Our Thoughts

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

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.