Hulu's original series The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale returns for Season 2, looking more bloody and harrowing than ever. The series, based on the recently published 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, is set in a dystopian country close to the future called Gilead, where widespread infertility has changed the political and social landscape. Fertile women are a common good, nicknamed "Maids," and fainted as the property of powerful families to be ritually raped and used as surrogate mothers. The whole Gilead society seems to be built around propaganda and social control. Like much science fiction, it intends to explore the possible final results of current developments and serve as a warning.
But what really brings us this oppressive and heartbreaking drama? In the program, men are executed for possibly imagined crimes, but the spectacle is the one that most persists in the suffering of women who are tortured, mutilated or killed for offenses as small as mocking a warden. It is a show about systemic and fascist control, and especially about the control and ownership of women's bodies.
The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale has been widely praised as an effective drama: dominated in the 2017 Emmys, with triumphs for best drama, directing, writing, and lead and supporting actress, but as a group of ] The culture section of The Verge began discussing the series, it quickly became evident that some of us openly avoided the show, while others approached it with terror, morbid or resignation instead of any kind of pleasure. We decided to sit down and talk about how we feel about the show, and why we are or are not watching.
Next, the spoilers of the first two episodes of The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale are released.
Tasha Robinson, Film / TV Editor: This is where I admit that I never saw an episode of The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale . A long time ago I'm a fan of Margaret Atwood and I've read practically all of her novels, including this one. The 1990 film seemed elegant, moving and fascinating. But when it started, I had a hard time adapting it to all the other series and films I was trying to evaluate for the job, and the more I heard about it (or edited other people's pieces about it), the more tired I feel. it sounded We already live in a world where politicians who shamefully ignore the basic reproductive biology of women still try to control it legally, among other things, by criminalizing abortion and remitting laws on the personality of the fetus. In a world so saturated with entertainment options, I find it hard to imagine looking for a show where the whole point seems to be exhaustively reducing the ways in which an oppressive society could abuse women. Where are the rest of you with the series?
Laura Hudson, Editor of Culture : I'm extremely tired. I reviewed The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale in Vulture exhaustively during his first season, half in fury and half in terror at the election of Donald Trump. There was, at that moment, something that seemed cathartic when it came to gutting a version of the future that felt more terribly plausible than ever. It is easy to discard The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale as fiction, when in all the most important forms it is anything less; as Margaret Atwood has noted, there is "nothing in the book that has not happened, somewhere." The horrors of Gilead are the same as innumerable cultures have inflicted on women, to varying degrees, for most of human history. The idea that we have now left all that behind is a lie, and a good idea for parrots, since the powerful political forces in our country are working hard to systematically strip women of their right to equal pay, corporal autonomy and anything else. You can take it away while getting is good.
When the book was published in 1986, a female critic in The New York Times dismissed it, saying: "Without a doubt, the essential element of a warning story is recognition." Surprised acknowledgment, even, enough to manage a shock We are warned, seeing our self present in a distorting mirror, of what we can be converting if current trends can continue … It is an effect, for me, almost surprisingly absent from the very readable book by Margaret Atwood . Handmaid & # 39; s Tale offered by the editor as a "foresight" of what we may have in store for us in the very near future ".
To which I say: ahahaha, hahaha. It is good to know that more than 30 years ago, the most privileged women in America considered The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale so incredible as to be worthy of contempt. How sure they must have felt, all those Serena Joys, in their own power. But in 2018, their auguries are so terribly familiar that they have become unbearable to watch. We live at a time when the most brutal punishments of women – for example, the hanging execution of women exercising their reproductive rights – are openly defended by an expert hired by The Atlantic a man whose dismissal was openly mourned by conservatives who said he was "an eloquent and persuasive curator of an amazing range and depth of what the progressive elites consider their 'mainstream'." Mainly, I am trying to keep myself alive at a time when I never felt less like a human being in the eyes of the society around me. And you?
