressed here last fall and campaign-season reports of a boast about genital grabbing and “Lock her up” rhetoric filled the news, any necessary critique was already there… Behind the scenes we were kind of taking a deep breath and saying, “Wow, this is becoming a bit close for comfort.” You’re in a scene, and the character would say something and it would be a little more meaningful, a little more chilling, more resonant. In the same interview, Samira Wiley, who plays June’s best friend Moira, talks about the relevance of the series to real world circumstances, “Suddenly it was dangerously close to the climate that we were starting to live in. We were hoping to be relevant, but we weren’t hoping it would be this relevant.” (Onstad, 2017) This shows us that the producers are not the only ones concerned about how fiction reflects reality. The actors are fully aware and conscious of this fact as well. Atwood herself wrote an article, published in The New York Times on March 10, 2017, prior to the launch of the television series, titled Margaret Atwood on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump. This same article is also the introduction to the new paperback edition of the novel, which was published on April 11, 2017, in conjunction with the release of Season One of the series, which premiered on April 26, 2017.. 16.

(23) Atwood has always intended for her work to be relevant to the real world, and one of the ways she achieves this is to create worlds and events that run parallel to real historical events. She writes in her 2017 article: One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the “nightmare” of history, nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil. In the essay, Atwood also writes about how the medium of television and a fictional work shown through this medium can be a powerful tool to offer a commentary on current issues, especially if the story is updated to be more reflective of our modern lives. The line between fiction and reality often becomes blurred, especially when art imitates life, or vice versa. Her cameo acting experience in this production gave Atwood food for thought regarding the realities of what happens in front of and behind the camera. Although it was “only a television show” and these were actresses who would be giggling at coffee break, and I myself was “just pretending,” I found this scene horribly upsetting5. It was way too much like way too much history. Yes, women will gang up on other women. Yes, they will accuse others to keep themselves off the hook: We see that very publicly in the age of social media, which enables group swarmings. (Atwood, 2017). 5. “This scene” being a victim-shaming scene in which the Aunts make handmaids humiliate a victim of rape.. 17.

(24) Also, as the title of the article suggests, the story, which was written more than 3 decades ago, is still hugely relevant in today’s world, as the world attempts (and is still attempting) to acclimatise to a drastically divisive climate perpetuated by Trump. Atwood continues: In the wake of the recent American election, fears and anxieties proliferate. Basic civil liberties are seen as endangered, along with many of the rights for women won over the past decades, and indeed the past centuries. In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere — many, I would guess — are writing down what is happening as they themselves are experiencing it. Or they will remember, and record later, if they can. Will their messages be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall? Let us hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust it will not. (Atwood, 2017) The tone of the above excerpt is both dismaying and uplifting. Atwood highlights the eerie mirroring of current events and the “predictions” in the novel, showing readers and viewers that the story has not only avoided being dated and irrelevant, but that the themes explored are equally, if not more, closer to home in light of the current state of the world. At the Golden Globe award ceremony that took place on January 8, 2018, the cast and crew of The Handmaid’s Tale went on stage to receive the Best Television. 18.

(25) Series – Drama award. As reported in Variety (Littleton, 2018), the show’s executive producer Warren Littlefield said in his speech, “A lot of time we wish we were not as relevant as we are. When we went into development and production the world was… not the Trump world. Midway through the first season the reality changed and every day we’re reminded of what we carry forward. We have a responsibility to live up to Margaret Atwood’s vision and to be part of the resistance. Today we join the resistance for Time’s Up. That feels for all of us a really important and good place to be.” In a show of support for the Time’s Up movement6, the entire cast and crew wore black to the award ceremony, using their fame and status to make a powerful statement in protest of sexual assault, harassment and inequality towards women in the workplace. From the stance adopted by Littlefield and his crew publicly, we can infer that making the story applicable to today’s world has been their intention all along. They understand that television can be a powerful tool to make a social statement and to raise the public’s awareness of pertinent issues, and they do not hesitate to use their art to catalyse change for the society and to speak up against injustice. Furthermore, besides being the supervising producer, Atwood also gives her strong support to the team, going so far as to make a cameo, as mentioned above, as an Aunt in the first episode of the series. As John Anderson (2017) writes in The Wall Street Journal, “A cameo by the creator bestows nothing if not an irrefutable blessing on the whole production. An undeniable endorsement. A totalitarian, one might say, 6. Time’s Up movement official site, https://www.timesupnow.com/. 19.

