Four years after Hillary Clinton lost her final bid for the White House—even though she won the popular vote—there remains a lot of melancholic reflection about “what if” among her most dedicated supporters. Heck, there’s a lot of second-guessing, too, among some of her harshest critics with the current occupant of the Oval Office fumbling the development of a national strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. So the prospect of a potential Rodham television series, and the alternate version of history it intends to offer, may appear to be a respite. With that said, it aims to rewrite the history of more than just the last four years.
Less than five months after Hulu saw success in their docuseries Hillary, which detailed what went wrong during the 2016 presidential campaign, the streaming service has optioned the rights to Rodham, an alternative history biography by Curtis Sittenfeld that imagines a world where Hillary Rodham made the choice not to marry Bill Clinton after moving to Arkansas.
Described in its press release as a series about “an ambitious young woman developing her extraordinary mind in the latter part of the 20th century,” the series will follow in the footsteps of the book by starting during Hillary’s more idealistic days at Wellesley College. It was there she became the first student of the all-female student body allowed to speak at her graduation’s commencement. She’d go on to study at Yale Law School and meet Bill Clinton, future President of the United States.
However, Rodham will offer an alternative path where the woman many believed wanted since her youth to be the first woman president decides not to marry Clinton due to his philandering (or worse) eye. Instead she carves her own political path outside his shadow that includes a run for the presidency well before 2008.
Sarah Treem, co-creator of The Affair, is attached to write and executive produce Rodham. Her previous credits also include writing on In Treatment and House of Cards. Executive producer Warren Littlefield and his The Littlefield Company of The Handmaid’s Tale fame are attached to executive produce the series, should it be picked up, alongside 21 Television Studios.
Rodham was Sitenfeld’s second alternative history novel about an American First Lady. But whereas American Wife was a thinly veiled fiction about the possible interior life of a woman based on Laura Bush, Rodham is a full-on revisionist dream of Clinton’s biography. The book became a New York Times bestseller, even if the Times’ critic Jill Abramson wrote, “This may work as an exercise in wish fulfillment for her most ardent admirers. But for other readers, the familiar anecdotes that fill the first section of the novel verge on the tedious.”
It also raises the question of the good that comes from living too much in a past that never existed.