The marketers behind Hulu's new miniseries, "The Handmaid's Tale," must be geniuses. A remake of the classic 1985 dystopian novel, the show has generated lots of free press comparing the theocratic right-wing dictatorship in the story to President Trump's administration.
Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Ann reports that she's "lost count" of the number of articles that describe the series as "timely":
Here's just a short list of print and online outlets where the T-word appears in connection with the re-creation of Atwood's fictional America turned into a grim theocracy called Gilead that treats women like breeding cattle: the Hollywood Reporter, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Mother Jones, Harper's Bazaar, the Daily Beast, Bustle, NPR, and CNN. The 77-year-old Atwood herself chimed in, telling the Los Angeles Times' Patt Morrison: "We're no longer making fiction — we're making a documentary."
Elizabeth Moss, who portrays the main character Offred, fed into the Trump hype in a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, joking with the audience tongue-in-cheek, "I don't know if you can imagine such a world."
What exactly is the world of "The Handmaid's Tale," and does it bare any resemblance to today? The story is set in a dystopian near-future in which the United States government has been taken over in a violent coup d'état by the Sons of Jacob, a fundamentalist Christian cult. The new government, now called the Republic of Gilead, replaces the Constitution with a warped interpretation of Biblical law, eliminating women's rights. Middle-class ladies like Offred can't read and are only deemed useful as "Handmaids" for the elite, birthing their children.
The stark contrast between the twisted vision of the future presented by "The Handmaid's Tale" should be obvious to any casual observer. Remember, Trump regularly bragged about how great he is on women's rights on the campaign trail. Also, Vice President Mike Pence has been getting flack recently for calling his wife "mother" and not dining with other ladies without her. Does this sound like a world where women are subservient?
As Megan McArdle points out in Bloomberg, there are no modern Sons of Jacob:
America hasn't had a unified theocratic tradition since the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the descendants of those Puritans are now pouring their fervent moralism into buying Priuses and complaining about Trump. The closest modern equivalent, the statewide hegemony of the Latter-day Saints in Utah, doesn't look very much like The Handmaid's Tale, and hasn't the faintest prayer of co-opting the rest of the nation's fractured religious traditionalists, many of whom do not even consider the Mormons to be Christian.
One can accuse the Trump administration of many things: Being religious zealots is not one of them. Indeed, the only God that the administration seems to zealously worship is Trump's ego. Any comparison to the dystopian vision of "The Handmaid's Tale" is a marketing ploy, pure and simple.
Casey Given (@CaseyJGiven) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the executive director of Young Voices.
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