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Palimpsest: Novel vs. Show

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This is what Offred says after Janine gives birth:

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She'll be allowed to nurse the baby, for a few months, they believe in mother's milk. After that she'll be transferred, to see if she can do it again, with someone else who needs a turn.  But she'll never be sent to the Colonies, she'll never be declared Unwoman. That is her reward.

That's all we know, I think. Handmaids who give birth to healthy babies never have to worry about going to the Colonies, but whether there's a nice home for retired handmaids or something, we never find out.

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In the book, Offred says Janine was making up her rape story.  I see the shaming of the rape victim to be a way of making them want to wear the head to toe stuff.  Slovenly Muse also pointed out other things in the book that were done to make the women accept their current treatment more readily.

One thing I never understood in the book either; what exactly is a "shredder" baby. I know its a baby that wasn't 100 percent healthy, but I don't know what the term alludes to.

Allowing the handmaids to literally tear a man apart lets them vent out their anger.  Aunt Lydia deliberately rouses them to an even higher anger level.

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I improperly posted this in an episode thread. Just a personal viewpoint about the handmaids' meals from the book.

 

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The book made note of the food Offred (she wasn't "June" in the book) was given to eat - thin sandwiches on white bread, cups of fruit salad, an apple, etc. "A child's lunch" was how Offred described it.

 

I often viewed even the food the handmaids were given as another way they were controlled. The food was just enough to keep their bodies healthy, by general terms, but it also seemed that they didn't want them getting too strong or getting foods that would excite or energize them in any way, such as coffee or sugar or a lot of protein or fat.

Even with the war on there is no doubt that people can have these things if they please, if they are the "right sort of people", but even though the handmaids live to serve the most wealthy and the most powerful, to give them heirs, they aren't privy to the same privilege or enjoyment even at meals, yet another reminder of their status.

Their diets are just as bland and listless as the rest of their lives, meant to keep them going but not truly living, not truly able to experience pleasure. They've lost the ability to experience pleasure in nearly every way, even their taste buds are denied much stimulation. The Regime really has seen to it that the handmaids are kept as glorified pets.

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Also, what of the rest of the world? Offred talked of trying to escape to Canada. So is it safe to assume that the World goes on outside the Walls?

 

In the book this is addressed:

Spoiler

it does appear that the rest of the world has remained relatively the same. In the book Offred and Ofglen, while out shopping one day, come across a group of Japanese tourists who basically are exploring Gilead like it's an amusement park. The women wear typical, average clothing, makeup, and high heels, and it actually shocks Offred to see women dressed as she once did, exposing parts of their body and having, well, freedom in general.

 

Now as far as the show is concerned, we have yet to see anything presented about the outside world, how people are living, whether there are movements being made against the Gilead stronghold, though one would hope so. It would appear at this point of the Regime's reign of terror that fleeing to Canada is basically impossible. Offred, Luke, and Hannah's attempt to flee was at least two years prior to where the story picks up, so by now I would say it's safe to assume that the Regime has ensured that their borders are impenetrable.

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19 hours ago, ruby24 said:

I know they didn't want to include the white supremacy angle from the book, but it is kind of hard to believe that a zealous, sexist, homophobic patriarchal society like this wouldn't also be racist.

I noticed during Birth Day all the commanders wives are white. Allowing WOC to exist in some roles might be looked at as a nessecary evil while they get their little nightmare country off the ground.

Edited by FozzyBear
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3 hours ago, Ripley68 said:

In the book, Offred says Janine was making up her rape story.  I see the shaming of the rape victim to be a way of making them want to wear the head to toe stuff.  Slovenly Muse also pointed out other things in the book that were done to make the women accept their current treatment more readily.

One thing I never understood in the book either; what exactly is a "shredder" baby. I know its a baby that wasn't 100 percent healthy, but I don't know what the term alludes to.

Allowing the handmaids to literally tear a man apart lets them vent out their anger.  Aunt Lydia deliberately rouses them to an even higher anger level.

"Shredder" babies are imperfect babies, pin heads to, for all we know, even something like Down's Syndrome.  I don't think the book specifically defines why they are called that (it's been a while since I read it) but I know I always pictured them going into a literal shredder to be disposed, even though I realized it might be a term just meaning discarded.

Between the virulent new syphilis (I think it was kind of a stand in for AIDS which was just becoming known when she wrote the book) and the radiation contamination, many babies were born with mild to severe birth defects, if born at all.

I remember thinking that since it's quite obvious that in reality the men could be sterile, it would especially suck to be a handmaiden given to several infertile men, and then sent to dispose of nuclear waste since, though fertile herself, she would of course get the blame.  I'm looking forward to the possible world expansion here, including what becomes of the protected former handmaidens who did give birth at least once.

