Show You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: The Handmaid’s Tale

This weekend you could turn on your TV  to watch a totalitarian regime use self-serving but ostensibly biblical rationale to oppress women, the LGBT community, intellectuals and others – or you could turn the news off, flip over to Hulu and watch the first five episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. We suggest the latter.

If you aren’t familiar with Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, you won’t need to know much before you watch the Hulu series. Creator Bruce Miller wonderfully establishes the setting and reveals information at a pace that will answer all your questions in time. The Handmaid’s Tale depicts life in Gilead, a quasi-biblical military dictatorship established in the former United States after the constitution was suspended sometime in the near future. With the birth rate drastically low, low-status fertile women are assigned to Commanders as “Handmaids” to bear their children if the commander’s wife is unable to conceive. There’s no real choice in the matter: the other option is to get shipped off to the “colonies” and clean up nuclear waste. The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and her experiences with her commander (Joseph Fiennes), his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and fellow Handmaids (Alexis Bledel [Ofglen], Madeline Brewer [Janine], Samira Wiley [Moira]).

The Handmaid’s Tale Is So Timely It Will Scare You

Since Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, it’s always had unsettling echoes of reality … but sometimes it’s extra prescient. In 1985 America was experiencing the rise of the Moral Majority – a far-right backlash to developments both negative (the rise of street drugs, the growth of the AIDS epidemic) and positive (the gains made by the ’70s Gay Liberation Movement and the reproductive rights developments in Griswold v. Connecticut  and Roe vs. Wade). The back-and-forth between periods of social progress and reactionary periods of regression are familiar to anyone who’s opened a history book. An adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale probably would have been well-received in the 90s or early 2000s, but the Hulu adaptation feels almost necessary now. With news stories about an Oklahoma bill requiring a man’s permission to get an abortion, the commodification of children in unethical surrogacy and adoption contracts, and gay men being rounded up into camps in Chechnya, it’s not hard to envision a future like Gilead.

In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood makes it clear that not long has passed between its 1980s publication and the establishment of Gilead– she refers to cassette tapes, 1950s military surplus and 1970s magazines all still in existence. Likewise, the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the near future: in flashbacks to Offred and Moira’s recent past, there are references to Tinder, Uber and Craigslist. If Gilead looks familiar it’s because it should – Atwood has commented that everything that happens in The Handmaid’s Tale has already happened somewhere in the world. Even smaller details are accurate, such as the Handmaids’, wives’ and Marthas’ (housekeeper/cook/maid) old-timey outfits —  they’re spot-on when you look deep into the trenches of some Christian Fundamentalist movements or the FLDS church, where womens’ wardrobes are a kind of Little House throwback.

The Handmaid’s Tale Is Probably Going To Win All The Acting Awards

… or at least it should. If you watched Mad Men you already know that Elisabeth Moss can do everything, but if not we’re letting you know: Elisabeth Moss can do everything. She seamlessly switches from young, carefree Offred, to Offred as a Handmaid concealing her distaste for the regime, at once defiant and compliant. Moss excels both in scenes without dialogue and in voice-overs (I especially enjoyed the voiceovers after re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale and getting to the epilogue — no spoilers, but I forgot about that part). Joseph Fiennes is just as the Commander should be: he’s clearly part of the regime, but you can’t help but have some questions about him. Yvonne Strahovski is delightfully icy as Serena Joy. I admit that when I read The Handmaid’s Tale I was expecting something a little more Tammy Faye Bakker, but she’s actually perfect for a 2017 version. I can just picture Serena Joy as the Pinterest-perfect upper-class housewife before Gilead.

The real revelation, though, is Alexis Bledel as Ofglen. We’re both longtime, reunion-panel-attending Gilmore Girls fans, but having only seen Alexis as Rory I didn’t really know what range she is capable of. In one instant you can see why Offred believes that Ofglen is totally sold on the Gilead lifestyle, and in the next you understand that Ofglen is a rebel. Ofglen is both unbreakable and quietly devastated, and Alexis’s innocent appearance is used to better end here than it is in Gilmore Girls; as Vanity Fair noted, “she’s less Bambi here and more trapped bird.”

