May 5, 2018

Feminist anxiety when a supposedly feminist TV show leans into the torture of women.

Lisa Miller (at The Cut) decides to stop watching "The Handmaid’s Tale."

There was Episode 1 of Season 2, where "our favorite characters are unrelentingly tortured — electrocuted with cattle prods, kicked, threatened with dogs, chained to a gas stove and burned, left alive on a gallows covered with urine."

And Episode 2: "[A] vast army of female slaves, barely alive, forced to dig all day in toxic waste until they die.... ]T]he soundtrack is mostly a constant, minor-key moan, like the wind through a cracked window, punctuated by the wailing and coughing of women, and screams."

Miller wonders:
Why am I watching this? It all feels so gratuitous... For season one, I agreed with the critical consensus. This is Important Television. A feminist parable, adapted from a novel by a woman, which was awarded eight Emmys — mostly to women — about the potential excesses of patriarchy, not so unimaginable now in the era of Pence and Trump.....
So you went along with the crowd that seemed like the right crowd. Why didn't you think for yourself? Why would the excesses of patriarchy take that form in the United States? Physically cruel, enforced captivity? That's not how we get people to submit to limited sex roles. So what if a woman dreamed up the idea? It's not an aptly imagined vision of how the subordination of women would be accomplished in American in our time. It's a sadistic, titillating fantasy, and it distracts the viewer from the way the real America tempts you into a cage with an open door. How lamely self-soothing to think that the problem is over there with Pence and Trump.

After one season and 2 episodes, Miller has a glimmer:
It’s feminist to watch women enslaved, degraded, beaten, amputated, and raped? How exactly am I participating in a women’s revolution by sitting on my comfy cozy bed and consuming this?...
The idea crosses her mind: Am I watching... porn? I'm paraphrasing. She puts it ditheringly. I mean, it's dithering just to put it in question form. To be straightforward, to talk like my idea of a feminist, you should say: I am watching porn! But Miller goes like this:
This question of porn in particular preoccupies me. There are many definitions of porn, many varieties, and the dilemma of whether pornography is a freedom or a tool of oppression continues to divide feminists. My concern in this case is fairly clear: that the violence against women in season 2 is indulgent, operatic, and designed to rouse if not pleasure then a visceral, physical response, that The Handmaid’s Tale has devolved from feminist horror into very conventional misogynistic entertainment. It’s a fantasia of women being debased and dehumanized, individually and en masse but disingenuously packaged as virtuous dystopian prophesy.
It's devolved. And only in Season 2. Please challenge yourself to critique Season 1 and the Atwood novel itself. If you're this slow picking up clues, how the hell will you notice when subtle, insidious cultural trends are subordinating you?!
Is the positioning of Handmaid’s Tale as smart, leftist political commentary protective against charges that it exploits women?...
It is if you let that sort of thing work on you. But you could put real feminism first.

124 comments:

exhelodrvr1 said...

There is no "real feminism" left on the left.

rhhardin said...

That was my feeling on I Spit on Your Grave. There's tits then torture, and revenge torture. Lots of torture.

The tits are there to get audience but who's the audience for torture.

You wind up sitting through torture to get tits. A propriety opposite of I Am Curious Yellow, where you sit through cinema art to get tits.

More likely though it's an untalented screenwriter room.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Feminism needs more voices like Althouse to help them forge a path, because it is exactly the lack of internal questioning like this that has led them astray and marginalized them.

Of course it'll never happen. Still ...

Ann Althouse said...

I feel like Miller is noticing that she's been traveling on the Overground Hell Road.

rhhardin said...

Althouse needs a what-makes-women-happy realization moment to get the right feminism.

The public femminism of the day is too obvious a target.

Shouting Thomas said...

Women have no complaint in the U.S. You have no complaint.

Feminism is a bullshit lie. You’ve been lying all your life about this bullshit.

Given your wealth and position, there is something especially vile and malicious in your continued lying.

The Handsmaid Tale is a vicious, stupid lie.

This lifetime of lying... malicious, vicious lying... is an evil, ugly, stupid part of your personality.

Don’t you have any decency?

LakeLevel said...

Hollywood movies and TV are entering an age of enforced boringness. Sex cannot be titillating and violence cannot be exciting because of Political Correctness. West World is another glaring example of this unwatchable drivel spewing out from the Left Coast. It reminds me of Soviet art in its enforced lack of original thought.

rhhardin said...

One of the things Derrida said in Choreographies might be helpful: women don't have a place, they create places.

Thinking of feminism as exchanging sexual identity cards with men doesn't lead to happiness.

Michael Ryan said...

As usual with (poor) fiction we get out of it what we take into it. When I read the book years ago, with its theme of population collapse related to an environmental disaster, I pictured Al Gore as the lead male figure. With good fiction, you're led to a new place.

Shouting Thomas said...

A woman with a state pension well in excess of $100,000, bitching that U.S. society undermines women.

For Christ’s sake, this Althouse woman doesn’t know what it is to ever go without a meal.

Sometimes, prof, you’re just disgusting.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Its not porn, its HBO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBhLI3NqnaQ&t=5s

NSFW

Eleanor said...

I read the book a long time ago. It wasn't awful, but it didn't make the list of the best books I've ever read until the list reaches well into 3, maybe 4, digits. I don't subscribe to Hulu, and it wasn't a big enough draw to suck me in. My big question when I read the book, and it still remains, is how does anyone see a right wing dystopia? Atwood says it's conservative religious group who has come into power and subjugated women, but controlling women is a left-leaning thing.

Hagar said...

