Why Naomi Alderman’s The Power should be adapted for television

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I recently read Naomi Alderman’s The Power, which is, to be short, a pretty fantastic book. Probably, in fact, the best one I’ve read all year.
In a sense, it’s clear from the title what this book is about – power. Alderman’s novel explores power, and the way it’s wielded by one gender over another. It’s clever central conceit, of course, is to flip the dichotomy that exists today – positing a world where men are afraid of the power women hold over them, rather than vice versa. It’s a nuanced, subtle examination of patriarchy and power dynamics; The Power holds a mirror to society, reflecting what happens to many women through men. Alderman explores these ideas through her four central characters, each with an intertwined narrative: Allie, an abuse victim who becomes an influential religious leader; Roxy, daughter of a crime boss who rises to the top of his empire; Margot Cleary, a middle aged American politician; and Tunde, the only male main character, a photojournalist who documents the cultural shift the world undergoes.

There’s an obvious scope for a television adaptation, of course. The book gestures at a much larger world than the one it’s able to depict between its pages; it’s an expansive, globe-trotting tale that occurs across the course of a decade. With its four central, intertwining narratives, there’s something about the book that lends itself to television. Much as American Gods built upon the work of Neil Gaiman and pushed it in new directions, you can see a similar potential in Alderman’s novel. Indeed, as The Power refers to the different events of a changing world, they could present these as a series of individual vignettes not dissimilar to American Gods’ ‘Coming to America’ sequences. There’s also the ability to pick up on the different possibilities that weren’t, for whatever reason, explored in The Power – one idea that jumped out at me repeatedly was what would happen to trans people in this world, and it’s something that a television version of the story could do well to explore.

You can see a clear precedent, then, in the recent adaptations Game of Thrones or American Gods – big budget, lavish productions, casting the expansive stories of their novels in meticulous detail on the small screen. Obviously, though, the most natural comparison is Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, not least because of the overt feminist undercurrents of both works. It’s not difficult to imagine The Power being translated to television in much the same way – with acclaimed actors like Elizabeth Moss or Ian McShane bringing to life a truly cinematic retelling of this intelligent story. (I’d love to see Viola Davis as Margot Cleary, for example.)

Rather brilliantly, Naomi Alderman has confirmed that the property is in the earliest stages of development. A recent interview with The Guardian states:

“[The Power] has already sent the television world into a bidding frenzy. She can’t reveal which of 11 offers she accepted, but confirms that the rights have been sold. ‘Ideally we’re looking at a 10 episode season for five or six seasons, because there’s a lot of world in there.’”

Perhaps, then, within a few years we’ll see Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or someone else entirely bring out a television adaptation of The Power. I certainly hope so – because it’s absolutely brilliant.

Related:

The Handmaid’s Tale is most effective in its intimacy

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