The Handmaid’s Tale

This is a TV dramatisation of Margaret Attwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The reason I mention the year this book was published is that the author set the story in the future. However when you watch this 10-part series it may seem familiar and you will mistakenly think that it was written post-election of Trump.

Elisabeth Moss starring in Handmaid's Tale

In a dystopian near-future, the totalitarian and Christian fundamentalist government of Gilead rules the former United States amidst an ongoing civil war. Society is organised along a new, militarised, hierarchical regime of Bible-inspired social and religious fanaticism and newly-created social classes, in which women are brutally subjugated, and by law are not allowed to work, own property, control money, or read. Widespread infertility due to warfare-induced environmental contamination has resulted in the conscription of the few remaining fertile women — called Handmaids, according to Biblical precedent — who are assigned to the homes of the ruling elite, where they must submit to ritualised sex with their male masters in order to become pregnant and bear children for those men and their wives.

The main character, Offred (Elisabeth Moss), is the Handmaid assigned to the home of Gileadan Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his religious wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), and as such is subject to the strictest rules and constant scrutiny; an improper word or deed on her part can lead to her execution. Offred, who is named after her male master like all Handmaids, can remember the “time before”, when she was married with a daughter and had her own name and identity, but all she can safely do now is follow the rules of Gilead in the hope that she can someday live free and reunite with her daughter.

The Handmaid’s Tale is terrifying because it is timeless. The election of Trump has ignited a sense that Americans can say what they think no matter how racist or mysoginist the remark may be. Watch this series remembering that this story was written over 30 years ago.