The Handmaid’s Tale hit our screens in the UK on Channel 4 three weeks ago, several weeks behind the US.
Please note, there will be spoilers for the first three episodes below. Proceed with caution.
In Gilead, women are ranked on how useful they are to society. If they’re fertile, they become a Handmaid, subjected to rape by their Commander, and expected to bear children. Written in 1985, this story is still harshly poignant. The TV show takes this story even further, bringing it into the present day, and showing just how close we are to such a world.
Last week, viewers were shocked by the harsh storylines. Ofglen, a lesbian, was considered a gender traitor, and, since she’s still fertile, was allowed to live. But she was subjected to a horror that women and girls still face today – FGM. I’ve seen complaints about the violence depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale, but let me tell you this – the violence brought against women every day is very real, and, in order to do it justice, it must be shown.
Everything about The Handmaid’s Tale is real. It may be a story, but author Margaret Atwood claims that she didn’t make anything up – everything she wrote about had happened to women at some point in history. And I can believe it.
In episode 3, we also discover the slow disintegration of society, and the removal of women’s rights. Offred describes it perfectly: “Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it”. The women lost access to their money, their jobs – their freedom. Joan – Offred’s pre-Gilead name – and her friend Moira attend a protest, where the army opens fire, killing civilians. They show Joan, Moira, and Luke, Joan’s husband, in their home, discussing what had happened. “I’ll look after you,” Luke says, and every female viewer clenches their fists. That’s not the point, Luke.
Moira explodes at Luke, calling him part of the problem. This scene shines a light on the microaggressions women have to deal with every day, dealing with men who, thinking they’re helping, are actually contributing to the problem.
The music accompanying the fallout of the protest is Heart of Glass by Blondie, the Crabtree Remix. It’s slower, darker, haunting. Every episode so far has left me reeling. My fists are tight balls throughout each episode, my jaw clenched. Tears are barely held back. Because this is reality, not some dystopian fiction. The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t just some TV show to entertain the masses on a Sunday evening. It’s so much more than that – it’s our lives.