Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel has become a rallying cry for current times

Hulu’s New ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Echoes Current Events

Hulu released the first official trailer for its adaptation of the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel A Handmaid’s Tale on March 23, 2017, and it is an eerie echo of current events. The trailer starts with an ominous voice-over.

“I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up either. Now I’m awake.”

The Story of the Handmaids

From there, the trailer shows various scenes of the protagonist’s life after the foundation of Gilead. For those who aren’t aware of the story, Gilead is a theocratic military dictatorship that was formed out of what used to be the United States. After an attack kills the president and most of Congress, a revolution is launched by the Sons of Jacob, who quickly suspend the Constitution while they try to restore order.

Under the new regime, women’s rights are rolled back to the point where they are even forbidden to read. During the course of the book, it is revealed that pollution and disease has rendered the majority of women sterile. Fertile women have been relegated to the status of “handmaids” who are forced to bear the children of people in power.

Hulu Handmaids Tale is releasing on April 26, 2017
Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel releases on April 26, 2017. [Image by Hulu]

The story follows one handmaid, Offred, as she is in her third assignment with “The Commander,” whose name is Fred. Offred (literally Of Fred) remembers her life before the revolution and a daughter that was taken away from her as she tried to flee to Canada.

Ties to Current Events

It’s easy to see how people are drawing parallels to the book and movie, especially considering current events and legislation that has been brought up in both the United States Congress and individual state congresses.

Consider the most recent anti-abortion bill that was passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on March 8, 2017, HB1549. The bill prohibits the abortion of any viable or potentially viable unborn child solely because of a genetic abnormality or the potential for abnormality. The punishment for violating the new law falls strictly upon the physician who performs the abortion, with an increase of fines from $10,000 to $50,000 to $100,000 for each subsequent violation.

As a cautionary tale, many women's rights groups are looking to The Handmaid's Tale as a warning sign.
A protest scene in Hulu’s new series, ‘A Handmaid’s Tale,’ bears a striking resemblance to current protests. [Image by Hulu]

Setting aside which side of the pro-choice/pro-life argument one falls on, this bill is different from previous anti-abortion legislation in that it makes no provision for cases of incest or rape. When asked about this, the lead author of the bill, Rep. George Faught, stated the following.

“It’s a great question to ask, and, obviously if it happens in someone’s life, it may not be the best thing that ever happened. But, so you’re saying that God is not sovereign with every activity that happens in someone’s life and can’t use anything and everything in someone’s life, and I disagree with that.”

HB1549 now heads to the Oklahoma Senate.

Texas also has two bills related to anti-abortion that ban things already covered under federal law. Both “partial-birth” abortions and sale or donation of fetal tissue are currently illegal.

In the United States Senate, 32 resolutions have been proposed since January that take aim at a woman’s right to an abortion. These range from the innocuously named H.R. 656: Women’s Public Health and Safety Act, which seeks to expand title XIX of the Social Security Act to allow states greater leeway to defund clinics and providers that perform abortions, to H.R. 490: Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017, which seeks to prohibit abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable.

While the majority of these federal bills have little to no chance of passing through the legislative process, the same cannot be said for legislation at the state level. It’s no wonder then that The Handmaid’s Tale has become a rallying cry and cautionary tale for women’s rights groups nationwide.

[Featured Image by Hulu]