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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 15, 2018

The Handmaid’s Tale Review: A Bleak Look Into The Dystopian Future Where Women Are Treated Like Doormats

HULU’S ‘THE Handmaid’s Tale’ is an acclaimed drama series that has won awards and we watched it upon the recommendation of a friend. Set in a dystopian hypothetical future where women are so oppressed, an extremist fundamentalist group has overthrown the U.S. government and renamed it the Republic of Gilead that will out-Quaker the Quakers and out-Amish the Amish. They spouse a religious ideology that debunks all other religious groups and comes up with a totally patriarchal and fanatical society where human rights are curtailed and women’s rights are seriously trampled. Civil rights are allowed only in favor of men, who are pictured here as heartless, merciless villains.

Birthrates have plummeted and most women have become barren, so all the fertile women are then gathered to be handmaids, more like breeding cows impregnated by the new society’s powerful male leaders. They are renamed after the men who they serve. So if you’re boss is named Fred, you are called Offred to reflect the name of your master, like what happened to June Osborne (Elizabeth Moss, also the show’s producer) who becomes the handmaid or sex slave of Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski.)

The show is based on the 1985 book of Canadian author Margaret Atwood, which has been filmed before starring the late Natasha Richardson as the handmaid called Kate, Robert Duvall as the Commander and Faye Dunaway as the wife, scripted by playwright Harold Pinter and directed by Volker Schlondorff. The story is actually reminiscent of similar futuristic films like Alfonso Cuaron’s acclaimed “Children of Men” (2006) and the TV thriller series about neo-Nazis and fascism, “Man in the High Castle”.

In the “Handmaid’s” TV series, women are so brutally maltreated, in the most dehumanizing ways, not only physically but also emotionally and psychological. Homosexuals, both male and female, are also cruelly persecuted and even mutilated for gender treachery. Truth to tell, this far fetched mysogynistic story is hard to imagine happening now in real life.

An anti-feminist regime would never gain a foothold in the U.S. today since they currently have a number of strong, influential and legally armed women in their society like Hilary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, Sheryl Sandberg and many more, who surely won’t take things like this sitting down and fight tooth and nail to resist such a foolish idea. There are also active movements now like Me Too and Time’s Up that are strongly espousing women’s rights. Even more so in the case of homosexuals, as they now have a very strong and militant LGBT community.

We concede that the series, though very slow paced, is so handsomely produced, with dazzling production design and truly impressive cinematography, but this is not enough to sustain our interest and involvement in it. Elizabeth Moss is quite okay as the main protagonist, June aka Offred, the anchor-narrator through whose eyes we see the story. We know she’s also the show’s producer so it’s but natural for her to choose playing the lead role. But she should not have allowed Yvonne Strahovski to play the role of Serena.

Yvonne just looks so beautiful on screen with her fantastic bone structure and you can’t help but feel that if their roles were reverse, Yvonne would have been more sympathetic as Offred. Honestly, we couldn’t believe it that Joseph Fiennes as the husband would prefer the plain looking Moss over her, since the elegant looking Yvonne is just every inch more dazzling and ravishing. We think she’s just being wasted in her seething contravida role.