Isn't pretty much everything that passes for "entertainment" these days, pornographic?

jwl said...

My partner and I watched first two episodes of series one but we stopped watching because it was overwrought nonsense and series two sounds even worse. Series writer/producers are highly neurotic and this tv show is vehicle to work out their issues with males.

Birkel said...

I cut out the middle person and never watched at all.

Henry said...

The producers of The Handsmaid's Tale say to Ms. Miller:

"Do you believe us or your own lying eyes?"

But she could have said that herself, the second she saw the very first trailer:

"Do I believe them or my own lying eyes?"

People confuse conceptual thinking with their actual experience. Writing a thousand words on it doesn't get to the point. The point is POW! What do you see?

rhhardin said...

I was going to say that an actual plot is a good thing to have, but the plot can be a fake plot.

Live Die Repeat is a series of courtships with a fake plot to hide it.

The lady brings out the best in the guy, a little overdone with unattractiveness at the beginning, but he's a guy and that's allowed.

Kevin said...

“Is the positioning of Handmaid’s Tale as smart, leftist political commentary protective against charges that it exploits women?...”

Protective against is the core tenet of leftism. It’s only bad when “they” do it.

the 4chan Guy who reads Althouse said...

"But you could put real feminism first."

Like communism, real feminism hasn't been tried yet.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

The same basic complaint could be applied to 95% of the so-called "quality TV". I have had the same feeling watching most of these shows, only it is often the male characters who are being exploited to introduce a vicarious thrill into the empty lives of the losers watching at home. Violence and sex are used too gratuitously and repetitively. We are not going back to the days of reading Jane Austen but Hollywood is an appalling freak show driven only by money obsessed ghouls exploiting the fools willing to part with their money to watch this crap.

whitney said...

"it distracts the viewer from the way the real America tempts you into a cage with an open door. "

Nice

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

One of my teachers liked to tell the story of how the Catholic Church would be concerned that parishioners wanted to confess their sins, but they didn't know the names or even exact descriptions of what they had done, and this made it hard for the priest to assess the correct number of Hail Marys or whatever. So the Church would helpfully publish a list: here are some fairly common sins, their names, with some clarity as to what is worse, what is not so bad. It would soon become clear that some people reading the list would think: hey, I never thought of that. Let's give it a try. If a big part of the history of mass entertainment is women undressing, women promising to undress and partially undressing, women being forced to undress, women being tortured, then is Handmaid's Tale part of the solution, or part of the problem?

Unknown said...

Not Important Television. All the problems she described were right there in the first half hour of Season One, Episode One. The show feels like an adaptation of the Virtue Signalling Bible. -willie

Ron said...

Game of Thrones: Malibu Barbie edition

Shouting Thomas said...

The feminist prattling that seduced Althouse when she was young was just drama queen porn, too.

Like all porn, feminist drama queen porn had to continue to escalate in outrageousness in order to get feminist drama queens off.

Bob Boyd said...

Sounds like Handmaids Tale has oppressed the shark.

Tommy Duncan said...

I remember when the women's movement was concerned with people like my mother who was underpaid and overworked. Now I have no idea what it's about.

the 4chan Guy who reads Althouse said...

"our favorite characters are unrelentingly tortured — electrocuted with cattle prods, kicked, threatened with dogs, chained to a gas stove and burned, left alive on a gallows covered with urine."

This does kinda sound like harsh shit, but it's, like, a corollary of Internet Rule 34: if it's on video and involves a chick, some dude somewhere will masturbate to it. It's just how media works, if it can't get chicks outraged and dudes masturbating then it isn't doing the job.

But "The Handmaid’s Tale" is, like, for chicks to masturbate their feminist clit. Because a lot of chicks feel the most represented in art when they are a victim, like, getting electrocuted with cattle prods. I mean, most of the time the cattle prods are like a metaphor and shit, but sometimes you need a real cattle prod to make your shit obvious.

It's kinda like how chicks get Oscars for portraying hookers: because all chicks are hookers and being electrocuted by cattle prods in a patriarchal society. Like, can you even imagine a chick ever inventing the cattle prod? Chicks don't think that way, unless they're trying to think like a dude who would need a device on a stick to electrocute chicks.

Like, chicks think they're being debased in that kind of Hollywood shit, but it's a chick on the screen being debased, and she took the job, so how bad could it be? Because if it's a chick being debased for the right reason then it's art, because it's depicting how they see themselves in the world, the world is full of dudes just looking to debase them, when most dudes, they're just not that into you, okay?

I post my shit here.

traditionalguy said...

Hmmm? Women as shanghaied sailors stuck on a Navy ship forced to work under a lash until dead. They really do want to be equal to men. Welcome aboard, fair ladies.

Professional lady said...

Where do people get this stuff about the Catholic Church? There are guides and meditations for examining your conscience, but it's really sad how people's understanding is just so distorted. Not an attack on you Lloyd Robertson, I'm sure your teacher actually said that. Anyway, I agree with your ultimate point.

n.n said...

Forget feminism or female chauvinism. Lose your Pro-Choice religion. They are exclusive, selectively, opportunistically, of men, babies ("fetuses" or offspring), and women, too.

There are men. There are women. There are two moral axioms: individual dignity and intrinsic value. There are natural imperatives. There are personal imperatives. Go forth and reconcile.

Kevin said...

"our favorite characters are unrelentingly tortured — electrocuted with cattle prods, kicked, threatened with dogs, chained to a gas stove and burned, left alive on a gallows covered with urine."

A true feminist thinks they’ve truly captured the essence of her life.

