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Tara Ariano

S01.E01: Offred

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Offred, one the few fertile women known as Handmaids in the oppressive Republic of Gilead, struggles to survive as a reproductive surrogate for a powerful Commander and his resentful wife. 

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I can't begin to describe how excited I am for this. The book has been a favorite since I was introduced to it by a very progressive literature teacher in high school (in the 80s). I've been tirelessly harping since then that it SHOULD be outdated by now and isn't. That should terrify everyone, men and women alike.

Oh and THANKS for the mental pic of Mike Pence as the Commander. GAH.

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As much as I want to see this I am so worried I am going to end up with more sleepless nights. I read the book back in the 80's as well and it has stuck with me all this time as well.

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Thanks for the mental image of Pence hovering over a poor handmaiden asking "Mother, is it time to begin the ceremony?" lmao. Personally I want to watch it but at the same time it cuts so close to my fears that I've had ever since I read the novel in college. It's a novel that never leaves you once you've read it.

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I want to stay up late and watch all three episodes starting at midnight, but I'll be a zombie tomorrow at work. Besides, I won't be able to sleep after watching it.

When I first heard they were doing this adaptation, my thought was that I hope it's creepy and disturbing enough like the book. Now, I'm kind of afraid to watch it.

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This will be very hard to watch for anyone sensitive to portrayals of violence (sexual and otherwise), miscarriages, slavery, misogyny, homophobia ...

Yeah, no. Thanks for the warning.

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I couldn't decide whether to watch this or not because I knew that it would be really disturbing (and unfortunately in a very realistic way). It was as creepy and scary and honestly it made me want to cry. Who would have thought that a dystopian novel from the 80s would have even more significance thirty years later?

I don't know what is more upsetting - seeing modern women broken into obeying this oppressive system (all the while remembering the freedoms they had in the recent past) or seeing the little girls who would become the next generation, never knowing all the things that their mothers had.

At the beginning of the episode, I thought heh, it's a good  thing the handmaids are wearing those wimples so that Ofglen couldn't see Offred rolling her eyes.

The hypocrisy of Aunt Lydia talking about how rape is punishable by death when all of the handmaids are systematically raped made me shake my head.

Why is Offred deliberately antagonizing Nick by telling Rita to buy tuna?

Edited by ElectricBoogaloo
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4 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

 

Why is Offred deliberately antagonizing Nick by telling Rita to buy tuna?

I didn't think that she was trying to antagonize him, rather that she wanted to speak with him but couldn't due to the cook being there. The tuna reference was maybe a subtle way of teasing him and a cautious friendship overture. 

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The woman who slapped Offred in the flashback to the Red Center...she was blurry, but was she played by Margaret Atwood?  It looked as much like her as a blurry, tall woman could...

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14 minutes ago, OtterMommy said:

The woman who slapped Offred in the flashback to the Red Center...she was blurry, but was she played by Margaret Atwood?  It looked as much like her as a blurry, tall woman could...

Yes, she was! Was just reading a review that mentioned it. I didn't notice at the time (darn), but have realized I'm not willing yet to go back and rewatch...

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Great start so far. I love the sarcastic voiceover, and I got misty-eyed when Ofglen opened up about her wife and child. I also like the actress playing Moira, but wasn't the regime racist and the handmaidens all white? It's been forever since I've read the book. The only good thing about the previous film version was Elizabeth McGovern as Moira, so I'm excited for this series.

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22 minutes ago, numbnut said:

Great start so far. I love the sarcastic voiceover, and I got misty-eyed when Ofglen opened up about her wife and child. I also like the actress playing Moira, but wasn't the regime racist and the handmaidens all white? It's been forever since I've read the book. The only good thing about the previous film version was Elizabeth McGovern as Moira, so I'm excited for this series.

yes (i think women of colour in the book were sent to the same place moira was sent in the show) and they purposefully made this series more diverse in her husband/daughter, nick and moira, but as you will see, the majority of the handmaids are still white. 

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9 minutes ago, Anela said:

I missed what happened to Moira. (?) In the show.

We haven't seen it happen yet, just a vague reference from Offred.

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10 minutes ago, chocolatine said:

We haven't seen it happen yet, just a vague reference from Offred.

Thanks. 

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13 hours ago, Corgi-ears said:

Those generic but oddly beautiful labels on the food almost made me get behind this new world order. I'm such a monster.

Handmaidens, Marthas, etc. aren't allowed to read and write. Just another joyful layer in this bizarro world.

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I'm loving every bit of this show - well, "loving" is a bad word, because it's terrifying. But the production values and acting is extremely high. Also, being a fan of the novel, I admire the world building.

...Was that Margaret Atwood herself slapping Offred in that "it's her fault / to teach her a lesson" scene?...

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3 hours ago, Ariah said:

 

...Was that Margaret Atwood herself slapping Offred in that "it's her fault / to teach her a lesson" scene?...

