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THT: The Writing on the Wall - Themes & Storytelling of THT

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I think something interesting about discussing this show is whether you are judging by a list of actions the characters do, or by how well the show portrays and executes the telling of the story of those actions.

For me, OF COURSE all of this stuff is happening in an fictional reality of horrific fascism, war, oppression, and widespread abuse. My logical brain understands that things happening in that moral gray area don't fall into "good" or "bad" the way they do in our lives. But it's also my opinion that the show doesn't always portray things in ways that drive that point home very well.

Certain things that should send a shiver down anyone's spine, like a brutally violent group revenge killing that includes biting and mutilating a body, could be portrayed as brutal and horrifying while also being cathartic for these people who have been corrupted and pushed to their brink by their circumstances. On the other hand, to my irritation, it was portrayed as something mischievous and fun, with makeouts and gleeful grins and "You Don't Own Me" playing over the scene until the main character is covering her own baby in the dead guy's blood.

Yes, I completely understand why these people would want to destroy their oppressors by any means necessary in real life, including doing things that seem totally outlandish to someone who isn't in their position. But the SHOW itself doesn't seem to handle those things with as much nuance and skill as I wish it did I guess. The elements that they decide to make elevated/realistic/heroic/ironic/surreal/romantic/brutal/glorified often don't feel calibrated quite right.

Edited by Cornhusker12
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She's the leader. She's often the one asking for help for project save the children, for example, or to get her out of Gilead (season one for example). Did they choose to help her? Sure. Did they get killed because of it, yes. Look at Fred's murder - did he *need* to be murdered? If Gilead kills 1000 women to make people think twice about following June's lead, of course that's Gilead doing the killing but they are killing because of the choice June made to have her revenge. Is that on June? Yes. Thats the price of leadership. 

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Just now, EllaWycliffe said:

She's the leader. She's often the one asking for help for project save the children, for example, or to get her out of Gilead (season one for example). Did they choose to help her? Sure. Did they get killed because of it, yes. Look at Fred's murder - did he *need* to be murdered? If Gilead kills 1000 women to make people think twice about following June's lead, of course that's Gilead doing the killing but they are killing because of the choice June made to have her revenge. Is that on June? Yes. Thats the price of leadership. 

They ALL had their revenge, or as I prefer to see it, their JUSTICE.

They forced the man who helped devise and maintain Gilead justice to die by the same sword he helped create.

Had they let Gilead kill him?  It would have been a quiet private hanging, sending no message of hope to those still trapped in Gilead, or fighting in the various wars all over Gilead.  They sent a message, a huge message, to all those who have lost hope, especially to those still trapped in Gilead.

Word will get around, about his death, about the poisoning deaths.  That kind of thing is powerful, the leaders themselves are no longer safe, help is out there, hang on, or do what you can from where you are.

June's saved far more people than have died because they CHOSE to follow June.  She didn't force anyone.  She didn't kill any of them.  GILEAD did, and still does.  They have agency and made their own choices.

I'm curious about what your solution is to the Gilead horrors?

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9 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

They ALL had their revenge, or as I prefer to see it, their JUSTICE.

They forced the man who helped devise and maintain Gilead justice to die by the same sword he helped create.

No disagreement. It's ascetically pleasing. But it is revenge, not war. Fred committed crimes against June, June organized a gang to rip him to shreds to parody his own violent policies in Gilead. 

The serious question is whether it's worth it, or whether more lives would be saved by pumping Fred for all the info they could get... and THEN reneging on the deal. Previously Fred was touted as the black box to finally break into Gilead. Was it really worth giving up so June could have the pleasure of mailing Serena his finger? Is it worth the women Gilead may kill in retaliation? If it's really war, then June needs to think beyond what she wants and what makes her theoretically feel better. 

15 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

Had they let Gilead kill him?  It would have been a quiet private hanging, sending no message of hope to those still trapped in Gilead, or fighting in the various wars all over Gilead.  They sent a message, a huge message, to all those who have lost hope, especially to those still trapped in Gilead.

Word will get around, about his death, about the poisoning deaths.  That kind of thing is powerful, the leaders themselves are no longer safe, help is out there, hang on, or do what you can from where you are.

I think past history indicates that this isn't the case. The Angel Flight was kept quiet, at last check no one knows June murdered Commander Elliot Stabler.

Now I do think it has some power, but I also think Gilead tends to execute talkers. The flaws in Gilead are many, but they do control information very well. 

20 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

June's saved far more people than have died because they CHOSE to follow June. 

Number wise, I don't know that this is correct. Pretty sure most of the whores at the Boston Jezabels and the Pennsylvania one as well were killed or sent to the colonies and most of them had no idea that June was doing things. And there were a LOT of women there. 

