Warning: This piece contains spoilers from The Handmaid’s Tale TV series.
My partner is lying across the couch, taking up all the room. I wriggle into my spot, sitting upright with the warm crown of his head cradled on my chest.
My arm are wrapped around his chest as we settle in to watch The Handmaid’s Tale. Here, in our cosy, private space, we are safe. We feel safe.
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But the world I’m seeing on screen reminds me that this safety has never been guaranteed. In the wrong place at the wrong time, our homely picture would look very different.
The very act of us being “together” is political.
I first read Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel quite a few years ago, and it had a major impact on me.
As a male feminist (can we start ditching the “male” tag on feminist yet?), I was chilled to the bone by Atwood’s vision of a future society that hits “delete” on the hard-won rights of women. A system that would reduce and enslave my sister, my friends and my colleagues to their fertility status.
The TV adaptation, produced by US streaming service Hulu and available on SBS On Demand, locally, hits me even closer to home.
Not only is being a woman grounds for institutionalised oppression and abuse, but so is being gay.
The series puts LGBTI people into the plot in a way that amplifies Atwood’s horrifying vision, making it even more relevant than ever.
The fundamentalist beliefs of a world like Gilead eerily echo those of groups like the Westborough Baptist Church (their tagline “God Hates Fags” appears smeared on a snowy window during episode seven).
From the opening episode, we are warned of what happens to the people they call “gender traitors”.
As Offred/June (Elisabeth Moss) and Ofglen/Emily (Alexis Bledel) walk home by the river, they see a gay man’s limp, lifeless body hanging on the wall next to a pink triangle symbol. The same symbol the Nazis used to identify homosexuals during the Holocaust.