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Times Digital Download: The Handmaid's Tale
July 11, 2019 | 11:17 AM
by Gautam Viswanathan
 
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Sometimes, having the freedom to simply choose to live your own life is among the best freedoms of all. I’m not talking about recklessly making earth-shattering decisions that affect you and those around you irreparably, but the smaller things, like the sort of movie you want to watch tonight, or what you want to eat this evening.

We must count ourselves lucky for the small pleasures we have in life. If not, The Handmaid’s Tale puts the privileges we take for granted into sharp perspective. The tale is set in an alternate, dystopian future in America, where a civil war has shattered society, which is already reeling from deadly disease and the effects of severe environmental pollution. This new America has been rechristened ‘Gilead’. This toxic combination of factors means fewer and fewer children are being born, and as people turn to panic and paranoia, a new government rises in the wake of the chaos, promising and end of the suffering and a restoration of order.

And order is indeed restored...the new government proves to be harsh, totalitarian one where powerhungry leaders choose to forcibly reshape society in their own view. Sycophants and fanatics are regularly lauded by the greedy tyrants at the top, who have established vast armies and brutal gangs of secret police to keep themselves in power, while those who advocate reason and common sense are soon branded as enemies of the state.

The ones to suffer the most in this reorganised caste system are the women, who are treated extremely poorly and subjugated to some brutal rules. By law, they are allowed to carry out very few jobs, and are forbidden to own property, handle money or even read. With so few children in Gilead, and more required, the need to care for the existing children is paramount, and once again, this role falls to the women, who are arranged in a harsh, rigid class system that



determines what they do and what they wear. Those women who are required to take care of the children of the upper caste and the rulers are called Handmaids, and they are forced to wear long red dresses. They are forever bonded to the upper class family they serve, and are given a new name on entering the household of these upper class citizens.

The Handmaid’s Tale is told through the eyes of June Osborne, a handmaid who is first attached to the home of Commander Fred Waterford, a top government official who was instrumental in the founding of Gilead. On joining the Waterford household, June is forced to change her name. June Osborne is now known as June Offred (literally, June of Fred). But while upper class women may be free of some of the constraints of this rigid social order, there is too much expected of them as well. They are required to compulsorily dress in blue, and are pressured into running immaculate households.



To not run the best household in Gilead is akin to bringing shame and embarrassment to the family. Another class of women – clad in green dresses – are subjugated to cook and clean for the upper classes, while yet another troupe of them, called Aunts, the ones who train the other women in their tasks, are only allowed to wear brown. The life of a woman in Gilead is a fearsome, terrifying experience.

Punishment, shame and humiliation are the norm. If society’s views do not force them into working, then surely the Eyes, Gilead’s ever-present secret police, will put a stop to anything they consider wrong. How long, though, before the women of Gilead say enough? How long before they begin to push back. Yes, there are casualties along the way, but having sacrificed so much already, the women of Gilead are ready to fight back. And they’re not about to take no for an answer – [email protected]

Name: The Handmaid’s Tale

Genre: Drama/Fiction

Produced by: MGM, Daniel Wilson Productions, The Littlefield Company, White Oak Pictures

Produced for: Hulu

What it’s about: In an America ravaged by disease and war, it is the women who are forced to serve the state. Refusal to do so means death, or a punishment far worse

Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, Madeleine Brewer, Ann Dowd, Olatunde Fagbenle, Max Minghella, Samira Wiley, Amanda Brugel, Bradley Whitford

Where to watch: Hulu, Light Box, Amazon, various streaming sites

Number of Episodes: 30 (across three seasons)

Runtime: 60 minutes

IMDB Rating: 8.5/10

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