‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Hits Hard in Covid-Era America

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The Handmaid’s Tale’s reward is prescience. From Margaret Atwood’s 1985 e-book being a harbinger of the conservative politics of the Reagan period, to the Hulu present’s eerie echoes of Donald Trump’s presidency, each incarnation speaks to the technology that receives it.

The present season of The Handmaid’s Tale, which launched Wednesday, capabilities fairly the identical. The totalitarian theocracy of Gilead nonetheless seems like an America the place the nation’s puritanical politics have run amok. Its antihero protagonist June (Elisabeth Moss) nonetheless serves as a stand-in for any girl who has seen her autonomy stripped away, and an avatar for the anger they really feel when it’s. All of the parallels that existed in seasons previous between Handmaids and trendy ladies looking for self-determination are nonetheless there. Yet, in the present’s fourth season, it’s the nuances—the refined grief, the misplaced moments—that hit the toughest.

The cause for that is easy: The finale of the sequence’ earlier season aired in August 2019, roughly 4 months earlier than Covid-19 emerged, almost seven months earlier than the lockdowns in the US, and what looks like a lifetime earlier than the second we’re in now. The final season existed in a world earlier than quarantine, earlier than social distancing, earlier than a pandemic turned face masks into one thing to be fought over. Put bluntly, it occurred earlier than our present disaster. The Handmaid’s Tale has all the time felt related as a result of it takes systemic points like reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ rights and offers them faces, narratives—and villains to be overthrown. Like somebody checked out patriarchy and mentioned “computer, enhance.” But as this present season rolls out, its grit lies in the way in which folks cope.

To be clear, nothing about dwelling with a pandemic is like dwelling in a totalitarian society. Not actually. The ladies of Gilead confront torture and indignities far faraway from day-to-day life in lockdown. Yet, one of many underlying themes of the present has all the time been how grief and trauma change folks, push them to do issues they wouldn’t usually do. Existing underneath fixed menace—whether or not it is from the federal government or a previously unknown virus—produces anxieties and ranges of dread that have to be endured, survived. In Covid-19 occasions, these realities have manifested in the whole lot from fights over getting vaccinated to going through the large disparities in which teams are being hardest hit by the virus. Our social contracts have been by no means preferrred to start with, however they’ve been massively disrupted over the past 12 months. And watching Handmaid’s Tale, it’s onerous to not recall how rapidly communities can come collectively, or disintegrate, when confronted with adversity.

This is maybe most acutely witnessed in the lives of people that aren’t June. During Season Four’s first three episodes—those that dropped this week—when the motion cuts away from Gilead, it shifts to Toronto, the place her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and greatest good friend Moira (Samira Wiley) are main the efforts to rescue folks from their authoritarian neighbor to the south. Luke holds out hope that June will sooner or later be free, but additionally questions why she’s chosen to remain and struggle when she may’ve escaped. Moira and Emily (Alexis Bledel), each of whom did get out of Gilead with June’s assist, battle with survivors’ guilt. They’re confronted with shifting on with their lives whereas figuring out others can’t and that the disparities between Canada and Gilead are huge. In different occasions, such moments won’t have stood out; watching them now, it is onerous to not see parallels to those that have acquired the Covid-19 vaccine and perhaps by no means had Covid. They can transfer on, however they accomplish that figuring out not everybody strikes with them.

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