That’s the part that always makes me break my suspension of disbelief. It might not have, a couple of years ago. But things are different now.
I have too many friends from Canada who keep calling me, wishing they could get out of there and down here…to a “free state” (their words – not mine). One sent me a video of Canadian police arresting a Christian pastor for continuing to hold church services during the pandemic.
It looked a lot like something from the show. Only the players and their ideologies were completely reversed. But it was chilling…and really happening.
I’m speaking of The Handmaid’s Tale. I know, I know…I’m late to the party. But I have a habit of not wanting to view things that are seen as “ripped from today’s headlines” and “prescient” and “so relevant” in the actual moment everyone is clamoring about it. I like to let those types of things age and then see how well they hold up and if their underlying premise is still plausible.
Also…we just got Hulu. Don’t judge.
Is Canada a totalitarian state now? Of course not.
But we’re all seeing what we’re all comfortable with.
More on that later.
As far as The Handmaid’s Tale goes …
I’m not sure I’ve ever see a more well done show than this one. The writing, acting, direction and production are all some of the best on any screen, anywhere. The suspense and drama leave you riveted and the stakes could not be higher…Every. Single. Moment.
It’s so tense that my wife and I can only digest about one episode a day. This one’s hard to binge. Your brain can only handle so much horribleness at a time. Then, you have to remind yourself that you’re watching a fiction series and everybody on the set is okay and safe.
But the underlying premise is one that sticks with me (and probably everyone else watching): could this ever really happen?
*** If you haven’t see the show, the following is a spoiler alert ***
Could something like the Republic of Gilead – a place established in America, after a military coup overthrows the government of United States and creates an uber-ordered, dystopian (that’s a writer’s word) society, where women are second or third-class citizens (dependent solely on their relationships to the powerful men in charge of everything), where homosexuals are seen as “gender traitors,” and eliminated from the face of the Earth (unless they can produce children), where these weird tiers of some brand of Biblical theology are the ruling principles, and where stepping out of line from those principles always (and I mean ALWAYS) results in swift, violent and often twisted and sadistic “justice.”
Could it happen?
Apparently (in the show), this uprising was a reaction to plummeting birth rates and an environmental crisis that has caused much of the world to be toxic for human habitation. The “handmaids” are the last fertile women left, who have the best shot at actually carrying a healthy child to term. So, they’re rounded up and forced to use those healthy ovaries to the advantage of a dying human race. And they’re not given a choice as to who the sperm donors will be.
As you can imagine, the men who took charge of everything are the first in line to be a part of such a “sacred” act. Go figure …
But could that actually happen? Are there people in the world that deranged? Are there people in the world who believe so strongly in their own cause, they would have no qualms instituting that cause by force?
Obviously, the Nazis actually did an awful lot of what we see in The Handmaid’s Tale. Comparisons to Nazis are easy in this type of drama. Nazis were the prototype for Hollywood villains. It’s like they were tryingto be stereotyped for the rest of human history.
But there is religious dogma associated with The Handmaid’s Tale as well. I was raised in religious dogma. And, when I came of age, I opted out of it. That’s the beauty of religious dogma in a free society. You can leave.
But what about dogma (religious or otherwise) that you can’t opt out of? Could that be put into place if the takes were high enough?
The sad part about it is, if you know anything about history or the state of the world, you know that it has ALL happened in the past and it’s ALL happening somewhere…even as I type this.
But it’s not necessarily always the suspects we all want it to be …
Years ago, Boko Haram (“A salafi terrorist organization” – according to Wikipedia) kidnapped 300 girls and forced them into servitude. You might remember the #saveourgirls campaign, started by Michelle Obama.
The hashtag was all the rage and everybody did it: All the music stars. All the acting stars. Probably even some people who are now a part of producing The Handmaid’s Tale.
But it didn’t work.
Those 300 girls actually did live out a nightmare like is portrayed in this fictional show, that’s so hard for me to watch. Those girls actually experienced it.
And guess what? No American military action saved them. No savvy diplomat showed up at the last minute to talk their captors into letting them go. No – everybody just tweeted about it and went on with their business.
The last report I saw about those girls was that they had all been raped repeatedly, forcibly impregnated and were all – ALL 300 – pregnant. That report was posted a few years ago. Their kids would all be born now, and living in some strata of dystopia, themselves.
There are a lot of real villains and real victims out there, right this very minute, who don’t have white faces, blonde hair or blue eyes? Does the world care?
Maybe we should ask John Cena or LeBron Jam… Oh, never mind. I’ve said too much already.
Watching The Handmaid’s Tale, post Covid, gives some interesting perspective. And, like all great art does, it forces you to ask questions of yourself.
Would you fight? Would you question? Would you stand up to tyranny? Where would you draw the line in the sand? How much freedom would you be willing to give up if the survival of the human race was actually in the balance?
The odd thing about the past 18 months, is that we’ve watched some of these questions and answers actually play out…in real time.
And now we actually know who might be okay with totalitarianism and who might not be.
And, as it turns out, it’s not always the people we need to believe it is.
It’s all about the impetus.
If we are told an unstable virus that kills .01 percent of its victims is on the loose, who will be compliant with the government –any government. Who will question the leaders or the science or the conclusions? Who won’t? How many freedoms will we simply surrender without question, as long as we believe the cause to be worth it?
What will you tolerate if you honestly think the world or the human race is about to end?
The answer to the question of who will be okay with an iron fist and who won’t be, is always found in one thing: who is the truest believer.
If you truly – and I mean truly – believe that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity, will you look the other way when the powers that be start regulating how much air conditioning you can use in the summer?
If you truly – down to your core – believe overpopulation is a plague on the planet, will you be good with allowing babies already born to be kept comfortable while the mom decides whether to kill them or not?
If you believe to your everlasting soul, that morality is the only way to get the human race back on track, will you stand aside and allow the civil rights of people you believe to be “deviants” be trampled?
How about if you’re not about religion – just science – and you are convinced that science demands that we trample some rights for the “greater good?”
Everyone has to answer these questions for themselves and find their own compass. But I’ll be honest…some of the trends we’ve seen over the past 18 months haven’t been reassuring.
Sometimes, those we think are going to be the freedom fighters end up being the compliant followers. And sometimes those we think are going to be the villains end up being the rebels.
And sometimes, Canada turns out to not be as free as it looks on TV.
Blessed be the fruit,
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