I read The Handmaids Tale many years ago and to be honest I can’t remember it very well. Back then it was just some sci-fi I was reading at uni to try to understand how Puritanism is embedded in the American mind. Later on, after reading Brave New World, I even started confusing the colour coding of the respective distopic social classes, so this new Hulu series, with its strong visual impact, is especially useful to me.
But despite all the fabulous costumes, the terrific acting and a wintertime colder than in Westeros, I was kind of bored and simply depressed here and there while watching. The parts I truly enjoyed where the characters understand what went wrong in the past and when exactly, when they plan to run away, the actual running, resistance and general disobedience. What a wimp I am, I thought, trained over the years by action-movie narratives and the rhetoric of the happy ending, now man up and face the claustrophobia, the amputations and the raw despair.
I was feeling a bit guilty, because I was only skimming the feminist surface while waiting for a spark of adventure involving Canada. You see how these days everyone wants to flee to Canada, but I have a long history of finding refuge in Canada that dates back to the early X-Files times.
Luckily, today I read this excellent article by Margaret Atwood herself, who recalls how she wrote the novel while living in West Berlin, which makes a lot of sense actually, and how she dealt with writing her fist sci-fi work and why she decided to describe only atrocities that humankind had actually committed at some point of history.
This is how I realized that The Handmaid’s Tale is story about activism, and I should not feel ashamed for longing the bits where the activism is internalized, plotted and done.
Now I want more.
But I hope they’re not going to rush the second season though, because Atwood’s novel offers an open ending, while the second season of the series will be forced to decide whether Nick is evil or not, which is potentially heartbreaking.
Also I think reality is going to have an immediate impact on the writing, which is not reassuring. This is how Atwood puts it.
Q. Is the U.S. on the road to becoming a place like Gilead?
A. Well, let’s just say you’re not on the road that leads away from it. I think in some states you’re getting pretty close, but without the perks. By which I mean, in Gilead, if you’re a handmaid and you’re expected to produce babies for the state, at least you get three meals a day.