I haven’t read Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale (1988), nor seen the television production (2016) that aired on Hulu. Along with the general delight of the Left at its “timely” message, it has garnered a baker’s dozen of Emmy nominations and is now on its way to a second season.
The plot is simple—or, one might say, simple-minded. As with many dystopias, sometime in the near future, a cataclysmic event has taken place that throws the United States in chaos; the president and the entire Congress has been wiped out in a coup that leaves the country in the hands of a group of religious fanatics who institute a totalitarian state.
Since the majority of women have become sterile as a result airborne pollution and disease, the theocratic state decrees that the few remaining fertile women must offer themselves to ruling class males to propagate the species—not within marriage, mind you, but as surrogates for their own sterile wives.
I won’t say such a plot isn’t, as so many ecstatic reviewers have declared, “timely.” Indeed, at this very moment, there are people in this world who view women as chattels, who are willing to kill them for exercising their consciences, who prescribe operations on their bodies to prevent them from having pleasure in sex, who think gang rape is a lark. Horrible people. They’re called Islamists.
But if Hulu had broadcast a series suggesting any of those barbaric practices in a country called, for example, New Iran or Caliphate West, the Left would have been up in arms with cries of “Islamophobia.” The reviewers would have been unanimous in their condemnation of the unjustified attack on the “religion of peace.” And absolutely no Emmy nominations.
However, that controversy was completely averted. How so? Easy. The monsters who have managed the successful coup d’état in Atwood’s future are Christian, chiefly Christian theonomists or Reconstructionists. Their new state, the Republic of Gilead, is firmly established on Old-Testament law and guaranteed ipso facto to produce the dark results Atwood imagined in her “classic” (Hulu’s adjective) novel.
Aside from the fact that there are probably not enough Christian Reconstructionists in the United States to make up a single military regiment, it’s worth noting that Christians, Recons or otherwise, usually take a dim view of sexual activity outside of marriage. As for marriage, it is and has been defined from the advent of the Church as the union of one man and one woman. Polygamy and divorce were certainly known in the ancient Jewish world, but only because, as Christ sternly declared, of the Hebrews’ hardness of heart (Matt. 19:8). Little wonder that Christianity as it became established prohibited polygamy and made divorce virtually impossible for centuries.
Among the many facts the producers of The Handmaid’s Tale would like the public to forget is that the grim picture of America’s future they’re busy painting involves something known as eugenics, the science dedicated to producing the best possible child or, as is so often the case, group. Behind eugenics, one will usually find the notion of the scientifically organized society, organized by the state and in the hands of “experts” who alone have a firm grasp of what the ideal human is, as well as what it is not. “Family planning,” birth control, sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia are all means the state has at its disposal to achieve its goals, whether they be specifically racial or more broadly social or political.
It’s fair to say that a couple of ingredients must go into the mix for a plan of this kind to exist, whether in a Republic of Gilead (as Atwood has it), Nazi Germany, or Maoist China. Those ingredients are a virtually omnipotent state that ignores traditional Western morality and a group of experts—forward thinking, intellectual types whose vision enables them to see the ends and means necessary for the best ordering of society.
In Great Britain and the United States, these men and women have usually been progressives of one stripe or another: George Bernard Shaw, Margaret Sanger, William Beveridge, Marie Stopes and Woodrow Wilson, to name a few. Writing for the Guardian, Jonathan Freeland (“Eugenics: the Skeleton that Rattles Loudest in the Left’s Closet”) notes that John Maynard Keynes was president of the Eugenics Society and very enthusiastic about contraception chiefly for the “drunken and ignorant” working class.
The point I wish to make should be clear enough: when the state begins to meddle in the maternity ward, the politics behind its interference is usually of the godless modern Left (see Orwell and Huxley) or of an ancient variety of totalitarianism, such as Islam whose institutions are alien to the free West.
One may object that The Handmaid’s Tale is not really about eugenics; rather it’s a frightening picture of a powerful state that has deprived women of their rights. And, as the argument goes, that’s what Christians want to do.
But take a closer look. Atwood’s tyrants, a self-designated elite that decides who will marry and have children, and determines who is fit or unfit, runs a state with unprecedented powers. The only thing wrong with that picture is the dishonest attempt to locate such ideas in Christianity instead of where they’ve historically been, in the Left.
It’s a sure bet that a movement that has fought against the state’s forcing people to pay for other people’s abortions will also frown on policies forcing women to engage in sex with an elite group of males, even when the policy is mendaciously advertised on biblical principles.
Conservatives and Christians simply do not like the state’s playing nanny, mommy, and papa as it patently does in The Handmaid’s Tale.
No one of the American Christian Right—and certainly no one big enough to warrant a Hulu series—has called on the state to orchestrate the birth of children, nurture them, or take on the exclusive right of educating them. Any Christian and conservative who did would be a hypocrite: a Christian without God, a conservative in love with the omnipotent state, and a flat contradiction.
