Monday, May 8, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Watching "The Handmaid's Tale"

Like many of you, I'm sure, I've been watching the new television series "The Handmaid's Tale," based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel (which we read & discussed almost 10 years ago (!!) as part of Mel's Barren Bitches Book Brigade -- my contribution here). In the U.S., it's being shown on Hulu, which we don't get here in Canada -- but it is being shown here on the Bravo channel, which I do get as part of my cable TV package. Hulu releases new episodes on Wednesdays, currently up to episode 4;  Bravo broadcasts the show on Sundays and we just saw episode 3 last night.

There's a lot in both the book & the TV show that I can relate to -- and not just because (even though the book was written over 30 years ago) so many of the events & themes depicted seem to be pulled straight from the headlines. :(

For one thing, the show is filmed in Toronto;  I often recognize the buildings in the background (particularly in the "before" segments, where June/Offred is out & about in the city) and I can make a good guess at which part of the city the Waterfords' house is in. Which makes the story all the more eerie for me -- if you find yourself thinking "it could happen here" as you watch, I can REALLY picture it happening HERE, because it already has, on the TV screen...!

So many of the infertility themes resonate too. Mel posted recently about identifying with Serena Joy, her resentment of Offred and her fertility, and her humiliation over her presence in her bedroom. This week's episode (#3) had me wincing when Serena Joy & Martha were hovering over Offred, whose period is late (they seem to know it before she does...!) -- giving her extra food & flowers and quizzing her about pregnancy symptoms, preparing a nursery (already!!), their faces full of hope & expectation -- and then the disappointment when she tells them she's got her period. OK, I didn't have anyone waiting breathlessly on the outcome of my cycle (besides me & dh), because we never told anyone when we were going through treatment -- and I was never shoved to the floor & banished to my room when a pregnancy failed to materialize -- but the feeling of being watched hopefully by others for any signs of pregnancy (the endless hints...!); the feeling that I was letting people down when month after month, year after year, there was no baby; the feeling of being sidelined, dismissed, ignored (if not exactly outright punished) for my childlessness, my lack of fertility, my failure to reproduce -- all that sure seemed familiar.  Contrast the experience of Offred being punished and sent to her room (hidden, unseen, unvalued), while Janine/Ofwarren (poor, deluded Janine...), who did produce a baby for her Commander & his wife, gets ice cream...!

There's so much more I could say about this show, but this is supposed to be a microblog post, so I think I'll stop now. But I'll probably return to "The Handmaid's Tale" in future posts!

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.   


  1. I am so excited to watch this. I haven't started yet, but I feel like based on your description the interpretation is amazing. I found it interesting to reread The Handmaid's Tale as an infertile 40 year old, so I bet these scenes are going to pull at those visceral feelings as well. Oh, Janine. Okay, I have to start this sooner than later!

  2. Isn't it weird though that they're filming it in Toronto but still talking about it being Boston? It doesn't look like Boston at all. But I remember reading it in grad school (in Massachusetts) and saying, "Oh! I know exactly where that ice cream shop is." Or "there's a Newbury Comics in that space now."

    The treatment of the women is gutting me. It's funny -- things that don't bother me reading the book (I re-read it once a year or so), bother me a lot seeing them on the screen.

  3. Certainly the feeling of letting everyone down and feeling a little useless when you can't do what should come 'naturally' is a feeling I can relate too. My book club is going to read The Handmaid's Tale next and I'm looking forward to it!