Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.
If you don’t have a Hulu subscription, now is the time to shell out the $7.99 per month.
I sincerely wish that everyone on this planet right now would commit to watching Hulu’s spectacular, chilling, and horrifying new series, The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel, it is a tale of our fears becoming the ordinary.
Set in the fictional Republic of Gilead, the constitution is suspended, a growing number of women are infertile due to a high level of pollution, and right-wing religious fanatics have risen to power. The new class system includes women as Wives, Daughters, Marthas (maids), Aunts (who train the handmaids), or Handmaids (who provide fertility for Commanders and their Wives). Unwomen (a quite haunting label) are either sterile, unmarried, widows, feminists, lesbians, nuns, jezebels, or those who question the establishment. The men are either Commanders (government officials), Angels (soldiers at war), Eyes of God (secret police force), Guardians of the Faith (soldiers, security officers), or work “normal” jobs, such as doctors or chauffeurs.
The incredibly talented Elisabeth Moss gives an Emmy-worthy performance as Offred (who had another name, June, but it is forbidden now). Offred literally means “Of Fred,” and Fred is the Commander she is assigned to as a Handmaid. She was torn apart from her husband and daughter and lives a powerless life, attending to her Commander (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). As a handmaid, she wears a long red dress and white bonnet because God forbid a Handmaid show any sex appeal!
Quite frankly, the story itself is a captivating nightmare that provides countless moments for you to think, “Well maybe that isn’t so far off from happening here one day.” Flashbacks show the sudden occurrences of women being stripped from their rights of property, money, education, and abortion. This world is a man’s world. In a voiceover, Offred even refers to her role as a child bearer as “a womb with two legs.”
Before each episode plays on Hulu, there is a “viewer discretion is advised” intro because of the brutal acts of violence portrayed, like seeing a character getting hung, constant portrayals of rape, and the Handmaids being physically abused at least once each episode. But is this viewer discretion also to warn us before we view more of the horrors that could possibly become the new normal one day? YES.
This series is tragically beautiful and captivating. Tragic because of disregard of women. Atwood’s extraordinary text is elevated with a tangible sense of fear and anxiety in each episode. The camera’s close-up of Moss’s makeup-less face shows the story rather than tells it. The Handmaid’s Tale is shocking and disturbing, as it should be. To date, five of the total ten episodes have been released. The fourth episode titled, “Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum” meaning “don’t let the bastards grind you down” in Latin. It ends on a more “uplifting” note (compared to other episodes) showing Offred and other Handmaids walking together outside. Although Offred still trusts no one and won’t accept her current state as reality, this nal scene shows that the women are united in suffering, but not in unity. Offred voices the last line of the episode (which has been described as “mic dropping”) and says, “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum bitches.” Offred will keep on going.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
The Handmaid’s Tale airs episodes on Hulu on a weekly basis. The show was recently reviewed for a second season. Praise be.