After all she is abruptly awoken at an early hour by her alarm clock, goes to kickboxing class, has to get past the neighborhood dog walker on the way home, reheats last night’s takeout, and watches her sister change her niece’s diaper.

Tank said...


There was Episode 1 of Season 2, where "our favorite characters are unrelentingly tortured — electrocuted with cattle prods, kicked, threatened with dogs, chained to a gas stove and burned, left alive on a gallows covered with urine."

And Episode 2: "[A] vast army of female slaves, barely alive, forced to dig all day in toxic waste until they die.... ]T]he soundtrack is mostly a constant, minor-key moan, like the wind through a cracked window, punctuated by the wailing and coughing of women, and screams."


Not usually my thing, but this sounds pretty good. Are the women naked, or partially so?

We're watching Shameless now on Netflix. Pretty good in a shameful way. The women are all strong, immoral and slutty.

Mike Sylwester said...
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Mike Sylwester said...

I've been watching and enjoying the series Will, a dramatization of the life of William Shakespeare, on the TNT television channel.

The series includes a lot of torture scenes, depicted very graphically. At first -- the scenes began early in the series -- the scenes offended me as being gratuitous.

However, as the story progressed, I realized that the torture scenes did improve the story.

William Shakespeare grew up in a Catholic family during a period when Catholics were persecuted by the Protestant-dominated government.

In the TNT series, Will has a cousin who is a leader of the Catholic underground in London. Will himself is rather moderate and uninterested in his Catholicism, but when he goes to London for the first time, he is given a letter to deliver secretly to this cousin, who is hiding from the government. In this way, Will finds himself unintentionally but increasingly involved in the Catholic-Protestant strife.

The torture scenes happen as the Protestant investigators capture Catholics and pressure them to provide information about the location and activities of Will's cousin.

The main Protestant investigator and torturer is Richard Topcliffe, who was a historical person. This character is a terrifying villain in the TNT series, and the torture scenes really help portray him so.

By the way, Topcliffe reminds me a lot Robert "The FBI Whitewasher" Mueller, who pressures and torments people, to "flip" them so that they will provide the information that will enable Mueller (like Topcliffe) to capture and neutralize the individual leader who endangers decent society.

EDH said...

It's not an aptly imagined vision of how the subordination of women would be accomplished in American in our time. It's a sadistic, titillating fantasy, and it distracts the viewer from the way the real America tempts you into a cage with an open door. How lamely self-soothing to think that the problem is over there with Pence and Trump.

When it was right here in front of the top brass at CBS the whole time!

USA Today: Charlie Rose made ex-intern unclog toilet in addition to sexually harassing her

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2018/05/04/charlie-roses-intern-had-unclog-toilet-top-being-groped/581883002/

Bravo's essay follows a new Washington Post story in which 27 additional women came forward to accuse Rose of sexual harassment. The Post investigation also alleges that upper management was well aware of his behavior for over three decades.

Freeman Hunt said...

One of those Fifty Shades movies was at the top of the most watched list on Vudu the other day. A Handmaid's Tale sounds similar but in feminist costume.

FIDO said...

Ms. Atwood has no idea what Christianity is, what Christian women are like, what the important thoughts and cultural memes within Christianity and America are, what is within the Realm of the Possible inside the United States.

Want to know where the Handmaid's Tale is ACTUALLY HAPPENING? Islamistan. But God forbid Feminist Organizations criticize brown people. Anyone who hates or is critical of America are okay with them...despite Egyptian clerics forcing girls BACK into a burning building because they weren't dressed correctly!

There is a reason I have withering contempt for Feminism and it isn't just because they are infringing on my 'privilege'.

They give the slightest of lip service to HORRIFYING things happening to women worldwide, but are more obsessed with manspreading and their rather insignificant pay gap.

If Feminists weren't blatant hypocrites, they would have been PUSHING Bush and Obama to put more pressure on Afghanistan and Iraq, not less. They would have harshly criticized Obama for staying silent as pretty little Iranian girls were shot with snipers for daring to protest.

But no...those bitches were silent.

But give them an inch and I bet those women put Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Lauren Sothern etc. in some kind of stupid 'outcast' outfit if they were put in charge.

Rory said...

The post could have been written about "The Women's Room," which was published in 1977.

Birkel said...

And Freeman Hunt comes around without acknowledging the Washington statue. Again.

robother said...

Shades of Grey, Handmaid's Tale, bodice rippers. Begins to look like there's a continuum of the human feminine sexual response where some degree of male dominance is involved in arousal. A necessary genetic adaptation over millions of years, I suppose.

An individual human can free herself from that slavery, but that path is hard and lonely as all true old time religions teach. Its not a teaching that people with millions of cars or boxes of soap to sell have any interest in promoting. Kanye is right, mass marketing of victimhood porn is slavery too.

Jupiter said...

Do guys watch this show?

FIDO said...

"it distracts the viewer from the way the real America tempts you into a cage with an open door. "


This sounds like one of those vague, profound things which really sets the 'intelligentsia' abuzz as 'clever'.


To wit: how are the 'alluring cages' faced by women any different than those faced by men except they have the housewife 'option' as well? Men only have the 'homeless' option since it is work or die for them.

How are American 'cages' better or worse than, say, the demonstrably real cages in Afghanistan?

This feels like one of those teenaged rants of 'I never asked to be born' but dressed up in vague profundities.

Phil 3:14 said...

Every so often I get tired of Prof. Althouse’s feminist obsession.

And then Rhhardin comes along makes it all ok again.

(and let’s not talk about ST.)

Rory said...

