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Palimpsest: Novel vs. Show

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On 1/9/2017 at 9:59 AM, wonderandawe said:

Just watched the teaser.  Seems like they made Offred's daughter a son instead.   Seems like a young boy in the beach scene and she calls out "Bobby!" in the woods scene.

I'll never imagine a woman screaming "Bobbbyyyyyy!!!!!" without thinking of the late, great Whitney Houston.

I'll see myself out now.

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36 minutes ago, Ashforth said:

I'll never imagine a woman screaming "Bobbbyyyyyy!!!!!" without thinking of the late, great Whitney Houston.

I'll see myself out now.

I think the same thing.

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This latest episode, “Postpartum”, made me think a good bit about how the book and the show have detailed the overall fertility system that Gilead has in place, and the more and more I think about it, the more I am truly convinced that Atwood wanted to emphasize just how faulty and poorly structured the regime’s “grand scheme” was. 

I have no doubt that was surely a part of why Gilead eventually falls, because this group is not really thinking ahead, they are not showing the presence of mind to really build a lasting foundation for their society, if anything they are continuously eroding it at every turn.

I think just the overall refusal to place infertility blame onto the men, especially the commanders, as if their fragile egos were too important and needed to be spared the humiliation of being exposed for shooting blanks, and yet because of that they are willing to steal and keep perfectly fertile women away from the potentially perfectly fertile men in their lives, their husbands or their boyfriends, that they were able to produce children with during a time when you would think that standout would be what was highlighted.

When the show introduced Omar and his wife, an Econo family that had proven fertile, they had a beautiful little boy to show for it, when they were found out by the regime, Omar was killed, a fertile man,  and they turned the wife into a handmaid, putting her into a fairly pointless pool of women forced to sleep with men that more than likely could not and would not get her pregnant again.

 The fact the regime so easily could slaughter men who are fertile to me is just the number one flaw in their argument about caring for producing more children for the future.

If you truly care about building the next generation, then you would focus on both halves of the equation, women cannot just produce babies on their own, they need viable sperm to do that.

So why have so many young men capable of impregnating women just been eradicated without a second thought? Even ones who have proven submissive to the new world order and are not fighting back?  Most of those men could be easily corralled just on the basis of the fact that they know that their wives and children would face punishment or worse if they don’t submit. 

What would be the harm of having these men locked up and utilized as they do the women? If they can control the ceremony with handmaids, why not do the same with fertile couples?

I utterly loathe the term “breeding farms”, I hate even the thought of that, but to me that would be the very first step one would take towards increasing the birth rate on as large a scale as possible, especially If those in control just go full out and take away people’s rights and enslave them solely for that purpose.

Both in the book and on th show, if the fertility crisis was really driving the Gilead PTB, June and Luke should’ve been captured alive, Hannah removed, and then they would’ve been put to work essentially producing more children. 

Maybe they wouldn’t even allow the couples to stay together, they would basically play musical chairs with them, different husbands being forcibly paired with different wives, just as they did during slavery when enslaved men with “desireable qualities “ would be moved around to different plantations with different women, especially those who seemed to produce a child more easily than others, and forced to impregnate them. 

So much about Gilead just screams “anti-baby”  to me. From conception on, these people do themselves and the little ones absolutely no favors. 

I think a misstep the show took in regards to that is when they showed during season one that apparently quite a few of the handmaids had managed to produce a good number of babies.

From my perspective in the book Atwood made it very clear that the Handmaid system was not working, a handmaid getting pregnant was almost unheard of.

 To me she wanted to make it clear that even though the regime had overhauled society in such a drastic way in regards to pregnancy and with forced rape during a monthly ceremony, things were not working, there was no upside to what they were doing, the results were poor if nonexistent. 

I always saw it as an exercise in futility, not a system that actually held any long-lasting  merit. 

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Yes, it was a stupid, cruel system full of misogyny, xenophobia, oligarchy, and racism and it failed because of that.

That's why it's so difficult to watch in these times.

Edited by Umbelina
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8 hours ago, AnswersWanted said:

From my perspective in the book Atwood made it very clear that the Handmaid system was not working, a handmaid getting pregnant was almost unheard of.

