November 25, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

“Alias Grace” Tells a Story of Historical True Crime, with a Lesbian Twist

When this year’s Hulu adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale” burst on the scene, scooping up praise, cavalcades, and endless Emmy wins, it would have made sense for any producer with even the most tenuous relationship to a streaming service to pitch another Atwood story, but this time, you know, something a little more…narrative. Something maybe a bit less political and more, you know, lurid.

It’s no wonder that “Alias Grace,” the first of these to pass muster, more than adequately fits the bill.

In terms of true crime, “Grace” is as introspective and bizarre as it gets, and when it comes to its source material, the real-life acquittal of convicted murderer Grace Marks in the late 19th century, it’s pretty heady stuff. Even if Atwood hadn’t chosen to fictionalize the story of Marks in her 1996 novel, the story itself would still feel decidedly Atwoodian. Its focus on a woman who, both in control of her destiny and fully at the mercy of an unfair judicial system, ends up getting away with murder, is kind of radical. More than that, Grace accomplishes something even more criminal in her society’s eyes: She gets away with living a truly free life.

The conceit of the TV adaptation, written and directed primarily by the Canadian director Sarah Polley, (“Away From Her,” “Stories We Tell,”) is that we’re hearing the account of the brutal murder of Grace’s employer and his housekeeper consort from Grace’s presumably innocent point of view.

Society sees her as a murderess, and her presumed accomplice, a male servant, has already hanged for the crime. But powerful men and women want to see Grace walk free, so they’ve hired someone to do a crude type of psych evaluation on her to determine if she’s really “all there.”

Of course, she’s not, at least, not quite. Not the way Sarah Gadon plays her, with a brilliant void of emotionality and excess of personality. Her matter-of-fact speech, strange prudishness, and obsessive attention to needlepoint come across as fascinating to the young doctor charged with evaluating her, so much so that he gets crushed under the weight of countertransference. As for Grace, she barely encourages the attention she gets from men. In fact, the only interest she shows in any character, male or female, comes in early, when we’re introduced to her best friend Mary Whitney. Mary tragically dies due to a botched abortion, leaving Grace behind without an emotional life to speak of. After her death, Grace can only seem to think of revenge. Quietly, while working at needlepoint.

This, of course, is the long drawn-out metaphor of the piece. The meticulous work that women do each day, especially in a society that doesn’t value their lives, can add up to something dramatic, brutal, unforgettable.

In the first episode, Grace recalls always wondering why quilts were made out of such loud colors, calling attention to the bed in each room and making it the centerpiece. “Now I know,” she says, “it is a warning.” Dangerous things happen in beds. She saw her best friend, and possible love interest, die in one.

If there’s anything new that “Alias Grace” tells us, it’s in the subtle teasing out of this primary relationship. For a woman who, as the real Grace Marks was, brought over from Ireland to do menial labor when she was still a child, robbed of a mother early and brought up by an abusive father, the only chance she might have had to develop a true emotional life was through making a friend like Mary Whitney, and then losing her, as many women were lost in those days, to complications from pregnancy. This small, everyday tragedy in the context of the time was, for Grace, something of gigantic proportion, and something that had to be paid for, perhaps in blood. In “Alias Grace,” we’re given a way to connect the dots in the same way. By the end of the last episode, all the violence, the gore, the intensity of the central crimes, make a sort of sense. For Grace, murder is a kind of reparation.

Related Posts

East Hollywood Man Appearing on Wheel Of Fortune

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Tim Quinn, an East Hollywood resident, will be a contestant on the hit TV show Wheel of Fortune on Wednesday,...

Anne Heche Eliminated From DWTS

October 11, 2020

October 11, 2020

After four weeks on season 29 of the ABC reality dance competition Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) Anne Heche has...

An Apologetic Ellen DeGeneres Returns To Daytime TV

September 30, 2020

September 30, 2020

Using technology to it’s advantage for its 18th season The Ellen DeGeneres Show returned to a virtual studio audience on...

Local L.A. Woman Appearing On Wheel Of Fortune

September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

Local Los Angeles woman, Julie Reyes, will be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, the longest-running syndicated game show in...

Love In Action Telethon

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

Love In Action, a telethon to support the LGBTQ+ community during the COVID pandemic will be airing live on Sept.12th...

AIDS Walk Los Angeles 2020

August 27, 2020

August 27, 2020

AIDS Walk Los Angeles (AWLA) is the world’s first walk to fight HIV and AIDS. 35 years ago, a group...

Award-Winning Gay Producer Ash Christian Dead at 35

August 23, 2020

August 23, 2020

Lauded producer, actor, director, and writer Ash Christian died in his sleep while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Thursday...

Sasha Velour Hosts “NightGowns Forever” Event Virtually

August 16, 2020

August 16, 2020

On Sunday August 9 global drag superstar and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour hosted her first virtual drag event...

Queerantine Kicks Off Season Two

August 9, 2020

August 9, 2020

Queerantine, a one-of-a-kind, weekly music video showcase highlighting artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, created and hosted by musical artist Kisos,...

Ellen Degeneres Show Scandal

August 4, 2020

August 4, 2020

The host herself Ellen Degeneres and top executives at Ellen Degeneres Show are under internal investigation by WarnerMedia after accusations...

31st GLAAD “Virtual” Awards

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

GLAAD the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced that it will host...

Glee Star Naya Rivera’s Body Found

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

On Wednesday July 8th at 1pm 33 year old former Glee Star Naya Rivera and son, 4 year old Josey...

PBS Celebrates Pride Month with PRIDELAND

May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020

Short-Form Digital Series and New One-Hour Special with Host and Actor Dyllón Burnside, Exploring LGBTQ+ Identity in the U.S. South...

LGBT Icon, Talkshow Host Ellen DeGeneres Wins Award at 77th Annual Golden Globes

January 5, 2020

January 5, 2020

The 77th annual Golden Globes is looking a little bit more LGBTQ-inclusive, and talkshow host and LGBTQ+ icon Ellen DeGeneres’...

Slow But Steady Increase of LGBTQ+ Representation on TV This Year

December 30, 2019

December 30, 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, we begin to reflect. How far has queen representation progressed this year? We saw...