Aug. 5th, 2017

smhwpf: (Sandman)
Shit, but Handmaid's Tale is scary. One of the most terrifying programs I've seen.

Three episodes in. Not read the book.

Non-spoilery, but CN for slavery, rape.

So you probably know the basic premise, a plague has made the great majority of women infertile, Fundamentalist Christians have taken over the US and established a totalitarian regime, in which fertile women are enslaved as 'handmaids' to elite men and their wives who can't have children, to bear children for them. Based on the passage in Genesis 29, where Jacob has married sibling rivals Leah and Rachel, but while Leah has children, Rachel (initially) can't get pregnant and so tells Jacob to impregnate her handmaid Bilhah, who will bear children on Rachel's behalf.

It is terrifying because it is all too believable. I mean, I don't think a Christian Dominionist takeover of the US is likely, but I don't think it is impossible either; Fundamentalists are a minority, but a large and extremely determined minority, currently allied with a lot of extremely rich and powerful people, having a large if not controlling interest in the main ruling party at the moment, and they are going to be quite happy to play dirty when it's about salvation or damnation.

For them to actually take over and institute a theocracy would require some sort of massive crisis, as is the case in Handmaid's Tale. Plus all sorts of other things going their way. Far from inevitable, but far from imaginable. And it's going to take something waaaay better than the Democratic Party as currently led to stop them if they ever do get sufficiently close to power.

Handmaid's Tale is also terrifying because of how brilliantly it is shot and made. It is mostly from the point of view of Offred, one of the handmaids, and there is a constant sense of fear and oppression; literally the atmosphere is oppressive. The feeling of being completely under other's power.

(Of course there is a racial dimension to the effect this has - it is showing slavery in its full horror (and indeed sexual slavery), but this time the slave is white. Who was it that said that the definition of Dystopian fiction is when the sort of things that happen to people of colour all the time, happen to white people?)

The switching back and forth between the present day, under the theocracy, and Offred's previous life is also very effective, which makes the show even more overtly political.

The other way it's terrifying for me is that it's set in Boston! Offred comes from Brookline! One of the characters mentions having gone to the Fletcher School! (Which is where I work). One of the characters in the flashbacks mentions Davis station being closed! (Which is the station by my office). Gyaaaagh.

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