The NY Times Again Harps on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ as ‘Newly Relevant’ in Trump America

April 26th, 2017 10:57 AM

Television critic James Poniewozik was featured on the front of the New York Times Arts section on Tuesday with another look by the paper at the “newly relevant” Hulu version of the feminist dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The Trump-baiting headline: "Making Dystopia Fresh Again -- Drawing on an Atwood novel that feels newly relevant.” And another bogus lefty reference to current events is snuck in: Offred is a captive. Nevertheless, she persists...."

A decade ago, Elisabeth Moss began co-starring in “Mad Men,” which among other things was about how women were objectified and subjugated -- in the past, the 1960s, the bad old days.

In Hulu’s spectacular “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Ms. Moss is Offred, a baby-making slave in the Republic of Gilead, which is what part of the United States (New England, roughly) has become after a fertility crisis and a theocratic coup. It’s set in a near future that looks like the 1600s.

“Mad Men” may have resonated with today, but it gave viewers the comfortable vantage of history, the reassurance that we had come a long way, baby. “The Handmaid’s Tale” argues -- with an assist from current events -- that progress is neither automatic nor irreversible.

And apparently we haven't heard the last of this liberal meme, a reference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chastising Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

Offred is a captive. Nevertheless, she persists....


I hate to say the story is newly relevant, as if it weren’t for three decades. But face it: When you have a president who talks about women as if they were squeeze toys, who implied a tough female journalist was on her period, whose administration gathered a room full of male politicians to discuss women’s health coverage -- well, the viral marketing takes care of itself.


Something primal and angry is awakening. Some people are exhilarated: Finally, they can say what’s on their minds, without the P.C. thought police cracking down! The show is also attentive to how progressive men can back-burner the concerns of women. Offred’s husband, Luke (O-T Fagbenle), for instance, is convinced that the craziness is bound to blow over.

....You may not believe that anyone, in real life, is actually Making America Gilead Again. But this urgent “Handmaid’s Tale” is not about prophecy. It’s about process, the way people will themselves to believe the abnormal is normal, until one day they look around and realize that these are the bad old days.

(Last December, after Trump's election, Poniewozik also found a warning of looming fascism in his review of the Amazon Prime show Man in the High Castle, an adaptation of the alternative-history novel by speculative fiction author Philip K. Dick.)

Megan McArdle at Bloomberg popped a pin into this bubble of ahistorical foolishness: “No, 'The Handmaid’s Tale' Is Not 'Unexpectedly Timely.”

Whatever future we should fear Donald Trump will usher in, it will bear precious little resemblance to Atwood’s Gilead.

But people keep saying the TV adaptation of "The Handmaid's Tale" is "unexpectedly timely" in this age....

After noting that “America hasn’t had a unified theocratic tradition since the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony,” McArdle pointed out “Trump has been unable to usher in even the far more limited changes he promised." She continued:

Meanwhile, the culture is moving the other way. Women are gaining more economic power relative to men; the nation is becoming less religious. "The Handmaid’s Tale" is becoming less plausible a future with each passing year, no matter how hard feminists insist that there is only a brief and slippery slope between overturning Roe v. Wade and forcing women into state-sanctioned breeding programs.