by Dee McLachlan
In the near future, fertility rates have collapsed as a result of environmental pollution and sexually transmitted diseases. Much of the land has been decimated, and, within this chaos, a totalitarian, Christian-like theonomic government has taken over the former United States in a quick and frightening coup.
I don’t normally write about television or film, but a new series, called “The Handmaid’s Tale,” from a 1985 novel written by Canadian Margaret Atwood (b. 1939) is the topic of my post today.
When the main character, June, tries to buy a coffee on her bank card, she realises her bank accounts have been frozen. It all happens so quickly, and she is fired along with the other women in her company. She soon finds herself living in a society organized by power-driven leaders of a new, patriarchal, militarized regime.
In this new society, women are subjugated and not allowed to work, own property, control money, or read. The few remaining fertile women in the land of “Gilead” are called handmaids, and are assigned to the elite — to become sexual servants to their masters to bear children for them.
It’s creepy. The series has created a 1984-esque society that seems to blend the worst of all the fanatical religions. It has Christian biblical references, but portrays a society more what living under a strict Islamist society, like the Taliban, might be like.
And that is why it gets under your skin — it feels real.
What struck me are the references to the “eye”. I am not sure whether the executives of MGM and Hulu, the production companies, fully understand the messages in the story — but there are many cabal-like references to the Order, and the (all seeing) “eye”.
In the series, the handmaids have to be escorted or walk in pairs, and they have very specific greetings — like “Under his eye,” and “Blessed be the fruit.”
There are lines from June, like “when they blame terrorists to suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up either then… now I’m awake.” And to “make the world better place… better, does not mean better for everyone,” is another. These concepts put forward by the creators don’t go unnoticed.
It shows that the dangerous and unordinary… quickly becomes normalised and ordinary.
I think this series is a message to it’s audience to “wake up.”
You can watch the series on SBS On Demand (in Australia).