The Handmaid’s Tale is the latest Hulu’s original program. Based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood, it couldn’t have come at a better time politically.
When we first saw the trailer for it during Super Bowl 51, we were instantly intrigued. We love dystopian futures and political storylines. However, researching more about The Handmaid’s Tale made us realise that this isn’t just a piece of art. It’s a realistic view of what life could be like should politicians continue to travel on the dangerous path they’re currently on.
It’s politically relevant right now, especially with Donald Trump’s various speeches and the words of right wing governments/political parties around the world. The current state of the world is likely why a book that was written in 1985 is now getting so much attention that it’s been turned into a TV series.
— Asha Dahya (@Ashadahya) April 7, 2017
What Is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ About?
Before we move onto why it’s so political, let’s look at what this novel (and so the show) is about. The focus is on a woman called Offred, who’s who reason of being is to reproduce for the 1%. She is a mistress to a man with a barren wife, and there is plenty of oppression of women—and yes, there is a resistance thrown in there working against the government.
So, what makes it so political? Why is a book written in 1985 so popular now that it is almost a warning of the future? Here are six reasons why the book (and the series) is so political now.
#1. Using Religion as a Cover
Atwood’s novel is not anti-religion. At least, that’s not the way she views it. While many of the conceptions were developed from the views of the Puritans in the 1600s, Atwood delved into the way religion was used as a cover.
There are now many people who attack or use excuses because of “religion.” We just have to look at how all Muslims are considered terrorists (by some, and definitely not by us!) because of a few extremists who have used Islam as an excuse. Then there are people who claim homosexuality is a sin, using the Bible as a reason for their hatred.
No matter where you look through history and in the present day, religion is used as a cover for the things that others do. Presidents and prime ministers have used it throughout the years.
This doesn’t make it right, but it does happen. That is something focus on in The Handmaid’s Tale, and something that has become more widely noted in today’s world.
Atwood actually said that her novel is “against the use of religion as a front for tyranny.” It certainly isn’t anti-religion, but anti-religious excuses.
#2. The Use of ‘Alternative Facts’
As a fan of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, there was no way of avoiding the importance of the term “alternative facts” used by Trump’s aid Kellyanne Conway. It was just too much like the term “Newspeak” from the novel; the information used to control the public.
“Newspeak” didn’t necessarily give the correct information. It gave “alternative facts” in a way to persuade and manipulate the people. That certainly happened throughout Trump’s campaign, and continues to happen around the world today. Rather than search for the truth (which thankful is still available in today’s world), people will believe the words their politicians and news companies tell them.
Reading #TheHandmaidsTale right now, and every day I feel more like this is just going to become reality under this administration.
— Pink Spoons (@pink_spoons) March 30, 2017
We’re heading towards a dystopian future if this continues. While it may never get as serious as The Handmaid’s Tale, the novel certainly makes it clear what could happen. It’s a warning to encourage everyone to do their own research from unbiased and reputable sources.
#3. Growing Fear and Hatred for Others
The world is growing and not in the way that is good for everyone. There is a growing fear and hatred for specific groups.
“In the wake of the recent American election, fears and anxieties proliferate. Basic civil liberties are seen as endangered, along with many of the rights for women won over the past decades, and indeed the past centuries.”
We’ve already mentioned Muslims thanks to a group of extremists, but what about the blacks, the Mexicans, the unemployed, or the disabled? There are attacks against the LGBT community and generally anyone who is different from the stated “normal.”
And seriously, what is normal? We could write a whole piece on how “normal” is an arbitrary term that actually means nothing at all.
This growing fear leads to individuals being hurt and attacked. Certain groups of people are being prevented from basic human rights.
Some of the atrocities that already happen are ignored or unknown. People need to write down everything that is happening, but there is the risk that those writings will be suppressed. Or maybe they will be like Anne Frank’s diary and hidden for years and then unpublished or unshared for much longer.
All of these issues are tackled in The Handmaid’s Tale through flashbacks as we learn about Offred’s life before the fear and hatred against certain groups.
#4. Knowing that We’re Not Learning from the Past
When The Handmaid’s Tale was written, Atwood was living in West Berlin at a time that the Berlin Wall still stood. She heard regular sonic bombs from the East Germans; warnings that they were there and ready to attack. There was a world of fear.
This had followed on from the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps. The rounding up of people different because they had to be the enemy.
It’s a history that we should have learned from. Rather than doing that, the world is moving back into that world of fear (point #3 remember?). Trump is talking about a Muslim registry bill (which Quantico used, by the way) and there have been various mentions around the world of camps for immigrants.
