Hulu’s sci-fi thriller “The Handmaid’s Tale”is a gripping show that has had me hooked since the very first episode. I’ll admit, that I first came into contact with the story when I read the book by Margaret Atwood which the show was adapted from, I was horrified by the plot and character struggles but couldn’t put it down until I knew the fate of the protagonist, Offred. Which brings me to the show… There have been plenty of occasions where I decided that this show wasn’t for me, that it was too much. What I’ve come to realize though is that maybe this show’s raw grit and gruesomeness is just what I need, and what people need everywhere.
“OK Eden, you’ve officially lost your mind.” No, I haven’t. I promise that there’s good reason to watch this show. If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, here’s a brief rundown of the overall plot of the show:
Set in present day, (a few scenes are a couple years in the past) June, now known as Offred (I’ll explain this in a minute), is a handmaid. Handmaids are pretty much women that are brought into the homes of prominent families to bear children. That’s it, that’s their only purpose. Handmaids are walking, breathing vessels and are treated as such in this totalitarian society. June used to be an editor living in Boston with her husband Luke and daughter Hannah. Over the course of time, a radical religious group managed to usurp the American government and enact martial law. The women are stripped of their rights to hold jobs, money or property, making them virtually helpless and transferring all power to men.
If this isn’t already terrifying in itself, fertile women are ripped from their families and forced into sexual servitude, to be Handmaids. We meet June as she’s trying to run to Canada with her daughter and husband, only to be caught and ripped away from her family. She is then sent to an “educational” center, where she is tagged, and forced to learn the ways of a Handmaid. Upon completion of her training, she and other women are sent to these prominent families; and the torture doesn’t stop there. Every month, on their most fertile days, Handmaids, the Commanders, and their Wives are required to participate in a twisted ritual which is referred to as “the Ceremony.” It’s rape, to cut the story short.
So June is trapped in this terrible situation. She is forced to conceive and bear a child against her will and is at the mercy of her Commander and his Wife. The show details her mental and physical struggles, as well as the many atrocities that occur in this horrific society. So why can’t I look away? As awful as this show sounds, why do I keep coming back every Wednesday?
There are a few reasons why The Handmaid’s Tale has become my latest obsession.
This Terrifying Alternate Reality is Too Close To Actual Reality
Yes, this show is meant to be fictional, more of a “what if.” But…”what if”? The reason behind the overturn of the government and the rise of this radical group known as Gilead is because of the virtually non-existent birth rate. More and more women are pursuing careers, and the cost of living has dramatically risen, so fewer babies were being born. While America was undergoing a population crisis, the Gilead radicals chose to use that opportunity to instill their beliefs, that a “woman’s place” was at home, bearing children. While I totally get that this show is a stretch of what could actually happen, it’s scary to think that we are living in a time where having more than one child is a considerable expense, enough to deter people from having more. I’ve said more times than I could count to myself and to my husband that I have no idea how we could have a second child because the cost of living continues to rise.
This alternate reality is startling also because a radical group was able to overturn the government. Today more than ever, we’re seeing people who don’t believe in equality for all, emboldened to share their views, to the point of trying to silence those who are being oppressed. Again, although the show is an exaggeration, it still causes one to think, “what if”?
It’s an Empowering Story of Survival
June has to be one of the strongest female protagonists I’ve come across in a while. Here she is, stripped away from her family, forced into sexual slavery; yet she remains strong. June is perseverant and doesn’t merely accept her fate. Yes, there are times where she combats depression, but she stays strong with the firm hope that she’ll be reunited with her husband and daughter. We can see other Handmaid’s who’ve accepted their situation, even going as far as aligning themselves with the beliefs and rules of their abusers. She remains true to herself, maintaining her wit, composure, and dignity as much as possible. This is one of those shows that leaves you asking yourself, “how could things possibly get any worse for June”? And they do. Things get worse for her, yet she still manages to find a way to survive.
While we don’t live in such a society in the United States, there are millions of women across the world who are viewed as vessels, property, are not granted as many rights as the men in their society. Too many women today have to endure sexual harassment, just because they are women and their bodies are viewed as something for the taking. While The Handmaid’s Tale seems like a scary story that’s great for TV, it’s unfortunate that this is a reality for many women out there.
I can’t wait to see how things go for June. I don’t want to give too much away, but she’s presently in a situation where it seems virtually impossible that she’ll find salvation… but we shall see. If you haven’t already seen an episode, check it out on Hulu.