I have been watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu for the past week or so. If you haven’t seen the show, I’m not going to give any spoilers about what happened in the series but I will give a brief overview of what it’s about. I have been really enjoying the show granted there are a lot of dark and messed up themes/topics that run throughout the show.
Summary of The Handmaid’s Tale
Basically The Handmaid’s Tale is based on a book by Margaret Atwood by the same title. It takes place in a dystopian future where a Christian extremist group took over the government of the United States after it fell due to “terrorists.” Births and pregnancies were also extremely hard so the Christian extremist group changed the social hierarchy of society. Women were not allowed to own property or work, they were in a sense property of the men. Marriages are arranged and if you had a divorce or same-sex marriage from the before-Gilead time, they were annulled and if the women were able to bear children they would become Handmaidens to the rich families that could not get pregnant. Pregnancies are also solely the responsibility of the women if they cannot get pregnant. Doesn’t matter if a man is sterile, the women would take the blame. You also couldn’t break any rules of the Old Testament or their version of it or you would get the punishments of that book. Steal something and you lose a hand, run away and your feet are beaten, have a same sex relationship and face genital mutilation. And you cannot have a relationship outside of the monthly ceremony with the wife and husband that owned you. The character that you follow is Offred, her name literally meaning “Of Fred” who is basically the person that owns her. But in the show they reveal that her name is June, which is hinted at in the book but never flat out confirmed if that’s canon. Oh and this new government got rid of basically all medical doctors/advancements as it’s not the way of the past. You know all the things that could have helped more babies to be born and avoid the need of basically raping women to have children. But more on that later.
It’s horrible. But there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this show. So I thought I would go over some of the thoughts or take-a-ways from this story.
Themes of The Handmaid’s Tale
- Power: This is one of the most important themes of the story. It’s seen everywhere from presence of power in the Eye an organization that enforces the rules of society with their presence lining the streets to everyone is a spy of those around them to ensure the laws are being upheld. One wrong statement and it could cost you a body part. Plus the government is a dictatorship and there is no appeal system or way of protecting yourself from the Gilead government.
- Sexuality: There is a large focus in the story/show towards sexuality. And there of it. Gay or lesbian individuals are killed if they cannot bear children. Sexual clothing and pornography was destroyed and you cannot have an abortion if the baby would die upon birth or be concerned “unbaby.” They also ritualize sexual relations that they believe are supported by the Bible. I.E. a handmaiden lays between the legs of the wife and is forced to let the husband rape her once a month when she’s ovulating so there’s a better chance at pregnancy. So it’s as if they are one person. That and the women gives birth between the legs of the wife so it’s as if the wife is the one in labor. Again the Old Testament Bible. The regime also underestimates the power of sexuality and what people will do for the possibility of love. In the book this is the downfall of the government, but the government still remains in the Hulu show.
- Class System: Gilead citizens are forced to take on the ideals of Utilitarianism where everyone works towards the greater good of the many rather than the good of the few. This allows for them to overlook the horrible treatment towards the handmaidens. They must be seen but not heard unless spoken to. Women that are of higher class wear a combination of greens and blues, while handmaidens wear red. Men wear black and more elegant attire if they are of the upper class. And Aunts or house servants wear brown.
- Fertility: This is solely the responsibility of the women to be fertile. Not on the men. So if a women cannot get pregnant by their commander, they might break the law to get pregnant or face exile in the Colonies. However, if the government or the Eye learn a women stepped outside of the forced ceremony to get pregnant they would be abused and killed. However, that same government got rid of everything they could have used to help pregnancies be more possible. Including just using insemination on surrogates so they didn’t have to basically rape these women that were forced into basically slavery where the only thing that could free them was giving birth.
- Feminism: This is another major theme in the story. The government stripped away women supporting each other on a day to day basis, but expects them to support each other during birth, death and sickness. Women are expected to do all the house chores and that this would create a sense of loyalty. And the overall start of this backwards society was the removable of women’s rights to own property, jobs, or vote. So we can apply that to today’s society by standing up for each other’s rights. Such as rights to abortion (controversial I know but that should be left us to the individual not the government to say what people do in regards to pregnancies), rights, and other women’s issues. Not just women’s issues but rights of every group: race, sexuality, etc. Basically don’t be complacent about what’s going on in the world around you.
These are just a few things that really stood out when you watch the show or read the book. Let me know if you like more of these types of posts and I’ll try to do some more of them with the shows I enjoy watching. But not for every show as some this type of post would be impossible. But I’ve been debating on doing a similar thing with 13 Reasons Why. Which I haven’t seen, but I have read the book.