Movie: The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

HandmaidsTaleI read the book some while ago, and don’t recall whether or not I posted a review of that.  But movies are always quite different from the books on which they are based, so here goes.

The basic premise is that in the near future, an ecological disaster caused two somewhat related drastic changes:  almost all women became sterile and a theocracy has taken over in what is presumably North America named Gilead, which is a name from the bible.  So the few fertile women have become Handmaids, the property of the State, and assigned to infertile couples to produce their children.

Needless to say, this has caused a great many other, more subtle changes.  When handmaid Kate (renamed “Offred,” or “of Fred”) is assigned to the Commander (Robert Duvall) and his wife Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway), she finds that the Commander may be sterile (The doctor tells her “No, they don’t test the men.”).  But she will be blamed if she does not conceive, and so she is faced with finding someone else to impregnate her.  Serena Joy is the first to make this suggestion if you don’t count the doctor who “volunteered” when he told her about the problem.

The news programs today are full of stories of conservatives who want to decide who should and should not have children by way of controlling abortion and birth control.  The chilling part of this is the extent to which it is all linked to religion: God, or the people who assert that they speak for God, decides what goes on inside your body, and therefore many other aspects of your life that impact your reproduction.  Science fiction is good at taking a warning to the extremes to make the point: this movie makes it pretty darn well, and would scare the heck out of me if I was young and fertile.

Statements in this review do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.