Two books sickened me back then and opened my eyes in similar ways, this one, and The Women's Room.  It's hard to say which was more disturbing.  At the time, for me anyway, it was The Women's Room http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/04/19/specials/tyler-french.html  With everything happening in our world today though?  The Handmaid's Tale may move into first place.

ETA

I am confused by the black handmaid.  The extreme racism implied in the book would seem to prohibit that.  It's one change I'm not fond of, at least not so far.  We shall see what they do with that.

Also, the book on tape is available on You Tube (free) here: 

Edited by Umbelina · Reason: added links and a thought
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In other words, you don't have to be religious to be a racist, but you DO have to be religious to be a Missionary. Assimilation is just as racist as segregation, and it has a firmer footing in religion, so I can see why they may have taken this tack.

Moving this here since it really was only tangentially related to Episode 3, but more about the universe as a whole.

 When I first heard that the "Children of Ham Relocation Project" wasn't going to feature in the series, I thought something would be lost in removing the ethnic cleansing aspect of the Republic of Gilead. Three episodes in I think the way they went works, and they've done an excellent job with keeping a diverse cast. Also, fundamentalist types who have atrocious views on gender roles and gay people do indeed adopt non-white babies from Africa and Asia all the time. They also export their heinous policies to non-white countries (Uganda Kill the Gays policies have roots in American evangelical missionaries). So if fertility rates were indeed so low due to God's Judgement (their view, it's really the pollution) I could see them being "benevolent" on race so long as they subscribe to the religion and societal roles. Plus, we get some amazing actors like Samira Wiley, who is excellent as Moira.

That said, I think they should mention how (according to the book) Jews were forced on short notice to emigrate to Israel with little more than the clothes on their back....or convert.

Edited by JasonCC
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3 hours ago, DeccaMitford said:

This is what Offred says after Janine gives birth:

That's all we know, I think. Handmaids who give birth to healthy babies never have to worry about going to the Colonies, but whether there's a nice home for retired handmaids or something, we never find out.

Gilead is only a few years old in the book, so they probably haven't yet had to deal with many of their handmaids both successfully having a baby and entering menopause, so they may have no clear plan. My guess is that they maybe become an Aunt. One who tours R&L centre's telling new handmaids about how great it is to be have such a lovely and important future to aim for.

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2 hours ago, Umbelina said:

I remember thinking that since it's quite obvious that in reality the men could be sterile, it would especially suck to be a handmaiden given to several infertile men, and then sent to dispose of nuclear waste since, though fertile herself, she would of course get the blame.  I'm looking forward to the possible world expansion here, including what becomes of the protected former handmaidens who did give birth at least once.

I always had the nasty feeling from that passage that a handmaid who did give birth would be spared the trip to the colonies but it would probably end up being a life of being transferred again and again and again in hopes of birthing more babies until menopause and then maybe just maybe you'd get lucky enough to work out your days as a martha or other subservient.  So I'm curious to see the show's interpretation too.

The book tells us that handmaids typically get three assignments of I think two years each to try to reproduce before you're declared an unwoman and shipped off.  In Offred's really grotesque gyno appointment that's what spurs the doctor to offer to impregnate her himself.  Because book Offred is on her third commander with nothing to show for it and the time of her assignment is winding down.  He mentions that he's done it for/to other handmaids because many of the commanders are probably sterile, which is illegal to even speculate about.

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Umbelina - like you, The Women's Room is a book that has stayed with me over the years - I still remember one line: "Scratch a woman, find a rage".  I think it was because my older sister, who would have been precisely the same age as the protagonist, married her high school sweetheart, put him through medical school, had two sons, and was a housewife.  Thankfully though, they had a happy marriage that only ended with her death last year from leukemia after 58 years of marriage.

But the book really made an impression on me because I could see that she really would have been totally dependent on my brother in law, and if he had been an ass instead of a great guy, she could have had a very different life.  I have read it half a dozen times.

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41 minutes ago, captain1 said:

Umbelina - like you, The Women's Room is a book that has stayed with me over the years - I still remember one line: "Scratch a woman, find a rage".  I think it was because my older sister, who would have been precisely the same age as the protagonist, married her high school sweetheart, put him through medical school, had two sons, and was a housewife.  Thankfully though, they had a happy marriage that only ended with her death last year from leukemia after 58 years of marriage.

But the book really made an impression on me because I could see that she really would have been totally dependent on my brother in law, and if he had been an ass instead of a great guy, she could have had a very different life.  I have read it half a dozen times.

I remember "who cleans the toilet?"

