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The Handmaid's Tale

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  The Handmaid's Tale
Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is a wonderfully realized take on a bleak story that has long resonated with feminist and non-feminist alike. Atwood set her novel in an alternative New England called the Republic of Gilead. Religious fundamentalists, the Sons of Jacob, were determined to restore a dying society with Old Testament family values. The Sons of Jacob considered strict adherence to scripture to be the elixir to fix a broken world plagued by pollution and infertility. They launched a revolution by murdering the President and most of Congress, and, under the pretext of restoring order, suspend the Constitution, and create a regime based on religion. The Sons of Jacob’s mission is to bring back family values to what they consider a broken world plagued by pollution and infertility. Unfortunately, instead of benefiting humanity, their movement becomes a brutal totalitarian theocracy that subjugates its citizenry, especially women, under a reign of terror and repression.
The new regime morphs into a fanatical militarized cult that reorganizes society in the manner of a jack-Mormon cult with a male hierarchy, prescribed garments, and sister wives. The government deprives women of their power, forbids them to read, and places them squarely under the thumb of men. The most controlled faction are a class of females called “handmaids,” fertile women forced to cohabitate with other women’s husbands in order to produce children.

Showrunner Warren Littlefield has assembled an amazing group of writers, directors and most notably, actors. Elizabeth Moss, one of the best actors working today, has the role of her life as the protagonist, Offred, a handmaid ripped away from a loving husband and child and whose only value to society is her ability to produce children. Every onscreen moment is nuanced, quiet perfection reminiscent of the best of silent films. Moss utilizes every tool in her acting arsenal and can do more with silence than many actors can do with a lengthy soliloquy. The superlative supporting cast includes Yvonne Strahovski, as Serena Joy, the dedicated wife who allows Gilead to strip of her humanity and power, all for the greater good. Alexis Bledel is marvelous in a surprising turn as a rebellious handmaid. The great Ann Dowd gives a chilling performance as Aunt Lydia, a trainer of the handmaids who alternates mind-blowing cruelty with incredible compassion. Joseph Fiennes displays sensitivity blended with steel in the role of Fred, the Commander, who attempts to manipulate his handmaid with kindness, and Max Minghella as the seductive and dangerous Nick, the Commander’s darkly handsome driver who becomes Offred’s secret lover. Actor O.T. Fagbenle is the embodiment of a hero as Offred’s husband. The Handmaid’s Tale is a must-see for anyone interested in compelling drama and a frightening reminder of why separation of Church and State is in everyone’s interest.


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