RED STAINS

India Today - - TV ADAPTATION | WATCHLIST - by MAN­JULA PAD­MAN­AB­HAN who is an au­thor and artist. Her most re­cent novel is The Is­land of Lost Girls

Watch­ing the newly tele­vised ver­sion of Mar­garet At­wood’s 1985 dystopian novel, The Hand­maid’s Tale, is like watch­ing a sci­encefic­tional drama about tooth ex­trac­tion. The el­e­gant cam­era work, fre­quent slow-mo­tion se­quences and good mu­si­cal score are not enough to re­fine the pain of the pro­ce­dure or to make it en­ter­tain­ing.

The story is set in the near fu­ture. Hu­man fer­til­ity has fallen so dras­ti­cally that in a coun­try once known as the United States of Amer­ica, now called Gilead, the nu­clear family has been shred­ded. Both sexes live in ex­treme seg­re­ga­tion. Women in par­tic­u­lar are iden­ti­fied by their colour-coded floor-length gowns and so­cial des­ig­na­tions. Hand­maids are women of proven fer­til­ity who live as con­cu­bines in the homes of pow­er­ful men, the so­called Com­man­ders, and their wives.

Hand­maids wear wine-red gowns and white bon­net-wim­ples. Their pur­pose is to bear chil­dren. But wait! This so­ci­ety is Bi­ble­pow­ered! So the sex is strictly pro­cre­ative. It’s per­formed via a rit­ual rape cer­e­mony that takes place once a month, dur­ing the Hand­maid’s fer­tile pe­riod. She lies supine be­tween the wife’s out­stretched legs, in the master bed­room. Ev­ery­one is fully clothed and the do­mes­tic help are called in to watch. Bizarre and provocative? Yes, but only in the book. On­screen, the sight of a fully-clothed man, stand­ing with one hand on his hip, bump­ing solemnly back and forth un­til he stops with a dainty lit­tle snort, is quite frankly lu­di­crous.

Elis­a­beth Moss, with her rap­tor’s nose and shocked-blue eyes, is con­vinc­ing as Of­fred the pro­tag­o­nist hand­maid. But Joseph Fi­ennes as Of­fred’s Com­man­der, looks about as vir­ile and pow­er­ful as the En­er­gizer bunny.

In Episode 6, Of­fred fi­nally re­ceives a tiny ray of hope about her fu­ture, and the book as­sures us that her story ends well. Nev­er­the­less, to watch women be­ing sys­tem­at­i­cally tor­tured and stripped of dig­nity surely re­in­forces a re­gres­sive stereo­type— that women are phys­i­cally and men­tally in­fe­rior to men.

If we’re gawk­ing at the tra­vails of th­ese red-robed west­ern women on­screen it’s be­cause they have cho­sen to en­gage in op­pres­sion-porn. Maybe our sym­pa­thy for their fic­tional an­guish will spill over to the mil­lions of child brides, tor­tured house­maids or sex slaves who share the world with us. Or maybe not.

OFF-RED don’t Books trans­late al­ways film. well to that’s the Sadly, case here

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