 

22 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

She didn't force anyone.  She didn't kill any of them.  GILEAD did, and still does.  They have agency and made their own choices.

I beg to differ. To use the Jezabel examples - there were a couple of Marthas who chose to help June by cleaning up her murder of Commander Elliot Stabler (sorry, it just amuses me that they cast the compassionate rape detective as a rapist) and everyone there paid for June's choice. June and a surviving whore get the idea to poison commanders at the Pennsylvania Jezabels and even though they know everyone will be punished, not just the people doing the poisoning, they do it. June is making decisions that do get innocent people killed. The whores who had no idea the poisoning was happening didn't get to make any choice here. 

It's tricky. And I like June and I don't have huge issues with her depiction.

29 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

I'm curious about what your solution is to the Gilead horrors?

In a non fictional world, Gilead simply wouldn't work. There's too many holes. Removing all the women from the workplace? Thats a major, catastrophic crash of the economy. Americans are just about festooned with personal weapons and not every man is a complete misogynistic asshole. Various religions would have major problems with the theology. The leaders of Gilead genuinely don't seem competant enough to stage a nationwide coup that destroys America except for rare outliers in under a year.

Now in this current fictional world? June is a great figurehead for the resistance but she's blown for undercover work, and there's no evidence she's able to plan beyond what June wants. What they need to do is use June as a recruitment tool for the US Army to rebuild and plan a war of reclamation, where they invade and take back a section of territory as a toehold for future invasion.  Right now, Gilead is too stable to assault on all fronts, they'd have to go in at a weak spot - Washington State, or Maine or North Dakota/Montana, and work their way to the rest. Or they need to work with the lower ranked men of Gilead to bring their counter revolution to fruition. 

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I disagree that June's action are not war.  I vehemently disagree that June's actions have not been effective.  I completely disagree that June is responsible for people who were killed by Gilead.

This is guerilla war, it's happening all over Gilead.  June is a small piece of that, an inspirational piece to those still imprisoned, to be sure, but still a small but rather flashy piece of the war on Gilead.

Honestly, it was Emily who buoyed her up when she was wondering what to do.  Emily is a huge force, and I don't think she's done yet.  She didn't tell June what to do or how to feel, she asked the questions needed to get June's fighting spirit back.

This is not a conventional war, the Mayday people don't have uniformed troops.  This war is hand to hand, rescuing when you can, killing the leaders whenever possible, disruption of Gilead's sense of security, blowing up a train, providing a safe house at risk of personal safety, it's down and dirty and up close and personal, and that includes all that's been said, as well as subversion tactics, and basically anything that helps ruin Gilead.

Dismissing June's actions as unimportant is an error, and yes, that includes the example she made of Fred.  People DO talk, we've watched them talk for four years, whispering over vegetables, "My Commander hasn't been home for a week, his wife is crying, I think I might be reassigned!" "I heard he was poisoned at some kind of men's club where they drink and have women!"  "I heard June poisoned him!"  "Mine's gone too, and there are lot's of closed door conversations happening all over!"  OR, for another example, Lydia questioning Joseph since she has to assign handmaids, "So, when do we expect Commander Williams back, or do we?"  Joseph responding, "We don't."  

Whispers always happen, and the Mayday Marthas are just part of that.  Word will get around.

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1 hour ago, Umbelina said:

June didn't kill any of the people fighting for freedom.

Gilead did.

I'm really tired of saying June's responsible for war deaths.  For example, those handmaids hit by the train?  THEY followed her when she ran to distract the soldiers for the plane.  SHE didn't ask them to, or expect them to do that.  THEY all wanted to escape from that bus, they could have stayed.

Their deaths are not her fault.

Death follows soldiers/fighters, in every war, everywhere, and always has.  You resist?  You try to escape?  You may be killed.  Because of Gilead.

ETA

How many people who sheltered Jews during Hitler's murderous insanity were then killed by the SS?  Was that the fault of the people who were being hidden?  NO.  

The Allies lost a lot of people during the Battle of the Bulge.  A lot of mistakes were made.  Was it the Nazis fault?  You could say it was the Nazis fault because they caused the war in the first place.  But the Allies were overconfident, thought they had the war in the bag, and Hitler surprised them with a counter-offensive that almost turned the war.  You could blame it on Hitler, but that would be disingenuous.  The Allies screwed the pooch on this one, they were to blame.  It wasn't Hitler's fault they got stupid.

