Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ will go down in history as a defining moment in television. It presents a dystopian future in which a totalitarian government has come to rule the United States.
In this reality, the world’s fertility rate is severely low and thus, women who are able to bare children are are forced to trade in their freedom and become prisoners of their own biology. For those who aren’t fertile, they must spend their lives serving men in other ways or be damned to hell on Earth, otherwise known as the ‘colonies’.
Ultimately, it presents a supposed ‘fictional’ reality in which the environment has finally succumbed to the wrath of humanity, and women have finally succumbed to the wrath of men.
I watched the first nine episodes in a matter of days, to the detriment of my assignments, and was left with my mouth wide open. The truth is, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is more than just a tale; It’s a marriage of our past, present and future.
The traditional role of women is woven throughout the entire show, with the government believing that women only exist to cook, clean, serve, and give birth.
In our own world, although feminism has paved a path of empowerment for many women, traditional ideals are still at large. For instance, in India, the percentage of women in the work force is less than 30% and furthermore, women there continue to be victims of brutality.
“In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour,” – Gulshun Rehman, Health Programme Development Adviser at Save the Children UK.
In terms of global infertility, it’s not as hypothetical as one may think. In 2012, the World Health Organisation found that only 5 to 15% of male sperm was healthy enough to be classed as ‘normal’. This percentage is said to be gradually decreasing and therefore it’s possible that the pandemic in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, may soon be a pandemic of our own.
As feminism has taught us, women may be forced to sit down but that doesn’t mean they can’t stand back up. That’s what the feminist movement is; a consciousness among women to stand in a world where they are told to sit.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ echoes these feminist themes. It shows that even in the most oppressed of circumstances, women still have the ability to come together and if nothing else, there is power in their unity.
My commentary on this show could very well continue for thousands of words, but for the sake of not spoiling it, I will leave the rest up to you. I must warn you though; it’s exquisitely devastating. Never have I seen such tragedy presented with such grace and never have I seen such fiction hold such truth.