The Handmaid's Tale: Season (open spoilers)

The fact that the show writers are compelled to keep having June return to Gilead reveals one of their big weaknesses - they are unable to tell a compelling story about Gilead without June being part of it, and vice versa.

A show with deeper world-building and immersion would have been able to deliver gripping episodes taking place in Gilead having nothing to do with June if the plot required it. There’s SO MUCH unexplored story material there - a deeper look into the world of the Marthas or the “aunts”, or a look into how Gilead’s military trains its “guardians” and how it managed to ensnare capable and well-meaning young men into its ideological doctrines (or maybe they just recruited psychopaths and rejects from the normal military - interesting question, but we’ll never know because they haven’t explored it). Fuck, I’d like to see how Gilead handles its most basic logistics - sanitation, utilities, maintaining the railroad that we saw being used by running trains a few episodes ago - a show like The Wire was capable of delivering a riveting drama about guys who moved around cargo containers at a dock.

Not every scene of every episode needs to consist of Elizabeth Moss grimacing. But Handmaid’s show runners seem incapable of fleshing out the world that they’ve had free reign over ever since the first season ended and the material of the original book was exhausted.

Some of the most compelling episodes have been world-building. Like the Season 1 flashback that shows all women being denied credit and laid off their jobs. Or the more recent trip to Washington, with the cross-shaped Washington Monument. Why did they blow up the Lincoln Memorial? Who knows? What are the exiled women doing in the apocalyptic hellscape? How much of the old U.S.A. is left? Why is there a Republic of Texas? These would be much more interesting than watching another scene of Fred and Serena scowling at each other.

I’ve abandoned the show but will keep checking this thread to see how it comes out. :slight_smile:

Well, I’d like to think the pro-Waterford protesters were widely ridiculous, but real life has proven otherwise. :roll_eyes: Still, the irony of women holding protest signs that in Gilead they’d loose fingers just for reading. I did like the reminder that the rest of the world is still having an infertility crisis; it’s easy to forget that.

Yeah, I know a lot of crazy fundamental Christians, but I can’t imagine them supporting the Waterfords.

The writing has gone downhill, I think. Also, I’m not crazy about the new June-as-evil-overlord angle. It doesn’t help that I recently learned that Moss is another of those Scientology crackpots, which lowers my estimation of her by several million points.

Yeah, if Gilead was pushing Scientology instead of fundamentalist Christianity…

That said…I too wish there was more world building. Some indication that Gilead-ism is getting a foothold in Canada in the last episode. Is it spreading world wide? More idea on the battle of anti vs. pro Gilead-ism would be welcome. Just from a fan perspective would love to see Gilead suffer some serious setbacks.

Actually…we don’t really know that Gilead is a Christian theocracy. We don’t really know much about Gileadism at all – we’ve seen no religious rituals, nobody stating their beliefs. We just know that they believe in subjugating women based on some religious justification.

The only evidence of Christianity we’ve seen is the cross/Washington Monument, but that was a creation of the show runners, not Margaret Atwood.

Well the original book is filled biblical references and we know Gilead isn’t a Jewish theocracy since Jews were either forced to convert or “immigrate to Israel” (with the implication most were dumped at sea by corrupt shipping companies). Everything revealed about the state religion of Gilead tracks with it being derived from fundamentalist Christianity.

True. It’s a little strange that Jesus’ name has never been spoken in the show – perhaps the show runners didn’t want to offend Christians too much.

Right. They read from Scripture, but are obviously not Jewish. Every fundamentalist I’ve ever come across will talk about Jesus quite a bit. To de-emphasize Jesus and just talk about God is curious.

The Gilead religion may not be Jewish as Jews today would define it, but it is closer to the form of Judaism that would have been practiced by the original Jews in Biblical times than it is to Christianity. There is zero emphasis on Jesus or the Trinity and everything in their laws comes from the ancient, vindictive, draconian Old Testament days. I guess it also has some similarities to fundamentalist Islam but one thing that is very important in the Islamic world is rigorous daily prayer and we hardly ever see the Gilead people actually pray. They may utter weird little catchphrases all the time but that isn’t really prayer.

I think the original Gilead of Margaret Atwood’s book was based on a combination of Saudi Arabia and Stalinist Russia.

