Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

It used to be that if you wanted to binge on a specific TV show, all you had to do was wait for a cable station to have a marathon of an episode.

That is how I have watched the TV show Monk about a detective that has OCD but is able to solve the unsolvable murder cases.

But other shows can be found on DVD. You can watch all of the seasons of The Big Bang Theory or Seinfeld. It’s not just movies anymore but some of these award-winning short-term TV shows.

handmaids_tale_s1_dvd_cover_artRecently. I watched the entire first season of The Handmaid’s Tale starring Elizabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes. It is based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood about a futuristic society in which women are not allowed to read or hold a job or handle money.

The American government has been overthrown by a religious organization and the constitution has been suspended. One of the precipitating factors to all of this is a massive drop in the birth rate. Women are barren and some children are still-born. It is believed to be either a virus or God’s will upon America for not living by God’s laws.

In this new society, the women have clear rules. Wives of the commanders wear blue dresses and cloaks. They do not work and are expected to do what society women do – hand works, creative works for pleasure, and serve as their husband’s hostess and helpmate. Those rich enough are given a Martha dressed in gray to do the housework and cook meals from scratch. If the couple does not have any children, they are given a Handmaid.

Handmaids tale, walking partners

Walking Partners

This member of the household is to have sex with the husband at her most fertile period while the wife’s in the room. Should the handmaid become pregnant and have a successful birth, she will give the baby to the commander and his wife. Should she not get pregnant after a one year period, she will get sent to another commander. If the second assignment doesn’t result in pregnancy, she will be sent to the radioactive colonies to clean up the toxic mess. It is a certain death sentence.

The show gives us the present story and the handmaid’s past story in flashbacks at first. We find that she was married with a child and loved dearly. This situation is terrible for her. She misses her daughter and believes that her husband is dead. We see her point of view on how life changed. But as the series moves through the episodes, we get to see the viewpoint of other characters and how they are shaped by the change of government.

Handmaid_s_tale June_Luke

June with her husband Luke and daughter Hannah in happier times

The book is very interesting but it does not go into these details. It is fascinating and horrifying all at the same time. I found I could only do two episodes at a time because each scene is so intense. The intensity comes from the constant vigilance everyone is under, never knowing who is a spy and who is not. In a society with few words, it is subtle facial expressions that tell the story even more than the words spoken. You have to watch it, there is no dragging your eyes away.

I must warn you that there is swearing and violence. We will see dead bodies and people killed for no reason. People will scream at their situation and wonder how they can get out. It is brutal and engrossing and makes one wonder if this can ever happen in our world.

I cannot tell you one way or the other.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.