This isn’t a TV show review. Not even close. Consider this a Call To Action urging every enlightened woman who wants to educate herself further to drop everything and watch The Handmaid’s Tale now. While I don’t want to scare anyone off, I refuse to do the show injustice by sugar-coating it with pretty words to entice you because this is a show only to be watched by willing minds. (Although, scratch that, I will say one pretty thing and that is if you’re a fan of Orange Is The New Black and your heart is still grieving over the loss of Poussey Washington, prepare to get your fill of Samira Wiley in all her edgy glory as the rebellious Moira).
“Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship” is IMDB’s dispassionate summary of The Handmaid’s Tale and to be honest, my mind wandered off at “fundamentalist”. Channel 4 fares only slightly better with “US drama series set in a dystopian society that treats women as property of the state, forcing those who are fertile into sexual servitude to repopulate a devastated world”. While these are both adequate and passable descriptions of the TV show, neither of them capture the flurry of emotions that run through your mind as you process everything unfolding on your screen.
They don’t acknowledge the feeling of pure terror and paranoia that washes over you as you consider the possibility of this dystopian society coming to life; one where women are simply walking wombs and where forced surrogacy is the norm. That feeling of discomfort and disgust when you quickly realize that all the Handmaid’s names (“Offred”, “Ofsteven” and “Ofwarren”) are simply stemmed from the names of their male owners and that women have completely lost their identity in a society which only recognizes them as their owner’s pet. That moment when your heart drops knowing that the Handmaids aren’t allowed to read, play Scrabble or even hint at any sign of pre-existing intelligence in their previous lives because “If we’re caught reading, they’ll cut off a finger. Second offense, the whole hand”.
But the scariest thing of all is realizing that this dystopian “future” takes place in non-other than modern day U.S.A., now turned Republic of Gilead. The pre-Gilead flashbacks reveal the characters living normal lives not too long ago, only to have their entire world topple down starting with the all-too-realistic termination of all women in the workplace and the freezing of their bank accounts. Haunting is too mild a word to describe the residual effects the show has on one’s mind.
Other than that, an amazing soundtrack featuring edgy in-your-face hits from the sixties and eighties provides meaning in scenes where it is scarce to be found. It does its job well by helping you feel a certain way whether it’s despair, defiance (Thanks to Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”) or pure badassery (Shout out to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”).
So watch it, if only to help you realize the fragility of a women’s status in society, even in the modern day. In spite of the heavily political aspect of the show, watch it even if all you take away from it is the knowledge that all the progress that we and the female generations before us have worked to accomplish and stood for can be so easily wiped off with the swipe of a callous hand. Watch it to understand that feminism isn’t just at stake by the hands of apathetic men, but that women who refuse to recognize the possibility of coming into their own via their own capabilities and without relying on their male counterparts, can cause just as much damage.
So if you’re not doing anything this weekend, watching the Handmaid’s Tale should be right up there on your to-do list. And even if you are, still go and watch it anyway.