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Tara Ariano

S01.E06: A Woman's Place

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On 5/17/2017 at 11:18 PM, LaChavalina said:

The entire "Mexico needs handmaids" storyline makes less sense to me the more I reflect on it. The handmaid concept is based on a fundamentalist/evangelical interpretation of the Bible. If Mexico doesn't accept that (which they don't--e.g., women ambassadors and women reading books), why bring in handmaids? Likewise, are we to believe that Gilead is now cool with Catholicism and vice-versa? Finally, Mexico is not a small country. There are tens of millions of women in Mexico. If almost all the women there are infertile as the ambassador claims, there's no way a few of Gilead's handmaids would have a meaningful effect on population decline.

Someone else in another discussion pointed out that it would have made way more sense if the trade were envisioned in reverse--i.e., Gilead wants to bring in more handmaids from Mexico, and in exchange they will trade some of their food. 

I agree, it doesn't make much sense because of the issues you point out. The other way around would make more sense. Apparently Mexico still has women in roles of power; why not be a haven the handmaids can escape to (and help them with that) instead of trading for them like chattel? And if you take the storyline at face value, why didn't the Mexican ambassador say that she IS doing something to help them - she's trying to bring them to Mexico, where they will still be expected to have babies but will be treated much better otherwise. 

There must be some societies that are venerating the women or couples who can still have kids, not subjugating them. 

On 5/17/2017 at 8:26 PM, GreekGeek said:

But Serena and Fred as a couple puzzle me. Pre-Gilead, they had an active sex life and worked as a team. Now they lead separate lives and he pushes her away if she makes the smallest move towards him. What changed?

I read this blog by a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian cult (in the US) and is now a liberal feminist; she has written much about evangelical views on marriage and stuff like that. I remember one post about how her parents had problems in their marriage that stemmed from the view that the woman was not supposed to make decisions, even when it would have helped her husband to have her take more responsibility, or something along those lines. I'm not sure if I can find the exact post, but the blog is http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/ and this show reminds me of it often. She writes about fundamentalist views of sex, personal choice, women's roles, etc. Very interesting. Anyway, I'm not sure I can explain it clearly, but I feel like reading her blog makes me at least believe that Serena and Fred are plausible as a fundamentalist couple, even if I don't fully get it. 

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On 5/18/2017 at 0:13 AM, Umbelina said:

By the way, did anyone else notice the total shock and silence when suddenly Serena Joy stood up and started speaking?  I don't think that kind of thing happens very often in Gilead, but she must have had permission from hubby at least, right?

It seemed to me like she had not specifically asked him or anyone else for permission; he told her to arrange the details of the banquet (as women's work) and she decided to speak and to bring the children in last as the best way to show them off. I think they showed several surprised reactions to her speaking; did they specifically show Fred's reaction? I don't remember, but he might not want to publicly look surprised even if he was, since it makes him look like he doesn't have his wife under control. 

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On 5/18/2017 at 10:15 AM, nodorothyparker said:

The show chose instead to go with the framing device that at every step of the way as Serena was told no and denied the opportunity to participate in the running of the society she had helped create, Commander Fred was right there to look mournful and tell her how sorry he was that "they" wouldn't allow it.

This reminds me of the part in The Stepford Wives (the book) where the main character is upset that there is some club in their new town of Stepford that won't let women in, and she doesn't want her husband to join, but he convinces her its ok for him to join because then he can work from the inside to make them accept women. And then of course we eventually find out he has much worse motives for joining and no intention of getting them to accept women.

On 5/18/2017 at 10:15 AM, nodorothyparker said:

The show chose instead to go with the framing device that at every step of the way as Serena was told no and denied the opportunity to participate in the running of the society she had helped create, Commander Fred was right there to look mournful and tell her how sorry he was that "they" wouldn't allow it.

This reminds me of the part in The Stepford Wives (the book) where the main character is upset that there is some club in their new town of Stepford that won't let women in, and she doesn't want her husband to join, but he convinces her its ok for him to join because then he can work from the inside to make them accept women. And then of course we eventually find out he has much worse motives for joining and no intention of getting them to accept women.

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On 5/18/2017 at 1:25 PM, EC Amber said:

Notice how they have remained celibate until the night she spoke up, breaking the norms and reminding her what he finds so wonderful - her poise, her ability to control the room, to be a showman and ultimately help him accomplish his own goals. THEN he finds himself willing to have sex with her. 

Did I miss Serena and Fred actually having sex in the present in this episode? I may have mixed it up with a flashback, I wasn't watching their sex scenes that closely. Did they do it in the present time?

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2 minutes ago, LeGrandElephant said:

 Did they do it in the present time?

