The Handmaid's Tale



When the new Hulu series The Handmaid's Tale—based on the beloved 1985 Margaret Atwood novel of the same namedebuted in April 2017, it was quickly cast by the pop-media as a cautionary tale of great relevance to the Donald Trump era. The story centers on "handmaid" Offred (Elisabeth Moss), a baby-bearing slave in the new fascist and patriarchal Republic of Gilead.

In this society, women are forcibly cast as wives, housekeepers, or handmaids; homosexuality is outlawed; surveillance is standard; God is the justification; and once-powerful women like Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) are now barred from intellectual and practically all public life. Thankfully, the series, created by Bruce Miller, avoids heavy-handed attempts at contemporary political allegory and lets the artfully shot, star-studded, chillingly dystopian story speak for itself.

If only the commentators were as restrained.

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  1. This show seems like Red Dawn for leftists. It shtick seems to be indulging feminist persecution complexes.

  2. based on the beloved 1985 Margaret Atwood novel

    I’m not sure where you got that idea from. The book had mixed reviews when it came out, and wasn’t particularly praised by either Feminists or sci-fi fans during the 1990s. The assumption that it was “a big deal” is simply part of the revival-marketing, imo

    e.g. the 1986 NYT review liked the message of the book…

    (more anti-religious/anti-puritan than ‘pro-feminist’; women like Tipper Gore and the PMRC were far more culturally relevant at the time, as was the anti-sex/anti-porn feminism like Catherine McKinnon’s)

    … but found it shabbily written.

    …”The writing of ”The Handmaid’s Tale” is undistinguished in a double sense, ordinary if not glaringly so, but also indistinguishable from what one supposes would be Margaret Atwood’s normal way of expressing herself in the circumstances. This is a serious defect, unpardonable maybe for the genre: a future that has no language invented for it lacks a personality. That must be why, collectively, it is powerless to scare. ….

    …Characterization… is weak in ”The Handmaid’s Tale,” which maybe makes it a poet’s novel. I cannot tell Luke, the husband, from Nick, the chauffeur-lover …. It seems harsh to say again of a poet’s novel .. that it lacks imagination, but that, I fear, is the problem.

  3. Ironically, the storyline is much more like an Islamist nation than a Christian one.

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