Oh, and the brutal poverty art like Slumdog Millionaire and Sin Nombre - that's porn, too.

FIDO said...

Shades of Grey, Handmaid's Tale, bodice rippers. Begins to look like there's a continuum of the human feminine sexual response where some degree of male dominance is involved in arousal. A necessary genetic adaptation over millions of years, I suppose.

Well, when the Og Tribe came in to take over the territory of the Durs, they tended to kill all the men (and frequently the children) and gave the women a choice.

The 'strong independent women' who would never submit...died.

The ones who submitted to...ahem...well...they weren't happy but they lived and had little Oglings.

Those who did the mental gymnastics of suddenly seeing how dreamy Christian Og was, with his fine Mammoth coat, even as the blood of her late husband was still wet on his spear, prospered.

Add a few hundred thousand years and...

It is as logical as anything Dworkin came up with.

Caldwell Titcomb IV said...

smart

Don't forget "sassy" and "irreverent".

Gahrie said...

Dave Weber did it better in his Honorverse.

President Pee-Pee Tape said...

That's not how we get people to submit to limited sex roles.

It's not?

Well, if your the expert then why don't you explain how it happens.

Ray said...

Isis is probably the closest we have come to this society, and even they did not go this far/stupid.

Nice term virtue signaling porn.

FIDO said...
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FIDO said...
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FIDO said...

The point of the show isn't to actually warn at the direction our society is actually taking. (All those oppressive Christian bakers...)

It is more to foment distrust in women toward men. Now, seeing at how...graphic...some of the porn men have access to (as opposed to regularly view), women are seeing into a few of the dark recesses in men's minds. (Men aren't exactly thrilled at what they are seeing in the female mind either)

But this is feminist writers trying to make women of all stripes dislike and distrust Christian men. It isn't only porn: it is rather blatant propaganda. IF they have any male heroes...I am guessing they are liberal.

Unfortunately, Christian women, who have actually MET Christian men, aren't going to watch (or at least believe) that nonsense and Liberal women already believe it anyway.

So it's impact is just to reinforce the distorted beliefs of Liberal women.

So yes...virtue porn too...but craftless propaganda as well.

Birkel said...

Submitting to sex roles will be covered in Brazilian's seminar.

TicketMaster has the details.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I haven't read the book, but I did see the movie, it had Faye Dunaway as the wife of "The Commander" if I recall correctly. So I know that the premise of the book is that most woman have became infertile, and the fertile ones are forced to have children for the men who run society. Handmaid is a reference to Hagar, Sarah's handmaid in the Bible who bore a child for Abraham at Sarah's request.

So the book is a pro-abortion screed. A small group of religious figures, men, are controlling the fertility of woman, forcing them to have children against their will. I get that. I think its stupid, but I get it. But how the hell to you get from there to woman being exploited for labor and forced to work until they die? These people are very, very weird. I suspect that their father's didn't pay them as much attention as they wanted when they were children.

Martin said...

I have no intention of watching that show... but, from what she describes, it IS pornographic, and porn of the worst kind--snuff, torture, physically and psychologically degrading women, really the sickest stuff.

Just what an unleashed liberal hive-mind would dream up, projecting its own sicknesses onto conservatives who would never in a million years think of such things, let alone approve.

buwaya said...

All mass entertainment is just the descendant of the Roman Circus. Way back then they figured out what the public wanted - stories, spectacle and violence. The circus shows had themes and story lines (they hired writers!), comic relief, visual design including color coordination, etc.

Granted that in the modern forms the violence isn't real (quite, the NFL is a bit of an exception), the effect on the audience is probably not that different.

Leslie Graves said...

My desire for a dose of cruel neutrality porn has been more than amply satisfied.

FIDO said...

The society is ridiculous for numerous reasons.

1) Christian women run Christianity. They are the largest force and the ones most engaged in it because these women see it as PROTECTIVE towards male excesses (AHEM Weinstein, Lauer, Rose et al)

2) A religion based on a LETTER FROM GOD is not going to make that LETTER FROM GOD illegal! The society is Protestant based, not Catholic. The Body of John Wycliff is rotating in it's grave at the thought of outlawing the Bible! Isn't going to happen to a religion where reading religious texts is a devotion. Ms. Atwood is clearly an ignorant idiot.

3) Why is the army fighting to maintain a system where THEY get no future progeny, only the generals? A more likely (and horrifying) story would be that 'everyone gets a turn' at the fertile women (perhaps with some women reserved)

4) If, as Feminists believe, men only care about women for sex...um...infertile women can still cook. They can still cuddle. They can still fuck. So what kind of moron (well, a Feminist one) would put mostly perfectly good women in a toxic waste dump? If the army can't breed, at least they can fuck.

Just sloppy thinking and writing written out of ignorance.

FIDO said...

against, not towards.

Matthew Sablan said...

The Handmaid's Tale has to be one of the most overrated books I've ever read.

And I've read books by George Elliot.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I did a little research to see if the fertile women were being worked to death (which would be insane) and found this in a description of the third episode of the second season.

"June's best friend and husband, respectively, made their season two debut in this past week's third episode, "Baggage," which focused primarily on the titular handmaid's failed attempt to escape Gilead. In a parallel storyline, viewers were invited into the worlds of Luke and Moira, alive and free in Little America, a neighborhood in Toronto, Canada, where refugees from Gilead are granted safe harbor. The expats are provided with health care, jobs, and heartfelt reunions with family, at least when the case allows."

So basically, its a leftist fantasy. The state is benevolent and makes sure you have no problems, except when its evil and does unspeakable things, because.

