Monday, May 1, 2017

The Handmaid’s Tale 1x02 Review: “Birthday” (Revenge of the Baby Boomers) [Contributor: Melanie]

Original Airdate: April 26, 2017

The episode opens with yet another rousing bout of the Ceremony. Offred and Ofglen talk more about their past while on their daily shopping trip. We learn that Offred was once a book editor in Brooklyn and Ofglen was a college professor who was spared the execution prescribed to college professors because she had “two working ovaries” (college professors, priests, doctors who performed abortions, and LGBTQA+ citizens were all executed). Ofglen offers to Offred to join “us” (the resistance) and spy on the Commander. Offred notes that there must be an “us” because there is a “them.”

Offred is informed by Nick that the Commander has asked to see her alone at night, despite it being forbidden. Before she can linger too much on it, the birthmobile arrives to take her to a group midwife session where Janine gives birth to a child. In the weird, incredibly screwed up mentality they’ve got going here, the wife of the commander also pretends to go into labor with fellow wives around her. Offred recalls her own pregnancy and labor with her daughter. The postnatal ward in the hospital is empty as birth rates continue to diminish. Hannah is nearly abducted by a woman who breaks into the hospital in search of a health baby.

Meanwhile the faux birth play is even more screwed up when the wife gets behind Janine (not unlike the Ceremony positions) and pretends to give birth to the child. A healthy girl, Angela, is born and immediately taken away and handed to the wife. She gets into bed with the bundle, in an angelic mimic of Offred’s own incident with the abductor. Closing it all off, Janine is called on to be the wet nurse for her own child.

Offred goes to her meeting with the Commander, where he invites her to a rousing game of Scrabble (he beats her with one word because she lets him win). The game makes the meeting even more forbidden as women are not permitted to read in this future. The episode then has the GREATEST ENDING EVER when Offred takes her stride of pride out for the day to the backing of “Don’t You Forget About Me,” smugly ready to tell Ofglen that the Commander is taking a trip to Washington... when she finds someone new in Ofglen’s place.

This episode continued to play up the topical nature of content, this time in the form of declining birthrates. While in the story it’s a medical issue of women and men unable to produce a healthy child, the whole scenario and the knee-jerk response to it is something of a parallel to the way Baby Boomers have recently responded to the wave of progressive changes in the United States. The Millennial generation is often negatively stigmatized for the overall disinterest in having kids and the traditional family unit, 57% of the Millennial parents ages 26-31 had their children out of wedlock, and many other Millennial couples don’t have an interest with having kids at all. Further, with the legalization of gay marriage in the United States, adoption rates will be on the move as well. Meanwhile the Baby Boomers and their stance on having children is probably evident in their name.

This divide is one of many things that have put the Millennial generation at odds with the Baby Boomers, but the latter group recently had their last hurrah in the form of electing the neo-fascist idiot in the combover (since a Black president, gay marriage, women’s health rights, and the possibility of a woman president seemed too much for them to handle). They wanted a return to traditional values — to “make America great again.” A parallel happens here with the leaders of this new government (literally executing Congress and the president to set up their own America — now called Gilead  based on biblical doctrine and traditional gender roles). No Catholics, with Jews deported to Israel, educators and doctors who performed abortions killed, homosexual purges, and everything else that stands out from the union between a man and a woman and the traditional roles of men as leaders and women as housekeepers.

This metaphoric version of events depicts just how bad things can progress and how those marginalized by the government feel. Women may not be walking around in 2017 dressed in varying degrees of pilgrim clothes, but the label of “uterus on two legs” is something many women have felt deeply over the course of their lifetimes. Further, queer citizens have been and still are being murdered and abused today for their identities and orientations. Though these issues are presented in a hyperbolic sense in the Hulu series, it often takes works like The Handmaid's Tale to get privileged people with thick skulls to understand the issues. Those who don’t see these problems cannot believe they are exist, simply because they are not being affected by them.

But whatever, I’m not angry or anything. Check back here for more updates on the series!


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