The same thing with June and the train.  Gilead was responsible for those women being in that van in the first place.  Was it Gilead's fault that led them to be splattered by a freight train?  No, it was June's fault.  She could have zapped Lydia right away and not only prevented her from calling the driver for help, but saved precious time.  He ended up shooting and killing one of the women.  She could have ditched racing for the tracks and instead laid in wait for the driver, and zapped him as he got back in the van.  Now you have a van, car keys, and a gun.  And everyone in one piece.  Gilead didn't make the decision to not do it that way, June did.  So like the Allies in 1944, June screwed the pooch.  you can't keep blaming other people for your own mistakes.

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8 hours ago, Dobian said:

  Was it Gilead's fault that led them to be splattered by a freight train?  No, it was June's fault.  

False. It was, in fact, Gilead's fault. Had Gilead not enslaved these women, they would not have been in the van to begin with. 

June is responsible for her response in the sense that she chooses what she deems is the best of nothing but bad choices.

However, it is the oppressor who has made the situation. The FAULT of the deaths lie with Gilead. 

I find your line of reasoning a very intelligent, elaborate journey that takes us to a blame-the-victim outcome. 

Edited by The Spinster · Reason: Saw other posts
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8 hours ago, Dobian said:

The Allies lost a lot of people during the Battle of the Bulge.  A lot of mistakes were made.  Was it the Nazis fault?  You could say it was the Nazis fault because they caused the war in the first place.  But the Allies were overconfident, thought they had the war in the bag, and Hitler surprised them with a counter-offensive that almost turned the war.  You could blame it on Hitler, but that would be disingenuous.  The Allies screwed the pooch on this one, they were to blame.  It wasn't Hitler's fault they got stupid.

The same thing with June and the train.  Gilead was responsible for those women being in that van in the first place.  Was it Gilead's fault that led them to be splattered by a freight train?  No, it was June's fault.  She could have zapped Lydia right away and not only prevented her from calling the driver for help, but saved precious time.  He ended up shooting and killing one of the women.  She could have ditched racing for the tracks and instead laid in wait for the driver, and zapped him as he got back in the van.  Now you have a van, car keys, and a gun.  And everyone in one piece.  Gilead didn't make the decision to not do it that way, June did.  So like the Allies in 1944, June screwed the pooch.  you can't keep blaming other people for your own mistakes.

The battle is not the war.

One may ask "What does winning look like?" Yes, Aunt Lydia and the driver survive. Yes, some handmaids lives are lost in their attempted escape. However, two handmaids survive and become powerful forces in their own right. 

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39 minutes ago, The Spinster said:

However, it is the oppressor who has made the situation. The FAULT of the deaths lie with Gilead. 

I actually get your point. The problem is that it removes all personal responsibility for bad actions.

Emily murders a wife in the colonies who may or may not have deserved her wrath? Well, Gilead put her there so it's all Gilead's fault, Emily did nothing wrong.

June encouraged a Jezebel woman to poison a bunch of men and that got a bunch of other women at Jezebel's who weren't involved killed/punished? Well, Gilead created the situation, its all Gilead's fault, and all those women were killed or punished not because of June's poor choice but because Gilead exists. 

Now does Gilead get the overall blame? Of course... but does everyone in Gilead need to own their own decisions and choices? Yes, because otherwise they're as bad as their oppressor. Thats what June is risking. 

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2 hours ago, The Spinster said:

False. It was, in fact, Gilead's fault. Had Gilead not enslaved these women, they would not have been in the van to begin with. 

June is responsible for her response in the sense that she chooses what she deems is the best of nothing but bad choices.

However, it is the oppressor who has made the situation. The FAULT of the deaths lie with Gilead. 

I find your line of reasoning a very intelligent, elaborate journey that takes us to a blame-the-victim outcome. 

Actually you have it in reverse, you present the "blame everyone else for my mistakes" narrative that has become the hallmark of American culture the past decade.  This has nothing to do with them being victims of Gilead, it has to do with decisions made and actions taken.  Everyone knows they are victims of Gilead and that they would not have to make hard choices in the first place if Gilead had not placed them in such a horrible situation.  Sure, it's unfair to expect them to perform like a bunch on Navy SEALS in a violent situation.  I don't blame the handmaids for bolting for the train.  I focus on June because this has been a pattern with her throughout the show, taking the lead and making decisions that end badly for other women.  If you are going to appoint yourself the leader, then you have to take the blame when your decisions get someone else killed.  Her decisions got others killed.  Ask any military person who they blame when a mission goes south, they never, ever, say "it was the enemy's fault."  They take the blame themselves, and they are right.

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20 minutes ago, EllaWycliffe said:

I actually get your point. The problem is that it removes all personal responsibility for bad actions.

Emily murders a wife in the colonies who may or may not have deserved her wrath? Well, Gilead put her there so it's all Gilead's fault, Emily did nothing wrong.