For what it’s worth, in my notes I wrote “somebody should have told me Samira Wiley was in this,” so I’m telling you now. If Poussey was one of your favorites in Orange Is The New Black, you’ll absolutely love Samira as the ebullient Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale. If Moira’s character in the Hulu series has the same outcome as Moira in the novel, I can’t wait to see it, but at least through episode 5 she is seen only in flashbacks.

The Handmaid’s Tale Works Really, Really Well As A Show

Many books suffer in film adaptations, and I think even more suffer in television adaptations. However, the Hulu limited series is the perfect way to adapt The Handmaid’s Tale. The format has allowed for expanded stories of some of the characters — for instance, Ofglen has a bigger backstory and a different fate in the show; we have filled in Moira and Offred’s history, but there is still more of Moira’s future to come as of episode 5. Although some characters have been altered or expanded on a bit, every change preserves the spirit of the book. Bruce Miller also made the wise choice of adding in details to show that we aren’t too far off from 2017. Now that The Handmaid’s Tale has been renewed for a second season, I do wonder how the comparison to the book will pan out. Does the first season encapsulate the whole novel, or will the season end partway through? If you have read the book, you’ll know that the Epilogue gives fodder for how the show could continue if season one does end with the book.

Still, I’d argue that all of the best adaptations succeed because they can be enjoyed on their own merits, and that’s my belief of The Handmaid’s Tale. The whitewashed lighting and beautiful set and costume design lend a real cinematic feel, and the writing includes plenty of time for suspense and speculation — but it doesn’t go full Lost and add a ton of elements that the viewer doesn’t have time to make sense of. Even the songs at the end of each episode are perfect. It’s dystopian fiction without any teens being sorted, and it’s grounded enough in reality that you won’t feel like it’s set on a different planet. The Handmaid’s Tale is a series so gripping that when I remember it’s Wednesday and a new episode is up, I’m more than happy to switch off the news. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.

Emmy Awards 2015 – Best and Worst Dressed

It’s been a while, but we’re back in awards show mode, and what better way to kick it off than with the ceremony where all our favorite TV stars unite! Last night, we saw some gowns to die for and gowns that should maybe just… die. Since we’re considered fashion experts (amateurs) (no one’s every called us that), we’re doing something that no one else is going today and picking our best and worst dressed celebrities from last night. Did your faves make the cut? Pun intended.

Best Dressed

Traci’s Picks
Elisabeth Moss in Oscar de la Renta

This dress is obviously super simple, but I love that it’s tailor ed to her body, which gives it that extra detail. Also, with a bright color like this (which I love), it doesn’t need much more accessory-wise. Elisabeth was styled perfectly with the hair, makeup, simple studs, and minimal jewels.

Zoe Kazan in Miu Miu

Ok, so this isn’t necessarily an “Emmy Dress”, per se, but I love it. It’s flowy and perfect for the scorching LA heat, and red, from head to toe, looks great on her.

Aubrey Plaza in Alexander Vauthier

It was kind of hard to tell in most pictures, but Aubrey’s dress is actually accented with burgundy jewels, which is why I love it. The low cut neckline and high cut slit show just enough skin. And again, she’s styled perfectly since the dress is a statement in itself, with minimal jewels and a gorge bob haircut. She’s even smiling!

Ellie Kemper in Naeem Kahn

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but Ellie Kemper is a low key red carpet goddess. She rarely fails when it comes to picking gowns for these shows, and she didn’t fail last night. The colors in the dress are mesmerizing, and the asymmetrical lines give it just enough edge. Christina Hendricks also donned a similar Naeem Kahn dress, but Ellie edged her out just a bit.

