“Blessed Be The Fruit: A Look Back at Handmaid’s Tale’s First Season”

“Blessed Be The Fruit: A Look Back at Handmaid’s Tale’s First Season”

I tend to get sucked into heated arguments on Facebook, I don’t know why. But this was so oddly prescient. In the wake of Trump ending the Iran Deal, side-note: the Media swearing up and down the Iranian Government was just a bunch of shelter cats and dogs that needed a home, they don’t have weapons, they’re not interested in nuclear weaponry, and then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes out with an enormous report, and suddenly Iran is bombing Israel, and not two weeks before John Oliver was making the case for Iran. Weird. How this leads into The Handmaid’s Tale is that one of my Facebook friends, actually a very dear person, a real friend before Facebook, posts something about how abandoning the Iran Deal will result in World War III. I don’t know where he gets that idea, but so be it. One of his friends starts commenting that The Handmaid’s Tale will happen in this Country. There are people out there who don’t seem to understand that movies and television shows are fantasy; a form of illusion, fiction. There may be some themes, some political or social commentary, but for the most part, there are no 25-foot Great White sharks out there. The Death Star is not real. Stuff like that.

I took a step back and thought about it. How dangerous would it be for me to confront these people directly and tell them my belief that they are being manipulated by the Media and having their fears exploited by a television show? The reaction was exactly what I thought it would be, but let’s go back for a second. All media, whatever it is, is exploitative. All media is advertising. It’s meant to evoke a response, an emotional response, to provoke a discussion, and get you to buy products. Nobody wants to think they’re being manipulated, it shows weakness in the passive sense. Looking at it from the outside, though, it’s troubling. It’s a very dangerous paranoia, and it’s coming from a television series. A family is pursued by a group of armed men. The woman is caught, and separated from her young daughter and husband as shots are fired in the distance. She is now known as Offred, the Handmaid to Commander Fred Waterford. While walking with another Handmaid, Ofglen, she and Ofglen pass by a wall on which men have been hanged for crimes such as being gay, working in an abortion clinic, or being a Catholic priest, or failing to rewind their tapes, or not lifting the lid, or wearing white after Labor Day…

I want to point out that the cast is overwhelmingly female; there are 18 female roles; principle characters compared to 5 male roles in the featured and supporting cast. 10 of the 16 episodes I’ve viewed were directed by females. It should go without saying when one portion of a group is an overwhelming majority, the material (especially such politically-charged material as this) becomes a form of propaganda. At the very least, The Handmaid’s Tale is an excellent employment program for women in the Industry. What, I think, is generally not understood, or misunderstood, is the nature of exploitation. You get together any group of people with different opinions, or contrarian opinions, give them content that will exploit their fears, they will rise up as one by the end of that presentation. The Handmaid’s Tale only works if you’ve shared those suspicions. This isn’t science fiction anymore – now everything is political or locked into identity or group-identity politics. If you, as a person or as a group, believe that you have been subjugated or oppressed, your belief is stronger than any reasonable set of statistics which would indicate otherwise.