If I remember correctly they did the night of the banquet. 

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I've been thinking... What would a U.S. Ambassador do if they were on a visit to Saudi Arabia and a woman asked them for help?

I think I probably can guess the answer (nothing) but I don't really know. And if the answer is nothing, what does that say about us?

Edited by LeGrandElephant
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2 hours ago, EC Amber said:

If I remember correctly they did the night of the banquet. 

I may be wrong, but I think that was a flash-back after the banquet???

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38 minutes ago, Medicine Crow said:

 

3 hours ago, EC Amber said:

If I remember correctly they did the night of the banquet. 

I may be wrong, but I think that was a flash-back after the banquet???

 

Mmm, you may be right, but I'm pretty sure if was directly after the banquet. Fred came in, complimented her (ostentatiously because she reminded him of who she used to be)... and ended up with her on top (which I thought was a pretty nice touch given the dynamics). 

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I think what we have here is a "Mexican Stand-off" ... I'm not really sure, so ...   Maybe someone else has a better memory than us!!  LOL.

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I also wasn't watching closely and assumed the sex was flashback sex, but then came here, where the consensus seemed to be that it was present, and assumed that I was mistaken. Now I have no idea.

I will agree that they need to explain the Mexico situation better, because thus far, it's really unclear and doesn't seem to make much sense.

Regardless, I think I'm very disappointed in the Mexican ambassador. When Offred was first fretting that she had lied to the ambassador, I was thinking that surely someone in that position is good enough at reading people that she would know it was lies. But then... whether she knew or not, she knows now, and although she seems vaguely sympathetic, her sympathy seems very much of the "well that sucks, but what can you do? <shrug>" variety.

As for Fred and Serena... I have to give the show and the two actors credit, because I just can't decide how to feel about them. They're basically despicable, for sure, but at the same time, I can't bring myself to be 100% unsympathetic for the trap that they've now found themselves in, even though they made it and put themselves in it. 

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On 6/2/2017 at 0:07 PM, Medicine Crow said:

I think what we have here is a "Mexican Stand-off" ... I'm not really sure, so ...   Maybe someone else has a better memory than us!!  LOL.

I just went back to rewatch that part of the episode to see if it was as I remembered (I assumed they had sex after the dinner with the Mexican delegation). First Serena Joy is sitting at her vanity wearing a bluish green nightgown and robe, brushing her hair. She goes into the adjacent sitting room and the commander enters.

C: Tired?
S: The opposite actually. I don't think that I'll be able to get to sleep. I'm just glad that it went so well. Congratulations.
C: You too.
S: You should discuss with the other commanders, see the best way to move forward.
C: No, that can wait.
S: The timing for implementation is the most important thing right now.
C: You're an amazing woman. I forgot.
[Serena steps closer and they kiss]
C: We should - we should stop.
[clothes come off, sexy times]

I think the reason people were assuming the sex scene was a flashback is that the previous scene was right after the Waterfords moved into their new home. There are boxes everywhere and not much furniture, but it's clearly shown to be daytime in the flashback scenes. The last thing we see in the flashbacks is Nick carrying a box of books to put on top of the trash at the curb and then a garbage truck is shown driving down the street.

But based on the fact that it's night during the sex scene and their conversation (the event went well, Serena advises him to talk to the other commanders, he says he forgot how amazing she was), I'm pretty sure that the sex scene happened after the big dinner in the present, not in a flashback.

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Thanks @ElectricBoogaloo, now that I've read your diarized description of events, I'm convinced that "it" happened after the dinner.  Much appreciated.  It's nice having people here who are willing to go the extra mile to clarify things.

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The visual of blood running down the wall behind the handmaids' red silhouetes was brutal. Can you get more clear that this is their future? 

I am grateful that Serena Joy isn't allowed to have any power. Not just in the sense of, you made your bed, now sit on it with spread legs as your husband ritually rapes a woman, but that I think this godforsaken system would actually be much more efficient and stable with her in some position of power. I abhor everything she stands for, yet I have to admit she is actually really good at what she did/tried to do as was demonstrated with her staging the dinner and her suggestions in the flashbacks. Fred doesn't have a clue in comparison and the fact that he and his ilk are running things makes me hopeful that this shithole will crumble all the faster.

I know some people were jarred by the actor playing the doctor in a previous episode. For me it was the ambassador's aide, who is a guest star on Modern Family. Talk about contrast.

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18 minutes ago, bijoux said:

The visual of blood running down the wall behind the handmaids' red silhouetes was brutal.

It is a great visual and they use that clip a lot but it always struck me as very unrealistic.  If you hang bodies and let them rot on a wall, there's not going to be quarts of bright red, liquid blood running off of the wall when you go to hose it down after removing the bodies weeks or months later.  

