With the riotous success of The Handmaid’s Tale television adaptation on Hulu, Margaret Atwood has received numerous call-outs in awards show acceptance speeches and had the spotlight turned on her and her writing.
One thing she didn’t get, however, was a hefty paycheck. The author revealed in an interview with Wealth Simple that she received nothing for the rights because she had sold them previously; instead, she was paid only a small amount as an executive consultant.
“The Handmaid’s Tale television series was not my deal. I sold the rights to MGM in 1990 to make a movie – so when the TV rights were sold to Hulu, the money went to MGM,” she explained. “We did not have a negotiating position. I did get brought on as an executive consultant, but that wasn’t a lot of money. People think it’s been all Hollywood glamour since the TV show happened, but that’s not happening to me. But book sales have been brisk, so there’s that.”
The television series, which presents a dystopian future in which the few remaining fertile women in North America are kept as handmaids to breed children for the wealthy elite, has sparked numerous conversations surrounding feminism and the fight for women’s equality. With the rising tide of the #metoo movement and more vocal activism for women’s rights, The Handmaid’s Tale has played a role in the conversation and earned accolades for doing so. Atwood also touched on the movement and the cultural conversation surrounding the series.
“#metoo is a symptom of something bigger,” she said. “The same way having a temperature when you’re sick is a symptom. When you have a temperature, you think, there’s something wrong with me. What shall I do? That’s what #metoo is. It’s a wake-up call, not the solution. Structural support for women was allowed to lapse. We were told all we had to do was wear more Chanel and smile a lot and lean in.”
Pay aside, Atwood is actively involved in the production of the Hulu series, now shooting its second season, and has enjoyed an uptick in book sales as a result of its popularity and the cultural climate at large. Still, she said she wishes her book were not so relevant. “I’m glad people are talking about The Handmaid’s Tale again. Every election, there’s a surge in book sales,” she said. “But I would like to live in a society where people are not saying, ‘Oh my god, this is where this is going to happen.’ I would prefer this not to be happening. It’s like that sign that someone was holding up during the Women’s March. ‘I can’t believe I’m still holding up this f—ing sign.”
Read the full Wealth Simple interview here.