'Handmaid's Tale' Showrunner Reveals Most Controversial Scene — EXCLUSIVE

by Alexandra Svokos
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The Handmaid's Tale is full of heartbreaking, shocking images.

But it was one in particular that made the executives at Hulu a little uneasy -- and it definitely wasn't a moment you'd think was super controversial given the context of the show.

Showrunner Bruce Miller spoke about making the television series alongside book author Margaret Atwood at the BookCon convention in New York City on Saturday afternoon.

Miller said Hulu has been pretty great at letting the series show the images it needs to show to tell the story.

Those shocking images include ritualistic rape, a man getting torn apart by a mob of women, and depictions of women who have had eyes, hands, and clits forcibly removed.

But of all things to give executives pause, it was a shot of white underwear with drops of red period blood that led to discussions.

This moment happened in the third episode of The Handmaid's Tale, so look away for a minute here if you want to avoid spoilers (but honestly, how have you not gotten to the third episode yet?).

The episode, titled "Late," features Offred's household reacting to her period being a few days late. But near the end of the episode, we see the offending stained underwear.

Miller mentioned the incident in passing during the panel, and I spoke with him afterward about what happened.

"Well, it had never been shown -- or very infrequently been shown -- on TV before," Miller tells Elite Daily.

He continued,

It's easier to see things in movies that you don't ever see... You know, anything that we all do -- farting, going to the bathroom, and eating -- you never see. And all the things like blowing off people's heads and space travel you see all the time.

He explains that "normalcy is always difficult" in filming.

Ultimately, though, the shot was necessary for the episode.

It was exactly the things we needed to do. She's not pregnant, she would never say, 'Oh, I'm not pregnant.' That's what you would see.

Miller says he was "shocked at how much of a discussion it was."

It seemed like, well, out of all the things to show, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. But it was. Almost exclusively, the women executives were like, 'Ugh, I don't want to see that.' But we did, and I was happy with the response that we got.

Even though period blood is a thing all menstruating people are forced to see on a monthly basis, there's a huge stigma around it.

That's why, as Atwood and Miller discussed during the panel, tampon and pad ads always use blue liquid when showing the products.

"That confused a lot of people," Atwood joked. "'Mommy, why isn't my pee blue?!' At least [the scene] was the right color."

"But once again, you can show someone's head get cut off, but you can't show a husband and wife arguing in the bathroom," Miller says.

He notes that a scene like that almost got censored in the show Thirtysomething.

But overall, Miller acknowledges, Hulu has been helpful in letting the show tell the story in the right way.

It's a hard show all around... The same things that were difficult for Margaret to put in the book have been difficult for us to do. I mean, our main character rips a guy apart with her bare hands at the end of the pilot. That doesn't usually happen on TV. They've been wonderful. But we make it uncomfortable for them on purpose. That's our whole job.