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I agree that it was unrealistic, but I thought it was worth it for the message the striking visual sent.

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They could have been shot, and then hung up there for display.  Shot while escaping or doing something illegal like praying in a Catholic Church.

That was my fan wank, because I don't want to think about what decaying hung bodies do as they decompose. 

Edited by Umbelina

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I was shocked that the hall where they had dinner hadn't been ruined like the churches. There was even a mural of a woman in a state of semi-undress. I wouldn't have expected that in a public place in Gilead.

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I've just finished binging this, so I'm just now reading recaps and articles. As if I wasn't already thrilled that one of my favorite AWT90210 podcasters was doing these recaps, well... THIS fine paragraph sent me over the moon. So well stated, Tara!! Much respect on your writing.



"Just like everyone else in Gilead, to greater and less degrees, Mrs. Waterford's life is one of unrelenting pain and deprivation -- and yes, the episode makes clear the irony that she helped do this to herself. But it should also be required viewing for Tomi Lahren and Michelle Malkin and Laura Ingraham and Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders and even Sarah fucking Palin so that they can maybe start to get the tiniest inkling of what the political philosophy they espouse and promote actually has as its endgame. Any woman who thinks she can participate in political life without actively working against patriarchy is just working against her own interests, and those of all her sisters. She might be able to convince herself, temporarily, that she can elevate herself to the top of a reactionary power structure if she just stands on the hands and backs and necks of enough other women. But that just means her inevitable humiliation in a pussy bow hasn't happened yet, not that it isn't going to. I am not a crackpot.

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On ‎5‎/‎31‎/‎2017 at 0:27 AM, Shangrilala said:

It occured to me today, that when they blew up the white house, it must have included every member of cabinet, because there is a presidential succession line that I believe goes right down to the secretary of veteran affairs?  We have systems in place to ensure the government keeps going should something of this magnitude happen.  And let's not forget the shadow government, which I assume still exists, although perhaps not to the same extent that it did post 9/11.

The last Secretary in the line of succession is Homeland Security because it was the position created most recently. The reality is if you got everyone but one (Designated Survivor style) things would still be a mess and it would be very easy for a popular Senator, General, ex-politician etc to gain broad support quickly. Most people don't know who the Secretary of Agriculture is, for example, and he or she might not be able to gain public support. It's easy to say there's a line of succession but it's never been tested past the VP. No one other than a VP has ever assumed the Presidency (The way Ford became President is the weirdest thing that's happened so far in terms of succession and I think at the time people were so happy to be rid of Nixon and the scandal that they didn't much worry about the fact that Ford had been appointed VP rather than elected as a part of the ticket) and I think most people would feel that a state of emergency and emergency powers would be appropriate if all the elected officials (because they got the White House and Congress taking out the Speaker and the Senate Pro Tem) were dead.

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It just goes to show how badly the Gilead regime wastes the its populace when we see how much they could present a better image if only they weren't philosophically incapable of utilising half its population (well, except as breeding stock). Fred may have been shocked at Serena Joy's modifying the reception at the last minute, but it's clear that the delegates really were bowled over by the parade of children. And just when I think I couldn't despise Fed any more, we see how even with a woman who supports his philosophy, he's incapable of listening to her. Which is ironic, since seemed to attract him to her was that she was a forceful, intelligent woman (also, presumably, what attracts him to June) - exactly the sort of role she's banned from holding in the society they both helped create. Though given they are both complicit in the coup that caused the deaths of (probably) thousands and has since enslaved millions, it's hard to feel any sympathy for either of them.

On ‎17‎/‎05‎/‎2017 at 8:14 AM, AnswersWanted said:

When Aunt Lydia is actually trying to stand up for her torture victims because even she can't remain silent while such an injustice occurs, that is really saying something.

This episode achieved the almost impossible: it actually made me think better of Aunt Lydia. Although she is complicit in the beating, mutilation and breaking of the Handmaids, she really DOES seem to be doing it because she really believes she is doing God's work. To her, the "damaged" Handmaids have served their penance and deserve their reward - and she's prepared to tell her superiors so.

On ‎18‎/‎05‎/‎2017 at 5:02 PM, Baltimore Betty said:

How did the assistant to the Mexican official know all about June yet the Ambassador knew nothing of the Handmaiden's plight or general condition of how women were devalued etc..