 To me she wanted to make it clear that even though the regime had overhauled society in such a drastic way in regards to pregnancy and with forced rape during a monthly ceremony, things were not working, there was no upside to what they were doing, the results were poor if nonexistent. 

I always saw it as an exercise in futility, not a system that actually held any long-lasting  merit. 

Margaret Atwood also made it clear that the real reason for Gilead to exist is misogyny and patriarchy. I don't think the show is doing a good job in delivering that message. 

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5 hours ago, alexvillage said:

Margaret Atwood also made it clear that the real reason for Gilead to exist is misogyny and patriarchy. I don't think the show is doing a good job in delivering that message. 

 

I think the show has dropped the purpose and plot of “The Handmaid’s Tale” in a lot of ways.

They seem so concerned with pushing this show to “10 seasons” and stretching out the storylines by not addressing the real issues at the core of the novel.

As you said in regards to the misogyny and patriarchy, it’s so dulled down and overlooked in general. The impact is being lost. 

The show seems, imo, way too focused on working their own ideas in, the whole trading handmaids to Mexico, and they aren’t giving Atwood’s vision half the attention and respect it deserves. 

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In the book....

  Hide contents

….how is it that only whites suffer from infertility?  If it's the result of pollution, everyone would be effected.

@Ruby

They killed or deported all POC to crop raising colonies, so we honestly don't know about their birth rates in first world countries.  It's not addressed in the book.  Did they separate them by gender to avoid more black (and other POC) births?  We don't know.  The effects on POC birthrates in Europe are also not addressed.  We do know they were responsible for raising all crops in Gilead, probably manually, without much machinery (fuel shortages are likely) and certainly without GMOs or pesticides/herbicides.

What they DID say was something like plenty of people POC in India, Africa, possibly Pacific Islanders were still having the same numbers of babies they always did.  So, it's logical to assume that the birthrates were probably due, possibly in great part, to the overuse of chemicals such as pesticides on crops, as well as climate change issues, and of course the nuclear power plant accidents, which were mainly in the USA and Europe.

Gilead was founded specifically because the WHITE race was dying out, and that was unacceptable to the founders of Gilead.  Religion, racism, and eliminating pollution were probably the 3 biggest selling points of the men who started Gilead.  Women of course participated until they were completely shut out of the process of designing the new state.

If someone remembers this better, please chime in.

Edited by Umbelina
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Umbelina, thanks for the answer.  Why only whites would be effected doesn't make much sense, but then it's a dystopian novel, not a documentary.

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1 minute ago, Ruby said:

Umbelina, thanks for the answer.  Why only whites would be effected doesn't make much sense, but then it's a dystopian novel, not a documentary.

As I said, I think it's more location than anything to do with the color of their skin.

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13 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

As I said, I think it's more location than anything to do with the color of their skin.

I haven't read the novel, but I'm guessing there's a lot of difference between it and the show.

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8 minutes ago, Ruby said:

I haven't read the novel, but I'm guessing there's a lot of difference between it and the show.

Only that they eliminated racism really, which is huge.

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Anyone ever watch the sci-fi TV show, Sliders?  There was an episode, Love Gods, where in one of the parallel universes, men were scarce because of biological warfare.  So they were rounded up and put in, "breeding centers."

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On 7/7/2018 at 10:56 PM, AnswersWanted said:

The fact the regime so easily could slaughter men who are fertile to me is just the number one flaw in their argument about caring for producing more children for the future.

If you truly care about building the next generation, then you would focus on both halves of the equation, women cannot just produce babies on their own, they need viable sperm to do that.

I want to cosign your entire post, but especially this point.  The book at least makes it clear that the women, the wives and handmaids both, know the system as designed isn't producing the bumper crop of babies it was supposedly set up to do.  So you get separate conversations with Serena in arranging Nick and Offred and later with original recipe Ofglen where they're admitting that it's fairly common knowledge among them that Janine's baby was fathered by a doctor rather than her commander, that there's a veritable black market of sperm that's been responsible for the mere handful of pregnancies that have occurred because they all know that the commanders aren't cutting it.  As gross as it is to think about people purely in terms of breeding stock, if they were truly interested in making as many babies as possible to repopulate the earth they would have had men known to have successfully fathered children being made available for stud rather than guys like Nick slipping around on the sly.  There's a powerful air of desperation and futility about the handmaid system in the book that doesn't seem to be nearly as present in the show, at least in part because there it is producing enough children to give you the idea that it is at least a marginally functional idea and focus instead on the emotional beats of separating birth mothers from those babies in a way the book doesn't.