(26) seal of approval.” This tells us that Atwood is actively on board with the creative direction of the television series during the production process. The slap that she administers on June’s head during the indoctrination process seems, on the surface, to whip her into shape and make her participate in the brainwashing and victim-shaming session more actively, but it could also be a warning to us. She seems to be saying, “Stop daydreaming. Wake up. Be alert to what is going on.” The following sections will focus on how the shifts between the novel and the series strengthen and expand on the themes of the novel. During the discussion, for clarity’s sake, all Handmaids will be referred to by their own names, instead of their Handmaid names, even if these names have been creations of the TV writers7. Confusion might arise from referring to characters by their Handmaid names. For example, in the television series, Janine was first Ofwarren, then Ofdaniel; Emily was Ofglen, then Ofsteven, while Ofglen becomes the given name of another Handmaid. As Atwood writes in the The Handmaid’s Tale novel, “That is how you can get lost, in a sea of names.” The show producers, on the other hand, enrich the tale of the characters and devote much time to individual stories that have not been explored in the novel, in a bid to build relatable and complex characters, returning their buried identities back to these people, Handmaids or not, and one of the ways they accomplish this is to give each character a name to be known as. As we delve into this fascinatingly sobering and horrifyingly reflective tale, may we also see these names as guiding posts to aid us in understanding both the narrative and the world, and not get lost in the labyrinth of robbed names.. 7. For instance, Offred’s real name is not revealed in the novel, even though many people have deduced that it is June. Similarly, the first Ofglen is not named in the novel, but she is known as Emily in the series.. 20.

(27) Chapter Two. Putting the Visuals into Television – Shifts in Medium As mentioned in the previous chapter, we will apply Blum-Kulka’s concept of “cohesion” to inter-semiotic translation. To recap, Blum-Kulka’s discussion of the idea of cohesion in translation focuses on “an overt relationship holding between parts of the text, expressed by language specific markers.” (p.299) Since we are looking at the adaptation of a novel to digital television, “language specific markers” then refers to the affordances of digital television that differ from those of a written book. The previous chapter offered an overview of Blum-Kulka’s theory, and we will now take a closer look at the details of her framework. In her paper, Blum-Kulka writes that shifts in cohesion could manifest in one or both of the following ways: 1. Shifts in levels of explicitness – the general level of the target texts’ textual explicitness is higher or lower than that of the source text. 2. Shifts in text meaning(s) – the explicit and implicit meaning potential of the source text changes through translations. (p.299) Through her analysis of examples of English-French translation, Blum-Kulka concludes, “explicitation is a universal strategy inherent in the process of language mediation” (p.302). Blum-Kulka also explained that the choice of cohesive markers “serve central functions in the text” (p.302) and could have a large effect on the “texture”, “style and meaning” of the text (p.302). The discussion below will demonstrate how the creators of the television version of The Handmaid’s Tale explicitate the themes inherent in the novel by. 21.

(28) making use of the affordances of the audiovisual medium. Some of their decisions with regard to visuals also shift the text meaning. We believe that the show creators want their television adaptation to bring across themes and messages important to them, so we will also explore how these shifts serve the series’ central function, which is to establish contemporary resonance between the product and the audience, in order to spark discussions and awareness of pertinent issues in today’s world. From the analysis, we hope to show that each shift made in the process of adaptation is meaningful and deliberate, each detail contributing to the cohesion of the adaptation by building up the narrative from various perspectives. Before we look at the shifts in detail, we can first seek a deeper understanding of the medium and its users in order to appreciate its reach and impact on society, so that we can examine the adaptation’s messages against a clearer backdrop.. Oh, television, how you have grown! Film and cinema studies have been a prominent aspect of Translation Studies since the cultural shift of the translation studies field to include discussions on adaptation as translation. Film, or motion picture, emerged as a form of mass media more than a century ago, and has since evolved from a soundless and colourless mode of visual representation to the form we see today, its mise-en-scène, editing, and soundtrack having evolved to include digital tools and enhancements. Its myriad forms have appealed to scholars in various fields, most notably those in Media Studies and Literature, and the increasing research on adaptation of novels for the screen has led to the emergence of a new field that is Adaptation Studies. In this area, scholars have primarily focused on examining the adaptation of novel to films, including but not limited to the following rich works of prominent adaptation studies academics. 22.