As you also said, Atwood took inspiration from fundamentalist Islam and also from autocracies such as Stalinist Russia.

But I’m guessing that the lack of mentions of Jesus in both the original book and the series are NOT meant to let fundamentalist Christianity off the hook as being a system based on oppression.

It’s just that Atwood (and the show’s creators) want to ‘universalize’ the message about religious fundamentalism and its inevitable structure-- and the consequences for those at the bottom of the power hierarchy.

(My opinion; I don’t have specific quoted remarks to offer.)

Here is my humble opinion, so take it for what it is worth. I don’t care what Atwood thought. She wrote a book that the series was based on. The TV show should rise or fall on its own depictions and its own messaging without reference to anything Atwood wrote, said, or meant.

In the show, the Washington Monument was turned into a cross. They quote from the Judeo-Christian Bible. This is some sect of fundamentalist Christianity.

Actually I don’t think we’ve heard them quote anything at all. Nothing from the Old Testament, New Testament, Koran, Bhagavad-Gita or The Hobbit. All we have to go on is that Gilead is a location mentioned in the OT.

I think they have recited a few Biblical verses - I think it was during the last season, and I remember it because it was so strange, since they never do it.

Just how the Gilead people actually worship their God when they’re not in full-on evil mode (I mean, I guess they’re always on it, but when they’re not beating, raping, and killing people, is what I mean) is another one of the many missed opportunities of world-building. It makes them seem one-dimensionally evil. Yes, they are evil, most of them irredeemably so. (All the ones who were insufficiently enthusiastic were killed, I guess? Another thing the audience should have been shown, but wasn’t.) The Gilead-eans never seem to discuss or ponder their faith in the religion they practice. Even just one scene of some people talking - “You know, I used to be Greek Orthodox [or whatever], but after listening to Commander [whoever] preach back when this all first started, it really resonated with me that God would want us to [be eeeeevil and everything], I can’t believe there was ever a time when I thought differently.” “Yeah, me either. You know, I applied for ordination as a youth pastor. I want the kids [you know, those people whose conception our whole evil society is supposedly based around] to really learn how Gilead saved humanity and to not take it for granted.”

There’s not one iota of this on the show. Now, the first season, based on the book, didn’t need it because it was a gripping story that totally revolved around the experiences of the protagonist, June. And that was fine. But if the writers are going to leave the book behind and do their own thing for multiple seasons, they need to do more world-building and they haven’t.

I would have to refresh my memory, but the whole rape/impregnation ritual was taken from the story of how Jacob took a handmaid in the Old Testament and as part of the ritual they read a passage from the OT.

Quite correct that it’s Old Testament, and explicitly based on Jacob and his wife’s handmaid. It seems likely that another Genesis story, that of Sarah’s handmaid Hagar being impregnated by Sarah’s husband Abraham under Sarah’s direction, contributes as well.

But other elements come from the New Testament; for example the Marthas are named for the story of Jesus visiting the family of siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (and Martha doing all the scutwork).

Right. I had two points which I believe are pertinent:

  1. I am watching the television show. I am not reading the book. I don’t care what Atwood said in the book, in interviews, subsequent writings, or other commentary. The television show is its own work that should stand on its own and describe itself by its story and depictions.

  2. The show does make near (zero?) mention of Jesus. Probably a writing decision not to piss off Christians. But nonetheless the Washington Monument is turned into a cross and the OT is quoted in the rape/impregnation scenes. This is not a Muslim, Athieist, Buddhist, or Hindu sect. It is a fundamentalist Christian sect. But not to say that fundamentalist Christians would agree with the preachings of Gilead. As crazy as those fuckers are, I don’t see them as that bad.

Atwood made it fairly clear in an interview I heard that it was basically old misogynistic holders of power using whatever tools they had to hand to continue to assert and control. I suspect if there were no convenient bits of the Bible, they’d just be using anything handy to provide an ideological justification for their actions.

Have we seen any sign of an established clergy, rather than just that very Protestant American [?and European] seamless blurring of civic self-nominated religious / civic leadership?

I would also like to believe, and I am sure Atwood would support me, that they call themselves Gileadidleans, in homage to Ned Flanders, the most pious person they know. Blessed be the fruit.