I was watching The Handmaid’s Tale, a television series based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood written in 1985 which I’m sure many of you are aware of. In case you aren’t, the series is set in Gilead, a totalitarian society in what used to be part of the United States. Gilead is ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state, and is faced with environmental disasters and a plummeting birth rate. In a desperate attempt to repopulate a devastated world, the few remaining fertile women are forced into sexual servitude. The story’s central focus is on characters like Offred formerly known as June and her struggle to fit in while trying to escape from her tormentors. Each episode highlights the cruelty of the regime and the struggle June has to save the remaining parts of her and hang on to hope which is in short supply furthering the regime’s goal; the goal of any oppression is to crush hope. To crush hope is to crush belief which in turn prevents dissent and revolt.
Now I am a fan of dystopian movies and TV shows. They highlight how the world could have been if mankind was faced with a cataclysmic size event and civilization as we know it came to its knees. The Handmaids tale was different. After watching an episode or two, it shook me to my core. The treatment of women, the rituals, and the belief in a God of fertility, the treatment of prisoners and the infamous hanging wall where dissenters are hung and made an example off, all the scenes were crafted for maximum shock value and it sure does succeed in delivering the message.
It’s really easy to draw direct comparisons to how the state of affairs is now and how we are slowly descending into an overly moralistic ultra-policed authoritarian regime where the state is the provider of everything and everyone has to be in line with the wishes and orders of the state but for the time being, I will not. That is an article for another day. For now, let’s just sit back enjoy some captivating tv!