(29) such as George Bluestone, Robert Stam, Brian McFarlane, James Naremore, Thomas Leitch, Linda Hutcheon, and Julie Sanders, just to name a few. In contrast, novel-to-television adaptation has received considerably less attention in fields beyond studies on media and popular culture, perhaps due to the public’s preconception of film as art, and television as (usually mindless) entertainment. It is perhaps quite natural to say that someone is a connoisseur of film, but seldom would one hold someone whose hobby is to watch television in similar regard (the term “couch potato” pops into mind). However, television can be a powerful tool when wielded by someone with political intent. The nature of television series offers immense possibilities as an adaptation means to tell a novel’s story on the small screen. On the medium of television, Arthurs (2009) gives a concise summary of its development since its entry into the lives of the masses several decades ago in her book Television and sexuality: Regulation and the politics of taste. Television is a mass medium whose institutional routines were formed in the 1940s and 1950s within a set of practices and regulations that assumed a middle-class family audience with traditional patterns of gendered behaviour. These households were imagined as nuclear families, with one television in the sitting room that the family watched together, except during the day when the husband and older children would be out at work. (emphasis added by me) Half a century later, with the advent of the age of digital television, the nature of television has changed drastically, whether in terms of the variety of themes,. 23.

(30) broadcasted content, modes of viewing, speed of dissemination, and so on. Television-watching is no longer just a recreational activity for family members to bond over a meal in the dining room (although this function still exists), but has also expanded into a medium that tackles controversial issues head-on, sometimes in great depth, especially with the rise of digital television, also referred to by its other monikers such as internet television and streamed television. The simple fact that a television series typically has a relatively long airtime opens up a lot of possibilities for breathing new life into an existing text. For instance, Season One of The Handmaid’s Tale consists of 10 episodes of about an hour each. This airtime alone has already shown us that television adaptations offer more maneuvering room for an adapter than, say, a film adaptation of about 2 hours (assuming that it is a one-part movie), and that compressions of the source text material might not be very necessary when adapting to television. The relative freedom accorded to a television production in terms of airtime means that television adaptations can allow for the addition of subplots and other details, hence enriching the narrative and possibly making certain salient points more explicit. As a case in point, The Handmaid’s Tale was also adapted into a film in 1990. It was directed by Volker Schlöndorff, and starred Natasha Richardson as Kate/Offred8, with the screenplay written by Harold Pinter. The film adaptation of the novel received overwhelmingly negative reviews, with a rating of 6.0/10 on IMDb, and a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes9. Not accounting for factors such as the congruence of the production team’s strategies and the public’s preferences, which could be hard to pinpoint and harder to pin down, one of the factors leading to the poor reviews of 8 9. In the film adaptation, Offred’s given name was Kate. Both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes accessed on 28 Nov 2018.. 24.

(31) the film adaptation10 could partly be a result of having to compress a complex story into a limited time frame of about 2 hours (though one might argue that this is not a terribly valid excuse, as there have been numerous accounts of successful adaptations of literature to the silver screen). Returning to the topic of television as a medium, one will not fail to note that television series often have multiple seasons. Besides offering even more time to explore pertinent issues, the long runtime also gives the creative team additional license to extrapolate the narrative beyond its source text if they so desire. A series that has already done this is Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, which is adapted from a similarly titled novel by Piper Kerman. The television adaptation has gone way beyond the original story and received great acclaim for their commentary on social issues through the original stories created in the latest seasons, which diverge from the content of the novel completely. The series is in its 6th season, as of 2018, giving the writers ample room to capitalise on the immense success and popularity of the series to further their discussions on contemporary issues. For instance, in the latest season, there are many references to the Trump administration, such as mentions of a wall and terms such as “fake news”, and a subplot about an immigrant detention centre. Besides the long airtime of television series, we can also focus our attention on the very nature of digital streaming, which is something that has changed the face of the television industry and the viewing habits of viewers, as well as its impact on television drama series as a genre. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now have gained lots of steam and subscribers in recent years.. 10. John Anderson, of The Wall Street Journal, in his review of The Handmaid’s Tale television series, mentioned Volker Schlöndorff’s 1990 feature and called it “unwatchable”. (Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-handmaids-tale-review-an-american-dystopia-1492721723). 25.