Found this in a NYT review of the first two episodes of season two:

"there are plenty of viscerally harrowing scenes, including one in which the handmaids are dragged to the gallows en masse"

Once again, handmaids are the fertile women in a society where that is rare. And the government is killing them off "en masse!" That is just stupid. But wait, there's more.

"If Luke wanted another child, he could force the situation by simply withholding his signature from the birth control form (echoes of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby)."

What!? That decision simply stated that a business didn't have to provide abortaficients to employees if they had religious objections. Apparently that is just the same as forcing a woman to have a child. A more apt comparison might be the guy who is paying child support to his ex-wife after she forged his signature, twice, so she could get IVF treatment with embryos created while they were married. Guess who is really getting forced to have kids against their will.

These people are what was once called hysterics. This is definitely how you get more Trump.

Matthew Sablan said...

"My big question when I read the book, and it still remains, is how does anyone see a right wing dystopia?"

-- This was my issue as well. It isn't the right who calls women un-women. Sarah Palin wasn't unsexed by the right.

And honestly, the left isn't going to lead us into that sort of dystopia either, but it is fun to poke them in the eye over it.

Sebastian said...

"How lamely self-soothing to think that the problem is over there with Pence and Trump."

Lame self-soothing, locating the problem over there, is putting real feminism first, cuz women are special and need to be treated special.

Only imaginary feminism has women facing up to their own problems, locating the problem over here within themselves, as if they are the equals of men.

Matthew Sablan said...

I haven't read the book in over a decade, but I don't remember being particularly impressed by it. For example, isn't it set in Massachusetts? Who here really sees the great blue state of Massachusetts going all Gilead on us? Setting it in a more religious state might have helped a bit with the suspension of disbelief needed for something this ridiculous, but Atwood didn't bother to even try.

Matthew Sablan said...

"But how the hell to you get from there to woman being exploited for labor and forced to work until they die?"

-- In the book, women who were unable to have children and weren't important enough to be protected were labeled "unwomen" and sent to labor camps. Since it is a dystopia, "unwomen" also included political dissidents, women that were convenient to make disappear and those who chose to be chaste, like nuns. So, that's how it got from here to there.

buwaya said...

Historically entertainment did rather little in the line of making women suffer for the sake of thrilling men.

Women were victims in the Roman circus, but rarely, as an occasional novelty, such as gender-role bending gladiators. Which in the Roman point of view was not degradation, but its opposite.

Men really don't work that way, or there may be some odd few of course, but it seems quite rare. Women are not to be wasted in blood-lust, because plain old lust trumps that. They are much more valuable than men. Men are expendable.

The point of having an unhappy heroine, or victim, is drama, not appeciation of the suffering. The damsel in distress was universal, but the point was the damsel, not the distress. Theatrical formulas everywhere had designated losers, which were always men. Women were above all the prizes, or objects of sympathy.

The more extreme cases of explicit cruelty to women in early modern theater are off-putting, as they probably were to their audience. The most famous case is Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, which is in every other respect also a completely maniacal bloodbath.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...
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Matthew Sablan said...

I went back to read a lot of reviews to help me remember things.

Apparently, the biggest frustration beyond the silliness of the subject is that Atwood has run on sentences and doesn't use quotation marks properly. I don't remember that, and I usually remember incredibly annoying style choices like that. Maybe I'll go to my shelf and flip through a few pages.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

BCARM: The same basic complaint could be applied to 95% of the so-called "quality TV". I have had the same feeling watching most of these shows, only it is often the male characters who are being exploited to introduce a vicarious thrill into the empty lives of the losers watching at home. Violence and sex are used too gratuitously and repetitively. We are not going back to the days of reading Jane Austen but Hollywood is an appalling freak show driven only by money obsessed ghouls exploiting the fools willing to part with their money to watch this crap.

Lol. It's one of those mornings when I'm going to join ARM in the "well, I never!" corner.

Althouse and Miller are over-analyzing the product. Sounds like Handmaid's Tale is just "ho hum, another day, another sewage dump". Like ARM, I find that 95% of "quality TV" is basically torture porn with ADHD direction, that I switch off in disgust and boredom before I get half-way through the first installment.

Apropos of robother @8:45: I never read the novel, but I recall more than one reviewer interpreting it as masochistic wish-fulfillment - more chick-porn than "serious feminist novel". In TV form, maybe it's "Fifty Shades of Gray" for less the self-insightful and more politically nutty demographic.

buwaya said...

A male-domination dystopia that is true to human nature is not a very good subject for fantasy, because it actually does exist, and has been common throughout history.

The default state of unrestrained male desire, should some man have the power to attain it, is simply the harem.

mockturtle said...

Patriarchy is not necessarily a bad thing. I would certainly rather live in a country dominated by men than by women. More now than ever, as women have, by and large, lost complete control of their senses.

mockturtle said...

If Newton Minow called television a 'vast wasteland' in 1961, what would he call it now?

rcocean said...

Woman have always liked movies/books about female suffering. This is basically a "Women's Picture" for 2018. Instead of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford martyring themselves for their family - we get feminist suffering under the patriarchy. And it gives a lot of actresses a chance for a paycheck.

No dobut the audience for this is 90% women and Gays.

rcocean said...

Its funny that the Patriarchy has been in charge from the Stone Age to about 1965, yet nothing like the Handmaiden ever happened.

A real-life evil patriarchy wouldn't torture women and have them dig toxic filth, they'd just cut their vocal cords.

buwaya said...

The harem part of "Handmaids Tale" works, it makes sense.
The structure of the scenario doesn't quite work, its way too complex. Things work the way "Handmaids Tale" has it, but with much less fuss, few or no tortures or imprisonments and no death camps or useless manual labor.