Emma Roberts in Jenny Packham

Ok, so Emma’s face isn’t great here. However, she went for an old Hollywood look, and just nailed it. Yet again, it’s hard to tell in this photo, but the dress is more of a shimmery gold, which is on point for the occasion. The skirt flowed behind her when she walked, and was the perfect pairing with her golden curls.

Honorable Mentions: Nancy O’Dell in her own co-design with Evine Live, Allison Janney in Labourjoisie, Tituss Burgess in Bonobos, Cat Deeley (and fetus) in Monique Lhuillier
Molly’s Picks
Amy Poehler In Michael Kors

First of all, love this golden brown hair color on her – more natural and complimentary to her skin tone than platinum blonde or gingery red.  Amy almost always kills it on the red carpet, and I’m always a fan of formalwear that incorporates a non-tacky midriff. The bangles are fun and youthful, perfect for someone who doesn’t take this awards show thing TOO too seriously.

Tatiana Maslany In Bouchra Jarrar


It took the Emmys a VERY long time to notice Tatiana Maslany. Orphan Black may be a huge cult hit but a lot of people don’t know about it, or the actress behind the clones. I’m sure Tatiana was well aware that last night was her shot to make an impression, and this suit did just that. The looser fit was a bit of a gamble – usually on the rare occasion that a woman wears a suit on the red carpet, the pants are impeccably tailored and crisp. I’d call this one a risk that paid off.

Jon Hamm

Not only am I breaking my “suits and tuxes are too boring to be Best Dressed” rule, I’m breaking it twice. It’s just that Jon Hamm wears formal attire so well. Yes, tuxes and suits are not half as fussy or uncomfy as even the most comfortable gown, but a lot of men still manage to look sort of stiff and unnatural in them. Jon, however, looks like he has been wearing a tuxedo on the daily since he was a toddler. I’m also loving these throwback narrow lapels we’ve been seeing for the past several years – so much better than those schlubby, boxy 90s tuxedos. The tailoring is perfect here.

Kerry Washington In Marc Jacobs

Kerry Washington is one of those people who is SO gorgeous and wears clothes SO well that she often takes red carpet risks … which sometimes can fall flat or overpower her. So I was delighted to see this metallic chain mail piece that is a tad offbeat but, with the relatively simple and not too clingy cut, isn’t too over the top either. That said, the dress and shoes both must be uncomfy as hell and I can’t even imagine.

Gina Rodriguez in Lorena Sarbu


She looks like an angel. More runway-type, concept-y gowns don’t always work on the Red Carpet (see: Kerry Washington) but Gina looks like a dream and I swear we’re going to start watching Jane The Virgin. It can be very hard to wear white without looking like a bride or a girl at a really nice quince, and the mixed textures are what keeps it out of that arena. Love the pop of color with the clutch.

Honorable Mention: Teyonah Parris, wearing a great polka dot gown that would be very hard to pull off for anyone less adorable than Teyonah Parris.

Worst Dressed

Traci’s Picks
Heidi Klum in Versace

It’s always disappointing and a lil second hand embarrassment when a supermodel/fashion icon fails on the red carpet. It’s like she picked a 10th place finisher’s design from Project Runway.

Sophie Turner in Galvan

Guys, I know the 90s are back and all, but I’m still not on board with velour.

Jaimie Alexander in Armani Prive

I… just don’t get it.

Joanna Newsom in Delpozo

I really, really, really think these two are super adorable to the point I want to vom, but honey sweetie. The front of this dress. Joanna’s style is usually left of center, but I can’t get on board with this. Love you two, though.

Edie Falco in Prada

90% of the time, pleats are no good. This gown is included in that percentage. Also, the rando flower embroideries are confusing, and the fit just doesn’t show off Edie’s form. She can do much better, as evidenced from Emmys past.

Kathryn Hahn in Vivienne Westwood

I think Kathryn Hahn is one of the most underrated and underappreciated actresses in the biz. That being said, what is even happening here.