I got into a heated discussion with somebody who believed “history was repeating itself.” I asked her, in the most delicate way, what part of our shared history had occurred before that is now being repeated. I also asked how long after Trump was elected that she was forced out of her job and chained to her bed to be raped repeatedly to make babies for the State. Of course, she didn’t have an answer. She just kept saying, “history is repeating itself, history is repeating itself.” I engaged her in the conversation because she was one of the rare few who didn’t resort to calling me names, or trying to shame me on some level. It’s the worst form of exploitation because it’s never permitted to be constructive. It’s always meant to be horrifying. It’s a form of pornography. The story is not a typical cross-section of politics; it has very little to do with politics and more to do with a person’s, specifically a woman’s, right to love who she wants to love, even in the midst of a plague situation that is causing the extermination of the human race. It becomes a dangerous equivocation of rape, forced impregnation, sex, and love. In the course of these first ten episodes, June is abducted, forced to become a handmaid (because of her fertility), repeatedly raped, discovers Luke is still alive, and eventually becomes pregnant. That’s it. That’s ten episodes. Oh, there are some flashbacks and character development, but that’s it. That is the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The show is beautifully shot. In fact, Gilead doesn’t look particularly dystopic except for the hanging dead bodies. Again, this is a bit much. Is this Margaret Atwood’s interpretation of the birth control movement, which started in the late ’60s? If it is (and if it is still possible to give birth to children), then she would be aware that people continued to have children long after the invention of birth control. You are so lucky! So privileged! Blessed are the meek. On to the Gilead Question. Does Gilead sink it’s teeth slowly into the neck of America? Was it gradual change? The way the show presents it, incidents occurred over the previous three years (less than a full term for a President). We know that based on the events of “The Other Side,” this complete take-over took three years. Maybe they just got lucky? I think it’s safe to speculate on the origins of the quick and easy power-grab of Gilead over the United States. After the murders of the President, members of Congress and Judicial entities, ranking members of the Gilead militia were given access to the nuclear silos and launched warheads in key areas, the sites of major Military bases and surrounding areas. This shut down the Nation, thus the “irradiated” soil of the Colonies was the result of Gilead’s attacks on American soil. Atwood’s supposition is that all men needed was one gentle push in the direction of misogyny. As if we all had the word, “slut,” forming on our lips at all times. Does Atwood hate men or women? Or both?

The men are not written to be men. They’re written to be monsters. The Commander demands a game of Scrabble from Offred, which is peculiar, but it’s obvious he’s an incredibly lonely man. In Atwood’s philosophy, the women are frail, gullible, and easily-led in order to be programmed or conditioned to believe a government’s lies. She doesn’t seem to be aware that there are female police officers, armed forces members, federal agents, lumberjacks, and other women in “manly” occupations. Gilead invades the United States, “suspends” the Constitution, murders Congress, and suddenly nobody can leave. Why? What is Gilead to care so much about malcontent or discontent citizens? It looks like they have plenty of voluntary participants in their crazy scheme. Citizens who want to leave should be allowed to leave. Otherwise, you’re going to deal with a lot of kicking and screaming, and then you have to be cruel to keep the population in line. In order to effectively pacify and control a population, you should be prepared to fulfill that population’s needs, so that there would never be want. That practice would stimulate population and then over-population. Ruling by collective misery doesn’t make a population feel particularly sexy or even express a normal biological need to procreate. Does the story proceed from the assumption that women do not want to have children, and are therefore forced to breed by the demands of “rapists” consumed in the toxic masculinity?

The Handmaid’s Tale’s first season won eight Primetime Emmy Awards from thirteen nominations. Awards were given for Best Drama Series, production, cinematography, direction, writing, and Moss, Ann Dowd (who plays Aunt Lydia), and Alexis Bledel for their performances. The episodes, “Offred” and “Night” (the first and last episodes of the season) were singled out specifically for excellence. For me, the quality of the show dropped off shortly after the third episode, “Late,” when the narrative structure began to resemble Lost more and more; the dependence on flashbacks, visual catharsis, and “ironic” music cues began to wear heavily on the storytelling. Looking back at the first season, it occurs to me the writers and producers wanted to leave any questions of world-building by the way-side, and instead concentrated on the internal struggle of Gilead after the fall in keeping with Atwood’s book. They revised their plans to include the backstory and characterization when, I assume, they recognized that Atwood’s book was too thin upon which to base a television series. Indeed, Atwood’s book (for the series) is merely a very rough first draft, an outline. Written like prose with an unreliable narrator in Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale is a false memoir that owes more to analogy than science fiction, but in 1985, when the book was published, it was taken as science fiction. When Donald Trump was elected President, Atwood came out of the woodwork to tell us the book (and resulting television series) was now science eventuality.

