The Anachronistic Fears in The Handmaid's Tale

Scene from The Handmaid's TaleDaniel X O'Nell/Flickr (


I delayed tuning into The Handmaid's Tale because I thought it was going to try to score points about our current political climate, and frankly, counting up the daily point-scoring in social media is exhausting enough. But I remembered enjoying the book when I read it in high school, shortly after it came out, so I started my latest binge-watch.

The series starts out kind of slow, but as it goes deeper, there were times that I actually laughed out loud. As an impressionable 16 year old in the 1980s, the book was a mind-bending ride. I was left thinking about the nature of oppression against women, and for years, I looked at the relationship of women to power as one of inverse proportion. The more powerful one was, the less "feminine" one had to be.

Thirty-plus years later, with all the changes in American society — for better or worse (to quote wedding vows) — the warnings of this series seem anachronistic. Of course, everyone has an opinion (like other body parts), but if you want to neatly tuck left-right disputes into the Handmaid Tale's climate, you'd be hard pressed.

I don't see how anyone can make any accurate modern-day parallels that extend beyond the most basic and primary comparison. In other words, this program in no way represents our current dystopia in any discernible way.

If I were making any comparison at all, the tale is more reflective of Hitler's treatment of the Jews (and others) or current-day Saudi Arabia, which is to say, injustice exists. It does.

But we certainly don't live in a time when we accept that "better doesn't mean better for everyone" — at least not in 'Merica.

You would have to be living in a cave (or maybe an echo chamber) to think American women on ANY side of the political spectrum would allow this kind of crazy to go down.

I won't abide many "I told you so"s from political quarters about whether this make-believe environment is on the verge of coming to pass. Anyone who says it's "one election away" is part of the grievance culture. They make a living off dissension.

For the fun of it, I put together plot elements that don't fit into any neat pigeonhole political arguments in the U.S. Other observations describe inaccurate representations of human nature or modern American interpersonal relationships.

Feel free to add your own "makes no sense" descriptions in the comments.

Things That Don't Fit

1) "Cucks" have been wiped out by environmentalist human traffickers.

2) Mexico has a trade deficit with the U.S., specifically of migrant workers.

3) Fertility doctors only know the "good old-fashioned way" of getting women pregnant.

4) Women refuse to voluntarily serve as surrogates.

5) Boston is ground zero of a coup against the federal government.

6) Washington is prevented from exercising federal power or authority.

7) Rape victims don't love and want to keep their children born from violence.

8) Women fall in love with whichever man is closest in proximity.

9) Women and minorities don't own or know how to use guns/Liberal men can't protect "their" women.

10) Women are willing to accept wearing one of four apparel colors.

11) "Domestic feminists" ("traditional" women) have no career ambitions or veto power over their husbands.

12) Religious and happily married couples don't have great sex.

13) "Traditional" women are willing to sit idly in a room while their husbands have sex with another woman.

14) Men in power don't like loud or energetic sex, or have other sexual dysfunctions.

15) Only men are trash collectors (this actually may be true).

15) Ann Dowd is capable of playing only one character type.

Anything else? Sign in or use the "follow" button (top right of this page), and add it to the list.