Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Handmaid’s Tale 1x03 Review: “Late” (Get Woke) [Contributor: Melanie]

Original Airdate: April 26, 2017

Ofglen has been arrested by the Guardians, though it seems like she’s still alive. We learn the very scary story of how this world began. Women systematically had their credit cards and cellphones shut off before they were all fired from work — an act enforced by what June refers to as a “different kind of army.” Turns out it’s against the law for women to own property or money. Moira goes on an impassioned speech about the internalized mentality of men “taking care” of women. Which, as she points out, is synonymous with removing female agency. Later, Moira and June attend a march which quickly turns violent when riot police not only open fire on the protesters, but chase them down and — eventually — even launch ballistics at them.

Meanwhile in the present-day, Janine’s postpartum depression has the added pain of not actually getting to be with her daughter (whom, in her mind, she has named Charlotte), since she only serves as a source of food for the baby. But Janine has come up with a delusion that her master is going to run away with her and the baby. Serena Joy’s icy demeanor toward Offred has warmed after noticing that Offred is late — Serena Joy believes her to be pregnant (an ironic twist after the incredibly seductive and illicit game of Scrabble).

On the way home, Nick warns Offred that there is nothing she can do to change the course of events. Everyone, eventually, bows to the system. He then drops her off for an interrogation with the Guardians who want to know what Ofglen knew. The questions quickly turn into asking if Oglen ever tried to inflict her heinous lesbian ways on her. In all seriousness, this scene is very important to me personally for an anecdotal reason I’ll return to in a bit. Offred ends the scene, and incurs a beating, by standing up to Aunt Lydia quoting the Bible: “Blessed are those who suffer for the cause of righteousness.”

At Ofglen’s trial, she and her Martha lover are both immediately found guilty of “gender treachery” with a Bible verse in Romans given as the key piece of evidence. The Martha is sentenced to death while Ofglen, despite “(her) existence being an abomination” is sentenced to redemption as her fertile body is too precious to lose. However, part of that “redemption” involves female mutilation to remove any temptation for Ofglen (revealed to be named Emily). Unfortunately, Serena Joy does a complete 180 when she learns Offred is not pregnant.

The best line from this episode comes while Offred is recounting the early days of the government takeover, talking about a time that could easily be our own: “When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended The Constitution, we didn’t wake up.”

Offred gets bolder in this episode, speaking out to the Guardian interrogating her about Ofglen. She goes along with their questions until, eventually, she refuses to refer to Ofglen as a “gender traitor” any longer and simply says that she’s gay. The result is a beating from Aunt Lydia, who warns her that that the word is forbidden. I had a flashback to my elementary school years where I used the word "gay" at the lunch table while talking about some singer or actor. Another student told a teacher who looked at me and said — and I quote — “We don’t use that word.” At the time it was a scandal for, like, a week. But the scene where Offred is beaten for calling Ofglen simply what she is — like many things in this story — is not far from the truth at all. I obviously wasn’t tased or beaten, but I was made to believe there was something inherently dirty about that word and what it entailed.

So, as Offred said, at what point will we wake up?

Will it be when young Black men are murdered for walking down the street? Will it be when the president launches missiles at a foreign country without first seeking congressional approval? Will it be when someone wins the election by over three million votes but is denied the presidency? Will it be when 49 people are murdered with a machine gun in a nightclub, simply for being gay? Will it be when the president forces a gag order on scientific organizations? Will we wait, like Offred, until the horrible things have already happened and we stew in the consequences before we finally say: “Now I’m awake”?

The episode, as the title suggests, is all about not acting fast enough. "Get woke" is fun to say, but it also means something. Seeing the problem is only the first half of the battle. Throughout the steady crawl toward this dystopia that happens in the flashbacks, Luke consistently says it will blow over. And even Moira says things will eventually go back to normal.

When everyone gets together and says that things will get better — that it’ll work out, it’ll be fine one day — then no one is actually doing anything to make that a reality.


Post a Comment