Molly’s Picks:
Tracee Ellis Ross in Zac Posen

Tracee has great hair (I mean, she is destined for great hair), and her face and skin are wonderful too. The general silhouette of the dress is fine, although I am never into that kind of bodice and I don’t like the cutouts on the skirt. So I think what I don’t like is the combination of that sweetly pink color with the glossy fabric – all I can think is Galinda from Wicked.

Taryn Manning in Rubin Singer

Maybe this isn’t a technically bad dress, I’m just over the Angelina Jolie/ Morticia Addams/ Theda Bara thing. It’s also hard to pull off unless impeccably styled, and her hair looks like a Delia*s-era Sun In and Wet Look combo.

Alan Cumming in Vivienne Westwood

This is so silly that I actually find it delightful. He looks like an old-time jolly chimney sweep who’s gettin’ married in the morning. The tie, the chain, the umbrella, the pocket square, the giant pants — I find it so joyful and fun that I almost want to put it on best dressed, I just know that it isn’t technically “good.”

Julianne Hough In Marchesa

It almost doesn’t seem fair judging reality tv people on the red carpet, because it seems like they’re in a whole different universe. It is something I would probably LOVE on the runway, or in Swan Lake, I just don’t like if for the red carpet.

Dascha Polanco in Leanne Marshall


If you were one of the good kids in school, do you remember how you would get in trouble if you made the slightest peep in class, because the teachers had grown to expect more of you? That’s how I feel about this dress. On anyone else I would probably just think “Okay, not my favorite” and move on, but I’ve come to love Dascha’s style so much that I’m surprised I don’t like this one. I do love the sunny yellow on her, I think I just hate this new trend of the super short opaque skirt with a sheer gown over it. I think they look silly now, but I think everyone will think they look silly when they look back in a few years.

Dishonorable mention: January Jones in Ulyana Sergeenco (only because I’m so used to LOVING whatever she wears).

Tony Awards 2015: Best Dressed

If you love both theater and fashion, the Tony Awards are just about the snazziest night of the year. Unless you’re me, reading tweets about the event while on flight delay at O’Hare, eating a $6 pile of kale – during 30 minutes of free wifi. 30 MINUTES. As though you can accomplish anything on the internet in the duration of an episode of Step By Step (with commercials). But while I’m basically in the developing world (in that there’s scant wifi and it cost 1/3 of my paycheck to buy two cups of vegetables), the stars are shining on the broad way. Here were the best dressed of the night. But be forewarned: due to cruddy bandwidth, the first time I saw these outfits they were on people so pixelated they looked like they were made of Lego.

Dame Helen Mirren in Badgley Mischka

Well, look who’s making sure you don’t forget the “dame” in front of her name. I love that Mirren never tries to dress too young, but she also doesn’t wear stuffy “lady of a certain age” outfits – nor should she. If you told me “dramatic lace sleeves” I would have told you “absolutely not,” but this actually looks great.

Jennifer Lopez in Valentino

I don’t know why 3/4 of the people on this red carpet are on it (Kendall Jenner: book for Finding Neverland? Costume design for Curious Incident ? No, she’s just there). J.Lo is at least taking this seriously, and this gold and midnight blue number is so event-appropriate. I also like that it’s not that one kind of dress she usually wears. You know the one.

Vanessa Hudgens in Naeem Khan

The musical Vanessa’s from is High School, but she looks Broadway-ready. I tend to think there are different levels of conventionality required for the different awards shows. You can take bigger risks at the Grammys than at the Oscars, for instance. I’d say the Tony’s are traditional, but not so much that a print seems out of place. Even Anna Wintour’s daughter wore one. Besides, a large print is one of those youthful looks that you may as well wear while you can. Great place to wear a less-known designer, too! 

Kelli O’Hara in Oscar de la Renta

I don’t know if Kelli KNEW that this was the year she’d break away from being a Broadway Susan Lucci, but she sure is dressed like she is. So on one hand, this gold and black dress is formal enough for the event. It actually reminds me of damascena jewelry. But on the other, the shorter length makes it look a lot fresher than a longer gown situation.