There are communities of heretical Mormons existing now in the US that do the extreme polygamous patriarchy thing IRL. Their structures and problems are of course real and true to historical experience. Fantasy is not required.

The same goes in polygamous societies all over the world. There are no official Nazi-like repressive measures (there are other repressive measures, but different) needed to maintain Arab or Zulu or Swazi social structures.

I admit I read the thing over thirty years ago.

SGT Ted said...

"This is Important Television. A feminist parable, adapted from a novel by a woman, which was awarded eight Emmys — mostly to women — about the potential excesses of patriarchy, not so unimaginable now in the era of Pence and Trump."

This is an example of what crazy, paranoid people think America can become if Republicans are elected. Crazy people have taken over the feminist movement.

There are brutal patriarchal societies where women are treated badly, but you won't find any shows about them on TV, because Islam in in the Victims Club due to being suppressed by white people in the past and not to be criticized out loud by the Brave Speakers of Truth to Power and Defenders Of Womyn.

Islamist societies can kill gays all day long and force women to dress in sacks, kill them for dating non-Muslims and be the property of men, but the REAL danger to women is Trump and Pence.

Then, the feminists wonder why women think feminists are crazy. Well, it's because feminists are crazy.

Yancey Ward said...

I have a simple rule of thumb for what "porn" is- if a show has relentless gratuitous violence to the point it turns me off of it (and this does happen), then I just assume the violence is at that level because that is what its audience is wanting, and will continue to watch as long as the show can keep upping the ante.

buwaya said...

The other problem with "Handmaids Tale" that misses one of the more troublesome parts of polygamy is the problem of all the spare boys and men. This is a notable point about those heretical Mormons - they have lots of "spare" boys, that they just kick out.

A properly logical dystopia would, probably, fill those toxic labor camps with the male "spares". Makes much more sense than wasting the scarce women.

buwaya said...

A logical scenario for a "Handmaids Tale" is certainly available, and the original does indeed start from a reasonable premise. Low fertility is a fact, and is turning into a critical problem.

A law requiring a certain number of births per woman is plausible, should things get desperate. You could build stories off that.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

-- In the book, women who were unable to have children and weren't important enough to be protected were labeled "unwomen" and sent to labor camps. Since it is a dystopia, "unwomen" also included political dissidents, women that were convenient to make disappear and those who chose to be chaste, like nuns. So, that's how it got from here to there.

A scenario that makes no sense whatsoever. As someone stated upthread, what benefit am I, as a regular Joe, getting out of this patriarchy? Why in the hell am I willing to send my sister, wife, and mother, maybe even my daughter, to die horrible deaths? I have to cook my own food and sex is masturbation or like a prison shower scene. And I will never get to have kids.

If I was a feminist and I thought a Handmaids Tale scenario was really a possibility, I would join the NRA and try to get guns into the hands of as many women as possible. Because you know, they do make up 50% of the population.

And I leave you with this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTM3Z1pdl5M&t=5s

Ron Winkleheimer said...

A law requiring a certain number of births per woman is plausible, should things get desperate. You could build stories off that.

Frank Herbert wrote a book called The White Plague about an engineered virus that kills most of the women in the world. In that scenario women become more valuable and polyandry is the result, with women gaining power.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...
the "well, I never!" corner.


I prefer to think of it as the 'mofos fuckin with my motherfuckin TV' corner.

buwaya said...

Traditional Islam mistreats women, according to Western Christian cultural standards, but the reality is not quite as operatic, as, well, the opera has it - "Abduction from the Seraglio", Mozart. The reality truly is banal.

In truth the Muslim practice is enforced by women more than men, and in the vast number of cases the women are content with their lot. We hear of edge cases, of which there are plenty, but most are not edge cases. There may be quite a lot of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's about, but most are not her.

rhhardin said...

If Newton Minow called television a 'vast wasteland' in 1961, what would he call it now?

PUERILE ... 2. I'd like to see ... [an] experiment in which callers describe the [TV] show just seen in three adjectives. Within reason, of course. ("We have a Mr. Buckley here who finds Laverne and Shirley EGREGIOUS, PUERILE, and JEJUNE"). (D. Cavett, of NEA, "Television `Wasteland' Revisited," Norman [Okla.] Transcript, 6/23/76, p.6)

- The Quintessential Dictionary, I Moyer Hunsberger

buwaya said...

As for how a society gets into this condition, consider that these things (like feminism) are like mind-viruses. They propagate, infect, and become an overwhelming, inescapable critical mass.

Consider that at one time in many Muslim countries there was a small but powerful educated middle class fully bought-in to western fashions and ideas. And then came the latest (there have been many) Islamic fashion wave, and suddenly all of these mini-skirted women were covering their hair and wearing traditional clothes. Or even rejecting traditional clothes as too immodest. And this happened even where the despotic local government was a bitter enemy of political Islam.

Jim at said...

but controlling women is a left-leaning thing.

Not just women.

The left is all about control. Acquiring it, maintaining it and using it.
Every, single thing they do, policy they propose and action they take is about control.

Always has been. Always will be.

Zach said...

The really interesting question: is it torture porn, or oppression porn?

It seems to me that the people who are watching get their jollies from identifying with the Handmaids, not the torturers.

With everything we hear about the show being an allegory for The Age of Trump, maybe we should be asking some harder questions about whether some people just enjoy the catharsis of imagining themselves being oppressed.

FIDO said...

Battlestar Galactica dealt with these issues in a much more nuanced and serious fashion.

