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Things We Hate About The Handmaid's Tale

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On 1 February 2019 at 3:36 AM, dorianse said:


My wife and I just started watching and we're on s01 episode 9 and... IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE! I just can't swallow this universe. My wife agrees. Why are only some guys Commanders, Why are only some women Handmaid's, Why do other Women have Authority over the Handmaid's??? It's Unbelievable and Not Logical...

Commander is a rank in Gilead's hierarchy, for men who hold high-ranking positions in the military and government. The original conspirators behind the coup are all Commanders, and others can be promoted to the position. One man was promoted to Commander because his wife was pregnant. Women married to Commanders are Wives, and wear blue.

The lower ranks of the military are known as Guardians and Angels. Some of their number are spies, known as Eyes. Guardians may be assigned to the household of a Commander as a chauffeur/aide. 

There is still a working class in Gilead. Women married to working class men or lower ranking members of the military are known as Econowives and wear grey (multicoloured stripes in the book). 

Unmarried women and widows may work as domestic servants for Commanders. They wear green and are called Marthas.

The Aunts run the Rachel and Leah Center, where women are re-educated as Handmaids. They are true believers, or put on a very convincing show of it. They wear brown, and are the only women in Gilead with permission to read and write. Aunts also work at the Colonies, and possibly in schools for young girls. 

Handmaids are fertile women who committed some kind of crime by the standards of Gilead. They're spared execution or the Colonies in exchange for serving as Handmaids. Having a child out of wedlock is one of those crimes. Being a lesbian is another. June was caught trying to leave Gilead, but even if she hadn't tried to leave, she was considered an adulteress because Luke's divorce wasn't recognised by Gileadean law, and he was considered to be married to his first wife. 

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I've only watched the first 4 episodes but wanted to put down some notes before I forgot them.

I didn't read the book but I did see the movie.

With those caveats ...

1.  The open misogyny of the barista seems incredible.  Maybe if it was Alabama or something but not the Northeast.  I understand that they've been enabled by the religious extremists who brought about Gilead, in the same way white supremacists are enabled these days.   But there would have to be some political figure who makes such behavior permissible.  They allude to systematically eroding civil rights, especially barring women from jobs and outlawing them from having property, or the slaughter of Congress.

Seems to me the writers of this show, having to probably update and expand on how it happened have added a lot of details but not sure they're working from some coherent narrative of how Gilead came to be.  Details like them fighting in FL or negotiating with Mexico or being embargoed by Europe seem random.

Then you have this new social order with the handmaids and the ceremony and such.  If Gilead isn't secure, would they have established these customs already?

On the one hand, ISIL kind of operated like that, would take over towns where they faced little military resistance at first.  Then they'd bring in all these girls who came from Europe to marry them off to the fighters.  But that lasted maybe a year or two at the most because they started to lose territorial control.  They stopped posting to social media a long time ago about how great life in the caliphate was.

2.  I don't see them conquering vast parts of the US quickly.  The Civil War lasted 5 years when the inhabited continental US was maybe 1/3 of what it was now.  Even a large city would be difficult to conquer, with door to door fighting in all those skyscrapers?  They wouldn't have enough soldiers and arms to conquer and hold all that territory and maintain it.  So they'd have to basically slaughter all those who aren't on their side.  And it would take big weapons, not just some automatic rifles and RPGs.  They'd have to kill indiscriminately, unless they planned to subjugate them.  But in a world of limited resources, what are they going to do, imprison and feed millions of people in a city like Boston or New York?

To conquer large nations or even large cities like we have today, you'd have to have the most brilliant generals from our military, not some commanders.  And they'd have to be led by some figure who'd gain their loyalty, be true believers to the cause.  The generals that the US military develops out of its academies are conservative but they're not religious zealots, which they'd have to be to come up with this fucked up world.  They are at the top of their academic class and they're all about discipline.  It would be a huge leap for them to attack Congress or order their men to open fire on civilians.

Now, it's not impossible.  In Tienamen Square they shipped in soldiers from rural provinces and they had no problems mowing down the college students from the big city.  With the level of polarization in this country, they might find some who are willing to kill nonbelievers indiscriminately.  But they'd have to sustain that blood lust for years to conquer a nation as vast and diverse as this one.  The protestors won't always run away.  Next time they'll arm themselves, which is easy to do in this country and they would outnumber these rogue military units.  Even if the entire US military was on the side of Gilead, they'd be vastly outnumbered.

Now I understand that the main point of the novel and the show is about this nightmarish theocratic society, not how they got there. 

But they did open up the plausibility issue with the details and these scenes of how civilization fell to these religious zombies.

3.  The religious zealots depicted seem unlike the American religious right.  For one thing, they cite a lot of old testament scriptures, very little mention of Jesus or the new testament verses, which is what American evangelicals gravitate to.

I can buy them destroying Catholic cathedrals and hanging priests.  But Gilead has a ritualistic culture that would seem at odds with evangelicals.

Then you have the Ceremony.  Of course infertility is driving a lot of these actions but if the experience of the Watersons is typical, you'd think the Ceremony would be driving a lot of domestic discontent.  It's one thing to have a loveless marriage but to force the wives to participate in this seems especially sadistic.  

Why not just use turkey basters?

Then you see all the soldiers with machine guns all over the place but few women other than the Handmaids and the wives.  The way they casually kill or punish women, it seems there are a lot of men and not enough women for them.  OK, they're religious extremists so probably forcing abstinence.  

But how long can that situation last?  Especially with all the Handmaids parading in front of them?

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I only started watching the show; I am on season 1 , episode 8.  I did read the book a while ago (like over 10 years ago ) and plan to read it again this spring.  I HATE Luke; like HATE him.  I hate cheaters in general, but I hate that he is touted as a "good guy" when he freakin cheated on his wife with June.  Like end it with your wife AND THEN start a new relationship.  And I just find him annoying in general.  Like why didn't he learn to use a gun or at least practiced when they were in the cabin; knowing very well that it could have come to that?  And what did he hope to accomplish by staying with the car and sending June and Hannah ahead?  buying them time?  Why didn't he take the gun and go with them?  He could have helped to carry Hannah.  I do not see him helping to rescue June or his daughter.  He's just gonna sit in Canada and cry.  And probably cheat on June with someone else.

And I know someone who reminds me so much of Serena Joy.  She's an adoptive mom and her attitudes towards the birth mothers and her jealousy at women who can have children is frightening; and she uses religion to justify how gross she treats people.

Also I have a problem with Elizabeth Moss being a devout Scientologist and belonging to an organization that is abusive towards people and families.  Her beliefs are problematic to me for her playing Offred.  Also, there is a high chance that she is a victim of their tactics and being exploited.  Since she grew up in the church her family may all be members and if she says anything negative or leaves they could be cut off from them.  Maybe her Scientology links helped her get this part and they hold it over her head; but I think there are better choices for the role.  Moss has two facial expressions in the whole series: creepy smile and tearful and upset.

Edited by doyouevengohere
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