Especially I remember the culture of rape benefiting all men, since it will then require women to seek protection from other men. 

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My 16 year old son has just started reading the book. It's definitely up his alley with dystopia. He asked me what's the significance of the term Martha? That's one I could never figure out. Am I missing something really obvious?

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5 minutes ago, Eureka said:

My 16 year old son has just started reading the book. It's definitely up his alley with dystopia. He asked me what's the significance of the term Martha? That's one I could never figure out. Am I missing something really obvious?

I think it's just another way to show that Gilead doesn't see women as individuals. If you're a fertile handmaid, you're "of" your commander, and if you're a domestic employee, you don't even warrant that distinction.

Edited by chocolatine

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They are named "Martha" after the sister of Mary and Lazarus.  She is often viewed as being the domesticated one of the group, she was the one who did the cooking, cleaning, and majority of the household chores. That is now the role the Marthas' have, serving the commanders and their wives in a biblical fashion.

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21 hours ago, Czanne said:

A tangent, but I really enjoy that expanded universe extra, even as I utterly hate the smug, smarmy jackwagon who is still practicing erasure by focusing so much on the commander

Sorry? I'm wondering if this is a jab at me (who started a thread about him and more broadly all of the Commanders). 

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Just finished the audio version of the book, and suddenly realized why the show may be using the somewhat jarring songs in the TV show.  In the summation at the end, he mentions that all of the various recordings which they tried to put in order began with various songs in no particular order, and the tapes themselves used labels from some of those albums.

Also, I forgot about the tainted caviar with the mumps virus that spread out of control causing male sterility, and the legal and illegal dump sites for various forms of waste, as well as the pesticides and rampant pollution issues lending their help to the toxic mess the world had become.

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5 hours ago, EC Amber said:

Sorry? I'm wondering if this is a jab at me (who started a thread about him and more broadly all of the Commanders). 

I'm 99.999% sure Czanne was referring to the fictional Professor Pieixoto, the post-Gilead historian who's lecture at the end of the book about the study of Offred's tapes focusses on the Commander more than the woman who's story he is studying.

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The diversity was explained by the showrunner in two ways. Firstly, he reasoned that in an apocalyptic fertility crisis, fertility would trump race. Second of all, he claimed that if he cast all white actors, even if there were good storyline reasons for doing so, there wouldn't be much difference between creating a show with a racist setting and a racist TV show.

17 hours ago, Umbelina said:

I am confused by the black handmaid.  The extreme racism implied in the book would seem to prohibit that.  It's one change I'm not fond of, at least not so far.  We shall see what they do with that.

There are multiple POC handmaids: the new Ofglen, one of the handmaids Ofglen and Offred encounter at the wall, etc. 

Personally, I'm cool with the diversity. There are enough TV shows out there where producers make excuses for not casting POC or featuring POC in prominent roles.

My one nitpick is casting a POC to play Nick, since in the novels, of course, Serena Joy encourages Offred to get pregnant by Nick and pass the baby off as the Commander's, although of course they could eliminate that bit from the adaptation. Also, to my eye at least, Nick should be much hotter than the Commander, and Max Minghella (to my eye) is not more attractive than Joseph Fiennes, or at least not strikingly so. Tastes vary, of course.

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1 hour ago, Notwisconsin said:

I cannot, as a proud American, accept that.

Of course, I'm not referring to the willing assimilation of immigrants. I'm talking about cultural genocide. I'm talking about First Nations children getting rounded up and abducted from their communities, and put into schools where they are forced to dress like White children, made to speak English, forced to pray to the Christian God, subject to beatings if they were caught speaking their own language or practicing any element of their own culture or religion, and in many cases never seeing their families again. Living in unsanitary conditions, and often suffering verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in these GOVERNMENT-RUN schools, all because the church and government thought they were doing the "savages" a favor by civilizing them. Most of the problems that exits on Native Reservations can be traced back to an ENTIRE GENERATION of children (and more than one generation in many cases) being removed from their communities and abused, being systematically stripped of their language and culture, and never learning what it means to have loving parents. This is the kind of forced assimilation that the church and government were employing in North America as recently as the 1980s, and that's not getting into religious Missions overseas. It's that kind of paternalistic, dehumanizing bullshit that Gilead is employing. And no, I don't see a meaningful difference between the hateful racism of segregation ("You're not good enough to use my water fountain") and the "loving" racism of assimilation ("You're not good enough to exist in the world"), apart from the fact that "separate but equal" at least acknowledges differences and allows them to exist.