There were something like 20,000 humans left...and one of the women wanted an abortion.
When do the needs of society trump individual rights? Particularly if she was knocked up by a new extinct bloodline from the destroyed home worlds? According to calculations, without a vigorous birthdate, extinction for the race in 18 years.

So ladies, what do you do? If left to Feminists, I'd give them 9 years, tops.

Granted, it was only one episode and written by some who thought with reason and accountability and wasn't a pot addled hippie chick writing in rape and adverbs.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Just swap out the red robes and the goofy 'Sister Bertrille' headgear for burkas and it will make more sense.
Hey- it's not porn-- it's just Islam!

FIDO said...

This scenario fails the 'barroom test'.

If a woman in a bar screams for help, 9 out of 10 of the men will jump to her aid, no questions asked. The Commander would face a lot of
Challenges from other men who would be eager to replace him as a daddy.

So these fertile mamas; they don't need to lift a piece of paper! They would get ANYTHING they desired, whichever house, man career, food,. Hordes of men protecting her womb from bitter murderous infertile women. Everything but one thing: the right NOT to have children.

Literature so stupid only a woman could love it.

Oh, and the main actress is well cast in one regard. One would need to be one of the last fertile women on Earth to get a man to have sex with her. As a Helen of Troy? If Helen looked like her, Menalaus would have sent Paris a ship full of gold to keep her!

wildswan said...

"It's a sadistic, titillating fantasy, and it distracts the viewer from the way the real America tempts you into a cage with an open door."

Yes.

eddie willers said...

All mass entertainment is just the descendant of the Roman Circus. Way back then they figured out what the public wanted

That thought is the springboard for the latest episode by the best history podcaster, (IMO) Mike Carlin, in his Hardcore History series.

He calls it Painfotainment

Beware...it is four and a half fascinating hours long. It is hardcore history and no surface touching.

BTW, buwaya, the one he did previous to this one was a great take on Caesar's Gallic campaign. Six hours ending at Alesia, of course. The Celtic Holocaust.

FullMoon said...

Local story. Woman tired of husband abusing her. She shot him.
Eighteen times. .45 and 9mm
He's dead.

langford peel said...

Why would anyone watch a TV series about woman subjugating themselves to be abused by the leaders of a coercive cult.......starring someone who is a committed Scientologist.

You have to be really stupid.

Or a woman.

walter said...

Ron Winkleheimer said...But how the hell to you get from there to woman being exploited for labor and forced to work until they die?
--
Maybe how the label "Hitler" is thrown around offers insight.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

For some reason Facebook thinks I would be interested in this show (I barely watch TV at all, let alone a pantload like that) and I get ads for it all.the.time. I have opened up the comments under the ads a few times just to take the temp, out of curiosity, and 90% of them are women posting emoticons about how exciting it all is. So yes, it is total porn. Women love getting all het up.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

BCARM: I prefer to think of it as the 'mofos fuckin with my motherfuckin TV' corner.

That works, too.

On the plus side, the churning out of the modern equivalent of more and more gory gladiatorial games coincides with the re-issue, often beautifully re-mastered, of vast archives of older stuff for home viewing. Don't need no mofo Handmaid's fuckin' Tale, I can get my motherfuckin' Yasujiro Ozu binge on anytime I want.

God bless those nice people at the Criterion Collection.

Jay Elink said...

Professional lady said...
Where do people get this stuff about the Catholic Church? There are guides and meditations for examining your conscience, but it's really sad how people's understanding is just so distorted....
*****************************

Confession manuals have been around for a long time.

I have a palm-sized book published in 1675 titled, "Nouvelle invention d'une excellente méthode pour se préparer en fort peu de temps à une confession tant particulière que générale sans être obligé à ne rien écrire."

Google translation:

"New invention of an excellent method for preparing in a very short time for a particular and general confession without having to write anything."

In it are listed sins against specific Commandments and those relating to various occupations.

A Merchant, for example, would review sinful practices such as putting his thumb on the scale, short-weighting shipments, selling contaminated food and the like. A Soldier would read about harming or stealing from non-combatants. A Priest might find he had sinned by not attempting to convert heretics, a Lawyer by refusing to represent poor people, by hiding damaging evidence to help his client, and so on.

The sins are described in very short sentences on two or three short lines ending partway across the page, separated by several spaces for each entry. Each page would contain six to eight entries.

What's interesting is that the short descriptions listing each sin are each detached at their outer ends. (Think "partially detached Chinese Fortune Cookie-sized strips" and you'll get the picture.)

A decorated vertical paper strip extending along the page's outer margin covered the detached ends.

The idea was that the penitent would review his occupation-specific sins and gently pull the appropriate strip ends from beneath the vertical strip for easy reference during Confession.

Afterward he would return the strips to their original positions.

I don't know how popular the book was, but the single copy I've been able to locate (in the Lyon, France library) is dated 1672, so mine's not a first edition. And AFAIK no other book was issued in such a format.

For me, it's a very interesting piece of printing history, as well a fascinating glimpse into the religious and social mores of the time.




Clyde said...

I don't have Netflix so I'll never see it, but I wouldn't have chosen to watch it anyway. If you want a true dystopian tale, try Amazon's The Man In The High Castle. For a really riveting series, try HBO's Westworld.

mockturtle said...

I can get my motherfuckin' Yasujiro Ozu binge on anytime I want.

Angle, I don't think I've ever seen his work. Am a big fan of Kurosawa [just recently watched Kagemusha for the first time and was blown away by the battlefield scene]. Also enjoyed The Lady in the Dunes by Tegishahara. How would you describe Ozu's films?

