We watch TV today differently than ever before – for a start, many of us aren’t watching it on a TV at all. The Handmaid’s Tale recently became the first streamed show to win an Emmy for Outstanding Drama. From Hulu to Netflix, streaming is on the up, and online audiences are taking a more flexible approach to attention. You can be legitimately engrossed in a show at the same time as having several internet tabs open, some likely filled with trivia about the very programme you’re watching. Amazon Video’s X-Ray feature does this intuitively, revealing information about the scene and its cast while you watch. Whilst we might seem less engaged with the content we’re viewing as a result, we’re in fact more engaged with it than ever. The Internet’s place as a social, analytical forum has fostered a participatory viewing culture, in which we can comment, dissect, and theorise over every moment of television. Speculation over a show’s meanings and plot twists has given rise to new, once-removed shows, podcasts and articles discussing the discussion itself. This new way of viewing has galvanised Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author theory in ways he might never have predicted. 

Translating tales for the screen: The Handmaid’s Tale and today’s self-aware spectator