Fer­til­ity and the fas­cist state

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television Free To Air - The Hand­maid’s Tale,

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

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