We’ve already passed the halfway point in Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, and I for one am not ready to leave this world. If you’re looking to explore more worlds like Gilead, we have comics, books, TV shows and movies that will scratch that same itch, whether it be for feminist fiction, apocalyptic stories, or spec fic.
In a futuristic universe, women who are deemed “non-compliant” – whether for their race, weight, sexual orientation, or simply being married to a man who decided he wanted someone else – are shipped off to a prison world commonly called Bitch Planet. Sound familiar? This rad comic from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro feels like a natural companion piece to The Handmaid’s Tale. People are even getting the Non-compliant tattoo in real life, similar to the proliferation of Nolite te bastardes carborundurum tattoos. This amazing story makes great use of the format – even the ads are in-world references to the societal expectations of women.
Y: the Last Man
In a sort of genderbent take on the apocalypse, this comic book series (and someday-television series) from Brian K. Vaugh and Pia Guerra chronicles the adventures of Yorick and his pet monkey, who seem to be the last male mammals alive after all others simultaneously die. Like other works of fiction on this list, there are many players who have a vested interest in capturing or killing Yorick to advance their own cause. If you’re interested in a post-apocalyptic world where the shoe is on the other foot, this one’s for you.
Parable of the Sower
Another apocalyptic novel with feminist themes, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower follows a young black woman who is an empath, meaning she literally feels the pain of others. Learning about this devastated and dangerous version of L.A. from Lauren’s perspective will remind readers of Offred’s first-person perspective. Fans of the Handmaid’s show will recognize the use of one person’s journey to introduce a vast and complicated political world, with strong religious themes.
Man in the High Castle
If you’ve enjoyed the speculative fiction aspect of Atwood’s work or seeing a well done adaptation from page to screen, check out Philip K. Dick’s book Man in the High Castle and the Amazon show of the same name. Speculative fiction or spec -fic for short, explores worlds similar to ours, with one or a set of key differences, all of which are still grounded in reality. In this case, the Nazis won WWII and the United States became part of the Third Reich. Similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, Man in the High Castle takes this premise and carries it out to its logical conclusion, creating a rich world of what might have been.
Children of Men
Perhaps the most apt comparison to Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale adaptation is the movie Children of Men. Set in a world where women are no longer fertile (it’s always the women, isn’t it?) and the youngest person in the world has just died, a man comes across something mysterious: a pregnant woman. The rebels, the government, and everyone in between all want a piece. Like Handmaid’s and Man in the High Castle, Children of Men was originally a book with a rich world for filmmakers to bring to life in truly devastating fashion.
Mad Max Fury Road
If you’re looking for some catharsis after Handmaid’s, Fury Road has it in spades. A woman with a disability who kicks everyone’s ass? Women casting off their oppressive, power-mad sexual abuser? A women-only biker gang called the Vuvalini? If that doesn’t make you feel triumphant, you can salve the emotional wounds that Handmaid’s has wrought by taking in George Miller’s stunningly rich hellscape and visual effects, 90% of which are practical.
There are many modern representations of the fictional Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but only one makes this list. Syfy brings us a TV show focusing on Vanessa, a woman capable of stopping vampires. This iteration takes place in modern-day Seattle where, similar to Handmaids, an environmental disaster catalyzes an apocalypse, in this case the rise of vampires. This show has echoes of The Walking Dead, while the control and commodification of bodies and the nuanced women characters will remind viewers of Handmaid’s.
Fertility issues, controlling religious sects, women’s bodily autonomy being controlled by nefarious forces, and Kristian Bruun. Sound familiar? These are just some of the things Orphan Black and Handmaid’s have in common. Tatiana Maslany gives a tour de force Emmy-winning performance as a series of genetic identicals or clones who are trying to learn why they were created while fighting for their freedom. Think of the series as having the same intensity and central “who and what am I?” mystery as the Jason Bourne movies, but with women, LGBTQ people, and humor. And now is the perfect time to join Clone Club: catch up before the fifth and final season premiers on Saturday, June 10.
Enjoy the remaining episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and hopefully you’ll find something to love in the strong storytelling surrounding these other thought-provoking worlds.