Yes, it was! I went to this panel discussion thing, and they said they had to keep re-doing it because Margaret Atwood didn't want to slap her hard enough.

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I read this so long ago that I don't remember the details, only the dread. Beautiful depiction and beautiful job by the whole cast. Will be easy not to binge this though because it is so disturbing.

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I was worried the preview had given too much away because I thought the shot of the pregnant woman missing an eye was Offred. So relieved last night to see it was crazy chick.

I wonder if some flashback scenes will start showing more of the breakdown of society. They have hinted at the fact that women are not allowed to read anymore (well, at least the servants), but non-readers may not have picked up on it. The book was pretty good at explaining how they ended up this way.   Also, the fact that everyone is completely clothed on ceremony night, and that Offred and the Commander are only allowed to touch in the genital region is kind of important.  Elizabeth Moss is killing it with the voiceover - and her facial expressions are great.  I like the person playing Ofglen, she has very expressive eyes.

Two scenes that stood out to me were when they captured her daughter - Elizabeth Moss just killed me in that scene, and when the commander shuts the door in Serena's face during the meeting and she is crushed.

Edited by Ripley68
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Although I loved the execution (particicution) scene at the end with the handmaids, all I could think of with the whistle was the stoning scene in Life of Brian: "No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle!"

Costume design is incredible. The costume designer did an interview talking about how she designed the handmaids' boots without laces so that they couldn't commit suicide with them. Brilliant.

Fun fact: "particicution" (from the books) was Margaret Atwood's cheeky reference to Participaction, a Canadian government program promoting fitness. A bit of Canadian humour there.

Edited by Eyes High
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Man oh man, Ann Dowd is getting some seriously creepy work. Aunt Lydia here, ghosty leader of the guilty remnant on Leftovers and FBI prosecutor chick on the show with Lady Mary from Downton Abbey. In each and every one I want her to get the rapist treatment which just means she's doing a spectacular job being creepy as fuck. 

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I keep saying THIS IS HORRIBLE, but like the show is not horrible, it's well done but it's AWFUL. One of the most terrifying things I've ever watched.  I remember the book vaguely and it was too hard for me to keep reading.  I don't know how far I'll get with this. 

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I wonder if this show will address things like IVF, or if this is an alternate reality where either it was never developed or it was considered "immoral" and banned. That does seem like something that would make a lot of sense to do in this environment, and it would allow infertile women to carry embryos along with the Handmaids and thereby increase the population.

Really great world building all around.

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8 hours ago, Slovenly Muse said:

IVF would be a very sensible solution. Unfortunately, the impression I'm getting from Gilead is that their core principle is science has failed them, and only a strict adherence to God's will (i.e. the Commanders' will) will result in God "blessing" people with babies. The logic follows the Pro-Life movement's beliefs that if God wants you to be pregnant, you will be, no matter the circumstances or how you feel about it. And if He wants you to survive a difficult or complicated childbirth, you will. Abortion (or any other medical interference with a pregnancy) is never the answer, it is only interfering with God's will. They may even believe (or at least espouse) that scientists "playing God" with techniques like IVF are the reason they've been "cursed" with infertility in the first place (the way religious wackos today sometimes claim natural disasters are God's punishment for allowing gay marriage). That way, they can whip up the populace into a devout frenzy, and get them to adhere to a bunch of seriously messed-up rules (that Gilead decides upon) in the hopes of appeasing a fickle deity, because the blessing of a healthy child can only be "earned" by religious devotion. By convincing the population that science doesn't have the answer, only THEY do, they can maintain control. A practical, scientific solution like IVF might help the fertility crisis, but it would kill the regime. That's likely why the professors and scientists were exiled.

Seeing as the fertility crisis precedes (and, presumably, gave rise to) this regime, I don't think it's a matter of the Commanders disapproving of IVF.  If IVF had been viable, the fertility crisis would have been dealt with that way under the old government.

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Can someone please cast Ann Dowd in a role where she plays someone just down-to-earth and kind of neat to hang out with? Having said that, I think that the statement that gave me the biggest chills was the part of her indoctrination of the new Handmaids where she told them that this will all seem ordinary to them in time. Normalization. That scared the crap out of me.

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19 minutes ago, maystone said:

I'm not so sure about that, though. It was to the advantage of the pro-Gilead cabal in the old government that there be no solution but their fascist quasi-religious solution. You know, that "I alone can fix it" propaganda that we're seeing now. Honestly, I read the book when it first came out, and I don't remember if Atwood went into the politics that led to the civil war, so what I'm saying is strictly conjecture.

It would have taken a while for the Gilead types to gain any sort of foothold in government.  As far as we can see, their whole ideology is built around the fertility crisis.  Not to mention, other countries have the same technology, and apparently aren't influenced by Gilead at all.

