The Handmaid’s Tale Review (2017-2021)

Offred was not always in red.
Once upon a time.
In another life.
There was a daughter who was taken away. Loving husband. Friend…
… once she even had a name.
Does it matter which one?
Now they found a new home for her and named her Offred.
Of Fred
Freedom and independence, work and personal money …
… an incomprehensible luxury that seemed familiar before the war broke out and the weakened United States collapsed under the attack of those who would call themselves the Sons of Jacob.
Commanders and Wives, the new aristocracy, led by the Word of God, led the people of the new Gilead, drowned in sin and dishonor, to a future where the righteous people will again have what nature has taken away from them – children. After all, God, whose ways are inscrutable, in his immeasurable goodness sent people a test, depriving them of fertility, and now women capable of childbearing are worth their weight in gold. Therefore, they should belong to the best of men, for it is said in the scripture, “and Rachel brought the maidservant into the house of Jacob,” “be fruitful and multiply.”
Therefore, the girl, who is lucky to become a vessel of life for her new master, moves into the house of Fred and the Serene Joy of Winterford after a long and arduous training in the Red House under the leadership of the strict but wise Aunt Lydia, in order to become a new member of the family … if it can be called a family , and such a life – life in general. The unbending Offred will have to collect all her mind, anger, compassion and desire to survive in order not to break down, find a way to escape from this hell and find her daughter Hannah.
Because her name is June, she is not a Servant, but a Woman – and she remembers what freedom is.
And she will not forget a single blow, insult or injury, to herself or those who are dear to her.



The Handmaid’s Tale is a 2017 American TV series based on a 1985 novel by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. He describes a world in which, due to a series of environmental disasters, children almost ceased to be born, and this was taken advantage of by religious fundamentalists. In America, there was a military coup, a sluggish civil war practically destroyed the state, and in the only two states, taken under the control of a quasi-religious junta, a theocratic system was built. In the former Boston, skyscrapers were demolished, gays, liberals and priests were executed, and women were actually made slaves, constitutionally limiting their rights to all freedoms that did not serve the purpose of procreation or maintenance of manor houses. The new nobility of the self-proclaimed state, the Commanders, are engaged in foreign policy, seeking the lifting of sanctions, forging ties with Mexico and throwing dust in the eyes of Canada (the main refuge of emigrants from the former United States of America), go to meetings and visit each other in the company of their Wives. while detachments of punitive “people’s militia” patrol the streets and make sure that the Maids do not talk to each other and strictly follow the route “House – Pyaterochka – Dom” – because the Maid has only one main task: once a month, just according to the menstrual schedule cycle, to be present at the Ceremony, where, while reading spiritual psalms, the owner and his wife will … yes, you understood everything correctly and no, it looks even worse and more absurd than you imagined. (But spiritually, with the Bible in hand!)

This story leaves a very heavy impression.

Aunt Lydia and June.

Probably, it is even more difficult to see this for those for whom the series was filmed: the Sons of Jacob are clearly not indifferent to the aesthetics of the 19th century and in all their life, along with laptops and mobile phones, they build a picture of the spiritual and benevolent, old God-fearing America of the Middle South, with silent wives and submissive servants, except perhaps without slaves and plantations. On an ideological level, this is Donald Trump’s super-MAGA: “Let’s Make America Great Again” in a double volume: not as under Reagan, but as much under Lincoln. At the same time, the Sons of Jacob distance themselves from emphatically national patriotism: by their actions they hope to save not only the country (since, in their opinion, the United States was mired in sin and was punished by God), but all of humanity: the ideologists of the new regime believe that only the forcible retention of women within the framework of the biological function, it will save the human race from extinction. Because, in their paradigm, sex for pleasure is an unacceptable sin, homosexual relationships are all the more “gender infidelity”, just passionate feelings with someone with whom you are not supposed to be, because not a husband / wife and without marriage is adultery, again sin … and in their system, every sin is followed by severe and cruel punishment. For it is said in the scripture, “If your hand tempts it, cut it off …” (Damn, why do I remember all this)

The sons of Jacob use the Bible very selectively for the sake of power: they seem to be indifferent to the gospel and the covenants of Christ (even though most of the peacefulness of Jesus is most likely actually attributed to him by the Apostle Peter and later Christians, but not the essence) and base their power solely on individual chapters Of the Old Testament. They are obsessed with power and are smart enough to keep it; outwardly moderate fanatics, fiercely fighting for the fulfillment of the law of God in their understanding. With the support of the punitive squads, they exterminated or intimidated members of all other heretical denominations in Gilead (including other Christians such as Catholics, Baptists, and Lutherans).

