Update: Clearly, the HULU series has tapped into some mighty dark (dare one call 'em hysterical?) fears. See, for instance, this review by a Guardianista who 'splains that
what makes But what makes The Handmaid’s Tale so terrifying is not that it’s timely, but that it’s timeless. And after watching seven episodes, what’s been keeping me up at night isn’t the explicit horrors as much as how the show surfaces women’s fear of what everyday sexism really means.It's been keeping her up at night?
Get thee to a psychotherapist, stat!
Update: More Handmaid hysteria:
What's important to remember while watching The Handmaid's Tale is that feminism is a sociopolitical movement, not a genre of art. A book, a movie, or a show can all be feminist in their themes. They can traffic in the ideas of feminism, but they do not do the work of feminism. We cannot hold online debates about how sex, abortion, or the workplace are portrayed on TV and call that feminism, even when we win them. The wage gap persists. Our rights are under attack. We live in a rape culture. Directing the "feminist" conversation at the screen does nothing to change these facts unless the conversation comes, at some point, off the screen again. So yes, The Handmaid's Tale succeeds on its own, regardless of historical context, as art…and also as a feminist masterpiece. But you don't get feminist participation points for watching it—that's not how it works.
Where its power lies, I think, is in the conversations it might spark, conversations that are desperately needed. We live in a world where it's not always easy or even possible to come right out and state a belief, start a dialogue, question the status quo. But The Handmaid's Tale can function like that bit of gossip in the town square that brings Offred and Ofglen together, it can be the point at which we turn to other women and other people whom we do not know well and enter into a discussion that leads us to the truth.
How can you enter into a discussion that leads you to the truth when the truth is that, due to the veneration of victimhood, you actually can't tell how well off you really are?
Update: Funny how the 1990 film version (starring Natasha Richardson as Offred, and with a screenplay by Harold Pinter) didn't garner nearly as many raves.