Atwood’s fictional rulers are in love with central, unlimited power. But in the real world, people who think the state our best hope and centralize social engineering a necessity are not Christians and conservatives but Leftists, liberals, and progressives. When Rebecca Traister (All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation) celebrates the coming liberation of women in a world (dystopian by my standards) where the state will be surrogate husband, father, and mother to the children of the future, she’s simply writing her own version of The Handmaid’s Tale—except it’s one the Left can’t wait to see happen.
Those are the uncomfortable facts that would not have played well on Hulu; so what’s the Left to do but forget about their existence? But looking at the “progressive” defense of taxpayer-funded abortions, cradle-to-grave social engineering, and Planned Parenthood’s state-subsidized butchery, one doesn’t need Margaret Atwood or any other hare-brained Leftist to imagine a dystopian future. That future is now.
I’m impressed. So you’re for treating abortion, contraception and sterilization like any other part of medicine, under the law? That would mean taxpayer funding of all, and access to all, just like heart catheterization or appendectomy. Am I correct?
Respectful suggestion. You really may want watch or read something before you review it.
You fellow American and Christian on the Left.
It’s really hard to read after the first lines. You could at least write less if you had only read the synopsis.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Tess 5: 21
I just started watching the show without knowing anything about it and instantly (within the first 30 mins) saw the story is actually a depiction of the liberal left. How literally stupid are liberals to not be able to see this? Projectionism? Is that a word? All they do is blame/accuse the opposition for what they themselves do and/or believe. Or maybe its the left’s wishful thinking and fantasy? Even Bernie Sanders says all women secretly want to be raped.
Thank you for this essay. And for pointing out that this is a classic case of Leftist projection. Facts don’t matter, how actual history has played out, how people really behave, who is really practicing all of this and advocating even more – none of it matters. All that matters is the story, the Narrative, and the feelings that go with it.
Leftists are, at bottom, magicians and they believe that by changing the words, they can change objective reality. You can explain to them the consequences of spiritual corruption, but your own words, curiously, have no power. The first three comments on this essay are perfect proof.
They *like* the prison they’ve made for themselves. The popularity of this Hulu production is an example. Our job is to make sure they do not, indeed, cannot, drag the rest of us down there with them. Let them feed their egos on each other.
The Handmaid’s Tale was a story about what Dystopian America might look like. It is a story. If Fascism would come to our country, it could come from both the PC Left and the Religious Right. Social Groups who are so autocratic on either extreme side are dangerous when they start telling others how to think, what to say, and what they can do with their own bodies. The book was originally written in 1985, not in 2017-2019. However, the rise of Populism, Nationalism, and Intolerance do seem to have come out of more Right Wing elements (i.e. Trump). However, I agree that the PC police on the left are equally very scary. Rather than projecting your own views onto Atwood, why don’t you actually try to understand and empathize the motivation for why Atwood wrote her book? Try understanding why some women might feel discriminated against in their own lives?
The book is a critique of any kind of religious Fundamentalism and all kinds of Fundamentalism. Margaret Atwood drew on several elements of her novel including Islamic Fundamentalism and “Christian” Fundamentalism. What is interesting in the book is that Gilead actually persecutes other Christian groups like Baptists, Quakers, etc. She also criticized non-thinking Second Wave Feminists who indiscriminately hated and blamed men. The behavior of Gilead is not at all Christ like. Rather than painting such a broad brush of how people on the left supposedly think, why not try talking to them and starting a dialog. Accusations and judgement is not Christ like.
Personally, it doesn’t seem like there is any real solution to the Culture Wars. Conservative Christians seem to think they are the only “right” kind of Christians and they alone are the people who are persecuted and the history of intolerance, legal action, and hate against marginalized groups like Gays, Racial Minorities (i.e. biblical justification of slavery in the South), and women didn’t exist. Also, they want the government off of their back unless it pertains to telling other people what they can do with their own bodies (i.e. Abortion) or who they can love (i.e. Gay Marriage). Ironically, once unwanted babies are born, the “Christian” right seems to not care at all about them once these babies are born. The GOP has no problem promoting un-Christ like policies of taking away social welfare policies that feed and care for poor children.
At this point, I think it would be best if the US divided into Red and Blue states america. Secession between the Right and Left seems like the best course of action…a political divorce. It is sad, but, I only see a lot of people arguing and nothing really benefiting the core issues that affect every American such as decent education, having a decent living wage, a clean environment, affordable healthcare, and a better future for our children.
You didn’t actually read this article, did you? And I can tell by your determination of what would ‘be best’ that you are not a very practical person. Leftists are fleeing the states they have successfully corrupted, because the idea all along was that being a Leftist meant you belonged to a tribe of elites for whom there was a different set of rules. They never intended for all that legislation in California to affect them at all, and when it did, they departed.
You’re still living in that world where Narrative is paramount, and reality is just something you can handwave. Don’t let a case of TDS distract you from the point of the article – which is that almost all of the modern-day examples of The Handmaid’s Tale come from the Left, not the Christian Right, and certainly not from the countless ranks of conservatives out there who would just like to get on with life without the busybodies and the anti-fascist blackshirts and the riots and the looting and the burning and the mantra of ‘redistribution of wealth for thee, but not me’.