June encouraged a Jezebel woman to poison a bunch of men and that got a bunch of other women at Jezebel's who weren't involved killed/punished? Well, Gilead created the situation, its all Gilead's fault, and all those women were killed or punished not because of June's poor choice but because Gilead exists. 

Now does Gilead get the overall blame? Of course... but does everyone in Gilead need to own their own decisions and choices? Yes, because otherwise they're as bad as their oppressor. Thats what June is risking. 

I want to address absolutely everything you say here - what a great response!

I understand the place of viewing this as personal responsibility alone, especially when one is grappling with all the complexity of the dynamics at play. 

If you revisit my post in it's entirety you will see:

False. It was, in fact, Gilead's fault. Had Gilead not enslaved these women, they would not have been in the van to begin with. 

June is responsible for her response in the sense that she chooses what she deems is the best of nothing but bad choices.

However, it is the oppressor who has made the situation. The FAULT of the deaths lie with Gilead. 

I find your line of reasoning a very intelligent, elaborate journey that takes us to a blame-the-victim outcome. 

I tried to acknowledged that in the emboldened statement above. It does bear a discussion all it's own and surely cannot be fully addressed in a simple forum such as this. But, I love that we are talking about it nonetheless!

So, I believe my argument is summed up with these observances

1. There is an illusion of freedom of choice in the Handmaid's being able to create a free solution/reaction to their circumstances. They are an enslaved people. 

I believe the moment June holds up the whistle or gun as a presenting a (false) freedom of choice for the Commander. It sums up the mindf*** that June has had to contend with all along. The irony of it was palpable.

The illusion of choice is one of the things that allows Gilead to survive. Never mind that there is no real freedom in the "choices" being offered. Only the infrequent opportunity to choose the best of only bad options.

There is an illusion of choice, but all roads lead to Hell, so to speak.

2. There is a false equivalency being applied to the aggressive acts (sometimes passive-aggressive, but aggressive nonetheless) performed by those in power and those trying to escape and overcome the Oppressors and/or The Gilead regime specifically. 

If we set up an analogy to a domestic violence situation, when an abused woman hits her abuser back, is she also abusive? 

I believe most of us would agree it is self defense. 

If she takes joy in fighting back, is it no longer self defense? 

If it is strategic in it's planning (the Jezebel's poisonings for example) is it no longer self defense? 

(... An aside to let you know I am not ignoring your statement regarding Emily and the Wife, specifically... I tried to re-watch the episode but I cannot get to it on Hulu any longer.

Off hand, I do recall the Wife espousing the brainwashed philosophy of Gilead. I remember looking at it more as Emily removing a source of verbal and psychological torture, than the killing of an innocent. 

On a more visceral plane, I was left with thinking "Damn. We can't even get away from your mindf****ing way out here in The Colonies?! You've got to go." And I was glad Emily took her out. 

All of that to say I want to more adequately address your argument's point regarding Emily and the Wife specifically in a more philosophical/big picture way. I am going to research it more and will respond to it later.) 

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57 minutes ago, Dobian said:

Actually you have it in reverse, you present the "blame everyone else for my mistakes" narrative that has become the hallmark of American culture the past decade.  This has nothing to do with them being victims of Gilead, it has to do with decisions made and actions taken.  Everyone knows they are victims of Gilead and that they would not have to make hard choices in the first place if Gilead had not placed them in such a horrible situation.  Sure, it's unfair to expect them to perform like a bunch on Navy SEALS in a violent situation.  I don't blame the handmaids for bolting for the train.  I focus on June because this has been a pattern with her throughout the show, taking the lead and making decisions that end badly for other women.  If you are going to appoint yourself the leader, then you have to take the blame when your decisions get someone else killed.  Her decisions got others killed.  Ask any military person who they blame when a mission goes south, they never, ever, say "it was the enemy's fault."  They take the blame themselves, and they are right.

Soldiers die all the time while following orders and anyway, Alma and the others had the possibility of staying in the van. They chose to run, knowing that they could be killed, but that was better than the breeding farm.

The Wife Emily killed wasn't innocent. She told Emily that she hadn't been in favour of the university purges and it's heavily implied that she had been in favour of everything else. Also, she didn't show any regrets about her life as a Wife and it was clear that she didn't give a shit about handmaids or gender traitors.

 

 

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3 hours ago, The Spinster said:

I want to address absolutely everything you say here - what a great response!

I understand the place of viewing this as personal responsibility alone, especially when one is grappling with all the complexity of the dynamics at play. 

If you revisit my post in it's entirety you will see:

False. It was, in fact, Gilead's fault. Had Gilead not enslaved these women, they would not have been in the van to begin with. 

June is responsible for her response in the sense that she chooses what she deems is the best of nothing but bad choices.

