Monday, May 7, 2018

The Handmaid’s Tale 2x03 Review: “Baggage” (Trust Women) [Contributor: Melanie]

Original Airdate: May 2, 2018

This week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale continues to dive into issues we’re watching unfold today. This time it has to do with the power foresight can have. After all, it seems like we hear every day how X, Y, and Z could have been prevented if we’d all just paid attention or cracked open a history book. Well, June decides to take a leaf from that particular book and get proactive with her situation... and it doesn’t go perfectly. Fun fact, the show was renewed for a third season this week and I’m not sure whether to be excited or if I’m feeling the inklings of concern about just how far this show is going to run with its source material.


In the present, June has developed a routine while living inside the empty confines of The Boston Globe. During one of her morning runs she finds old news reels and newspaper clippings that warned off the coming revolution. She remarks that no one listened. Nick arrives and tells her she’ll be moving on to a new safe house soon as they try to get her across the border. When Omar, her courier, picks her up, he receives a text that prompts him to abandon the mission. She convinces him to take her with him, rather than strand her. He takes her back to his home where he lives with his wife (who is an Econowife) and son. However, when they are late coming back from church June decides to take action and escapes the apartment complex to get to the airstrip. Her plane is shot during takeoff and she is capture by the Guardians. Across the border, Moira works in the welcome center for new American refugees to Toronto.

In the flashbacks, June recounts her mother who was women’s rights activist leading up to the revolution. She feels disappointment from her mother who believes she settled to work in a white collar world and is also settling by marrying Luke. After the revolution, June sees a picture of her mother laboring in the Colonies during an education slideshow. Her mother was taken there for showing up on a register of women who had abortions.


So this week the series took to focusing on the power of foresight in political turmoil and it did so on two fronts. The more muted story was that of the press and the importance of sharing information. Last week, June recalled the horrific executions that befell members of the press at the onset of the revolution; and during this week she notes — as she hangs old newspapers on the wall — that the press was trying to warn the population that would not listen. It’s speaking directly to our current issue of “fake news” and “alternative facts”: two phrases you’re all probably sick of hearing by now. But episode three underpins how important they truly are.

The press — in its ideal state — is a privately owned piece of media with the sole goal of delivering news and information to the general population. There’s always going to be issues of bias, of seedy journalism, etc. But the point this episode tries to make is that the first place an oppressor will turn is to the media. In Fahrenheit 451 they burned books; historically, the Nazis did the same thing. Today our president directly attempts to discredit news outlets that don’t praise his performance. He went so far as to not allow certain networks press privileges in the White House and held a private meeting with journalists from various networks to educate them on how they should interact with him. It’s a slippery slope.

The second place where June’s hindsight warns to look for prophecy is in the rallies of the oppressed. Here, we specifically look at a Take Back the Night event but the idea is that any oppressed group speaking out about their oppression should he heeded. The Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, the March For Our Lives all attempt to raise valid points on the grand scale but are debased by opposition as fanatics and complainers. June, to a certain extent, felt the same way about her mother’s heavy activity in the world of activism and realizes far too late that you have to act on your surroundings or someone else will.

This is an interesting path the show is taking us down. By forging their own story through a modern lens the showrunners are able to respond to our world in real-time. In a way, The Handmaid’s Tale is reading the pulse of our world, warning about where it might lead if we’re not vigilant. To me, it’s more an education in how to read history than it is a piece of entertainment.


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