The Handmaid’s Tale Revisited

The Handmaids TaleIt was with apprehension and trepidation that I decided to watch the new Hulu version of Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” this week. I read this book decades ago so I had some idea of what to expect. This is a story about a frightening future USA society where women are only valued for their breeding potential, or as accessories for male entertainment.  This dystopia is called Gilead:  “In Gilead, the bodies of fertile women are politicized and controlled. The North American population is falling as more men and women become infertile (though in Gilead, legally, it is only women who can be the cause of infertility). Gilead’s treatment of women is based upon a narrow, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, meaning that women are the property of and subordinate to their husband, father, or head of household. They are not allowed to do anything that would grant them any power independent of this system. They are not allowed to vote, hold a job, read, possess money, or own anything, among many other restrictions.”  – Wikipedia

OK, so most would say that could never happen, but then I also never thought I would see an American president respect and defend neo-Nazis like he did last year. I never thought I would see a president’s wife whose only claim to fame is a modeling career. Women are most definitely accessories for male arrogance and pleasure in Trump’s “pussy-grabbing” World.

The methods of mind-control are what fascinate me most in this version of Ms. Atwood’s story.  I have been exploring the psychology of mind-control for decades in my studies of Chinese history, in situations like the Jim Jones mass suicide in 1978 in Guyana, and in my own extremely disturbing Outward Bound-like experience back in the 1980s when a team leader nazied-out on me…

Trust me, you do not know what you would do when all of your power to determine your own fate is taken away. Group shaming is one of the most powerful tools in the arsenal of the terrorist.

I never forgot the part of Ms. Atwood’s novel where all women suddenly had no money and therefore no power. They all lost their jobs at once and their money was given over to the men in their life, only the beginning in the police state of Gilead.

handmaids

This story really does symbolize one of my worst case scenarios for our culture. Like something from a terrible dream, I fear my own neighbors would some day take away everything, because I do not believe or see the world the way they do.

State sponsored religion or beliefs of any kind are so dangerous.

Postscript: My thoughts days after watching this series. Although this series portrays life in a dystopic future, it also is an excellent portrayal of the life of most women in our past. Historically women were generally seen as either good workers and breeders, or simply entertainment for men.

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17 thoughts on “The Handmaid’s Tale Revisited

  1. Well said! This show (and book) scared the crap out of me because I fear our new CIC is taking us right over the cliff …Even Melania, will be marginalized like Offred. The story just feels too close to our current reality…Hopefully, in Season 2, the women rise up and kick some male ass.

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    • Yes Emily and I know that was the reason for its creation in the first place, to scare the hell out of our complacent souls! I’m sure the Germans never expected Hitler to gather so much power either…

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  2. I binge-watched Season 1 on the free Hulu intro session while I was home sick with the flu this winter. I’m not sure about Season 2, Season 1 did a really good job of covering the book that I loved the first time I read it, and I really have limited patience for serial entertainment. I’m more of a reader than a TV watcher but if I pick up a book and see that it’s the first in a series, eight times out of ten I’ll put it down (of course working in children’s publishing, the ninth time it’s Harry Potter and the tenth it’s The Hunger Games). I may make an exception for this one, though – I haven’t ended my Hulu subscription yet with that in mind.

    The increasing influence of people who talk the talk of the people in the book is frightening.

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  3. Well, that’s hard to say. I believe that there are plenty of people in this country who would like to see America become more theocratic. My biggest concern, when people talk about impeaching Trump, is that that his removal would put Pence in charge. I have read reports that he has Christian Dominionist ties, and unlike Trump, he is a career politician and might actually be much more effective at pushing the country towards the religious right’s desired outcomes were he to get his hands on the helm.

    However, I’ve also seen some powerful standing-up being done by people who want to preserve the civil rights gains that have been made in the last decades, and it seems like the youth of today are learning to be strong voices as well – I’m actually really looking forward to seeing what starts happening in this country as those determined young people start claiming power as voters and eventually leaders.

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  4. I found the Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 really thought provoking and very watchable. I was really looking forward to Season 2 but only made it part-way into the first episode and called it quits – very graphic, very horrible and way too nasty for my taste. I think I’ll leave it with Season 1 finishing where the book finished. I’d be interested to see what you think of Season 2.

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  5. I have loved Margaret Atwood’s writing for decades. I watched the first season of Handmaid’s Tale but haven’t re-upped for Hulu, so will watch once I can see all the episodes of season 2 in a month. I’m wondering if Atwood advised on season 2? This next season is new and not from Atwood’s works. The ecofeminist dystopian scenario is all too possible. Rabid fundamentalism, patriarchy, and climate change deniers are energized and pushing forward at an alarming rate. There are states where women cannot access needed medical care, period. The Quiverfull movement is frightening and was presented on TV as a wonderful normal family reality show. The Duggar family was and is NOT normal. Sexual abuse and isolation from society, lack of exposure to basic science and basic history education through home-schooling is educational child abuse. I cover Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, from the Maddaddam Trilogy, in my X blog post from yesterday.

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  7. I have the book but haven’t read it or seen the television series. I will have to check it out now that I’ve read your post, although I’m not too sure about Season 2 after reading Leanne’s comments.

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