Of course, it helps that in the book Commander Fred isn't creepily infatuated with Offred to the point where they can dispassionately discuss how the poor men needed the societal overhaul because they were dissatisfied and couldn't feel anything in marital partnerships as equals.  They weren't needed by women who were educated and could make their own money and choices the way he says men need to be needed.  Book Commander Fred is an early MRAer and in being so tips his hand that while the falling birthrate was a real thing to be concerned about, it was also a convenient excuse to take back the gains women had made and subjugate them under this ridiculous system.  Because babies.  As we've seen in book and show, they were able to get a lot of women to go along with it initially on the promise of babies and as wives, hey, you still won't have it as bad as them.

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4 hours ago, nodorothyparker said:

As we've seen in book and show, they were able to get a lot of women to go along with it initially on the promise of babies and as wives, hey, you still won't have it as bad as them.

I think that's where the show is falling apart a bit for me.

In reality it WASN'T "babies."  Gilead took over slowly at first, and it was a three-pronged attack/persuasion on the public before the violent overthrow and murders in DC of the elected leaders.

Religion. "Bring GOD back!" (and all that means, including of course, no more separation between church and state.)

Ecology. Global Warming and pollution and runaway chemicals and scientists who helped create nuclear power plants (it was all THEIR fault that God had turned his back on the people of the USA, and the government wasn't listening so...)

Race.  The white race was dying out and becoming a minority.  White Power!  God's chosen people, the pure, no mark of Cain on them.

It had a healthy dose of "controlling the free press" as well, again, giving up freedoms in the US constitution, until it was less "fake news" and more "let's murder everyone in the Boston Globe."  Dictators always have to get rid of the press, Gilead was no different.

Everything kind of stemmed from those.  For example, the birthrate was God's unhappiness, the pollution, the scientists who had ruined Eden, and also their duty as white people to reverse the lack of white babies being born. 

Same with subjugation of women, and all the rest.

I think the show has made a huge error in having the focus seem to just be "babies!"  The book made more sense, it was a cautionary tale about how each of these seemingly harmless changes and sacrifices lead to more and more being taken away.  Martial Law (as Gilead declared) isn't the only way to control the populace, it can be done with low wages, lack of health care, etc.  "Bringing God Back!" is a slippery slope, women's reproductive rights, or lack of equal wages?  Ditto.  White Power?  It's everywhere now, just as it began in Gilead.

The show pretending this is "all about babies" dumbs down the story and impact of Atwood's work, and it's no doubt that non-book readers think it's stupid, because, as presented here?  In many ways it is stupid.

Edited by Umbelina
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21 minutes ago, Umbelina said:

I think that's where the show is falling apart a bit for me.

In reality it WASN'T "babies."  Gilead took over slowly at first, and it was a three-pronged attack/persuasion on the public before the violent overthrow and murders in DC of the elected leaders.

Religion. "Bring GOD back!" (and all that means, including of course, no more separation between church and state.)

Ecology. Global Warming and pollution and runaway chemicals and scientists who helped create nuclear power plants (it was all THEIR fault that God had turned his back on the people of the USA, and the government wasn't listening so...)

Race.  The white race was dying out and becoming a minority.  White Power!  God's chosen people, the pure, no mark of Cain on them.

It had a healthy dose of "controlling the free press" as well, again, giving up freedoms in the US constitution, until it was less "fake news" and more "let's murder everyone in the Boston Globe."  Dictators always have to get rid of the press, Gilead was no different.

Everything kind of stemmed from those.  For example, the birthrate was God's unhappiness, the pollution, the scientists who had ruined Eden, and also their duty as white people to reverse the lack of white babies being born. 