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27 minutes ago, Slovenly Muse said:

Of course, I'm not referring to the willing assimilation of immigrants. I'm talking about cultural genocide. I'm talking about First Nations children getting rounded up and abducted from their communities, and put into schools where they are forced to dress like White children, made to speak English, forced to pray to the Christian God, subject to beatings if they were caught speaking their own language or practicing any element of their own culture or religion, and in many cases never seeing their families again. Living in unsanitary conditions, and often suffering verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in these GOVERNMENT-RUN schools, all because the church and government thought they were doing the "savages" a favor by civilizing them. Most of the problems that exits on Native Reservations can be traced back to an ENTIRE GENERATION of children (and more than one generation in many cases) being removed from their communities and abused, being systematically stripped of their language and culture, and never learning what it means to have loving parents. This is the kind of forced assimilation that the church and government were employing in North America as recently as the 1980s, and that's not getting into religious Missions overseas. It's that kind of paternalistic, dehumanizing bullshit that Gilead is employing. And no, I don't see a meaningful difference between the hateful racism of segregation ("You're not good enough to use my water fountain") and the "loving" racism of assimilation ("You're not good enough to exist in the world"), apart from the fact that "separate but equal" at least acknowledges differences and allows them to exist.

Adding on to this - I would also include respectability politics especially regarding black men. Just (dress nice/be well-spoken/get an education/act 'right'/comply) and you won't get any trouble. I would also add, into what culture are immigrants expected to assimilate? White Christian culture? 

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18 hours ago, JasonCC said:

Moving this here since it really was only tangentially related to Episode 3, but more about the universe as a whole.

 When I first heard that the "Children of Ham Relocation Project" wasn't going to feature in the series, I thought something would be lost in removing the ethnic cleansing aspect of the Republic of Gilead. Three episodes in I think the way they went works, and they've done an excellent job with keeping a diverse cast. Also, fundamentalist types who have atrocious views on gender roles and gay people do indeed adopt non-white babies from Africa and Asia all the time. They also export their heinous policies to non-white countries (Uganda Kill the Gays policies have roots in American evangelical missionaries). So if fertility rates were indeed so low due to God's Judgement (their view, it's really the pollution) I could see them being "benevolent" on race so long as they subscribe to the religion and societal roles. Plus, we get some amazing actors like Samira Wiley, who is excellent as Moira.

That said, I think they should mention how (according to the book) Jews were forced on short notice to emigrate to Israel with little more than the clothes on their back....or convert.

I could see Gilead being what they think is benevolent and colorblind. As long as people of color "act right" and submit and comply, they can exist in this world. Just don't get uppity or assert your racial/ethnic identity. On a personal note, I am a white adoptive parent to a black child. I have encountered this colorblind racist-but-I-don't-think-I'm-racist attitude among other adoptive parents of children of color. Things like, thinking their child from Ethiopia or Congo is some other kind of black and won't get lumped in with African-Americans, or is not going to encounter racism or won't ever have trouble with the police because they are raising them to "not be a victim". It's this everyone is the same, I don't see color just people, my child isn't black, he's just my child. Ugh.. it makes me want to barf and they are doing such a disservice to their children. So, I could see Gilead being like that and ignoring that a child of a non-white handmaid and white commander is biracial to further erase racial identities.

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14 hours ago, AnswersWanted said:

They are named "Martha" after the sister of Mary and Lazarus.  She is often viewed as being the domesticated one of the group, she was the one who did the cooking, cleaning, and majority of the household chores. That is now the role the Marthas' have, serving the commanders and their wives in a biblical fashion.

Thanks. I would be going straight to the Colonies, because I am not a Bible reader, and didn't understand the reference.

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8 hours ago, AllyB said:

I'm 99.999% sure Czanne was referring to the fictional Professor Pieixoto, the post-Gilead historian who's lecture at the end of the book about the study of Offred's tapes focusses on the Commander more than the woman who's story he is studying.

He researched him after trying several ways to identify Offred though, which was pretty much impossible since it's highly likely she used made up names to protect her child, and made up friend's names to protect them in case they had survived.

I loved the two men at the end and the research on them, Offred really did end up with a very powerful man, no matter which one he was, he was one of a few leaders who made Gilead happen.  No wonder Ofglen wanted her to spy on him! 

3 hours ago, Eyes High said:

The diversity was explained by the showrunner in two ways. Firstly, he reasoned that in an apocalyptic fertility crisis, fertility would trump race. Second of all, he claimed that if he cast all white actors, even if there were good storyline reasons for doing so, there wouldn't be much difference between creating a show with a racist setting and a racist TV show.

There are multiple POC handmaids: the new Ofglen, one of the handmaids Ofglen and Offred encounter at the wall, etc. 

Personally, I'm cool with the diversity. There are enough TV shows out there where producers make excuses for not casting POC or featuring POC in prominent roles.