Travel bans have been placed, certain items of luggage aren’t allowed in cabins on aeroplanes, and individuals are dying as they attempt to make it to a safer place because their homes are destroyed in war.
“Will their messages be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall? Let us hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust it will not.”
Politicians pretend that the actions are to protect, but they’re done in fear. Nobody looks back at how the same actions were taken by the likes of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
The past is upon on, and this series is a warning of what could happen.
#5. The Brainwashing of People
Throughout The Handmaid’s Tale there is the use of brainwashing. This isn’t a new thing, but it does continue today. In fact, it’s seen throughout social media but without the term ever being used.
In the novel, the handmaids are brainwashed to believe the things that the politicians and this society want them to believe. The Red Guard makes the women renounce their previous life and take on the world that they will belong to afterwards.
The scene is the one in which the newly conscripted Handmaids are being brainwashed in a sort of Red Guard re-education facility known as the Red Center. They must learn to renounce their previous identities.”
While brainwashing isn’t done in the same sense, it certainly goes on in everyday life. The media tells us what we should believe or think. We just have to look at the bias throughout the presidential campaign last year or surrounding the migrant and refugee crisis in Europe that the media have their own agenda. It’s almost impossible to get away from such agenda, since there are very few unbiased sources out there now.
It’s no wonder that people have gained a fear of the Muslim religion, since politicians continually tell us that all Muslims are the problem—we want to make it clear that they’re really not. The Muslim religion is a peaceful one, but it has been used incorrectly by extremists as a reason for the hateful attacks.
The British media continued to tell us how the refugees were all dangerous criminals wanting into the UK for benefits, until the death of a toddler, his brother and his mother when trying to flee Syria for their lives. It was only then that the media changed tactics and made people feel despair for those putting their lives at risk for the hope of a better future.
Brainwashing happens on a daily basis, without any of us realising. That’s the power of it—but it’s also the fear of it, making The Handmaid’s Tale extremely timely.
#6. Victim Blaming After Rape
Finally, let’s look at the “slut shaming” that happens in the novel. It wasn’t originally called “slut shaming” in the novel, but the term is a popular one now. However, the term has originally been used in real society for a different reason.
In the novel, it’s in the context of victim blaming. One of the handmaids is told that she must recount her belief that she was gang raped. The women are forced to believe that they weren’t raped at all, and it was their fault for leading the men on.
This is something women hear all the time. There’s the view that it’s a woman’s fault for wearing short skirts and low cut tops; that women should cover themselves up to make themselves look less desirable. A woman who is raped after flirting led the man on and he had every right to force himself upon her.
There’s nothing about men who need to learn that “no” means no or that they need to control their own feelings. There’s nothing about men who need to respect a woman’s decision, regardless of how it seemed earlier in the day.
— Ben Travers (@BenTTravers) April 13, 2017
But it’s not just the men who victim blame. Plenty of women attack and blame others of their own gender for actions, ganging up on one person unfairly. Atwood shares how a particular scene made her feel sad for society today, as so much of it really does happen in today’s world and is a view of what is to come.
“Although it was “only a television show” and these were actresses who would be giggling at coffee break, and I myself was “just pretending,” I found this scene horribly upsetting. It was way too much like way too much history. Yes, women will gang up on other women.”
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is a Dangerous Warning
We know this is long (especially for us) and difficult reading, but none of it can be denied. The world is consistently moving and there are risks that a dystopian future like The Handmaid’s Tale is possible. It’s not a prediction, but a hope that things can stop so none of this ever becomes a reality.
Atwood wasn’t sure whether she should write her novel at first. Now we’re glad she did. This is the future that could happen—at least one of them. It is now a very believable future based on the world today.
“By 1984, I’d been avoiding my novel for a year or two. It seemed to me a risky venture.”
Most people admit that Nineteen Eighty-Four is lifelike and scary, but many haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s time to pick the novel up. If you’re not going to read the novel, then watch the series now available on Hulu. It will open your mind for its perfect political timing. The show certainly isn’t going to be easy to watch. This isn’t something that makes you forget about the world’s problems for an hour. It’s a show that makes you think deeply about the way of the world today and what could possibly come.
Do you agree with this? Feel free to share with your friends. Spread the word of what could happen if we continue on the dangerous path we’re on as a society and the human race.
Quotes taken from an essay by Margaret Atwood on The New York Time
Featured and Article Image From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJTonrzXTJs
Author: Alexandria Gunn
Introducing the chief blogger of FanNews, Alexandria is an Ontario freelance writer, blogger and journalist who does all that while being a wife and mother of two girls.