The Handmaid’s Tale – more fact than fiction?

I am currently obsessed with The Handmaid’s Tale.

The best thing about discovering a brilliant TV show that everyone else discovered years ago is that there are three glorious seasons to wade through.

You don’t have to wait out cliffhanger endings or major story arcs that others had to stew on for months in between seasons; instead you can binge at your own leisure.


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It. Is. Heaven.

I have been relatively restrained and most nights, I sit down to just one episode, to extend the enjoyment for as long as possible.

Whenever I settle in to watch, I find myself overwhelmed with two emotions:

The first is excitement. I can’t wait to see how the story is going to unfold, how Offred’s journey has evolved, how the massive moral questions raised in each episode are going to throw me for a loop.

The second is dread. Because although The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of fiction, and Gilead is a horrific town that will hopefully never exist, we see shades of it in our world today.

Whenever I watch a particularly harrowing scene, one that makes me squeeze my eyes shut and gratefully say a word of thanks that we live in a free society, I can’t help but think of the parts of the world that aren’t quite so free.

Like Indonesia: last week three unmarried couples were punished for “canoodling” in public, violating local sharia law. After spending months in jail, each person was cruelly whipped in the back at least 20 times. “Some collapsed, bleeding, crying with severe pain and had to be carried off stage,” reports News.com.au.

And like the Khmer Rouge, a communist regime that perpetuated a campaign of mass forced marriages, marital rape and forced pregnancy.

Closer to home in Australia, have we forgotten the Stolen Generation – where children were literally ripped from their mother’s arms and rehomed with more ‘appropriate’ white families?

As author Margaret Atwood once admitted: “When [the book] first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched. However, when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that humans had not already done somewhere at some time.”

It makes for compelling viewing – but it’s also a rough reminder of how horrific humanity can be.

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