Viewers tuning into the first episode of Channel 4’s new drama The Handmaid’s Tale were “shocked” and “horrified” after watching a particularly icky sex ritual.
In case you aren’t aware of the book by Margaret Atwood, it tells the story set in a dystopian future, where the USA is under rule by a theocratic military dictatorship.
It’s a world where many women have been left infertile due to warfare-induced contamination, while those who can still have babies are held captive and referred to as Handmaids.
Like machines they are used in ritual sex for the sole purpose of reproduction rather than pleasure.
In the first episode, viewers were shocked at scenes where women were forced into having sex
In one scene Offred, played by Elisabeth Moss, was brutally ‘sexed’ by Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) while his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) holds her down.
The show has already screened in the US and viewers were shocked by the graphic nature of the content.
And last night British viewers were just as shocked.
“God the rape scenes in The Handmaid’s Tale are so hard to watch. Plus they’re so long,” one viewer Tweeted.
While another said: “Are we going to have to watch The Ceremony in every episode of The Handmaid’s Tale? It’s getting painful to watch rape so frequently.’
However, some viewers praised the eye-watering scenes saying they reflected the book’s bleak nature to a tee.
“That sex scene was unbelievably harrowing” said another viewer, with a second adding, “the ceremony was just as bleak on screen as it was in the book.”
Others wrote: “Wow this is brilliant and terrifying”, while another said: “I keep forgetting to breathe through this”.
A third gushed: “The #handmaidstale is an outstanding adaptation of the novel.
Aside from the visual assault of the rape scenes, viewers had a bit of relief when some spotted the author Attwood herself in a cameo role.
Heidi Stemp wrote: “Anyone else spot Margaret Atwood’s cheeky little cameo in tonight’s #HandmaidsTale?” while another added, “Thought @Channel4 #handmaidstake was excellent this evening. Loved @MargaretAtwood’s cameo appearance too!”
Meanwhile, speaking about the drama, Elisabeth says she doesn’t think The Handmaid’s Tale is “a feminist story’.
“It’s a human story,” she argues. “Because women’s rights are human rights.
“I never intended to play Peggy [her character in Mad Men] as a feminist and I never expected to play Offred as a feminist.”