What is shown in the series is a wild, but quite realistic mixture of the style of the Islamic Revolutionary Corps in Iran and the Islamic State in the East, again, under the sauce of Christian fundamentalism. Continuous prohibitions, the destruction of artifacts from a past life and other cultures, new rules of life, reasoned by the will from above – and the harsh suppression of any dissent, incommensurate with the severity of offenses. Unfortunately, there is not much fiction here: not only in the Bible, but also in gullible India, lynching by stoning occurs, caused by fake messages in WhatsApp, and the North Korean authorities practice executions of guilty officials at explosive ranges. I will not even talk about the actions of terrorists who like to take responsibility for any tin for the sake of increasing their influence and the significance of terror.

Serene Joy Waterford, mistress June.

But this is all external, the environment of the series, its background.

Much more interesting is what is in its center – the figure of June.

An ordinary woman who once worked as an editor and did not share her mother’s activism, June never considered herself a heroine and did not strive for something unrealizable. She had enough husband, daughter, a small company of friends. But when the world around her began to crumble, starting with the first warning signs such as the terrorist attacks in Washington and the blocking of bank cards, she and her family have to set off on a run north to Canada. On a journey that will still lead her to the Red House.

June becomes a prisoner of the “correctional” institution for the girls identified in the Handmaidens, and in his own skin experiences many hardships. Any inconsistency with the Handmaid’s code is punishable by pain or injury, so June has to be careful. She has no choice but to remain strong, to be smarter and more cunning than her jailers. But there is something that will be difficult even for her to cope with.
And that’s emotional abuse.

The Handmaid’s Tale is all built on it.

Here, everyone hurts and at the same time suffers: Both the Handmaids, the lowest link in this chain of violence, and the Aunt (in the eyes of the cruel Lydia, sometimes one can even read softness and regret that she cannot be a mother due to her age, unlike June) and even the Wife and the Commanders themselves (however, in relation to the Commanders, empathy evaporates by the second season). The world of “Story …” is a cycle of violence, and a considerable part of the violence here is perpetrated by women themselves, within the framework of the system created by men with the help of women (for example, Serena Joy).

Commander Waterford and June are on a secret exit.

The figure of the wife of Commander Waterford is generally very tragic. Domineering and cold, sometimes very cruel and not able to control herself, living in constant stress and a desire to have a child whom she cannot have, Sereno Joy spills out her own impotence through aggression. She is similar to Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones”: just like the regal sister-lover Jaime, she ruined her life with her own hands and precisely because she did everything to prevent this from happening. Cersei feared for her children and the fact that everyone in the Seven Kingdoms would recognize their true origins, and therefore began a chain of intrigues that eventually led to the death of all her children, the conquest of the continent of Daenerys Stormborn, the destruction of King’s Landing and the death of all who ever- or was dear to her. So Seasorada – a former activist of “alternative feminism”, the author of the concept of Handmaids as the only way to prevent humanity from extinction, she herself brought her husband to power in the new state that they created together – and so that her children did not have the right to learn to read and live in an eternal circle of submission and violence, sexual and emotional?

Did you go so much for this? ..