(32) Information on the year founded, regions served, subscription cost, and number of subscribers for these major streaming services is presented in the table below: Provider11. Netflix12. Founded Regions served. 1997 190 countries16. Subscription $7.99 cost (basic) (USD) Number of 130 subcribers in 2018 (millions). Amazon Prime Video13 2006 Worldwide (excluding Mainland China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria)17 $8.99. Hulu14. HBO Now 15. $7.99. $14.99. 100. 20. 5. 2007 2014 United States United States and Japan. Table 1: Comparison of major television streaming services An interesting point to note in Hulu’s case is that, between the years of 2016 to 2017, its subscription figure, at 17 million, increased significantly, which is “an increase of a little over 40 percent from the 12 million subscribers that Hulu announced back in March 2016” (Ha, 2017). It is perhaps not a coincidence that Hulu’s subscriber base grew so substantially from 2016 to the end 2017, since its 11. Jackson, S. (n.d.) The world of streaming TV Is a crowded one: Here's an explainer--and what to watch on each service. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/sarah-jackson/best-tv-streamingservices.html 12 Statista. (n.d.) Number of Netflix streaming subscribers worldwide from 3rd quarter 2011 to 3rd quarter 2018 (in millions). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/250934/quarterlynumber-of-netflix-streaming-subscribers-worldwide/ 13 Statista. (n.d.) Number of Amazon Prime members in the United States as of June 2018 (in millions). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/546894/number-of-amazon-prime-paying-members/ 14 Statista. (n.d.) Number of Hulu's paying subscribers worldwide from 4th quarter 2010 to 2nd quarter 2018 (in millions). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/258014/number-of-hulus-paying-subscribers/ 15 Smith, G. (2018) HBO's Online Channel Surpasses 5 Million U.S. Subscribers. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-01/hbo-s-channel-for-cord-cutters-surpasses-5million-subscribers 16 Netflix. (n.d.) Where is Netflix available? Retrieved from https://help.netflix.com/en/node/14164 17 Wikipedia. (n.d.) Amazon video. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Video. 26.

(33) adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, released in April 2017, proves to be a titanic success as both a commercial production and social commentary. The comparison of these figures highlights two issues, 1) that the number of subscribers can increase rapidly over a short period of time, and 2) the success of a particularly popular production can possibly have a huge impact on the on subscription numbers. In contrast to the growth of the digital television industry, older forms of television subscriptions have been steadily losing their hold on the market since several years back. According to the “Cord-cutting” write-up on Wikipedia, 2010 was the first year that pay television saw quarterly subscriber declines. An article written by David Sims in 2017 for The Atlantic also points to the fact that “cable television officially peaked in the year 2000,” with this number declining by millions each year after that, with the reason being a paradigm shift in favour of what the writer terms “skinny TV”, which refers to the preference of television viewers switching to that of paying less for a smaller bundle of channels, instead of “paying hundreds of dollars a month for hundreds of TV channels they don’t watch.” This trend has also sparked the emergence of the term “cord-cutters”, referring to television viewers who cancel their subscriptions to cable television services or reduce the number of hours of subscription television viewed in favour of viewing television content over the Internet, which provides content that is either free or significantly cheaper than the same content provided via cable. The increasing availability of televisions with Internet capability is also both a catalyst and product of the cord-cutting trend. There is even a derivative term “cord-nevers”, referring to viewers who have never before used commercial cable for television service, instead relying on Internet sources all along. These cord-nevers, typically digital natives, are. 27.

(34) generally younger than people who have subscribed to cable television, and are a defining force in shaping the media landscape of the 21st century. Arthurs (2009) points out that the “effects of technological and economic changes in the television industry are not inevitable but the result of the ways in which people respond to the potential they offer.” Arthurs refers to this transition dating back to the start of the 2010s as the “third era in television,” and the first two Golden Ages of Television were the 1950s and the 1980s respectively (Ha, 2017). Acknowledging that this new field and the resultant implications of such a transition, including television’s “convergence with other digital media such as the Internet and mobile handsets and the integration of television companies into large, global media conglomerates,” (Arthurs, 2009, p.3) are worthy of more research and attention, Arthurs went on to discuss the why’s and how’s of this digital move, stating that “the development of digital means of distribution and the fragmentation of the market as channels proliferate are not simply the product of technological advances,” (p.31) and that “digital media are a means to develop new markets in conditions of rising affluence in a consumer society.” (p.31) Michael Ryan Moore writes, in his 2010 essay Adaptation and New Media, digital communication channels “new media”, as opposed to analogue media channels (“old media”), and that “this shift is synonymous with both the personal computer in particular and the Internet more generally” (p.180). He goes on to provide some specific examples of what he means by “old media” and “new media” respectively, listing “CD-ROMs, DVDs, Photoshop, YouTube, MP3 files, blogs, wikis, and a host of other contemporary communication technologies” as examples of “new media”, while “analogue text, photography, television, and cinema” are given as examples of. 28.