However, it is the oppressor who has made the situation. The FAULT of the deaths lie with Gilead. 

I find your line of reasoning a very intelligent, elaborate journey that takes us to a blame-the-victim outcome. 

I tried to acknowledged that in the emboldened statement above. It does bear a discussion all it's own and surely cannot be fully addressed in a simple forum such as this. But, I love that we are talking about it nonetheless!

So, I believe my argument is summed up with these observances

1. There is an illusion of freedom of choice in the Handmaid's being able to create a free solution/reaction to their circumstances. They are an enslaved people. 

I believe the moment June holds up the whistle or gun as a presenting a (false) freedom of choice for the Commander. It sums up the mindf*** that June has had to contend with all along. The irony of it was palpable.

The illusion of choice is one of the things that allows Gilead to survive. Never mind that there is no real freedom in the "choices" being offered. Only the infrequent opportunity to choose the best of only bad options.

There is an illusion of choice, but all roads lead to Hell, so to speak.

2. There is a false equivalency being applied to the aggressive acts (sometimes passive-aggressive, but aggressive nonetheless) performed by those in power and those trying to escape and overcome the Oppressors and/or The Gilead regime specifically. 

If we set up an analogy to a domestic violence situation, when an abused woman hits her abuser back, is she also abusive? 

I believe most of us would agree it is self defense. 

If she takes joy in fighting back, is it no longer self defense? 

If it is strategic in it's planning (the Jezebel's poisonings for example) is it no longer self defense? 

(... An aside to let you know I am not ignoring your statement regarding Emily and the Wife, specifically... I tried to re-watch the episode but I cannot get to it on Hulu any longer.

Off hand, I do recall the Wife espousing the brainwashed philosophy of Gilead. I remember looking at it more as Emily removing a source of verbal and psychological torture, than the killing of an innocent. 

On a more visceral plane, I was left with thinking "Damn. We can't even get away from your mindf****ing way out here in The Colonies?! You've got to go." And I was glad Emily took her out. 

All of that to say I want to more adequately address your argument's point regarding Emily and the Wife specifically in a more philosophical/big picture way. I am going to research it more and will respond to it later.) 

I can agree with this, and I had no problem with the way Waterford exited the series.  The thing is, women who have dealt with domestic violence, have been shamed for not doing more.  “Why didn’t she leave?” Or “why isn’t she angry?” My grandmother was married in a time when it was fine for men to hit their wives (apparently), but she had helped her brother with his boxing practice, and the one time my grandad decided to hit her, for messing up their dinner, she hit him back. Most women couldn’t get away with that.  Some women wouldn’t want to do it.  A man almost killed me, when I was little.  I didn’t want him dead, in response.  
 

sure, this is war, but there is more that goes into it, than the actual fighting.  Those who die, sacrifice themselves for the rest of us, whether it’s because they chose to, or for other reasons that I can’t get into here, because it’s life, not the show.  Or they come back with PTSD from that, if they survive.  This episode actually has me wondering if Emily, or one of the others, did hang that woman.  Although her guilt seemed to be enough for her to do it herself.  

Edited by Anela
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14 hours ago, Dobian said:

The Allies lost a lot of people during the Battle of the Bulge.  A lot of mistakes were made.  Was it the Nazis fault?  You could say it was the Nazis fault because they caused the war in the first place.  But the Allies were overconfident, thought they had the war in the bag, and Hitler surprised them with a counter-offensive that almost turned the war.  You could blame it on Hitler, but that would be disingenuous.  The Allies screwed the pooch on this one, they were to blame.  It wasn't Hitler's fault they got stupid.

The same thing with June and the train.  Gilead was responsible for those women being in that van in the first place.  Was it Gilead's fault that led them to be splattered by a freight train?  No, it was June's fault.  She could have zapped Lydia right away and not only prevented her from calling the driver for help, but saved precious time.  He ended up shooting and killing one of the women.  She could have ditched racing for the tracks and instead laid in wait for the driver, and zapped him as he got back in the van.  Now you have a van, car keys, and a gun.  And everyone in one piece.  Gilead didn't make the decision to not do it that way, June did.  So like the Allies in 1944, June screwed the pooch.  you can't keep blaming other people for your own mistakes.

My great uncle was in the armed forces, I have family who survived the blitz, and he was angry that my mother was marrying an American, because they didn’t help when they were asked to help us.  They didn’t come in until a lot later, when we had lost a lot of people.  
 

this should go into the small talk thread.  I can’t tie this into the episode.  Except maybe the douche Tuello, finally coming to a more acceptable deal.  

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9 hours ago, Dobian said:

Actually you have it in reverse, you present the "blame everyone else for my mistakes" narrative that has become the hallmark of American culture the past decade. 

