“The sheer quantity of horrible things that happen in the world to women’s bodies is so impossible to imagine… So, yes, I think there is a role for creating images of powerful women electrocuting the shit out of people.” It’s a bit over six years since Naomi Alderman’s searing feminist novel The Power electrified readers, and she’s looking forward to reaching an even bigger audience through a major new TV series starring Toni Collette.
“I hope it sparks more conversations,” she says. “I hope that some blokes sit down and go, ‘Oh, this looks like an exciting, thrilling show’ and then just get their heads blown off.”
Whether on page or screen, The Power is based around one big, wild idea – what if humans developed the natural ability to deliver a powerful shock, a bit like a souped-up electric eel? And what if it were only the women that got this new power? The patriarchy goes up in flames, our power dynamics inverted in one fell swoop. No longer are women afraid of male violence. Men are terrified they’ll be fried if they step out of line.
If you’ve ever been the victim of male violence against women, or walked home with your keys in your fist, or wondered if that guy is following you, or been pawed at by a predator in a bar, or hollered at on the street, or made to feel small and scared in any of the myriad ways women are made to feel small and scared every single damn day, there’s undeniably pleasure to be found in seeing the tables turned.
“That’s totally deliberate,” Alderman confirms. “Enjoy the image of women being powerful! There’s still not a lot of images like that in the world. Even stuff that is supposed to be about women’s power ends up saying women’s power comes from our sadness. It comes from our tears. So, I am very happy to be out there supporting the idea that women’s power might come from our tremendous rage.”
Almost as soon as it came out (with backing from Alderman’s mentor and friend, grande dame of high-concept feminist fiction Margaret Atwood), The Power was at the centre of an adaptation bidding war. In the end, Amazon Studios won out. Alderman has stayed on as writer, working with showrunner Raelle Tucker (previously known as a writer and producer on True Blood and Jessica Jones) to bring the matriarchal vision to life. They were determined to make something that kicks against the way violence is normally shown in the media.