My one nitpick is casting a POC to play Nick, since in the novels, of course, Serena Joy encourages Offred to get pregnant by Nick and pass the baby off as the Commander's, although of course they could eliminate that bit from the adaptation. Also, to my eye at least, Nick should be much hotter than the Commander, and Max Minghella (to my eye) is not more attractive than Joseph Fiennes, or at least not strikingly so. Tastes vary, of course.

Diversity is fine and generally welcome, but this book and it's world was based on the low WHITE birth rate, and racism, that's partly how they sold it to the true believers.  I personally think that's a huge change from the books, and frankly, state sanctioned racism based on the 'Bible' is much more relevant and scary to me, especially considering the world today. 

I've read it a few times, and listening to the audio book yesterday, then looking at the various horrifying news has made me realize I really need to renew my passport, and consider that this kind of thing can actually happen.  They don't even have to kill everyone in Congress or the President.  "We were asleep." 

1 hour ago, Eureka said:

Thanks. I would be going straight to the Colonies, because I am not a Bible reader, and didn't understand the reference.

I think Jezebel's sounds like about the best place for women in this world, at least you'd have a few freedoms.

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4 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

 

Diversity is fine and generally welcome, but this book and it's world was based on the low WHITE birth rate, and racism, that's partly how they sold it to the true believers.  I personally think that's a huge change from the books, and frankly, state sanctioned racism based on the 'Bible' is much more relevant and scary to me, especially considering the world today. 

 

I agree. However, I feel as though the showrunners were probably in a bind about what to do. If you make it an all-white cast and point to the source material, then that will come across as a cop-out. Including a side story about what's going on in the colonies in order to cast POC would feel tacked on.

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21 minutes ago, ChromaKelly said:

I agree. However, I feel as though the showrunners were probably in a bind about what to do. If you make it an all-white cast and point to the source material, then that will come across as a cop-out. Including a side story about what's going on in the colonies in order to cast POC would feel tacked on.

I don't think it would feel tacked on, any more than including the enslaved people of Panem blowing up the bridge to turn off power in The Capitol felt "tacked on" in The Hunger Games saga, or the control room of the games, or the loggers blowing up Peace Keepers, or the protests in the districts...etc.

It's world building, implied in the first person account of Offred, even though since the novel was in first person, she would not personally see it.  She wouldn't have seen Ofglen wake up from her surgery either, what's the difference?  Could they have diversified the cast by showing people of color "Children of Ham" in their sections of this world?  Yes, I think good writers could.

The White people in this story were sold Gilead because those damn white feminists were being blamed for the low WHITE birthrate, along with the intellectuals of course, like scientists and doctors.  A huge part of their motivation was that the white race was being wiped out, and soon the only human race would be people of color, The Children of Ham.  India was specifically mentioned in the whole caviar/sterility plot at the end as still producing lots of children.

The racism and fanaticism made the book much more horrifying to me, and eliminating that motivation for Gilead, as a pure white sanctuary sanctioned by God to produce more white babies is a pretty huge change.  It's jarring to make these people suddenly accepting of a black handmaiden.  WHITE Christian MEN and their WHITE Christian progeny was the primary reason for Gilead.  

I think in the USA people of color probably had the same reproductive issues as whites, but the founders of Gilead wouldn't have cared about that.  Other countries, including probably most third world countries certainly wouldn't have had the same pollution or (in this world) radiation or chemical effects on reproduction, and I seriously doubt people in India, Africa, or most of the Middle or Far east, or rural china were eating tainted caviar.

They didn't want the white race wiped from the face of the earth, so subjugating gays, feminists, free thinking women or men, and certainly people of color was their solution to what they sold as desperate times, which would wipe them out.  To me, it makes the show far less scary than the books, and frankly, also less relevant to the suddenly more overt racism we are seeing today.

Edited by Umbelina
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Agreed. I'd be far more interested in a tweak to the show where maybe Moira had tried to escape with June, Luke and Hannah and she is arrested along with June but sent to the Homelands instead of the centre. I don't think that would have felt inorganic to the story as Moira is clearly presented as someone who June loved like family in the flashbacks. Having her join their escape attempt would have been in character and also provide a natural lead into a plot about the Homelands that wouldn't have felt tacked on. Moira could even still end up in the Jezebel June visits if the Commanders desired a more diverse selection of women and she caught the eye of some soldier in the Homelands who was tasked with choosing a group of attractive women. We'd lose the scenes with Moira helping June when she arrives at the centre but that could easily be adapted and would be worth the change if the trade off was seeing the Homelands through the eyes of an important character.