Your opening statement is a misrepresentation of what I posted.  

9 hours ago, Dobian said:

 This has nothing to do with them being victims of Gilead, 

I find the introduction of this premise disingenuous, at best. I believe it has everything to do with the fact that they have suffered under a Totalitarian government. To not have the fact that they are victims of Gilead as a primary consideration in the examination of their actions is to deny the very reality of these character's experiences. These events/their choices are not occurring in a vacuum.  

  

9 hours ago, Dobian said:

  Everyone knows they are victims of Gilead and that they would not have to make hard choices in the first place if Gilead had not placed them in such a horrible situation.

Agreed. For the reasons I state above, this reality should not be divorced from the topic at hand. 

   

9 hours ago, Dobian said:

Sure, it's unfair to expect them to perform like a bunch on Navy SEALS in a violent situation.  I don't blame the handmaids for bolting for the train. 

Considering your own premise, I wonder why not? How is it they hold any less of the "blame" you lay at the feet of June? They were all active participants in the ordeal. Each one made her own choice in that moment. None of these women were without their own minds. They weren’t even “following orders”, which some would consider enough reason to dismiss the ownership of their actions, if not the outcome. 

Each Handmaid did her own threat assessment of the situation – each chose her chance at freedom. If you must “fault” one for the uncontrollable outcome of her choice – then logically you must fault each one for the uncontrollable outcome of their individual choices as well.  (If you read a post I made earlier, I do address false/limited choices, so I will not rewrite all that). 

9 hours ago, Dobian said:

 I focus on June because this has been a pattern with her throughout the show, taking the lead and making decisions that end badly for other women. 

At this point I wish to re-introduce the idea that these decisions are not happening in a vacuum. Things are already "ending badly" for the women of Gilead.  

Doesn’t June have the right (one might even argue the responsibility) to attempt an escape from that van for her own individual freedom? I say yes.  

Does she owe the other Handmaids her own continued enslavement? I don’t think she does.  

It is 100% her divine right to escape at any and every opportunity she chooses.  

9 hours ago, Dobian said:

If you are going to appoint yourself the leader, 

 I have a concern with this characterization, as I think it is meant to diminish her as a leader. Was she voted in to office? No. But the very fact that people do follow her leadership is a vote of sorts. Their decision to participate (or not participate) in her plans is a vote of sorts and does result in her being a leader. She rose to the position because her leadership skills best meet the task at hand. 

Serena and June both play chess while everyone else is playing checkers. Aunt Lydia is sneaky and plays a strong game, but she isn’t as intelligent as June or Serena. All of that to say, June’s position of leadership is a direct result of her leadership skills – not a self-appointed position in the way it is implied in your statement. 

However, I will address the idea that as a leader:

9 hours ago, Dobian said:

 then you have to take the blame when your decisions get someone else killed.  Her decisions got others killed. Ask any military person who they blame when a mission goes south, they never, ever, say "it was the enemy's fault."  They take the blame themselves, and they are right.

Taking responsibility for a mission is one thing, but being blamed ("taking the blame") for an outcome beyond one’s control is something else. I am not a big fan of survivor’s guilt, no matter how it is packaged, projected, or required of someone else. I think it encompasses it's own form of dishonesty that does not serve any institution or individual well. There is nothing noble or just about it.

June comes face to face with it after her capture. When she is in the cell talking with Aunt Lydia, Aunt Lydia tells her of the losses suffered and how it's all June's fault. June has faced those demons before the van escape/train event.

---

A few more thoughts of mine:

 1. Blame implies fault; guilt. I argue that no, there is no blame/fault/guilt to be placed on June for the deaths of those Handmaids.  

This does not mean that June bears no responsibility for her actions (as an individual or in her position of leadership). But responsibility for her choices and blame for the outcome are two different things. 

  2. I wonder if June had been killed by the train, would June then be praised for her sacrifice and bravery? How much does the fact that she is one of the Survivors play into targeting her for blame? Food for thought I want to ponder further.    

3. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, your reasoning is in alignment with the psychology Aunt Lydia represents. Example: Aunt Lydia loves to "hold the Handmaids accountable". If they had only not done xyz , these bad things would not have happened.    

We see the same reasoning in your statement, as I understand it. It’s far too simplistic: 

Those women got hit by train and died. Whose fault is it? Her fault.  

The driver shot and killed them. Whose fault is it? Her Fault.  

To me, this is the insidious message that makes Gilead possible.  Aunt Lydia's voice represents this. "Such a selfish girl," says she. "If June weren't so careless and selfish with her power, they would all be alive. See how bad June was to exercise her power of leadership? See how dangerous these escape attempts are, June? People get hurt because of you, June.” so, whose fault is people died?  