(35) “old media” (p.180). If we were to compare digital television to its predecessor, we would see that digital television shares more similarities with online video platforms such as Youtube, a prime example of a new media channel, than analogue television. Moore also references Yochai Benkler’s book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom and talked about the maturation of technological advancements that enabled this shift, in particular “the simultaneous development of personal computing, of ‘a communications environment built on cheap processors’, and on the development of a networked infrastructure for those processors, namely the Web,” (p.182) and “together, these networked information communication devices lower many of the traditional costs of producing, distributing, and consuming media (Benkler 3).” (p.182) The lowered costs of production and distribution could be attributed to the decreased reliance on physical conditions. For instance, films and television programmes were shot on film in the analogue era, so, disregarding other costs for now, we can say that the more footage shot, the higher the production cost. With regard to distribution, production companies used to have to produce VHS tapes, VCD, or DVD sets of their shows to encourage fans to pay for collectors’ sets, and the physical production and transport of these copies to various stores and outlets around the country, or even around the world, result in costs on the company’s part. As for the lowered cost of consuming media in the digital era, we have already seen in Table 1 that an average consumer could have access to a digital television service for less than 10 USD per month, as compared to having to fork out tens or even hundreds of dollars for a monthly cable television subscription. The infrastructure available in the modern world to support this digital move is in place, thus enabling the transition. Moore writes, “prior to these technologies,. 29.

(36) television consumption was often ritualised in both time and space. Networks broadcasted specific shows at specific times, and audiences were expected to fit themselves into the network’s scheduling.” (p.181) However, in the age of new media, “new technologies like digital video recording and streaming Web video have altered many of the norms of media use. Rather than conforming to the network’s timetable, audiences can timeshift, playing back media when and where they choose.” (p.181) If we look at the abovementioned technological advancements as “hardware” readiness, we can also think of the changing preferences of consumers as “heartware”. Viewers in the age of new media can be said to be spoilt for choice, as they have access to multiple platforms that offer a wide range of options. In the past, if a family had only one television set, it meant that some members of that family might have had to compromise when it came to what show to watch; now, with the ubiquity of personal computers, laptops, as well as mobile devices, different members of the family could watch something different at the same time. This way, viewers are able to fine-tune and hone their tastes more than what was possible a generation ago, and television content providers could offer more diverse options apart from shows tailored to the needs of the whole family. Network providers, whether spurred by commercial motivation or other corporate agenda, will of course try their best to meet the demands of their customers. The Verge News Editor Lizzie Plaugic shares that, “Netflix, Hulu, and HBO also have fewer restrictions than traditional TV networks”, as these streaming companies have the autonomy to produce their own content without being subjected to the mercy of more well-established network television companies. In the same article, Plaugic’s fellow writer Ross Miller points out, “Gone are the days where you have. 30.

(37) write/shoot/edit around commercial breaks and — this is my favorite — you can choose to build an episode around the idea of people binging.” The large subscriber base of streaming services, coupled with the relative freedom in content production, means that digital television can become a formidable force in shaping public opinion or educating the public if the content producers are so inclined. This transformational power of television, whether in terms of sparking off debates and discussions about pertinent issues in society, or exposing more people to notable literary texts that were adapted, cannot be underestimated. On the point about literature, in the words of Hutcheon (2014), “television adaptations of literature, in particular, can act as substitute vehicles for bringing literature to a larger public, cutting away the class differences inherent in access to literacy and literature.” (p.120) Put another way, the number of people who read The Handmaid’s Tale falls way behind the number of people who watch The Handmaid’s Tale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the television series reached a much wider audience in a much shorter time than the novel, and in turn interested more people to read the novel after watching the series, thanks to the success of the drama series itself. According to a report by Telegraph, “Sales of the book are up 880 per cent on last year [2017], 73 per cent of these purchases made since the series began on May 28 [2017].” (Betts, 2017) To summarise, the digitalisation of the television industry provides writers and creators a new world of freedom for artistic expression and social commentary due to factors such as its airtime, reach, autonomy in content production etc. Thus, there is little doubt that the study of adaptations of literature to television would become an up-and-coming field in Adaptation Studies and related fields, and that television as a. 31.