Same with subjugation of women, and all the rest.

I think the show has made a huge error in having the focus seem to just be "babies!"  The book made more sense, it was a cautionary tale about how each of these seemingly harmless changes and sacrifices lead to more and more being taken away.  Martial Law (as Gilead declared) isn't the only way to control the populace, it can be done with low wages, lack of health care, etc.  "Bringing God Back!" is a slippery slope, women's reproductive rights, or lack of equal wages?  Ditto.  White Power?  It's everywhere now, just as it began in Gilead.

The show pretending this is "all about babies" dumbs down the story and impact of Atwood's work, and it's no doubt that non-book readers think it's stupid, because, as presented here?  In many ways it is stupid.

Thank you very much for explaining this and giving such and informative post. This makes a lot more sense to me personally, because as someone who is not as familiar with the book as many on here seem to be, the show seems be dropping the ball and bordering on the absurd on so many levels. The first season seemed to make so much more narrative sense to me compared to this season.

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I keep thinking back to that backseat of the car scene last season where three men, Commander Fred among them, sat around casually discussing how to implement the handmaid system and get the wives to go along with it.  I do wish we had gotten more of that and less long lingering closeups because it was a great illustration of how these men set about to convince the larger population that assassinations and attacks on the press and overthrow of the elected government and complete negation of basic human rights were all for the greater good.  They acknowledge in that scene that it's all going to be wrapped in religion and babies.  I remember saying at the time that I also really would have loved scenes of when they first pitched the whole handmaid concept to powerful educated women like Serena and maybe where the tipping point was where people just accepted that "oh, we're doing this now" in watching these women march two by two to the market in their blood red handmaid getups knowing what their purpose was.  Because you're right, there was a whole slide here that was so much bigger than just if we do this God will reward us with babies, but that's what the show has almost exclusively focused on.

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Yes, and they skimmed over the "Islamic Terrorists" killing the elected leaders as well.

If you'd read the book, I'm beginning to think, more and more, this show makes more sense than it does for people watching it cold.

I've said from the beginning that changing the racial aspect was huge, but I'm realizing from comments from non-book readers that it's so much more important than I even realized.

Some were on board because of ecology.  Science, doctors, the "smart" people were to blame for the state of the world, let's kill them and go back to pioneer days!

Some were on board because the white race was dying out.  White power!

Some were on board because "Woo!  Religion!  God!"  Which was used to great effect to make misogyny cool again.  If women had only known their place, not been selfishly working, or using birth control (more anti science there) then God wouldn't be punishing our Godless country.

Some were on board because (more race/religion) the USA was ATTACKED by Islamic extremists (which nicely tied in the twin pronged religion/race motivation.)

The press was denigrated before being completely eliminated.  How much opposition was there to that?   How many were already on board?

As for the book, at the time, I had a hard time visualizing how any of this could become reality.  Now?  I don't.

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10 hours ago, nodorothyparker said:

I want to cosign your entire post, but especially this point.  The book at least makes it clear that the women, the wives and handmaids both, know the system as designed isn't producing the bumper crop of babies it was supposedly set up to do.  So you get separate conversations with Serena in arranging Nick and Offred and later with original recipe Ofglen where they're admitting that it's fairly common knowledge among them that Janine's baby was fathered by a doctor rather than her commander, that there's a veritable black market of sperm that's been responsible for the mere handful of pregnancies that have occurred because they all know that the commanders aren't cutting it.  As gross as it is to think about people purely in terms of breeding stock, if they were truly interested in making as many babies as possible to repopulate the earth they would have had men known to have successfully fathered children being made available for stud rather than guys like Nick slipping around on the sly.  There's a powerful air of desperation and futility about the handmaid system in the book that doesn't seem to be nearly as present in the show, at least in part because there it is producing enough children to give you the idea that it is at least a marginally functional idea and focus instead on the emotional beats of separating birth mothers from those babies in a way the book doesn't.