And considering that there seem to be real plans to continue the series for several years, it would really add to the world building, Characters we meet during Moira's time in the Homelands could play a more important role in the expanded world the show will have to create. Which would give the show a much more diverse cast that it has even now that they have eliminated the racism from the story.

Edited by AllyB
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Thanks. I would be going straight to the Colonies, because I am not a Bible reader, and didn't understand the reference.

Sure thing, but it seems that knowing the bible really isn't all that advantageous in Gilead because the Regine basically rewrote the whole thing to fit their own purpose and ideology.

The way they slaughtered so many religious believers and leaders, theologians and scholars, it appears that actually knowing the bible puts a mark on your back even more so if you learned about it "the wrong way".

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22 hours ago, Eureka said:

My 16 year old son has just started reading the book. It's definitely up his alley with dystopia. He asked me what's the significance of the term Martha? That's one I could never figure out. Am I missing something really obvious?

 

22 hours ago, AnswersWanted said:

They are named "Martha" after the sister of Mary and Lazarus.  She is often viewed as being the domesticated one of the group, she was the one who did the cooking, cleaning, and majority of the household chores. That is now the role the Marthas' have, serving the commanders and their wives in a biblical fashion.

I was raised in an Evangelical home (ditched that, btw), and of the two sisters, Mary was the one most revered; while Martha scuttled around and cooked and cleaned and served and finally started sniping at her sister to help her, Jesus reprimanded her. Mary was doing the proper thing by sitting at his feet and devoutly listening to his teachings. We were encouraged to be Mary and not Martha. My take on the system in Handmaid's Tale is that the Wives are the Marys in this situation - devoted to their lords and masters while the Marthas serve.

Of course the dichotomy is completely hypocritical, because at least in my generation Christian wives were expected to be both Mary and Martha. You just had to learn to be Mary when the husband was around and only Martha when it wouldn't disturb him.

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I posted a link in the Media section about an interview Joseph Fiennes did today on the CBC radio show Q. (It's Canadian public radio, btw.) He talked a lot about the book, and he mentioned two things that I didn't remember and didn't see mentioned here so far.

1) Wives and Commanders did not have sex. The theocracy in Gilead had deemed that sex was only for procreation, and since the Wives were judged to be infertile that meant no sex. So that adds another dimension to the Scrabble invitation.

2) The previous Offred had committed suicide. I wonder if that's going to be brought up? Again, that would really affect the dynamic in that triad even if June had no knowledge of what had happened to her predecessor.

6 minutes ago, questionfear said:

So where does the "ofxxx" naming come from?

It means they're the property of their current Commander. June is now called Offred because her Commander is Fred Waterford. The patriarchy erases her personhood and makes her property.

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8 minutes ago, questionfear said:

So where does the "ofxxx" naming come from?

It's "Of" + the first name of the Commander. Because the handmaid is not seen as an individual, she is just property of the Commander. When one handmaid disappears, her successor gets the same "Of"-name.

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I just finished the book and, towards the end  I had to catch myself several from hating June.  She became so immersed in the affair she became obnoxiously careless and selfish.

But really, why not? After the emotional and physical turmoil she's been through, such behavior is actually vital for mental survival. She had to find some release/escape and Nick provided the perfect solution. What I  didn't like was her spilling everything to him. She put herself and others at risk 

I have been spoiling myself with the show reviews and I'm confused about how they've mangled the timelines. Has June started the affair with Nick yet? Because it has been going on for a whole before the appearance of new Ofglen. 

About Emily, I have a feeling she'll be reassigned and cross paths with June again. In the book she doubted the informat given to her by new Ofglen. If show Emily does take her own life, it won't be until later.

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I'm sure the affair is coming on the show but we aren't there yet.  I'm also really stuck on the racism thing.  I just can't buy that Gilead would even pretend to be "post racial".  Evangelicals adopting african babies doesn't make racism go away.  Pushing this narrative really does a disservice to this show and takes it far away from our reality which is the opposite of what the showrunners want.  I understand them not wanting an all white show in 2017.  I wouldn't either.  Showing PoC just as slaves is problematic.  But they could have easily incorporated the racism that exists in every day America. 

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43 minutes ago, Shaynaa said:

I'm sure the affair is coming on the show but we aren't there yet.  I'm also really stuck on the racism thing.  I just can't buy that Gilead would even pretend to be "post racial".  Evangelicals adopting african babies doesn't make racism go away.  Pushing this narrative really does a disservice to this show and takes it far away from our reality which is the opposite of what the showrunners want.  I understand them not wanting an all white show in 2017.  I wouldn't either.  Showing PoC just as slaves is problematic.  But they could have easily incorporated the racism that exists in every day America. 

