London (AFP)

They were discovered in a novel, then rediscovered on the small screen and we now meet them in many events ... Exceeding the sphere of fiction, the "scarlet maids" became a feminist symbol in the era of the #MeToo movement .

The eponymous book, published in 1985 by Margaret Atwood, is anchored in the news after its serial adaptation in 2017. Tuesday, the highly anticipated sequel, "The Wills", appears in the United Kingdom (October 10 in France) ). Five things to know about this global phenomenon:

Orwell ...

Margaret Atwood began writing "The Scarlet Servant" in West Berlin in 1984, inspired by "George Orwell (who) looked over (his) shoulder". "The Wall was all around us, on the other side there was East Berlin," she says in the unpublished preface to a French reissue of "La Servante Scarlet", which will be published shortly.

A time of silence, of danger ... "All this ended up" in "The Scarlet Servant", which describes the life in the United States become "the Republic of Gilead", a totalitarian state, where the fertile women are reduced to sexual slavery. They are "maids", recognizable by their red uniforms.

... and Trump

The release of the series in 2017, after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, was fortuitous. But fans saw a sign and erected it as an anti-trump symbol.

The Servants' costume then became a rallying point: it was omnipresent in Washington during the battle against Supreme Court confirmation by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, accused of attempted rape when he was a high school student, and also appeared during protests. around the world for women's rights and the right to abortion.

Argentina, Ireland, Poland, Hungary ... The red capes and white headdresses have become "an instantly recognizable symbol" in feminist fights, Margaret Atwood rejoiced in 2017.

Upset costume

This worldwide impact has upset the creator of the costume for the series. "During the two and a half years I worked on the series, I did not really measure the impact," told AFP in New York Ane Crabtree, a small woman in her fifties , all dressed in black.

"I wanted people to be scared, I wanted it to be both normal and terrifying," she said, referring to the garment that reminds her of a nun's outfit with blinkers.

Ane Crabtree has made her bet but does not come out unscathed from the experience: the series "moves too much in my personal life". To the point that she decided to leave before the shooting of the third season.


The series took liberties from Margaret Atwood's first novel, inventing her sequel.

Although she has enjoyed worldwide success, she has also been denounced for her many violent scenes (stoning, hanging, electrocution ...) while the Canadian novelist only suggested them. "The season 2 of The Scarlet Servant is brutal, and not much more," criticized the New York Times in 2018.

"To counterbalance this gratuitous violence, creators punctuate the episodes of pseudo-feminist moments", as "great demonstrations of rebellion" not credible within a totalitarian state, also fired Slate last July.

Scientologist and feminist

Her expressive face became an emblem of the series: by playing the role of June, a Servant, Elizabeth Moss has definitely built her reputation as a feminist actress.

"I always try to make my characters become heroines and represent feminism," the 37-year-old American, who had already distinguished herself by playing Peggy Olson in the "Mad Men" series, told the Times in August. , a woman who climbs the ladder to become the equal of men in a conservative society.

But the personal life of the actress is talking. "The Scarlet Servant" denounces a republic headed by a religious sect, while Elizabeth Moss herself belongs to the Church of Scientology. The actress has repeatedly rejected the comparison.

© 2019 AFP