Fertility and the fascist state
The Handmaid’s Tale After its recent run on SBS On Demand, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Margaret Atwood, will come to the attention of a much wider audience via the main SBS channel, starting this week. (Truth be told, those intrusive and repetitive ads on On Demand are enough to drive you back to terrestrial TV.)
The 10-part dystopian series is set in the fictional territory of Gilead, where a fascist, Christian-inspired movement has taken over part of the former United States. A crisis in fertility has led to the enslavement of women of a childbearing age — called Handmaids — who are ritually raped in order to act as surrogates for the muckety-mucks of the new regime.
We follow the story of Offred/June (Elisabeth Moss), a young woman snatched from her partner and child in the harrowing opening scenes. She has been placed in the home of Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena (Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski); Max Minghella plays the driver. Her fellow Handmaids include Moira ( Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley) and Ofglen/Emily ( Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel).
Gilead is an oppressive place with intermittent moments of stunning cruelty — misbehaving Handmaids might lose an eye, or be involuntarily circumcised. But June means to survive, and ultimately to reunite with her daughter.
It is not easy viewing. Despite being written in 1985 in an entirely different political and cultural context, The Handmaid’s Tale nonetheless has something to say about the slippery slope towards totalitarianism.
(The Swedish crime drama Farang, which also recently aired on SBS On Demand, now comes to the main channel from Monday at 11.30pm.) Wednesday, 10.25pm, SBS.
has plenty to say about the dangers of totalitarianism