Adi Robertson, main reporter: I wrote about The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale last year, and if nothing else, encourages a healthy paranoia about fundamentalist religious politics. Of course, Trump is a misogynist, but he is also completely amoral, which in a way is less frightening than the jealous complementarity of gender. Misogyny not only comes from men who openly hate women, and the program is good to convey that: their most convincing villains are the kind of anti-feminist women who shore up patriarchal institutions like the Quiverfull movement and the Mars Hill church. I vividly remember when those institutions had a great cultural prominence, and even if the internet-troll political movements are more downright horrible, it is useful to remember how dangerous those ideas might be.
Having said that, I am sensitive to feminist media that revel in the abuse of women, so I'm not sure why The Handmaid's Tale initially did not shut me down. I think (and I could be alone on this) that Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam books are free feminist torture pornography, so maybe it looked good in comparison. But I've seen the first episodes of The second season of The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale and man, it's been hard.
Devon Maloney, Internet Culture Editor: Professionally, over the last five years, I managed to sculpt dystopian fiction as one of my greatest hits as a writer. I firmly believe in the sociopolitical power of the genre, and I have defended in its favor on numerous occasions. I have a daily Google alert for "dystopia." His presence is everywhere in our lives, most obviously in how we have ironically managed to ignore the many distinctive warnings of the genre and actively build the ice cream landscape that so many authors imagined as precautionary metaphors. Which is all to say that ever, The Handmaid's Tale was extremely my shit . Once upon a time, the promise of a television adaptation Handmaid & # 39; s Tale would have made me bite my ass.
But things have changed significantly for me, as it has for many of us. After the elections, it was very difficult, if not impossible, to keep hitting my faithful drum "dystopian fiction is good for society." Suddenly, by critically looking at the stories that predicted our impending doom at the hands of technology or capitalism or white supremacy, it became more an exercise in miserable self-flagellation than in real intellectual or moral analysis. I started watching the first season of The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale because, at that time, I was an independent professional and I felt I had to keep up, after all, someone could ask me to write something at respect, but after six or seven episodes, I burned myself and gave up.
The series is beautifully shot, acted on and directed (by women, what I appreciate, even though the showrunner is a white man), but the real story leaves a lot of emotional relief to be desired. In this political climate, I felt I was seeing it in 4D, where the fourth dimension is "guerrilla marketing": The royal government presents a new anti-abortion legislation! The misogynists of real life on social networks tell you that they are going to rape you to death.
Megan Farokhmanesh, reporter : Well, I've never felt more like a masochist than after reading all these reflective points, because I just devoured a reviewer for the first season. I empathize a lot with what has been said here; the pure exhaustion of my first time with him remains in my memory. Seeing parts of myself-an experience I rarely get in the media, like a queer woman of color-in characters like Moira or Emily is a painful experience when they live in a world built to crush them, if not to destroy them. Along with the real-life events at that time, it felt like an exercise of emotional self-harm to track the program so closely. Returning to it now, however, I found myself anticipating and even savoring the victories of the first season in a way I could not before. The mysteries were gone. I knew exactly where the pain points were and how to stabilize myself.
Here's another funny detail: this time I watched the program with a close friend. It was his first time. The experience became, for me, the same as watching him absorb the show as it was for me to see him again. The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale is about the suffering of women. It's a story about dystopia and the extreme consequences, but it's not so far away that we do not all see a little of ourselves or our real world. The show does not shy away from this; sometimes he even seems to take delight in that. Watching my partner take all this with every shudder, shrink or pillow hug I felt strangely satisfying, as if I had grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him violently while screaming about misogyny. Everything is so bad that nobody can deny how horrible it is.
Laura Hudson : This season also gives us our first look at the dreaded Colonies, where bad women are going to shovel the land until they die. Does anyone know what they are really doing? Because talking about miserable pornography and seeing women suffer uselessly, from what I've seen so far, all they do is slowly absorb the lethal radiation while they push the earth into bags and are stunned by the pikes of the cattle. Is this the dystopian version of Holes starring Shia LaBeouf?