I was able to hand wave that some of the Handmaids are PoC, but having Show Moira believably pose as an Aunt was stretching it too far. I know she did in the book, but Book Moira was white.

Edited by chocolatine
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I was raised in an Evangelical home (ditched that, btw), and of the two sisters, Mary was the one most revered; while Martha scuttled around and cooked and cleaned and served and finally started sniping at her sister to help her, Jesus reprimanded her. Mary was doing the proper thing by sitting at his feet and devoutly listening to his teachings. We were encouraged to be Mary and not Martha. My take on the system in Handmaid's Tale is that the Wives are the Marys in this situation - devoted to their lords and masters while the Marthas serve.

 

I too was raised in an incredibly god fearing household and community and that was a common lesson I recall as well. The wives are the "Marys" as you mentioned, they are the revered ones, the obedient spouses to the great commanders of the Regime and soon to be mothers of the next generation of leaders and god fearing Gilead citizens that will replace all those damned sinners that they are systematically removing.

The way Serena Joy spoke to, and treated, Rita, her Martha, was just as cold and unfeeling as she often addresses, and deals with, Offred. Yet these women seem as if once upon a time they could belong to the same book club.

More than likely they shared more than a few similarities in the time before: they had jobs, they had their own money, they were able to move about as they pleased, they could say whatever they wanted to to whomever they wanted to, they could dress as they pleased, they were protected by constitutions that seemed unbreakable and binding as long as time exists.

Yet now they all live on completely separate planes of existence.

Serena Joy is a high ranking Wife, meant to keep her household in order as a testament to her husband, helping to keep him regarded as a powerful man of great standing, but her worth doesn't really extend beyond that. She is now nothing much more than a pretty, pointless, figurehead that is left to knit and sit untouched and unloved. She is the true "unwoman". 

Rita is a mere servant, left to do countless chores without much help, knowing she isn't to complain or gripe without severe consequence, and she will never have anything of her own, not even a child as she has been deemed infertile; she has nothing but her master and mistress' demands and orders to dictate her life, if it can be called that. At least she got to keep her real name.

And Offred is mere chattel, a womb with legs that must prove she's even worth that title or else she faces certain death. She has lost the most of all women left in this desolate world that haven't been sentenced to the colonies or immediate death, for her fertility is all that defines her now. She has no other useful traits that earn her the right to live, the right to breathe. She is to produce a baby or die, perhaps produce a baby and die, a task unforgiving and unyielding.

The way that a woman's womanhood, her femininity, can be so twisted and tainted and turned against her the way that it is in The Handmaid's Tale...it's all I could ever fear and then some.

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God, it's all so depressing--and poignant. At least a Martha probably can make her life easier to bear by being a good cook and domestic worker and ingratiate herself with the Wife. Being capable at your "job" here at least might help establish security? In another household I wonder if the same forbidden practice (playing a word game from the "before" time) would be initiated by a lonely Wife? I suppose there would be the constant fear of perceived "gender treachery" (or being accused, blackmailed for it). I wonder how many petty feuds and McCarthy-like false accusation power plays also happened during the coup/meltdown in this world. I seem to remember from the book Offred saying many (most?) of the executed "abortionists" didn't even do terminations in their practices but it was an easy way to eliminate OBs, medical experts, and researchers who were not 100% compliant to the new order: just accuse them of having participated in abortions in "the time before".

Edited by JasonCC
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13 hours ago, chocolatine said:

It's "Of" + the first name of the Commander. Because the handmaid is not seen as an individual, she is just property of the Commander. When one handmaid disappears, her successor gets the same "Of"-name.

Thanks, that makes sense!

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I believe in the center one of Aunts says "they polluted the water and destroyed the land" or something like that, so I had assumed it was basically things becoming toxic after industrial progress.

I want to say the book also suggested some kind of STD that served to hurt fertility.  It might have called it Syphilis-R?   

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10 hours ago, Shaynaa said:

I'm sure the affair is coming on the show but we aren't there yet.  I'm also really stuck on the racism thing.  I just can't buy that Gilead would even pretend to be "post racial".  Evangelicals adopting african babies doesn't make racism go away.  Pushing this narrative really does a disservice to this show and takes it far away from our reality which is the opposite of what the showrunners want.  I understand them not wanting an all white show in 2017.  I wouldn't either.  Showing PoC just as slaves is problematic.  But they could have easily incorporated the racism that exists in every day America. 

The more I think about it the more it's bugging me. I was trying to incorporate the colorblind version of racism to make it work, and I guess that's what I'll do in order to enjoy the show. However, I do think the show might have been better if it had a colonies storyline as was suggested upthread. Moira gets taken to the colonies, and/or Hannah is taken. There is a fear of white people no longer being the majority, and we've seen the resurgence of in-your-face racism from the alt-right. So, that part of the book is certainly relevant to today's world. I have also seen alt-righters slam the Evangelical Christians who adopt outside of their race.

