When The Handmaid’s Tale debuted on screens last year, serious critics urged us to watch and serious feminists urged us to accept its urgent message: men are mostly deadshits. As the season 2 finale approached last month, producers urged viewers to purchase its range of Handmaid-themed wines. These were not received well and were found by critics and fans to diminish this TV drama. Then, the season 2 finale itself emerged and was found by critics and fans to diminish this TV drama.
Although I was disappointed to have neither wine nor Gilead-branded fentanyl on hand for the finale, I was not disappointed by the finale itself. This was, in my view, the perfect conclusion to a middle-brow stinker which has offered from its first moments all the astonishing feminist insight of a talking arse-crack, or, this thing I found feasting on the corpse of the Washington Post headlined—and not inappropriately—with Why Can’t We Hate Men?
Sure, “we” can hate men. We can believe that men are bad in all nations and everywhere about five seconds away from herding us like heifers into titty death farms. We can hold that the most totalising explanation for all the world’s problems is a cross-cultural militia of dudes and we can believe that their class, kinship or faith is no match for their maleness, an identity that unseats all. We can be racist, universalising toddlers whose trans-national or anti-imperial understanding extends no further than our Little Miss Naughty crayons with which we write our Inspiring Memoirs about how much we hate men. What we cannot do, however, is hope that this whumpingly thick shit will fuel anything more transformative than a night in with the girls.
There is more than personal anxiety that presses populations into servitude. There is always more than religion/misogyny that organises a society.
If The Handmaid’s Tale had not been lauded by nearly everyone, including its star and the author of the novel on which it is based, as an Entirely Believable Story About The Eternal Dead Shittedness of Men, perhaps we could enjoy it for the cheap and masochistic pleasure it provides. But, no. Mossy had to go on about how an entirely patriarchal form of social organisation not only could happen but was happening so “Wake up!”, and Maggie Atwood had to publicly congratulate herself for creating scenarios that were “way too much like history” when filmed. Oh, fuck off. Fuck off, but, before you go, show me when in “history” an imperial power abjured all its imperial power because it felt a bit religious one afternoon.
Look. I really don’t mind a bit of speculative fiction. Those Hunger Games films were pretty good and if we are prepared to overlook the enviably wholesome appearance of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss, we can say that this future “could happen”. A future whose materials have become so scarce over time that it demands the imposition of feudal order on the many by a propagandising few? I can buy that late-capitalist nightmare. An environmentally decrepit future where all the produce looks to be farmers market fresh? Try again with tubes of space food, you dullards. And then maybe just give one episode in twenty-three to a little femsplaining about how the USA beat late capitalism, an old infatuation with liberalism and many, many gun owners to become a theocracy in what I estimate to be about three months.
I mean. Seriously. Banks take longer to cancel one’s credit card than they did to shut for this theocratic revolution. And if you think, like Whoopsy in The Guardian does, that “personal anxiety about masculinity underpins this world’s politics”, don’t ever attempt a degree in International Relations. While it is entirely true that “this world’s politics” are ostensibly governed by actual deadshits, it is actually true that the mechanisms of the world have quite a bit to do with lending institutions and are fairly opaque. Entirely opaque to the lady who chooses the “toxic masculinity” explanation for all relations between nation-states. China as an emerging power! Sino-US war! Iran’s nuclear ambitions! It’s all about personal masculine anxiety blah blah blah.
Star and scientologist Elisabeth Moss may call upon the many to “wake up!” and smell the misogyny that runs the world. Margaret Atwood may take her shithouse understanding of a Gulf State revolution and apply it to the world’s most complex and powerful political economy. The world will remain entirely impervious to these persons, and to all persons who select just one explanation for the relations between people and things. There is more than personal anxiety that presses populations into servitude. There is always more than religion/misogyny that organises a society.
Ooops. I did intend to “recap” the season 2 finale. Here you go: someone raped someone, we are reminded that Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls was subject to clitorectomy back in season 1, thingy who married the chauffeur is executed, some guy wishes out loud that wage labour was still a thing, we are touched to learn that Offred/June is a really great mum. Yes, a lady will do anything for her precious baby.
What an arse-crack of a drama whose twofaced flatus stinks worse than the ladies’ pages at Fairfax. This is purportedly a show about how defining women in terms of their reproductive ability is “toxic”, yet here we are expected to dab our dainty lady eyes every time brave little Lizzie looks like she’s about to have a nervy in close up then finds the nurturing earth goddess within. I haven’t seen anything that valorises motherhood this hard since I last attended mass.
Seems to me that hating entire categories of persons while failing entirely to describe the actions of these persons within larger frameworks is for dicks.
Why hasn’t anybody chopped Offred’s wicked fingers off? Serena Joy lost a pinkie for suggesting to Commander Deadshit that girls be permitted to read the bible, yet a handmaid who has fled several times, banged the chauffeur and hidden in an attic with a firearm remains digitally unhindered. But this is just the least of the incongruities in a slipshod universe whose finale—get this—brings stupid Offred to the stupid Commander’s house after being banished AGAIN because—seriously—her stupid mother’s milk is required for the stupid new baby. (Stupid new baby is Nicole, a name as biblical as Karen.) Now, I am prepared to cop that these bible boys prefer real rape to the artifice of handmaid insemination, but has nobody heard of a wet nurse?
After some raping and torturing and one maybe two executions, Offred has the opportunity to escape the theocracy and meet Oprah, who is the president in exile. But, because she’s a mum, ergo naturally good, she forgoes the chance to win a new car. Not every religiously liberal feminist approved of this choice and blah blah blah surprise, maybe this shit show was just trying to sell us something popular and marketable like wine after all. Maybe it’s not righteous to hate men with all the intoxicating power of all herstory?
I never thought so. Seems to me that hating entire categories of persons while failing entirely to describe the actions of these persons within larger frameworks is for dicks. The Handmaid’s Tale, if viewed as anything but a bit of a giggle, is also for dicks, but I’ll tell you what’s not for dicks: Aunt Lydia. Sure, she refers those with nonconforming sexualities off for clitoris surgery and is handy with a truncheon, but I cannot help but sympathise with an older lady who has had it up to pussy’s bow with nonsense.
As I have advised in other television criticism, this program is almost certainly best viewed drunk and would certainly be improved by a drinking game. Take one shot for each “Under his eye”, a short draught of beer every time Mossy looks so fierce girl in closeup and pour three fingers of gin distilled in the empty vessel of liberal feminism and give them to Aunt Lydia.
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