The Handmaid’s Tale

29 May

[ezcol_2third]'Horrifying': The Handmaid's Tale has left viewers in the UK shocked after the first episode finally aired on Channel 4 on Sunday night [/ezcol_2third] [ezcol_1third_end]‘Best thing you’ll watch all year’, insists Guardian critic Sam Wollaston apropos last night’s opener. I doubt it, for all it stars an Elisabeth Moss who played Peggy to perfection in Mad Men. She wasn’t too bad as Robin in the New Zealand drama, Top of the Lake, either. Without her I wouldn’t be watching at all.[/ezcol_1third_end]

Over the years I’ve twice begun this dystopian feminist vision, and twice given up on it – a thing I rarely do with a novel – as woodenly predictable. Seventeenth century Massachusetts garb and post holocaust premise don’t help, striking me as lazily unimaginative in the way Michael Rosen had in mind with his blank verse on fascism:

I sometimes fear that
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
worn by grotesques and monsters
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

I’ll hang on in though. I have this sneaking worry, you see, that maybe I cheated on myself with the book, and should have hung on in there too. (As a boy I never gave up on any story once I’d started reading, always giving benefit of doubt till final page.) And maybe Ms Moss and Co can convince me this dreary tale does more than mix Orwell and Marge Piercy, though I’ll eat my keyboard if it lives up to Wollaston’s best-of-the-year hype. We’re currently seeing a golden age of TV drama, not least due to the strong female characterisations underpinning such as Happy Valley, Line of Duty and Hollow Crown. All – including the Shakespeare, thanks to state of art recording and splendid acting (Sophie Okonedo’s Margaret of Anjou!!) drawing out the power of the language with no loss in subtlety – are a far cry from what seems to me, though I’ll try to keep an open mind, the heavyhandedness of Margaret Atwood’s theocratic nightmare.

2 Replies to “The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. Great production but :
    another example of mysery drama. Mysery with no resolution.
    We are never told how the theocracy took power.
    We are offered no suggestions as to how to overturn it.
    There are hints that there is a subversive counter- revolutionary organisation, called mayday. But there is nothing about how it is organised.
    If we are opposed to fascism, we need to know how it comes into being so that we can prevent it.
    If it happens, we need to know how to organise to defeat it.
    This book and tv series do neither.
    We know how terrible it would be if it came about.
    I, for one, will be executed.

    And the mystery is why this has been an A level text.

    • You have the drop on me Doug. I’ve still only seen episode 1. I keep putting off delivering on my promise to self to watch the whole. It feels a bit of a chore TBH.

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