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20 hours ago, Slovenly Muse said:

IVF would be a very sensible solution. Unfortunately, the impression I'm getting from Gilead is that their core principle is science has failed them, and only a strict adherence to God's will (i.e. the Commanders' will) will result in God "blessing" people with babies. The logic follows the Pro-Life movement's beliefs that if God wants you to be pregnant, you will be, no matter the circumstances or how you feel about it.

I understand why the powers that be in Gilead are against IVF, given their anti-science and technology views. But they don't even seem to have a grasp on basic biology. From what I gathered from the book/show, the "ceremony" of the Commander trying to impregnate a Handmaid happens only once a week. On top of that, there is no indication that that they do something as simple has track the Handmaid's ovulation cycles to pinpoint her most fertile days. No wonder Gilead's breeding program is doing so poorly, on top of the fact they refuse to look for infertility in males. I get how rampant fanaticism can blind people, but the amount of idiocy from the leaders and rule makers in Gilead is staggering.

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I don't know that IVF would really work in this world.  My take-away from this episode is that women were getting pregnant with no problems, but they were having miscarriages in large numbers.  IVF wouldn't solve that.

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In 1x01, there's the little graphic showing the decline with a baby symbol as follows:

1960: 20 baby symbols

1980: 10 baby symbols

1995: 8 baby symbols

2005: 4 baby symbols

2015: 1 baby symbol

So if the baby symbols represent actual babies born or the birth rate, then either the number of babies born or the birth rate must have dropped by 95% between 1960 and 2015.

The funny thing is that if you looked at a chart of the real birth rate between 1960 and 2015 in the US, or really of most countries' birth rates in that time period, you'd see a sharp decline as well. The actual overall number of births per year in the US hasn't changed all that much since the population has increased in the US so much in the intervening 1960-2015 period. I think it went from 4.3 million live births per year at the peak of the baby boom to something like 3.9 million live births per year recently, so about a 9% decrease in overall births (although of course that decrease is much more significant when you take into account US population growth from 1960 to 2015).

Going back to the 1x01 graphic: using real world numbers, and assuming the baby symbols mean live births as opposed to the birth rate, it looks like with a 95% drop, the Handmaid world would have gone from 4.3 million live births to...215,000 live births for a population of 321.4 million people in the US in 2015 (compared to 3.9 million births in the real world the same year).

If we're going by birth rate instead of overall number of babies born, in the real world, the 1960 US birth rate per 1,000 population was 23.7 births, and in 2015, the birth rate per 1,000 population was 12.4. So roughly about a 50% decline. In the Handmaid world, the 50% drop happened by 1980 going by the graphic.

In the Handmaid world, again, let's assume the birth rate in 1960 was the same as in the real world (23.7 per 1,000). If the Handmaid world birth rate had dropped by 95%, then in 2015 the birth rate in Handmaid world would be 1.2 births per 1,000 population. As a point of comparison, the lowest birth rate in the real world is in Monaco, which has 6.7 births per 1,000 population, which is still more than five times the Handmaid world birth rate.

So if you're trying to get a sense of how dramatic the decline in births was in the Handmaid world compared to the real world, that's my best guess.

Edited by Eyes High
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I'm not feeling the impact others seem to have experienced.   It's all kind of a snoozefest to me.  Nothing truly shocking that we haven't already seen in other shows.   Most disturbing to me was that they somehow managed to make Yvonne Strahovski unattractive, which I would have thought impossible.

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On 4/26/2017 at 0:41 PM, Corgi-ears said:

Those generic but oddly beautiful labels on the food almost made me get behind this new world order. I'm such a monster.

I am tryig not to vear in Book territory here, but the implication is that many people can’t read, hence the pretty pictograms.

IVF has already been mentioned, but what strikes me is the lack of technology in genreal. Gilead is all about surveillance, yet there are no cameras, drones, or so much as a cell phone. People are the state's eyes and ears. Yet the infrastructure of roads and electricity seems to still be in place.People are the state's eyes and ears. Yet the infrastructure of roads and electricity seems to still be in place.

This show is so evocative. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Edited by marinw
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On 5/3/2017 at 2:59 AM, marinw said:

I am tryig not to vear in Book territory here, but the implication is that many people can’t read, hence the pretty pictograms.

Non-book reader here so I'm just going with what we've seen on screen. The show takes place in the near future (as in maybe 5-10 years in the future, not 100 years from now) so I'm pretty sure that most of the American women are literate (or at least literate enough to read basic words like milk. When Offred and Ofglen are talking to the other two handmaids at the grocery store, one of them mentions that she read something in a newspaper and then immediately realizes her mistake (admitting that she read something) and clams up. The other three girls freeze, knowing that she shouldn't be admitting it in public. Not allowing them to read takes away their access to news and information so that they are dependent upon the aunts when they're in the red center and then whoever they're placed with. In other words, they are just told whatever the Gilead government wants to tell them.