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Yeah, I think it's a big loss to the show to lose the racism aspect, which was core to the creation of Gilead.  Racism and Sexism go hand in hand, as we are seeing more and more frequently in overt ways now.

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In 1x04, in the subway scene, there are a number of POC men wearing the same black suits as the Commanders. 

In the same episode, Offred is looking at the portraits of Commanders with their wives and newborn babies. There are about a dozen photographs, and while it's kind of hard to tell, it looks like there are POC Commanders in at least three of them. Some of the wives in the photos also look like they're POC.

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On 5/2/2017 at 2:08 PM, ChromaKelly said:

I agree. However, I feel as though the showrunners were probably in a bind about what to do. If you make it an all-white cast and point to the source material, then that will come across as a cop-out. Including a side story about what's going on in the colonies in order to cast POC would feel tacked on.

I agree an all-white cast would've been the wrong way to go, but it wasn't the only option. They just need to explain why this society appears to be post-racial. Build something into the mythology, come up with a plausible explanation, but don't just ignore it. Our 2017 brains keep tripping over the obvious omission of the most prevalent oppression in our society, and the "I don't see color" approach to racism doesn't fly. 

18 hours ago, chocolatine said:

I was able to hand wave that some of the Handmaids are PoC, but having Show Moira believably pose as an Aunt was stretching it too far. I know she did in the book, but Book Moira was white.

Yeah, I just commented on that in the episode thread. I was distracted that whole scene because my brain kept shouting "this doesn't make sense!"

Edited by stagmania
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I just watched episode four.  Not sure why they changed it and had Offred escape with Moira and was the one to get her feet whipped when in the book, it was all Moira. Is it because they haven't shown as many bonding flashbacks as in the book to show they are best friends? I don't know why these little things bother me so much....because overall, it's following the book very closely and that usually makes me happy in an adaptation.

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I think a reason they rewrote things is because in the book Offred is recalling her memories to the reader and that is a lot easier to do on paper than on screen at times.

They could have shown her hearing about Moira's escape secondhand, but it's just more dramatic to see her in the middle of the story instead. I believe some things translate better in writing, and this was one of those scenes where they decided to play to the television audience a bit more than merely following the book verbatim.

Also I think they also wanted to tie Offred's isolation in her room to her experience at the center, how close she's come to being broken a number of times and yet she keeps fighting, she keeps calling on her inner strength, on her inner "Moira" as she did in the closet before heading down to play scrabble with her lord and rapist.

And on a personal note, I just like the connection the two actresses share and that scene on the metro platform, when Moira must flee and leave June, that was such a beautifully haunting and painful scene and I really think it enhanced the story, at least the one the tv show is telling.

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In the book isn't Offred on her 2nd tour?  I'm pretty sure on the show they just said she's on her 3rd tour.  A way to fast forward her danger perhaps, since it's 3 tours and off to the colonies?

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53 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

In the book isn't Offred on her 2nd tour?  I'm pretty sure on the show they just said she's on her 3rd tour.  A way to fast forward her danger perhaps, since it's 3 tours and off to the colonies?

How long are they are each post? She said in the book her daughter was five when she was taken away and would be 8 now. So that's three years, do they keep them that long at each post?

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In the show flashback, Offred told Serena it was her second post.  In the book, it's her third.  They do two-year terms and her time is running down.  I can't remember if any of that has been spelled out yet on the show or not.  It's why she's so frozen at the doctor's offer and why later she so readily agrees to the affair.  As shitty as her life and the prospect of a pregnancy she won't get to keep is, there a big unknown and fear that it may get substantially worse looming for her if she doesn't get pregnant.

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1 hour ago, Eureka said:

How long are they are each post? She said in the book her daughter was five when she was taken away and would be 8 now. So that's three years, do they keep them that long at each post?

2 years.  They get three tries, or basically 6 years of being a handmaiden, and if they don't produce a child by then, off to the colonies!

1 hour ago, nodorothyparker said:

In the show flashback, Offred told Serena it was her second post.  In the book, it's her third.  They do two-year terms and her time is running down.  I can't remember if any of that has been spelled out yet on the show or not.  It's why she's so frozen at the doctor's offer and why later she so readily agrees to the affair.  As shitty as her life and the prospect of a pregnancy she won't get to keep is, there a big unknown and fear that it may get substantially worse looming for if she doesn't get pregnant.

Thanks, I had that backwards then, 2nd tour vs 3rd.

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