Fred himself is also a difficult man. A gentleman with an impeccable beard, moderately open and benevolent, as a rule, does not allow himself unnecessary anger or aggression – he does not notice what is happening in his own house, because the system built by him and Serene Joy completely suits him. In this new world, he, man, king and god. And he can afford everything for which others can lose an arm or an eye. He grows closer to June and she piques his interest; Fred himself creates a violent love triangle (what can the disenfranchised Maid do?), To which his wife closes her eyes, because she wants a child, no matter from whom, she is already indifferent to any laws of Gilead.
All together – Fred, who is bored with a nervous, languishing beauty-wife, Serena Joy, furiously knitting and growing orchids, although she does not like it, June-Fredova, who is just trying to survive and find a way to escape from this god-damned country, but once after suffering bitter failures at once – all together they create a web of lies and omissions, which in a strange way allows June to begin to manipulate their masters. A quiet girl with big and burning eyes from hidden anger, over and over again forcing herself to look at the floor and say what is allowed only when allowed – step by step begins the game according to her own rules. Having gone through a monstrous experience, having met (and lost) new friends, the Maid begins a slow path to her own liberation, slowly gaining inner freedom and bearing, like a child, inner courage and perseverance, changing not only herself, but also the people around.

The Handmaid’s Tale is, of course, an exaggerated allegory of the problems of gender inequality in modern civilized society. A picture of everyday sexism twisted to the maximum (all these “What are you dressed up as the devil”, “When on maternity leave, girls?” And “I would have fiddled with you …”), when women are not considered as equals , they are denied equal wages, they restrict and suppress in every possible way almost from the very birth. You’re a girl, you’re wearing a Barbie. Pink and purple, little pony. When you grow up, look for a good husband and stay at home, cook cabbage soup, give birth to children, bring taxpayers and cannon fodder to the state for new conquests. Nobody cares what you think and feel, your place is in the kitchen. You are a girl, weak, affairs and wars were always fought by men, let the adults decide. Here is patriarchy, not matriarchy, read the Bible. “The Handmaid’s Tale” just twists this narrative to the maximum, asking the question “What if civilized society falls back two or three hundred years ago on the issue of equality; what if all these white heterosexual chauvinists moaning about severe oppression and” for fun ” cuts out female heroines from films, win and implement in full their program “A woman should give birth, and not be engaged in nonsense”? “

The picture turns out to be sadistically cruel.

And not to say that this world looks completely hopeless. Heroes change over time, and even the most downtrodden one-eyed slave has moments of happiness, and no one has canceled the Stockholm syndrome with maternal feelings. But still, first of all, this is the story of an enslaved woman, emotionally built on the model of the novels of the 19th century, where the heroine deprived of power and status intersects with a man / men of a higher rank and suffers a lot. Despite all the conventions of the present / near future setting and visual anachronisms like armored jeeps and machine guns against the backdrop of costumes almost from the times of George Washington, “The Handmaid’s Story” is basically quite traditional.

And amazingly played. Especially the main character played by Elisabeth Moss. Her June with one squint, a side glance and a slight nod of her head tells more than ten phrases. And with what incinerating anger and thought she looks before looking away and quietly muttering the duty “Good day” or “Praise” (small talk, according to the Gilead Newspeak, they even speak spiritually tightly!). June Elisabeth Moss is just a goddess against the background of weaker performances by Daenerys Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones (sorry, Khaleesi) or Katniss Everdeen Jennifer Lawrence from the ideologically close “Handmaid’s Tale” of “The Hunger Games” for the sake of stability on the reality show “Dom-2” with teenage gladiators). The delight in the performance of the excellent Yvonne Strahovski (she gave her voice and appearance to one of the heroines of the games in the series “Mass Effect”, “genetically ideal woman”, Miranda Lawson) also needs to be noted: a very complex image of a contradictory and very religious landowner, rushing between aristocratic cool protective anger and sincere remorse in trying to figure out what’s wrong with her – she did it flawlessly. You regret her, and hate her, and worry about her again. “The rich cry too.”

There is also some kind of outrageous production in the series: the camera work is somewhat reminiscent of both “Mr. Robot” and “Young Pope” at the same time: the second – an almost picture-level composition in separate scenes. And catchy, muted color correction that sometimes makes the picture almost monochrome. The series has many excursions into the past, helping to understand the history and feelings of the heroines, and each jump in time stands out with its own color scheme – this creates an atmosphere of decline and hopelessness in the present.

June’s story is not finished, now the third season of the story of her life in Gilead is underway. And she, like many other Handmaidens, still has something to fight for.

Because she will not stop. This is her struggle, her revolution. The right to look up and find a voice.
For all of us.


Modern Classics

A significant piece of art, made with great talent and cutting through your skin.