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The Handmaid’s TaleThe gift of foreknowledge is foreknowledge. From the 1985 book by Margaret Atwood, the precursor of Reagan-era conservative politics, to the Hulu show strange echoes From Donald Trump’s presidency, each incarnation speaks to the generation that receives it.
The current season of The Handmaid’s Tale, which launched on Wednesday, works much the same way. Gilead’s totalitarian theocracy still resembles an America where the country’s Puritan politics have been unleashed. Its anti-hero protagonist June (Elisabeth Moss) still serves as a surrogate for any woman who has seen her autonomy stripped, and an avatar for the anger she feels when she is. All of the parallels that existed in the past seasons between handmaids and modern women seeking self-determination are still there. Yet in the show’s fourth season, it was the nuances – the subtle heartbreak, the lost moments – that hit the hardest.
The reason is simple: the series’ previous season finale aired in August 2019, about four months before. Covid-19 emerged, nearly seven months before lockdowns in the United States, and what feels like a life before the moment we are now. The final season existed in a pre-quarantine world, before social distancing, before a pandemic turned face masks into something to fight over. Clearly, this happened before our current crisis. The Handmaid’s Tale has always felt relevant because it takes systemic issues like reproductive freedom and LGBTQ + rights and gives them faces, narratives and villains to be overthrown. Like someone is looking at the patriarchy and saying “computer, improve”. But as this season unfolds, his courage lies in how people cope.
To be clear, nothing about living with a pandemic is like living in a totalitarian society. Not really. The women of Gilead face torture and indignities far removed from everyday life in lockdown. Yet one of the underlying themes of the show has always been how grief and trauma changes people, causes them to do things they normally wouldn’t do. Existing under constant threat – whether from the government or from a once-unknown virus – produces anxieties and levels of terror that must be endured, survived. During the time of Covid-19, these realities manifested themselves in everything from fights to get vaccinated to confrontation huge disparities in which groups are most affected by the virus. Our social contracts were never ideal at first, but they have been massively disrupted over the past year. And watch The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s hard not to remember how quickly communities can come together or disintegrate when faced with adversity.
This is perhaps most vividly observed in the lives of people who are not June. In the first three episodes of season four – the ones that dropped this week – when the action ends with Gilead, she moves to Toronto, where her husband Luke (OT Fagbenle) and best friend Moira (Samira Wiley) lead. efforts to save people. of their authoritarian neighbor to the south. Luke hopes June will one day be free, but also wonders why she chose to stay and fight when she could have escaped. Moira and Emily (Alexis Bledel), both exited from Gilead with June’s help, battle the guilt of the survivors. They must move on with their lives knowing that others cannot and that the disparities between Canada and Gilead are vast. At other times, such moments may not have stood out; looking at them now, it’s hard not to see parallels with those who received the Covid-19 vaccine and who may never have had Covid. They can move on, but they do so knowing that not everyone is moving with them.