Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a warning, metaphor or sheer terror? Watch it now
A new adaptation of the classic dystopian story by Margaret Atwood begins on Hulu today
By Stirling Campbell
We have seen the first episode so far, and it will seem quite familiar to those that have read the book, or seen the film from 1990… This delves deeper into the story—an internal monologue is heard—and more back-story elements are shown from before society and the Earth descended into the current state of affairs…
Gilead is the setting, where the United States and the rest of the world seem to be under the thumb of religious puritans, armed with all the powers of modern government—including militarised police forces and religious police… Similar to some nations now where women are completely controlled in every way, but to a much higher level than even Saudi Arabia.
The first scene we begin with “Offred” (her fathers name is Fred, she is Of Fred, not her real name) trying to escape the puritans and make a run for the border. Her partner’s fate is unknown, though we assume that some of the gun shots may have ended his life. Offred is trying to get her daughter out of the country, and is trying to prevent becoming a Handmaid—fertile women are one of the most valuable commodities in this horrific situation… Her escape is not successful, and her daughter is taken from her. Fade to black.
She wakes into an institution, it looks like a boarding school or convent, mixed in with a psych ward or jail.
A matronly, domineering woman is instructing the class of Handmaids with some obviously more experienced than others in ‘working the system’ or not becoming a scapegoat…
“Ordinary is just what you’re used to—this may not seem ordinary to you right now—but after a time it will. This will become ordinary.” — ‘Aunt Lydia’ played by Ann Dowd with the perfect balance of caring and brutal menace in her voice and body language
One of her fellow captives is not quite as aware of the danger she is in, and mocks the “aunt” and giggles. She’s caught but continues, adding to the worry of her indoctrination-mates. Dragged off by armed guards, we are not sure what will become of her. Later she is seen with bandaging around her eyes and head, and it is clear something terrible has occurred. Offred has found one of her old college friends, Moira, and she recalls the twisted interpretation of a passage from the Christian Bible, Matthew 5:29;
“If your right eye makes you stumble and leads you to sin, tear it out and throw it away [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” — Matthew, 5:29
The woman, Janine has had her right eye removed… We do not know if it was at least surgical, or torturous. Either way it is a shocking warning to stay-in-line, “a breeding mother does not require vision”, and that there are far worse punishments available; a mention of some extremely polluted (prison?) colonies where ‘your skin will fall right off you and your lungs will melt’ to paraphrase.
After finishing indoctrination she is put to work for a Commander and his wife, the Handmaids are tasked with one thing. Breeding. The privileged class or perhaps the military—most authoritarian societies mix the two—seem to own palatial houses with many servants. Kitchen staff and cleaners, drivers and Handmaids service all their needs. The driver, Nick seems to be friendly but in this society you cannot trust anyone—the powers that be have made this ingrained—and her main companion, Ofglen seems overly pious and observant; they accompany each other everywhere and will report back to the authorities if any rules are broken.
Flashbacks take us to the world as we know it now—showing parties, college life, and women socialising freely. It is unclear what exactly occurred to bring us to this horrific point, but the Aunt and others hint that much of it is due to pollution or perhaps some sort of meltdown. During this unrest and subsequent infertility of most of humanity, the religious-right has taken full control of everything that they can. It seems like an Amish community though they have all the modern weaponry and soldiers to truly enforce their rigid rules and moral codes. In Amish society, forgiveness and redemption is quite possible. In Gilead, there is no such thing. Fear and Power rule over humanity and divide-and-conquer attitudes permeate throughout. In another scene at the “Institution” a gang-rape victim is blamed for “leading on” a crowd of rapists and is shamed by her.. Classmates?… Offred knows she must take part or face a similar fate to Janine…
“Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” — Margaret E. Atwood
Readers or people that have seen the film may recall the brutal “Salvaging” where a rapist (or perhaps a political prisoner or enemy-of-the-state, we are not certain) is brought to the Handmaidens. Accused of rape, and “an even greater crime” in their society—killing an unborn child—the man is surrounded as the maids prepare to unleash all their rage upon the man. Offred is the first to strike, channeling all her anger into punching his face. The man is brutally beaten by the mob and seems to die in the process; with the cruel Aunt Lydia controlling the ceremony and the Handmaids using a bell. She does not want to give them too much freedom. The other ceremony is also extremely emotionally taxing—you will have to watch the episode for yourself to see this one…
Many ignorant people have been yelling about the series when it was announced late last year, “THIS IS OBAMA PROPAGANDA! HILIARY!” though the ignorant usually are quite.. Ignorant of previous history and art. This is unsurprising. The first trailer released was shared amongst the alt-right and “mens rights” groups were angered by it, ignorant of the previous adaptations too, most equal-rights or feminists and sensible people are loving it and crying quite a lot, too.
Other reactions to the series so far are also quite amazing—people already are trying to twist it into a racial issue, or apply other projections onto it. As we have only seen one episode so far, it is way too early to criticise casting choices or other things, we simply cannot predict the future episodes. Most of the plot points from the not-too-well known film from 1990 are covered by this episode and much like WestWorld, I hope that the series is able to delve deep into the Novel as a 90 minute film simply cannot.
An excellent start to a highly-anticipated series. Hulu have scored a huge victory producing this, and I believe it is award-worthy in many aspects. I expect the actors and producers to receive many accolades just from the first hour that I have seen.
Cannot wait to see the rest of the series, there’s an unnerving feeling already that we may already be in Gilead. The parallels to present-day society are fairly obvious; especially in less progressive societies around the world. A woman’s-worth is just to breed, or as an object for men to lust after. Independent, free-thinking women are “loudmouths”, “troublemakers” or other sexist terms that would never be applied to men.
Even in the United States they are still attempting to control women’s bodies and their rights to reproduce when they please, in Arkansas, in 2017 a law was passed called “Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act” which allows rapists to sue their victims, and prevent them from receiving an abortion. They are incentivised that they will receive compensation from the doctor, and even allows Parents, Guardians and other related parties to force rape victims to have the product of the crime. The ACLU and other human-rights organisations are preparing to fight this with vigour as it is unbelievable that anyone would consider such an idea is a positive one.
To ‘agree with the psychopaths’, this is a timely show. With the current First Handmaiden trapped in her New York tower, the Commander-In-Chief would fit right in to Gilead, his attitudes towards women, even his own daughter, would also be considered normal—perhaps even liberal—to members of this nation. His alleged crimes against women would be perfectly fine, and his track-record with wives would be far easier if Melania was his hand.. ….
Actually, she is his Handmaiden, but allowed some freedom at least. If the so-called President had no money or power, he would not have be a threat to any woman, it is a shame that he has been enabled by that money and power for his entire life, to the point that he feels that it is perfectly normal to…
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.” — President Donald J. Trump
“I did try and f___ her. She was married.” — President Donald J. Trump, while his wife was pregnant with Barron
“Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” — President Donald J. Trump
“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” — President Donald J. Trump