Sydney Lucas in Erin Featherstone

I haven’t seen Fun Home, but just from listening to the great soundtrack you can tell that Sydney Lucas isn’t just some kiddo belting Tomorrow (I know, some great actresses have played Annie, it’s just not a role with a lot of levels, you know? She’s more at a Daisy Eagan in Secret Garden-level). I’m so happy everyone got to see that when she performed at the Tonys! Plus, it’s adorable that she’s obviously a young lady who cares about her fashion. One of my favorite parts of the Tonys is seeing all of these actresses that you’ve only seen in costume getting to really shine, and this girl absolutely looks like a Broadway star.
 

Judith Light

I’m going to go ahead and use the passive voice to describe some of the fashion at last night’s awards, so I don’t put anyone in particular on blast. Risks were taken, and sometimes mistakes were made. This white suit was a risk worth taking, and reminds me that Judith Light is an honest-to-goodness, Tony-winning star (sometime in the past year, my top Judith Light association became that golden retriever from Broad City).

 Elisabeth Moss in Oscar de La Renta

When I first saw this white gown with floral accents, I felt like it was like a livelier, more fun update on that iconic Halle Berry Golden Globes gown from 2000 – remember, the one with the red flowers? The color scheme on this one could have looked a little Delia’s but it comes across as young and summery, instead.

Kristen Chenoweth in Zac Posen

It can be hard to have a lot of presence when you’re as small as Kristen Chenoweth. It can also be hard to look anything other than adorable. This dress pretty much does the trick though, right? 
 

Emmy Awards 2013: Best & Worst Dressed

Well folks, it’s the day after the 65th Annual Emmys (did you check out our live blog?), and if you’re anything like us, you’re still bitter about the (failed) results of your Emmy ballots.

One thing that we can’t lose at are our Best & Worst Dressed list, so here are our picks from last night’s ceremony with TV’s biggest stars.

Molly’s Picks:

Best Dressed

Tina Fey in Narciso Rodriguez

The dress so nice, we’re listing it twice. While we’re trying to keep repeats on our best/ worst dressed lists to a minimum, I’d be a fool not to include this on my best dressed list. Not only is Tina Fey smarter than almost everyone on this red carpet, and funnier than almost everyone on this red carpet, she’s also more stylish and prettier.

Kerry Washington in Marchesa

I had to sleep on this one – and so, apparently, did Kerry Washington, judging by the dress’s kind of rumply texture. I was on the fence about the dress last night, but the more I see it, the more I love it. Would’ve been a great dress to win in. Next year, Gladiators.

Kate Mara in J Mendel

This might show up on a few worst dressed lists, and I think maybe another year it could’ve ended up on mine. I think it’s just the overall styling that’s working for me – the dress with the simple hair and smoky makeup.

Elisabeth Moss in Dolce & Gabbana

I was really feeling these 2 trends that kept appearing: the separate or faux-separate skirt and bodice, and the black and white color blocking. Since Traci already covered my favorite black and white dress (read on to see who!), it only seemed fair to give space to my second-fav.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Monique Lhuillier

Last night, Traci said that this looked like a beautiful disco ball and I said that I wanted to touch JLD’s face because her skin is so pretty. I stand by both of those comments.

Honorable Mention: Claire Danes in Armani Prive

When I was writing my best dressed picks before work, I included this one. Post coffee, I cannot remember why. I’m keeping this on the list for my sleepy-eyed, 6am self who for whatever reason thought this was pretty. That 6am girl is also the person who dressed me today. She didn’t do so great.

Worst Dressed

Lena Dunham in Delia’s Prada

When Lena Dunham tweeted that her dress looked like it was designed by Delia’s earlier this week, I had high hopes for butterfly clips and butterfly print. But the thing that’s really Delia’s-esque about this is that Lena’s eyeshadow is matched to her dress. After 9th grade Lena -or someone around her – should know better.

