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The Handmaids Tale Shows How Easy It Is for Fascism to Become

first_imgStay on target What to Stream on Hulu This WeekendDisney+ Gets Fox Movie Remakes, Hulu/ESPN Bundle The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on Hulu on Wednesday, and it is hard to watch. Make no mistake though; you should absolutely watch it. It’s a masterful piece of television. I honestly can’t think of a bad thing to say about it. The way it’s shot is awe-inspiring, with the deep reds of the handmaid’s dresses sticking out in stark contrast to the subdued colors of the world around them.The sound design is also fantastic. Music is used sparingly, so when you hear it, it’s used to great effect. Never has “You Don’t Own Me” sounded more simultaneously chilling and triumphant than at the end of the first episode. At that point, we have seen the horrors of Offred’s life in Gilead, but it’s also the point where she resolves to survive and says her true name if only to herself. As the song started playing over the closing credits, I was grateful that it takes Hulu a full two minutes to autoplay the next episode. I needed a moment to process.The writing is where the series really shines. You feel the oppressive society these women live under in every line. When they curse, it means something. It’s a small rebellion, because they clearly can’t use such language in their everyday lives anymore. Most of all, it feels as relevant, and as plausible, as the novel did when it came out in 1985. It’s part of what makes the show so hard to watch. Yes, it’s emotionally draining, and the state-sanctioned rape is horrifying to see, but what’s really scary about The Handmaid’s Tale is how possible it feels. A world where women are objects not allowed to control their own bodies isn’t science fiction. It has happened in the past, continues to happen in the present, and the United States, for all our talk about freedom, aren’t nearly as far removed from it as we like to pretend we are.Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel, Jenessa Grant, and Bahia Watson. (Via Hulu)The first three episodes, which are available on Hulu right now, put to rest all questions about how the American people let something like Gilead happen. The specifics of what happened are meted out in small doses. Most of the story focuses on what Offred’s (formerly June) life is like now. You do get glimpses of the days just before and just after the fundamentalist religious revolution. By the time you’ve finished the third episode, you’ve seen how easily the new fascist regime became normal and accepted.A low birthrate and a terrorist attack made people scared, and it appears that they just accepted martial law as a necessary measure. Everyone, including June, thought it was just going to be temporary. The truly terrible, red flag raising stuff all happened at once. All women had their bank accounts suddenly frozen. June and her friend Moira are going about their lives as they always did. One of the first signs of trouble, other than June’s debit card being mysteriously declined, is that they are called sluts for wearing running gear. That is concerning, though just a common enough occurrence in normal society that it’s easy for them to write it off as one jerk. It’s not until they’re no longer allowed to work, own property or travel that they realize how bad things really are.OT Fagbenle (via Hulu)Most of the men we see before the dystopia sets in are sympathetic, though not helpful. It’s easy to assume everything is going to be OK when none of the restrictive new laws affect you. When June’s boss lays off all the women in the company, he repeats over and over again that it’s not his choice, and there’s nothing he can do. Her husband, Luke, means well and tries to help. Moira rightfully chews him out for assuring June that he’ll take care of her. That’s not the point. June shouldn’t need Luke to take care of her, and that solution is what helps this horrific reality become the new normal.That’s how fascism rises. It starts slow, with a series of aggression that is easy to justify, ignore or work around. Then, all the really bad stuff happens at once. When rights are taken away, when you’re suddenly restricted in where you can go and what you can do, you don’t have time to react. One thing happens after another, and by the time you organize a protest or try to escape, it’s too late. There are men with guns to remind you that that right doesn’t exist anymore.Samira Wiley (via Hulu)It’s especially chilling now, considering the current administration has announced or implemented a new shockingly regressive policy nearly every day. We don’t have time to react to the shortsighted environmental policy because the very next day, they’re trying to kill public education, then Planned Parenthood, then net neutrality. We’re not headed for Gilead (yet), but the tactics are too similar for comfort.The real insidious part is what happens after the fascist regime is in place. Most of the plot of The Handmaid’s Tale centers on Offred’s life in the new Republic of Gilead. The fertile women are sent to reeducation camps. They are made to believe, among other things, that in the old world, women were at fault for being raped. That contraception led to infertility. These messages are drilled into their heads through repetition and physical abuse. The worst of it comes toward the end of the first episode. The handmaids are called to see a man who raped a handmaid, resulting in the death of her unborn child. They are given time to kick, hit and tear the man apart for his crime. They are made tools of the state.Yvonne Strahovski (via Hulu)The Handmaid’s Tale has shown us how fascist regimes stay in power. They make their subjects, even the ones who are most likely to rebel, complicit. For nearly any other crime, the Handmaids might hesitate before killing the accused. Because what the man did was objectively horrible, they’re able to justify it to themselves. It’s easy to say the man’s a rapist and deserves what he got. That’s probably true. But that’s how fascists get you on their side. They give you an immediate enemy, distracting you from your true oppressor. By the time you realize you just played into their hands, it’s too late. You allowed yourself to become a tool of the state. Rebellion is much harder when you’ve become a willing part of the system.The Handmaid’s Tale is an amazing achievement that everyone should watch, but I’m so happy it’s impossible to binge at this moment. Each episode takes it out of you to the point where you need a break. Even releasing three in a row like they did was almost too much. Whether or not you believe the United States is currently headed towards Gilead doesn’t matter. The scariest thing about The Handmaid’s Tale is not how close we currently are to its world. It’s how easily humans accept its world as normal. Everyone likes to think they’d stand up to an oppressive authority. In The Handmaid’s Tale, by the time you realize you should, it’s already too late.last_img read more

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