Adi Robertson: I figured it was a field camp job of death, which I'll admit would be very useless. Speaking of meaningless suffering, are there male camps of colonies? Not getting all the "patriarchy hurts men too", but a recent micro-Gilead was Warren Jeffs' Mormon Kindred community, and he was notoriously ruthless with less powerful men. It is appropriate that The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale focuses on women, but I wonder if the exclusive focus exclusive on extreme female suffering is one of the reasons why it is so exhausting
Devon Maloney: If I remember correctly, most of the bad guys are simply executed in Gilead, but personally, the only type of male suffering that would exhaust me the least would take the form of victories for women over their oppressors ; If I was simply progressive, rebellious men would also be worked and poisoned by radiation until death, that would make everything worse for me.
In many ways, stories like this are not intended to be lived long-term: the whole concept depends on the high concentration of terror in a discreet and limited package, and only works "effectively" if the public escapes later, Consider and, hopefully, learn from it. (This is the reason why Black Mirror works so well). For me, the renewal of the show – its Game of Thrones – if you will, in which it exceeds its original material, suggests that it has no other purpose than to prolong and deepen the misery for those who already they are under the boot of Gilead (because it definitely does not change anyone's opinion about anything). And, like Laura, I'm tired, too tired for that.
Although Megan poses a good point: would watching men experience the IRL show be somewhat cathartic? At least, it feels a bit like a sentinel in the spirit of the time, a reminder to those who would not otherwise notice or care that women (or basically anyone who is not a man) are still being crushed in the crucible that is our era.
Adi Robertson: The book of Atwood offers a kind of escape in its metafictional epilogue, which is established after the fall of Gilead. I would be interested to see that the showrunners try to work in some way, but it seems unlikely.
Laura Hudson : In addition, the punishments of women feel very fortuitous, which is strange in a society so dedicated to ritual and to be extremely regimented? Janine loses her eye to answer; To the new Ofglen they cut off his tongue … for a reason that is not clear to me, while the rest of the rebellious Servants are taken care of in some theater of execution and have their hands burned in a stove; Emily (formerly Ofglen) is mutilated genitally for being gay while her girlfriend is hanged, and then Emily is sent to the Colonies instead of executed even though she literally murdered a man by passing over his head.
It seems that the program simply chooses horrible and random things that happen to women as a result of shock instead of demonstrating a regimented and horrible punishment system. Which is what I suspect is happening, and along with the digging of holes this is my problem with the first episodes of Maid History. Why am I seeing this? I do not need to see battered women to understand that Gilead is bad, or that misogyny is bad; Believe me, I have it. If you are going to go beyond the book and create new stories, it is better that you have something to say besides the women who run on a ribbon of nails, and I am not seeing it until now.
Megan Farokhmanesh : I suppose my question is: is there any benefit that makes it work? The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale as a book, as a uniquely contained seasonal experience, uses those difficult moments to demonstrate what Devon mentioned above. It is a movement that, in the future, serves as a history lesson, a teaching moment about mistakes that will not be repeated. But with season 1 relying so much on the material of the book, we headed to an unknown territory with season 2. The creators of the program have carte blanche to play in the nightmare world created by Atwood. How do they match the rhythm and intensity they have established? How do you balance meaningful bets with the reward when you have already lost so much?
Adi Robertson: I like the second season better when it gets away from the deceptively normal parts of Gilead, like the lower class "Econo People" who see the servants as strange and exotic. He just can not bear the disjointed nightmare of the book beyond June's original story, and the best dystopias are not about how everything is completely horrible all the time, but about why a large number of people consider that horror acceptable, and implicitly why you, the viewer, could even be one of them.
Devon Maloney: What Adi says, I think, gets to the heart of the problem I have with the series as a whole: the most effective horror is often found in all the gray areas, because that's how we are, as a society, we end up perpetrating atrocities, day after day, news for news, a development not so bad at the same time. If the "inside the group" part of a dystopia does not seem at least a little bit attractive to you, even Fahrenheit 451 presented a world that was actively working to end inequality, it simply did it with all the wrong ways – Probably not going to be such a powerful story.
Laura Hudson : Given how exhausting and often painful it is to see The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale the question is: does the first couple of episodes give us enough reason to continue? It's my job, I'll do it, but otherwise I'd be very tempted to sit down this season and reserve my psychological resources to write about real-life men who want to rape and kill women, seems enough.