(38) medium would no longer just point towards mindless entertainment, given its educational and political value. Pei-yun Chen observes that in the process of translations and adaptations, new settings, new readers, and new audiences are created. Translations and adaptations do not just passively respond to the environment, but instead actively create one, which is born out of constant adjustments on the part of the reader or viewer in the process of viewing. To put it another way, adaptations can create new reader/viewer types, as a departure from the “couch potatoes” that we imagine when talking about television viewers. In the next section, we will discuss the affordances of the medium of digital television, as well as the shifts that these affordances enabled in the adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.. Visually Stunning, Visibly Shocking In Adaptation and New Media, Moore writes, The technological and social norms of new media use support new theories of adaptation— ones that recognise the challenge not only of adapting things like genres, plots, characters, themes, audiences, and ideologies but also of recreating one media within the social and technological affordances of another. (p.180) In other words, studies on adaptations should move beyond the confines of discussing surface fidelity, and also beyond mere comparisons of similarities and differences between novels and audiovisual products. Moore also raises the question, “How does the system of film, with its protocols of shots, scenes, celluloid, and digital film, and so on, recreate the attitudes and rhythm of printed text?” (p.189) He. 32.

(39) is primarily writing on film adaptations, but we could also ask ourselves what affordances the medium of digital television provides, and how these affordances shape the eventual product. As Robert Stam writes in his article Beyond Fidelity, “Each medium has its own specificity deriving from its respective materials of expression.” (p.59) So, an adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale made for a television streaming service might be markedly different from one made for analogue television, for instance. Many viewers and critics of The Handmaid’s Tale’s adaptation have pointed out that the television series can be said to be equal parts beautiful and horrifying. Multiple major online websites have unanimously expressed similar views. For instance, The Guardian describes the series as “so beautiful to watch that the end of each episode brought a peculiar, near-physical, pain at having to return to the unchoreographed hubbubs and humdrum colours of the regular world,” and how the series excels in its “the visual coherence, the sumptuousness, the way that every shot looked like a Vermeer” (Williams, 2017). The likeness of the show’s visual composition to Vermeer paintings have also been taken note of by Telegraph, “all saturated colour juxtaposed with austere Vermeer-esque bonnets” (Betts, 2017). Buzzfeed describes Gilead as “a startlingly exquisite Eden, with dark, claustrophobic corners” that is both a beauty to behold and a slap in the face” (Petersen, 2017). New York Times compares Gilead to a nightmare, but one that has “a kind of serene, backto-the-land wholesomeness that makes it all the more eerie” and that “it’s a ruthless dictatorship, but it would make a lovely Pinterest board” (Poniewozik, 2017). The New Yorker calls the show a “gorgeous tableaux of repression” and points out that “the emphasis is visual, making violence as beautiful as a nightmare” (Nussbaum, 2017). Several articles published on Medium have also made similar observations,. 33.

(40) with one describing the television series as being “gorgeously brutal” (Ukoha, 2017), with another saying that it is “one of the most beautiful shows ever filmed on television” and “a Caravaggio painting come to life” (Gordon, 2018). With regard to the strong visuals in the show, Reed Morano, who became the first woman to win an Emmy for Drama Series Directing in 22 years for her work on the first three episodes of the series, is herself an experienced cinematographer (Littleton, 2017). Morano has stated that her visual aesthetics come with a purpose. Speaking to Women and Hollywood in 2016 before shooting commenced, Morano said that she “would not let the visuals overtake the story, the narrative, or the performances” (Berger, 2016), emphasising that the role of visuals is to serve the story. After shooting was concluded, she told New York Times that in terms of aesthetics, “the aesthetics are driven by the emotion” (Vineyard, 2017a). As such, in the following segment, we will be taking a closer look at how the aesthetics of the adaptation serve the story in both its beauty and violence using the framework of Blum-Kulka’s theory of cohesion. We will like to demonstrate that the violence and pain embedded in the show contribute to the increased explicitness of the themes in the narrative, while its visual beauty shifts the text meaning by changing or enhancing it. Explicitating Pain – Visual Violence Viewers of The Handmaid’s Tale will not be unfamiliar with the oftenshocking violence of the series. The New York Times describes the adaptation as a tense one that “doesn’t sanitise the book’s cruelty” (Onstad, 2017), and Electric Literature calls the pain “visceral”, “more so even than Atwood’s novel” (Dykema, 2017).. 34.



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