Edited by ElectricBoogaloo · Reason: Because "not" and "now" are not the same thing
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2 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

they are just told whatever the Gilead government wants to tell them.

As as I mentioned there dosn't seem to be any evidence of phones or computers so there goes the internet. Ditto for television.

Edited by marinw
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55 minutes ago, marinw said:

And as I mentioned there dosn't seem to be any evidence of phones or computers so there goes the internet. Ditto for television. I noted that when Offred visited the Commander she noticed the books in his office. If June/Offred was an editor she must hate being deprived of the written word.

I don't want to spoil it for you but we do see more technology in later episodes.  I have no doubt Gilead does have rules about use of technology and obviously the women would be barred from accessing it.

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This was absolutely amazing. I settled in playing a game on my phone while I watched it (thinking that I could follow and play at the same time) but I was completely engrossed. I have recommended everyone I know to watch it. I love the music in the background - I think the songs fit perfectly. Elizabeth Moss nails Offred. It's uncanny how connected I felt while reading a decades-old book 10 years ago and those feelings would still be (scarily) relevant today. 

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On 4/27/2017 at 11:56 AM, Ripley68 said:

I like the person playing Ofglen, she has very expressive eyes.

Alexis Bledel is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen.  When I first discovered her I honestly couldn't believe that a person looks like that!

On 4/26/2017 at 11:03 PM, FozzyBear said:

I almost gasped when the nurse in the hospital said "blessed be". 

I missed this, can you explain?

Edited after watching Episode 2:  Ah, I think you were referring to Episode 2.

This pilot was so intensely horrifying to me that any desire I had to read the book is now gone.  I thought I was going to vomit when the Commander was trying to impregnate Offred.  Why does Offred want to get pregnant?  Was she acting?  Or do the pregnant women get some kind of perk or escape?  

Edited by Ms Blue Jay
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54 minutes ago, Ms Blue Jay said:

I missed this, can you explain?

This pilot was so intensely horrifying to me that any desire I had to read the book is now gone.  I thought I was going to vomit when the Commander was trying to impregnate Offred.  Why does Offred want to get pregnant?  Was she acting?  Or do the pregnant women get some kind of perk or escape?  

 

The nurse that attends to Offred/June in the hospital after she's given birth to Hannah says "Blessed be" in regards to Hannah having been born a healthy baby. She is in fact the only living baby in the maternity ward at that time, all others have "gone on to be god" as the nurse so puts it.

The most noticeable bit about the nurse using that phrase is that it came from the Gilead Regime, so it was an obvious sign that they are indoctrinating people already at that point in time, secretly getting them to come on board with their new world order without realizing what they were actually agreeing to.

Offred does not want to get pregnant, she has no choice in the matter, however, for the ability to choose no no longer applies to her. She has been forced to become a Handmaid, a woman's whose sole purpose in life is to be fruitful and bear children for the high ranking officials who run Gilead.

In this society women such as Offred, Handmaids, are females who have no other status aside from being walking wombs basically. Their job is to get pregnant and have a healthy baby, and they are given three tries to do so with three different commanders. They are "rewarded", if you can call it that, with their life if they can manage to succeed. If they cannot, they will pay the ultimate price and be sent away to the Colonies, a certain death sentence.

Edited by AnswersWanted
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That show was really good but super intense. So intense it makes The Man in the High Castle (a show where Hitler takes over the world) look almost like 30 Rock.

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I never read the book, never watched the original movie, but after all the hype, I decided to PVR it (blessed be that a Canadian outlet is airing it weekly.)

This is ridiculously good.  I am familiar with most of the cast, but never watched Elisabeth Moss in anything (never got into Mad Man.) Where can I start writing her in for a Emmy nod?

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I teach this in my Dystopian Lit class and we watched this episode today, and my students really liked it.  I think they are interpreting the book well, and also making it easy to follow for those who haven't read the book.  

 

I thought the Particution was well done, and the costumes are amazing.  My only quibble is that the Commander is attractive and Nick isn't.  That's not how I picture it when I read the book.  And that's all I will say to avoid going into book talk.  

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On 4/27/2017 at 2:40 PM, nodorothyparker said:

The particicution of the accused rapist...I somehow was never able to fully wrap my head around the reality that TPTB were offering it up as a physical outlet for all the rage and hurt of these women they've ground down...

Not sure if you mean this level of analysis wasn't in the book, but

Spoiler

it's contained in the "Historical Notes" at the end of the novel (the transcript of the scholarly conference in 2195). But you may know that, and are still saying the show makes it work for you in a way that the novel didn't, which I get, even though I thought Atwood handled it beautifully in the novel.

Hoping it's appropriate to respond to this particular point in this topic and not the Novel vs. Show one, since it was raised in this topic...

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