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  • Martina Bekasha

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale stands as a fictional television series available on the streaming platform Hulu. Adapted from the novel by author Margaret Atwood, the series is a screen rendition of her original work. Prior to delving into the contents of this blog, it is essential to preface with a trigger warning. This show encompasses themes that involve torture, rape, forced pregnancy, an oppressive government, and sexism. Viewer discretion is advised due to the potentially distressing nature of the subject matter.

The series is set in Gilead, a fictitious totalitarian state portrayed in The Handmaid's Tale. The narrative portrays Gilead as a theocratic dictatorship that has overtaken the United States. The Gilead governance is distinguished by its extreme religious fundamentalism and a social structure that is dominated by males. The fertility rates in Gilead have significantly declined as a result of environmental causes and a prevalent state of infertility. In response, a strict class system is established to regulate the population, in which fertile women are designated as "handmaids" whose sole role is to procreate for the ruling elite. The civilization is characterized by stringent social roles, pervasive monitoring, and severe consequences for those who transgress from the established standards. The term "Gilead" has biblical undertones since it refers to a specific area described in the Bible. The selection of this name highlights the regime's dependence on religious ideology as the foundation of its power. Gilead is an unsettling and foreboding realm that arose when religious extremism became entangled with governmental authority, resulting in the subjugation of women and the gradual degradation of fundamental human rights.

The series categorizes women into four distinctive roles with complex classification: Handmaids, Jezebels, Aunts, and Wives.

A handmaid is a fertile woman given the responsibility of procreating children for the governing elite. They wear distinctive red clothing and adhere to a meticulously controlled and ceremonial reproductive process. Handmaids are seen as possessions of the government, primarily tasked with procreating for the privileged ruling class, namely the spouses of influential politicians.

The women employed at Jezebels establishments, including the women engaged in prostitution, often consist of people who have experienced a loss of favor or have failed to adhere to Gilead's stringent rules. This includes women who were formerly married or serving as Handmaids but have been classified as insubordinate or defiant.

Aunts are women who are tasked with the responsibility of instructing and instilling the beliefs and principles in the handmaids. Their role includes supervising the education and training of the handmaids, equipping them for their reproductive responsibilities. Aunts possess a position of power and control over handmaids, and their primary responsibility is to guarantee the handmaids' adherence to Gilead's stringent laws. They have a crucial function in strengthening the ideological principles of the system.

Wives are women belonging to the privileged social class of Gilead. They usually enter into marriage with those who have prominent positions, such as high-ranking officials or commanders. Wives use blue attire as a symbol of their praised position. Contrary to handmaids, spouses do not possess a direct responsibility in the process of childbirth. They are anticipated to oversee domestic affairs, engage in religious practices, and enforce the social conventions prescribed by the Gileadean rule.

The narrative centers on Offred, a handmaid, who is among the women tasked with the responsibility of procreating for the ruling elite. The series delves into the difficulties encountered by Offred as she maneuvers through the repressive system, emphasizing the severe repercussions of defiance and the complex dynamics inside Gilead. Flashbacks give glimpses into the protagonists' pre-Gilead life, presenting a contrast between the past and the current dystopian state. Viewers see Offred's emotional conflicts, interactions with other characters, and efforts to defy the tyrannical dictatorship as she confronts her appointed position. The story develops with a sense of unease and anticipation, gradually uncovering the complexities of Gilead's social structure and the backgrounds of the characters.

The series is now in its fifth season, and the much awaited sixth season is scheduled for release in 2024. For those eager to dive into the captivating narrative, all existing five seasons are readily accessible on Hulu, providing a binge-worthy viewing experience!

-Martina Bekasha

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