Shortly after the television series premiered, Atwood announced that a sequel was in the works, thus turning her “important” work into a vulgar money-grab. It goes back to my main point. All media is exploitation. All media is advertising. I believe that when Atwood wrote her book, she was postulating the “what if” scenario; a tome of speculation. What if, in our Modern Age, this age of “reason,” men seized power and forced women to have children? How would they go about doing this? It would require a literalist interpretation of religion. It would require hypocrisy, of course, as well as government yielding to such a religion; discarding science, discarding civics, discarding ethics. Gilead has no government, at least as far as I can see. It looks more like the Pentagon was moved into a man-cave, with a bunch of bearded Free Mason dorks. No one, in our modern age (2017-2019), before the rise of the Sons of Jacob, behaves as though there is a crisis, as though there is an existential threat wiping out our species. Instead we jog while people give us dirty looks. We watch Friends on DVD, drink our over-priced soy lattes, and listen to Annie Lennox. This may be the one stroke of genius the writers and producers of this show have bestowed upon Atwood’s legacy. They’ve convinced us we were too stupid and lazy to have seen the oncoming storm.

D.L.

7/3-5, 2019

SHIP TO SHIP: A Star Trek Podcast “Heart of Darkness”

SHIP TO SHIP: A Star Trek Podcast “Heart of Darkness”

SEASON FINALE!

There’s a difference between “hate” and “manufactured hate.”  Hate is personal, often subjective, based on actions that affect a person.  Manufactured hate is when a third party, a fourth party, create an enemy and instruct a person to hate based on indirect (and often inaccurate) perceptions.
We look at four episodes from the Star Trek franchise.  “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” “The Wounded,” “Duet,” and “Chosen Realm.”
“Hatred is a transformative power. It can make the innocuous into the menacing. So it has become a weapon of choice. The left has used hate to transform President Trump into a symbol of the new racism, not a flawed president but a systemic evil. And he must be opposed as one opposes racism, with a scorched-earth absolutism.
For Martin Luther King Jr., hatred was not necessary as a means to power. The actual details of oppression were enough. Power came to him because he rejected hate as a method of resisting menace. He called on blacks not to be defined by what menaced them. Today, because menace provides moral empowerment, blacks and their ostensible allies indulge in it. The menace of black victimization becomes the unarguable truth of the black identity. And here we are again, forever victims.”
Shelby Steele, The Wall Street Journal

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© Frequent Wire, David Lawler copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “SHIP TO SHIP: A Star Trek Podcast” is not affiliated with CBS Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Television, Desilu Television, Gulf + Western, or the estate of Gene Roddenberry. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

ANOTHER NEW EPISODE! “Seeds from the Suicide Tree”

We had a short circuit a couple of days ago that lasted, at it’s peak of operations, I wanna say three days. That’s what results if you overload a power conduit, a wire or a serial bus. The wire or the bus melts and we see some smoke, and that one broken link disrupts the communication, and the power goes out. When I started observing the behavior, I wondered if it was possible this was the cycle of conditioning being interrupted by the short circuit that caused what I can only call “shared madness.” I know emotions can run high. We’re human. I know that. In those three days, I was surrounded by people who … this is hard to say. I was surrounded by people who turned into … monsters, or maybe monsters is too harsh a word. Maybe they were robots, given the contradictory result of a calculation they were told was solved.

Now, we have the misdirected anger, the first stage. It’s like a laser in a mirror ball, with destructive energy indiscriminately aimed at everything and everyone, even friends and loved ones. How did it become so personal? Isn’t this a struggle between two candidates? Join us for a lively discussion of how it happened, and why seeming normal, reasonable people went mad on that chilly Wednesday last week.

Recorded November 12, 2016

Artwork by Regan Lawler

http://www.blissville.net
http://www.blissville.net/

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2016 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended.

Running Time: 53:47

BRAND-SPANKING-NEW EPISODE! “A Confederacy of Douchebags (Part Three)!”

