The Handmaid’s Tale’s dark mirror

Now more than ever we are looking for our entertainment to tell us that everything will be alright. In a world of Trump, Putin, Boris Johnson, and Brexit, if our films, music, books, plays and television shows reflected the times… well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty.

And that’s exactly the point of The Handmaid’s Tale (HT)… it’s not pretty at all. In fact, I feel very comfortable in saying that the show isn’t entertainment. There are endless think-pieces about how HT is torture porn, how it’s not feminist enough, and how it’s so bleak that it becomes exploitative.

Be that as it may,  I also feel very comfortable is saying that The Handmaid’s Tale is now the second best show I have ever set eyes on. But the relentless criticism that the show has received for its bleak second season – a season light on plot but rich in symbolism, deep meaning, and fantastic acting – has me worried for its future. The show should never, ever, EVER be easy to watch.

The genius of the Handmaid’s Tale is in the various ways it makes the audience feel uncomfortable. I agree with much of the criticism that it’s so bleak and difficult to watch, but this is because the show is becoming more and more reflective of the world we are now occupying – and it’s ugly. It’s no longer scaremongering to suggest that the horrors being inflicted on women in the show could happen in the very near future – just look at the rise in popularity of powerful authoritarian and religious strongmen across the globe. The Handmaid’s Tale is right in pointing out how scary that shit is.

As a human with a penis who is rarely surprised at much within ‘entertainment’, I find it surprising at how genuinely frightening I find the show. I watch it with my wife and it’s clear HT touches her in deep and profound ways, but I’m not left unscathed. I feel a mix of terror and shame when I watch this show because I know that if any of it was to happen, I would probably be ok. But my wife, mothers, aunts, and daughters however…

I love The Handmaid’s Tale because it is a show with a message and it really doesn’t give a shit whether you or I want to hear it or not. I applaud the bravery of each and every single person involved in producing this show and long may it continue.


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