YoungHegelian said...

[A] vast army of female slaves, barely alive, forced to dig all day in toxic waste until they die.

Wasn't forcing chicks to work in toxic waste until they die a plank in the 2016 Republican Party platform, or sumthin'?

Ya know, ya git older & your memory ain't what it used to be.

mockturtle said...

Yes, women in Russia have 'enjoyed' equality for a century now. They are free to dig in toxic wastes and heft 100 sacks of grain just like men! Lucky them!

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

mock: How would you describe Ozu's films?

Loves me my Kurosawa, too, but Ozu is a very different sort of director. His films are deceptively simple (both in content and directing style) family stories - children growing up, the finding of mates, working life, friendships over a lifetime, the coming of old age and death. But I find them immensely moving (to the "crying like a babby" point sometimes). And oddly, intensely nostalgic - even early talkies like The Only Son and There Was a Father. Why? I dunno. I'm not Japanese, don't speak Japanese, and I'm certainly not old enough to have any memories of the '30s and '40s. Yet there it is. Highly recommended. (His most famous is probably Tokyo Story, which is good stuff, but not my personal favorite.)

Re Kurosawa, was most recently watching Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Can't beat this prime Toshiro Mifune when in the mood for some "lighter" Kurosawa. Have to be in just the right mood for a massive downer like Ran, though that is a favorite of mine.

FIDO said...

Wasn't forcing chicks to work in toxic waste until they die a plank in the 2016 Republican Party platform, or sumthin'?

Ya know, ya git older & your memory ain't what it used to be.


You are mistaken. It is the 'have babies or die of coat hangers' which is our platform.

However there is a splinter of the party (se moi) who would happily see Naomi Wolf, Gloria Steinem and the entire upper management of NOW rounded up for dredging out the biohazard waste of a Venezuelan Abortion Clinic with tweezers.

Freeman Hunt said...

I agree with Angle's description of Ozu. Kurosawa is the favorite director of our house. Ran is his greatest movie. Ikiru is another favorite, but we like all the lighter ones too. Too bad there can't be an Althouse movie night.

mockturtle said...

Per Anle: Have to be in just the right mood for a massive downer like Ran, though that is a favorite of mine.

Oddly, Ran is my least favorite Kurosawa film. The Seven Samurai still my favorite. Watched it again recently for about the 12th time. Thanks for the Ozu recommendation. Which is your personal favorite [Angle-Dyne and Freeman]?

mockturtle said...

Tegishahara's film is [in Enlish] Woman [not Lady, as I had previously written] in the Dunes. A most unusual film. I've never seen anything remotely like it but it's one of my favorite Japanese films.

mockturtle said...

English, not Enlish.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

mock: My favorite? Hmm, that's a toughie. I love all the "season" films of Ozu. You might want to start with An Autumn Afternoon and proceed through the lot if you like it. If you have Amazon Prime, I ntoice that Early Summer is free for streaming right now.

I'll have to watch Woman in the Dunes again on your recommendation. It's been so long since I've seen it that I have very little memory of it. Getting to be time for another viewing of Seven Samurai, too, I guess.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

mock: English, not Enlish.

Engrish.

mockturtle said...

Engrish.

Right.

Ken B said...

History abounds with societies where power is tied to heredity. Royal families, apartheid, and so on. I could name many. I cannot name a single one where it isn’t central. Even in societies where women are kept in an inferior role it’s still better to be an upper caste woman than a lower caste man.

tim in vermont said...

I usually say that once you see, you can't unsee, but I bet she can.

rcocean said...

If you want to start with a Ozu film, i'd suggest "Tokyo Story"

Its considered one of the greatest films ever.

"Good Morning" is one of his few Comedies - if you want something lighter.

rcocean said...

We don't have polygamy, not because women object - but because men object.

Religion aside.

Of course, we have defacto polygamy whereby the rich and famous usually have 2,3,4 etc. wives. But they divorce before they remarry.

Or they don't get married at all. Marlon Brando had 12 "official" kids by 4-5 women (3 official wives).

mockturtle said...

Thank you, rcocean, for the recommendation. I wrote it down so I won't forget.

mockturtle said...

Of course, we have defacto polygamy whereby the rich and famous usually have 2,3,4 etc. wives. But they divorce before they remarry.

Though I'm not rich or famous, I had three husbands so I guess I'm a defacto polyandrist. But back in 'the olden days' people often had more than one spouse due to deaths. An early American ancestor of mine, Frances Latham, had, I think, three husbands.

narciso said...

This was the contest of the derangement of the white house correspondents dinner.

Ray said...

What strikes me as really strange is:

1. How anyone in America would identify with a handmaiden, Mormon etc cults being an exception.

2. How anyone thinks Trump is leading to a handmaid future.

3. How some people think American Christianity is on the road to a theocracy. Charlie Stross uses a Christian cult as his bad guy in the laundry files.

What a weird period of time we live in.

stlcdr said...

Activists like to blur the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, to the point of making it indistinguishable.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

While I have never read either The Handmaid's Tale or Fifty Shades of Grey it is my belief than many women--especially so-called feminists--have a deep desire to be dominated. At least in their fantasies.

Aussie Pundit said...

Ann says: "It's a sadistic, titillating fantasy"

...and so is, for that matter, Game of Thrones).
And that's fine.
Seriously, there is nothing wrong with that. My wife loves Handmaid's Tale and I'm glad she's found a show that really gets her sucked in.
Knock yourself out, if that's what floats your boat, but don't lecture me about it, or try to convince me it's Important.