Of course, it helps that in the book Commander Fred isn't creepily infatuated with Offred to the point where they can dispassionately discuss how the poor men needed the societal overhaul because they were dissatisfied and couldn't feel anything in marital partnerships as equals.  They weren't needed by women who were educated and could make their own money and choices the way he says men need to be needed.  Book Commander Fred is an early MRAer and in being so tips his hand that while the falling birthrate was a real thing to be concerned about, it was also a convenient excuse to take back the gains women had made and subjugate them under this ridiculous system.  Because babies.  As we've seen in book and show, they were able to get a lot of women to go along with it initially on the promise of babies and as wives, hey, you still won't have it as bad as them.

 

Such excellent points, I completely agree.

I feel as if the show is doing way too much and not nearly enough all at the same time.

They want to skip ahead and show us a futuristic Gilead as it were, presenting a show that has, supposedly, progressed beyond the book, but they haven’t bothered to actually grow and show the Gilead that was in the book that all of this is based on in the first place.

There is no explanation for so much that they’re doing, and it could and would be there if they had only followed Atwood’s vision.

She gave them everything they needed to bring this story to life, to show that Gilead is not about babies, Gilead is not about a better life, they even used that line with Fred in season one, but it is as if they've forgotten that entire point themselves, that “better for some does not mean better for all”.

But we don’t see enough of the “all” involved, of the true scope of the impact Gilead has had from coast to coast, across race, religion, gender, sex, and LGBTQ groups.

I find it so frustrating that they seem to want us to put so much together in our own heads when they need to be telling the story, that’s what they’re there for, that is what should be the driving force behind the show, not trying out fancy ideas and using Atwood’s genius as the established background for it.

I think overall I feel as if the show is doing a great disservice to the book by spending so little time exploring the true themes and direction inside it. 

And also in doing so they are cheating the viewers, both those who have read the book and those whom have not, because at the end of the day the story just does not add up and it’s too confusing and too poorly put together to bother trying to make sense of it. 

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14 hours ago, GraceK said:

The first season seemed to make so much more narrative sense to me compared to this season.

Tbh, the signs that the show writers don't get it came halfway through the first season. Gilead being such a baby-making success that the Mexican ambassador would be chomping at the bit to trade for handmaids made absolutely no sense. It was the first time the showrunners decided to flesh out the world beyond the book and they completely undermined the whole point of the book.

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15 hours ago, Umbelina said:

The book made more sense

I appreciate all the analysis and opinions but this sums up perfectly the essence of the show.

And please, allow me a little rant against the capitalistic drive of Hollywood: the show runners could have hired better writers. It looks like they decided to go with good proofreaders (for the first season) and gave up on the quality after that - bad writers, writers looking for a chance to succeed but not necessarily talented are *cheap* compared to how much money goes to the producers and other non-artistic interests.  My suggestion to Margaret Atwood (as if she cares, haha) would be to pull the plug (if contract allows) sooner rather than later. There is a risk that too many people will remember the show and not the book.

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2 hours ago, AllyB said:

Tbh, the signs that the show writers don't get it came halfway through the first season. Gilead being such a baby-making success that the Mexican ambassador would be chomping at the bit to trade for handmaids made absolutely no sense. It was the first time the showrunners decided to flesh out the world beyond the book and they completely undermined the whole point of the book.

 

Right on.  

I will never forget that episode as a tipping point for the show, and the fact that they have not touched on it even once during season 2, if I recall correctly, to me says they realized way too late that was a giant fuck up and they didn’t know how to fix it.

Then, instead of going back to basics, reevaluating the book source and putting things, somewhat, back in order if possible, they pretty much doubled down on their skewed vision. 

Like you said, they undermined so much of the premise of what the book was all about and its purpose, and yet they still want to take snippets from it here and there when it suits them, even as they leave large enough plot holes to drive a semi through. 

They just cannot have it both ways, imo. 

Atwood didn’t think a mystical wolf dog beast was necessary to tell her story, it’d be nice if the show’s creators and writing department asked themselves why they, then, felt it could enhance their own. 

The novel has remained so relevant and impactful for over three decades and I’ve no doubt it will go countless decades more holding strong, in comparison I have a feeling the show is going to be better known for its’ wasted opportunities and misguided direction than a true representation of the incredible story it attempted to tell. 

Edited by AnswersWanted
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