The Scary Reality of "The Handmaid's Tale"
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The Scary Reality of "The Handmaid's Tale"

“Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.”

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The Scary Reality of "The Handmaid's Tale"
Fiona Taylor

A recently released show on Hulu has got me chilled to the core. With only three episodes out so far, "The Handmaid's Tale," based off the novel by Margaret Atwood, has already made a strong impression on its viewers and has people questioning just how fictional this story may be.

Spoiler Alert

It's important to note that the new series does not completely stay in line with details from the novel. In the TV adaptation, this dystopian future is occurring in the current time period, whereas the book associates this future with it’s own time period, placing the story in the 2000’s. This focus on the current generation makes it more relatable to viewers, but also more horrifying. There are other changes in the story line that the directors took freedom to make; however, the overall theme remains the same, and this is the most influential factor.

The story goes as follows: in a dystopian future, the United States has been taken over by a cruel totalitarian regime that enforces barbaric rules. Women can essentially be three things: wives of prominent Commanders, servants for these wives, or Handmaids. Each of these positions are based on obedience, and although some women have more societal rights than others, the female gender is completely controlled within a misogynistic environment. The story follows one Handmaid in particular, named Offred and played by Elizabeth Moss. Through Offred's point of view, we come to understand what happened in America that created this new, extremely oppressive society. It all begins with a wave of infertility that hits the country, creating an extremely low birth rate and causing fear for those who do get pregnant because of increased miscarriages and stillbirths. The implementation of martial law on all citizens of America, due to what the government states are “terrorist threats,” is the next step, which escalates into something completely unrelated, extremely quickly. Soon, all women have their rights stripped. Credit cards get cancelled, jobs are taken away, and women become the center of ridicule.

This is where the Handmaids come in. The women who can still reproduce are collected and placed under the control of the new government, forced to live their life carrying the children of infertile women. They are categorized as a commodity, no longer given the freedoms that any "normal" human being should receive. It is a life based on control and compliance, with absolutely no choice; America is no longer a democracy, and anybody who speaks or works against the government is taken away by “Eyes,” where they are tortured and interrogated for information. Handmaids live with different families until they become pregnant or are released, but they also face the risk of being sent to “the Colonies” if they break any rules or cannot become pregnant, where the old and infertile work in horrible conditions until their death. Handmaids partake in the “ritual” of what is essentially rape, where the man inseminates her as she lies motionless, eyes wide open and hands firmly being held by the woman of the household.

In this world, everybody is oppressed. Conversations are constantly monitored, strict roles are enforced, and the government has absolutely no mercy for those who stray from the crowd. Professions from “before” are banned, such as doctors, as well as any sexual orientation that is not considered “correct,” like being homosexual. Those discovered to be “traitors” are hung, their bodies publically presented to the citizens in a form of warning. Although this brutality is enforced on the entire population, “The Handmaid’s Tale” strongly focuses on the hardships endured by women in a completely anti-feminist society.

As a woman, I felt extremely affected after watching the show. We are living in a political climate where women do not feel protected by the government, and the Trump administration has made it clear that women’s rights is not in their best interest. The first female presidential candidate was harassed, verbally assaulted, and ridiculed, most notably because of her gender. Brave women across the nation continue to protest against this kind of treatment in our society, but truthfully, there are times when I feel our country is moving backwards. Offred, essentially the narrator of the story, says “We were all asleep” when reflecting on the past. The relevancy of this statement is so extreme for our current society, where although many people pay attention to current events, few really think about the ramifications. For example, vice president Mike Pence has expressed support for conversion therapy and repulsion towards reproductive rights. People like him become to backbone for societies that believe only certain people deserve natural civil rights, and anyone who does not fit the category should be controlled.

As a country, we have to constantly be aware of the decisions being made by those with power, and use the accessibility that democracy gives us to speak up. “The Handmaid's Tale” may seem too extreme to be considered a prediction for our future, but the fact that its social commentary is still relevant about 30 years after its publication speaks volumes. Even in 2017, nearly 100 years after women were finally granted the right to vote, we still face oppression. There is no other reason except the outlandish belief that women are “less than,” and that women should only be valued for what we offer in terms of sexuality and the creation of life. In a world where these kinds of belief still exist, we come closer and closer to the reality depicted in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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