It's not Aunt Lydia's fault... It's HER FAULT. 

It's not the Driver's fault... It's HER FAULT.  

If only she just had not taken that opportunity to escape... HER FAULT.  

It’s not the fault of the people or system that enslaved her... It’s HER FAULT 

Gilead represents a system of Power Over, it is never about true accountability. The purpose of guilt and blame can be used to discredit the victim/rebel publicly. It can also be used more intimately to disarm the activist/rebel/survivor/leader psychologically and reassert power over her (in this case).

Neither of these are the big picture purpose, though it is played out in somewhat small and intimate ways. The big picture purpose of blaming a leader like June is it helps preserve the status quo of the Gilead system, overall. There is never going to be a time when rebelling against the Totalitarian system does not come at a price. 

This idea of a rebellion that will not have dire consequences is an illusion. The use of guilt and shame/blame for consequences beyond one's control are merely more psychological tactics used to reestablish control over the victim/oppressed.

It is a crafty manipulation – one of the more insidious tools of oppression and very difficult to recognize because it is so normalized and internalized (and not just in fictional Gilead).  

In conclusion: 

So very sad and sorrowful those women were killed. 

Sympathy for the outcome they suffered? Yes. 

But place the blame of their deaths on June? NOT. HER. FAULT. 

Edited by The Spinster · Reason: Clarity
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7 hours ago, Helena Dax said:

The Wife Emily killed wasn't innocent. She told Emily that she hadn't been in favour of the university purges and it's heavily implied that she had been in favour of everything else. Also, she didn't show any regrets about her life as a Wife and it was clear that she didn't give a shit about handmaids or gender traitors.

Neither was she necessarily guilty. She was a wife. A wife who was sent to the Colonies for the crime of adultery, which in Gilead might mean she smiled at the driver and her husband wanted to be rid of her. I agree she wasn't pleasant with the handmaids etc at the Colony but neither were the inmates all that pleasant to her. She was being victimized by Gilead - did she deserve to die miserably at Emily's hands?

I don't assign blame to June over the handmaids being smeared by the train, but possibly for a different reason. I think that situation was chaotic and no one was thinking beyond "lets get away" and people died. 

There are some deaths that I think June contributed to. Specifically OfMatthew and Mrs. Lawrence. June decided from the get go that OfMatthew was the enemy (and not a fellow victim) and didn't hesitate to inform on OfMatthew to turn Aunt Lydia's attention onto OfMatthew... who promptly lost her sanity and ended up brain damaged and forced to live to bear one last child. Did Gilead destroy OfMatthew? Of course. Did June help it along? Oh yes. 

Likewise Mrs. Lawrence - June knew she was overdosing, and could have intervened and didn't. Mrs. Lawrence didn't seem to be a Serena Joy sort of wife. Is Gilead ultimately at fault for her death? Sure... but June certainly helped it along, didn't she?

7 minutes ago, UnoAgain said:

You guys think next season luke will get to be angry at June... I mean he's gotta be holding a bunch in.... He's only human.. He's raising a child named after the man his wife slept and apparently fell in love with.. His flesh and blood is still in that horror show called Gilead.. And as a fellow blk man I doubt its lost on him the real possibility that his blk daughter is being groomed to most likely become the subservient wife ( best possibility)  or hamdmaid ( worst option if they decide to punish June thru Hannah)... To some wack-a-doodle Uber religious white dude..  Not even saying he'd be in the right to do it.. But I hope the show at least let's him explode once

Agree. Luke has some reason to be angry. 

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45 minutes ago, EllaWycliffe said:

There are some deaths that I think June contributed to. Specifically OfMatthew and Mrs. Lawrence. June decided from the get go that OfMatthew was the enemy (and not a fellow victim) and didn't hesitate to inform on OfMatthew to turn Aunt Lydia's attention onto OfMatthew... who promptly lost her sanity and ended up brain damaged and forced to live to bear one last child. Did Gilead destroy OfMatthew? Of course. Did June help it along? Oh yes. 

OfMathew got Hannah sent away and that sympathetic Martha killed.

Of course her tattling turned June against her.  She later realized OfMathew was just another victim.

46 minutes ago, EllaWycliffe said:

Likewise Mrs. Lawrence - June knew she was overdosing, and could have intervened and didn't. Mrs. Lawrence didn't seem to be a Serena Joy sort of wife. Is Gilead ultimately at fault for her death? Sure... but June certainly helped it along, didn't she?

She didn't kill Mrs. Lawrence, she killed herself because she knew she was jeopardizing the mission to rescue 86 kids and 9 Martha's.  She failed to SAVE her (or try to, it may not have worked) for the same reason Mrs. Lawrence took the pills.  It was 95 people or one person, and June made that call.  Which was not at all an easy choice, save one or save nearly 100?

