Banner Archive

Marvel Comics Timeline
Godzilla Timeline



« Fuck Work | Main | Court rules that fan-created subtitles are illegal »

Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale

I watched the 1990 version with Natasha Richardson ages ago having never read the book or even heard of Margaret Atwood. For years after, i was so enraged and disturbed by the rape scenes that i instinctively hated the sight of Robert Duvall and couldn't stomach seeing him in any other movies.

A couple of my friends were very excited when Hulu announced they were making a new adaptation. With politicians chipping away at Roe v Wade and an internet that threatens women with rape and then acts like the threat-makers are the victims, it seemed like the right time to revisit Atwood's dystopian society.

Set in the very near future, Hulu's new adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale subtly updates Atwood's dystopia. The execution of a gay woman in episode three seems inspired by a real Iranian execution. Played by Elisabeth Moss, Offred is more relatable than she's ever been, with a motto ("I intend to survive") destined for a thousand Etsy products. In the show, as in our moment, it is not just men, but crucially some women, too, who fervently wish for a society where women are no longer free or equal. Women known as Aunts initiate the Handmaids into their new roles; Wives terrorize Handmaids with little restraint. These women midwife Gilead into the world, though it's not clear what they stand to gain from any of it.

Most contradictory and recognizable of all these female collaborators is Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), the wife of Offred's commander. Before Gilead, she graced American television screens as a preternaturally blond evangelist. (Serena Joy was her stage name, a nom de guerre for the culture wars.) Even though she occupies the highest rank for a woman in this new world, she is now legally inferior to her sad-sack husband and, finding herself childless, has to employ Offred as a surrogate. Rage roils the edges of her ice-princess restraint. "She doesn't make speeches anymore," Offred notes in the book. "She stays in her home, but it doesn't seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she's been taken at her word."


And in a time when Madeleine "I think the death of 500,000 children was worth it" Albright feels she's allowed to scold young women for not supporting Hillary Clinton, it seemed like the right time to re-examine the definition of "feminism".

But The Handmaid's Tale does more than present a possible future: It asks us to consider how we'd end up there. A form of feminism that celebrates power for power's sake, instead of interrogating how it is concentrated and distributed, will usher us into fascism. Feminism means something. Some choices oppress the women who make them, and some beliefs, if enforced, would oppress everyone else, too. Allow an antichoice woman to call herself a feminist, and you have ceded political territory that you cannot afford to lose. Stripped of political meaning, "feminist" becomes an entirely subjective term that anyone with any agenda can use.

Because it's not just the Kellyanne Conways/Serena Joys we should be wary of. It's the "reasonable" women who want us to help boost them up to positions of power because "feminism", and not only never lend other women a hand up once we've helped them gain that power, but instead work hard to keep women down. Yes, feminism means something.

By min | April 20, 2017, 6:26 PM | Boooooks & Liberal Outrage & TeeVee