The media really needs to stop trying to make Atwood happen.
Ever since the 2016 election the press in general, and the entertainment media in particular, have been desperate to attach any significance in the culture to the Trump Presidency. Weeks after the election we were being sold the concept that movies being released — such as “Star Wars: Rogue One”, and “Hidden Figures” — were delivering messages to the new administration. This despite the reality the films had been in production and completed well before the election.
No other piece of entertainment has been said to be reflective and an indictment of the new President than the Hulu original program, “The Handmaid’s Tale”. The press loves nothing more than a ready-made metaphor. It serves as a digital version of a political cartoon; a bit of journalistic shorthand that can deliver their agenda in easily digestible form. How oppressive is the Trump term in office? Just look at this show!
It is with regularity that the show is hauled out to serve as a cautionary warning of contemporary oppression, and media members love it. David Corn proudly asked the rhetorical, “What does it say that watching The Handmaid’s Tale is escapism for me this [sic] days?” The Atlantic recently gave its lengthy screed on the show’s relevance, noting that Vice President Mike Pence won’t dine alone with another woman. (Um, is that not the opposite of female oppression, as well as honoring #MeToo calls against harassment?)
And CNN host Brian Stelter recently ran a documentary on the network about the program and Trump. That is, the network that bristles at the mention of “fake news” made a documentary and used as “proof” a dramatic television show, derived from a 30-year-old novel.
Add to this the repeated protests that crop up with women donning the iconic cloaks and hoods. These women supposedly despise the concept of the show so much they voluntarily subjugate themselves, much like the degraded females on the show? Okay, I suppose? As Brandon Morse pointed out here recently, most of the time these female activists do not even know about what they are protesting. What we get served then are women who dress in oppressive garb, as they are directed to do, in order to show displeasure with women being commanded to behave a certain way.
Except they are all well off the mark. For nearly two years now we have been lectured this storyline is a reflection of our leadership. Numerous times I have been told directly the policies and practices displayed in the program reflect the intentions of the GOP, and/or conservatism. These charges might hold up, but only if someone is disinclined to actually look into the specifics.
That Brian Stelter documentary is a great bit of comedy under analysis. For starters is this quote from show creator, Bruce Miller: “I would be very happy if my show became irrelevant as quickly as possible.” Now, if you think anyone in Hollywood is cheering for their program to fade from the headlines and end its string of awards (“Handmaid’s” has garnered Golden Globes and Emmys) then you may be the sort prone to believe this show is culturally relevant. But it is something even Brian Stelter himself does not believe.
For all the breathless immediate parallels he draws up in his documentary, those dramatics from him contradict his own prior opinion of the comparisons.
We are not "a few steps from The Handmaids Tale." I don't think this kind of fear-mongering helps anybody. https://t.co/EmxDNNeeML
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 26, 2018
i see the parallels in every episode. but we're hundreds if not thousands of steps away. there've been checkpoints on roads in border areas for decades. i was so frustrated by the long lines at customs YESTERDAY when traveling btwn US and Canada. but it's not Handmaids Tale…
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 26, 2018
Those tweets are only weeks before the airing of his documentary. Yet on his own program there is the very same Stelter saying with wide-eyed excitement: “Plotlines once thought to be too outlandish, are no longer.” Those are fairly dramatic words, but they are rendered risible when you consider this is the same man who admonished, “If people in prominent positions didn’t say ‘we’re a few steps’ from Handmaid’s Tale, there wouldn’t be quite so much fear.”
The simple fact is that to suggest the Margaret Atwood book is considered a blueprint for the Trump doctrine or conservative ideals, or even American policy, is to ignore some core facts. The list of details illustrates the departure from our political reality:
- “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a futuristic novel, i.e. fiction
- Atwood is Canadian
- She’s an avowed feminist
- Her book was written over thirty years ago, and published in 1985
- The oppressive government she concocts overtakes all religion, including Christianity
Despite the numerous departures here we are constantly told Trump policies, or Mike Pence’s devout Christian following reflects this extremist dystopia. A fantasy dreamed by a Canadian feminist is today being sold to us as de facto GOP party line; the concept is pure farce. But what of the new TV show? Surely that messaging has been contemporized!
On the Hulu program, women are gathered in response not to the misogyny of totalitarianism but societal and environmental conditions. The numbers of fertility among women and men have plummeted due to sexually transmitted disease and severe pollution. The so-called domination of women is not a capricious creation of a despotic regime bent on suppression, but on a need to keep the human race alive. Yes, the conditions are oppressive and even demeaning, but to somehow draw a comparison to any type of contemporary policy is folly.
Still, the press continues to attempt spoon-feeding us this facile message. Despite a lack of enforced legislation and the actual stripping of female rights hear in the US, the hysterics from the #Resist movement want to insist their pet fantasy is a legitimate record of real-world events.
There is a tell buried in Stelter’s documentary. In speaking with one of the female writers, Ilene Chaiken, we hear this clarifying comment: “We don’t do anything that hasn’t happened — isn’t happening — to women somewhere in the world. (emphasis added). And suddenly there has been an escape clause written into the accusation.
Technically, they are still accurate. Okay, so maybe Trump-Pence are not all that horrific, but that will not deter the media hurling the accusation. It is still more than appropriate to insinuate they are leading us to a contemporary Gilead — after all, look at all the women walking around in Atwood’s robes! (Just ignore they do so of their own accord…)
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