BRAND-SPANKING-NEW EPISODE! A couple of things. Jay-Z needs to seriously shut up. You shot your big brother because he took your chains. Anthony Weiner needs to seriously stop showing us all of his short-comings. Your wife is an idiot. Liberals need to stop being frightened. Nobody’s gonna stop you from having abortions. Conservatives need to stop being paranoid. Nobody’s gonna take your guns away from you. Beyonce envisions a future where her multi-millionaire children will have as many opportunities as white people. I have an unofficial rule as part of our social contract. Blacks get to be bald, and whites get to have tattoos, and never the twain shall meet. We all look better that way! As Mos Def would say, “Fuke dot sheet!” Don’t get me started on Trump! I’m done.

This incredible album art was designed by Bronwyn Knox!

Recorded November 5, 2016

http://www.blissville.net
http://www.blissville.net/

This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended.

New Episode! “A Confederacy Of Douchebags (Part One)”

Douche1

“We are, we are, we are but your children
Finding our way around indecision
We are, we are, we are rather helpless
Take us forever, a whisper to a scream.”

“Tiddy Bear”, “We’ve Only Just Begun” (Roger Nichols/Paul Williams) by The Carpenters (from the 1970 album, “Close To You”), “America” (Neil Diamond) by Neil Diamond (from the 1980 album, “The Jazz Singer”), “Hail To The Chief” (James Sanderson/Albert Gamse), “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” by The Icicle Works (Ian McNabb).

New Episode! “The White Album, Disc Two”

Disc-Two

Blind Dog, Blind Cat : Tribulus terrestris : And The Oscar Goes Too… :
Driving in the Snow : My Mama Said
Birthdays and Star Wars : Healthcare and Taxes
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump : English Berry Trifle

“Martha My Dear” Perfect Piano Intro Tutorial by Christopher Stovakovic from YouTube (Lennon/McCartney), Sally Field winning an Oscar® for “Places in the Heart”, “Sexy Sadie” by pianojohn113 from YouTube (Lennon/McCartney), “Good Night” (Lennon/McCartney) by Linda Ronstadt

NEW PODCAST: “The Johnny Carson Show”

Shatner-and-Carson

Welcome to BlissVille, Misadventures in BlissVille, and tonight we’re discussing Johnny Carson, the “King of Late Night”. Andrew asked me to watch the American Masters documentary about Johnny Carson, produced by PBS for Channel 13, here in New York City. It’s a very well-made documentary narrated by the actor Kevin Spacey.

This was a different time, perhaps a stranger time that young people may not be able to understand, or grasp, where a performer had to work very hard to make money. I remember reading an article, I think it was an interview in Life Magazine with Johnny Carson, and the article made reference to Carson starting out as a magician, really quite a talented magician. The documentary makes great play at showing the first book he bought, which was about card tricks and magic. You ever see the magician who got on the train the City every now and then? He would whistle to get everybody’s attention. Most New Yorkers keep their heads down, try not to make an eye contact, but this guy would come in – he had a big, funny hat, he wore a little cape and a tuxedo, and he had a big suitcase, from which would emerge some pretty awesome tricks. He would conjure birds from inside his hat, from up his sleeve. People always want to know how you can accomplish those tricks, and that spoils the fun for me. I don’t want to know how they do what they do.

The article didn’t do much to shed light on Carson’s personal life, and this documentary takes a brave stab at it, but it essentially tells the same story – Carson’s mother appeared to be a dominating, judgmental presence in his life, and he did everything he could to please her, but she remained completely unimpressed throughout his life – even to becoming the King of Late Night. He married four times, had children. One item I was not familiar with was Carson’s drinking problem, and I think we all sort of figured that Ed McMahon was the drunkard of the two. Imagine my surprise when I find he was sober through most of the shows, for 30 years even!

This is the end of our “William Shatner Letter Exchange” series of BlissVille episodes, and it has been incredible fun!  In a little under two weeks, we go back to a Shatner-less version of BlissVille.  We’ll talk the Monkees with Denny Spangler and Bronwyn Knox, and KISS with Mark Jeacoma!  After that, a well-earned Winter’s break and “The Twilight Zone”!