Mayin Bialik in Oliver Tolentino Couture

Everyone else liked this, and I did until you got to the tinselly belt and cuffs. That made everything look kind of costumey to me, like she’d be playing The Giving Tree in a really nice Montessori school or Blanche Dubois in a less-nice Montessori school.

Julianne Hough in Jenny Packham

Remember in 2002, when girls used to walk around with visible thongs over their low-rise 501s, and you would think “what could be less hot than this?” This dress answers that question with “well, visible granny panties, of course.”

Zosia Mamet in Honor

I like everything about this until the giant faux mustache over her boobs.

Lily Rabe

Annie taught us that you’re never fully dressed without a smile. But you’re also never fully dressed without that other half of your dress. Besides, nobody was smiling last night. That was the most sorrowful, grim Emmy Awards I ever did see and that’s counting the time they postponed it because of 9/11.

Traci’s Picks

Best Dressed

Taylor Schilling in Thakoon

Daaannnnggg Chapman. You clean up well! Taylor was there for nothing but publicity and eye candy, but she sure made her mark on the red carpet. Simple, sexy, elegant – that’s how you do an awards show, folks.

Michelle Dockery in Prada

Lady Mary sure knows how to hit a home run on the red carpet. Or like, whatever the equivalent to a home run is in cricket. She always knows what styles and colors look great on her, and this is no different. Of course I LOVE color blocking, so maybe that’s why I adore her dress so much.

Tina Fey in Narciso Rodriguez

Listen. As much as I love Tina Fey. The first thing you think of her is that she’s funny. Not a fashionista. So while she has made some questionable fashion decisions in the past, she looks absolutely stunning in this bold blue dress. Suck on that, nerds.

Kaley Cuoco in Vera Wang

For me, Kaley Cuoco is usually a hit or miss for me at awards shows. But this Vera Wang dress is to die. It’s the perfect mix of sexy and classy, just like Taylor Schilling’s dress. And while a lot of ladies were going with white and black or pastels, she decided to go the other route with the fantastic burgundy.

Anna Gunn in Ramona Keveza

You know when someone who is nominated/expected to win first appears on the red carpet and they come out wearing a dress and you just KNOW they’re going to win in? Yeah, this is it. Julia Roberts. Jennifer Lawrence. Anna Gunn.

Honorable Mention: Kiernan Shipka in Delpozo

Guys, I can’t get over how much older and mature little Sally Draper looks! I’m obsessed with the style direction she’s going in as she enters her teens. She knows exactly what is age appropriate, but also always picks something that will stand out in a crowd of grown-ups. And if you ever watch her in interviews, she is the smartest 13 year old ever. More like 13 going on 30, amirite ladies/Jennifer Garner?

Worst Dressed

Melissa Leo

I just… did she think she was going to either a circus or not be on stage at all? Because she was on stage. And not at a circus.

Paula Abdul

Honestly… just when you thought she couldn’t get any crazier. Just like Melissa Leo, I tried researching the designers for each dress, but to no avail. Maybe they didn’t want the negative publicity.

Heidi Klum in Versace

Um, I’m pretty sure Heidi Klum is being attacked by her own sequined gown. Should someone help her?

Lena Dunham in Prada

Oh Lena. In all honesty, this still isn’t as bad as the poop brown Zac Posen gown she wore at the Golden Globes. But like she/I said in the live blog yesterday, this looks like a dress she would wear to a summer BBQ in 1994, courtesy of the Delia’s catalog – evening gown edition.

Julianne Hough in Jenny Packham

Jules. You’re a gorgeous girl who actually get her style choices right most of the time. Not so much now. When they showed her in the audience when Derek won, you could only see the waist up, and she didn’t look that bad. And then I saw this picture. I know you’re a dancer and all, but no need to bring your leotard to the Emmys. THE EMMYS. This is a black tie event, ma’am. Not the VMAs.