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4 hours ago, The Spinster said:

But place the blame of their deaths on June? NOT. HER. FAULT. 

I'm not going to pick through everything you said.  you're very verbose and I think you overthink and over-analyze things.  Yes, you make some very thoughtful observations and some good points, I'm not trying to diminish  what you say.  No, my opening statement about this not about being victims of Gilead is not disingenuous.  I'm commenting solely on decision making and actions, not on their victimhood.  I separate the two things, you look at them together, so we look at things a little differently. 

Look, it's a show.  The writers are going to have June screw up for a couple of reasons.  First, because it creates tragedy, so you emotionally manipulate the audience and get them wound up.  Mission accomplished.  Second, because if June did everything right, the outcomes would be boring and predictable.  Third, in the case of the train incident, splattering a bunch of handmaids left June and Janelle by themselves, which allowed the next episode to focus totally on them.  This makes for a tighter narrative and a better story.  So you could technically blame the handmaids' deaths on the writers.

I acknowledge that I might have been unfair to June.  She has had her successes.  It's not like she is some perpetual screw-up.  She had been through Hell, and had no training whatsoever in covert ops or paramilitary ops or anything else.  Few others have stepped up, so the quality of rebel leadership in Gilead is lacking.  So when June steps up, it's about the best they've got.  This ain't no French Resistance.

No, it's not June's fault the handmaids in the van were in that situation, and no, she did not have total control over their own actions.  But you can opine all you want over the intricacies of blame, the fact is, June's tactical decision making SUCKS.  Even that one Martha commented on that a couple of episodes prior.  Should June ever be called on the carpet for that?  Of course not, she tried her best.  All she has to say is, how well would you have done?  Some might have done worse than her, some about the same, and some would have done better.  But did she get some women killed with her bad calls in certain situations?  Sure she did.

Edited by Dobian
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8 hours ago, EllaWycliffe said:

Neither was she necessarily guilty. She was a wife. A wife who was sent to the Colonies for the crime of adultery, which in Gilead might mean she smiled at the driver and her husband wanted to be rid of her. I agree she wasn't pleasant with the handmaids etc at the Colony but neither were the inmates all that pleasant to her. She was being victimized by Gilead - did she deserve to die miserably at Emily's hands?

Yes, she deserved it, because she was okay with helping rape Handmaids, kidnapping kids and purging people. And the spark of joy in the eyes of the enslaved women when they find the body says they were perfectly fine with Emily's actions. The fact that she was victimized by Gilead ( and she wasn't falsely accused, btw) doesn't make her innocent of everything else.

Most of the older Wives are Wives because their husbands created Gilead, which means they murdered more than one hundred million people. I like Serena, but she totally deserves to be shanked in prison.

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4 hours ago, Helena Dax said:

Yes, she deserved it, because she was okay with helping rape Handmaids, kidnapping kids and purging people.

We know this? Did Mrs. Keyes the Wife help rape handmaids, or assist in kidnapping kids or purging people? We don't know whether the wife Emily killed had a handmaid or not... and how much choice do wives really get?

I freely concede the Wife in question could have done all of these things, but Emily never asked, the wife seemed against the intellectual purges, and was incarcerated in the Colony

4 hours ago, Helena Dax said:

The fact that she was victimized by Gilead ( and she wasn't falsely accused, btw) doesn't make her innocent of everything else.

It doesn't make her guilty either. And I might not approve of adultery but I wouldn't consider it worthy of a death sentence. 

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When discussing writing and themes in shows, often it's useful to understand whether the other person is arguing from a Watsonian or a Doylist viewpoint. Oftentimes what happens is one person is arguing from one and the other from....the other, then never the twain shall meet. Thought that may prove useful in here as I've seen both occur in this forum.

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On 6/24/2021 at 3:10 PM, EllaWycliffe said:

We know this? Did Mrs. Keyes the Wife help rape handmaids, or assist in kidnapping kids or purging people? We don't know whether the wife Emily killed had a handmaid or not... and how much choice do wives really get?

I freely concede the Wife in question could have done all of these things, but Emily never asked, the wife seemed against the intellectual purges, and was incarcerated in the Colony

It doesn't make her guilty either. And I might not approve of adultery but I wouldn't consider it worthy of a death sentence. 

We know that the Wife had a handmaid, she says that her husband didn't notice her relationship with her lover because he was too busy with the handmaid. 

Mrs Kayes is too young to have been part of the terrorist attack against the USA government. Not all the Wives deserve to be killed, but that one did.

Edited by Helena Dax
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