Joseph Fiennes Talks About The Emotional & Sexual Violence On The Handmaid's Tale

Photo: Hulu.
In Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, Joseph Fiennes portrays Commander Waterford, also known as Fred, the man protagonist Offred works for. (Spoilers ahead.) In the show's post-apocalyptic world, most of the women are infertile, and "handmaids" are charged with bearing these women's husbands' children, whether they consent or not. While serving as his handmaid, Offred develops an affair with Fiennes, which it's also unclear whether she consents to. In a recent interview with Vulture, Fiennes talked about what it was like to play someone who commits state-ordered sexual violence.
"He’s a man with a moral dilemma and he says he only wants to make the world a better place, as a lot of people in powerful places want to do, but they slowly become corrupted," he explained. "And certainly that corruption becomes abhorrent, or the ideology that Gilead has put in place in terms of women who are fertile, you know, this system in which they’re sort of bottom of the pyramid. They’re the walking wombs. So doing those scenes is — I find them actually very difficult. They’re very brutal."
When asked about the Ceremony, in which Offred is impregnated, Fiennes brought up an interesting point: It's unclear if the man consents either, since he's doing what his government requires of him.
"He’s using a piece of scripture to bring about an arcane ritual, which is really nothing short of abuse and rape, in order to procreate because the birth rate is so low," he said. "So he understands, from a political POV, why he’s there, but I don’t think he particularly enjoys it. No one enjoys it, or wants it, but they do it because it’s demanded. And that’s the starting point there: It’s difficult for a husband and a wife to have this third party, but there’s a belief system and a reason behind it — the birth rate — and they desperately want to have a child."
Elisabeth Moss, who plays Offred, told Refinery29 that she chose to "go somewhere else" during the rape scene because it would have been too disturbing to stay present. "Any time you take away someone's right to choose something, that's oppression," she said. "These women are in this prison system. If they fight back they'll be abused, or killed, or maimed. They may be walking around and looking docile and looking like they're not fighting back, but they are completely enslaved."

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