I don't think we can assume the Ambassador didn't know. Diplomats are (as the saying goes) "Honourable [wo]men sent abroad to lie for their country". Whatever she believes about Gilead, she's there to find out for herself whether they are true. But her interests are foremost in promoting the interests of Mexico, however she might feel as a woman. And maybe she was there to facilitate her assistant making contact with "Mayday" (it's much easier for Mexico to claim they had "no idea" Mayday had insinuated an agent into their delegation than if the Ambassador herself is the agent - also better misdirection, as Gilead would automatically be more suspicious of a woman in authority). It's also perfectly possible that the Mexicans ARE perfectly prepared to help prop up the Gilead regime, but I don't think we can surmise that from information onscreen so far.

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On ‎6‎/‎5‎/‎2017 at 7:38 AM, ElectricBoogaloo said:

But based on the fact that it's night during the sex scene and their conversation (the event went well, Serena advises him to talk to the other commanders, he says he forgot how amazing she was), I'm pretty sure that the sex scene happened after the big dinner in the present, not in a flashback.

I just started watching this show (not in love with it but it does hold my interest unlike anything else out there these days) and I also got they had sex after the banquet. I got the impression that this was an unusual, maybe even clandestine thing since it seems to me that the Commander should save what little viable spermatozoa he has for a fertile woman, although I think he's probably the one who is sterile.

 

I agree that even though Mrs. Waterford seems detestable - "Remove the damaged ones" -  that her life, in many ways, is one of humiliation, captivity and servitude and not much better than that of the handmaids, save for the physical abuse.

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So does anyone else find the sex scenes in this series as boring as hell?  None of the men are the least bit attractive and the poor lead actress has no chemistry with any of them yet she has the misfortune that the script calls for her to have pretend sex with three of them.  Poor woman, I feel for her.  During the sex scenes (with the husband, the chauffer and the Commander), I was playing Candy Crush and yawning.  Best part was the mutilated girl running down the fascist Blackjacks.  I cheered for her, lol.

They should've, however, have her laughing maniacly while driving over the BlackJacks instead of looking anxious.  It totally spoiled the scene.

Edited by MaryMatts · Reason: None of your damn busines!

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Chauffeur Nick looks just like Nick with the ratty hair on Fear the Walking Dead.  I wonder if they are the same?  Both singularly unattractive.

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On ‎19‎.‎5‎.‎2017 at 9:03 PM, Umbelina said:

I'm not convinced Serena Joy even IS sterile.  We have no proof of that.  We do have evidence that Fred may be though, so far, is this 3 women he has failed to impregnate?  Two of those women had babies before. 

That's an interesting idea. 

If the aim in Gilead were simply to have more kid, they could simply get benefits for fertile woman and either allow them, or force them, to have many sexual partners as they like to get pregnant. 

But, as many have said above, the ruling men want to control about fertility which is a scarce commodity.

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On 6/5/2017 at 4:38 AM, ElectricBoogaloo said:

But based on the fact that it's night during the sex scene and their conversation (the event went well, Serena advises him to talk to the other commanders, he says he forgot how amazing she was), I'm pretty sure that the sex scene happened after the big dinner in the present, not in a flashback.

The other thing is that in the previous scene where the Waterfords moved into their new home, Fred asked Serena what she was going to do that day and Serena replied she was going to make the house a home. You could practically see any sense of attraction or interest that Fred had in his wife wither and die at that response. So now we cut to them after the big dinner which Serena has pulled off successfully, and now he's attracted to her. That juxtaposition of the flashback and the present-day sex was purposeful to underline this.

One thing we saw throughout this episode is that in the past, Serena consistently made the mistake of stepping back without argument. Fred was semi-willing to fight for her, though who knows how much that would've done, but Serena didn't even want him to because she thought that the important thing was to be united rather than fight internally. She went straight into embracing the domestic homemaker role so as not to cause trouble when the new society was just establishing itself and even though we've seen in earlier episodes this season that she's bored with it now and would like to be part of the discussions and decision-making of the men again, it appears she waited too long to start trying. Fred had already been thinking of her as just a useless woman for some time - like he said here, he "forgot." Serena seems to have believed the issue could be revisited after the new world was established and things would get better, but instead they just got more and more restrictive. I agree with the person who said they wish they could have seen the look on Serena's face when the handmaids system was established and her household was assigned one. Maybe in a future episode!

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The thing that was telling was that right after Fred tells Serena that she should be in on the meetings that the commanders were having, se leaves and a colleague comes out and says they had let women get too educated and foster professional “ambitions,” which just diverted them away from their main purpose of maintaining the home and having children.

Fred and Serena seem both fairly well educated, a young professional couple, even when citing scriptures during foreplay.

The right wing militia types don’t have this profile.  They’re not writing books and they don’t live in big cities as Fred and Serena apparently did when plotting the overthrow of the US.

Also nothing to show that Fred or any of the commanders are these brilliant strategists who evade the FBI while plotting.  They just arrested this right wing guy who was planning to kill Democrats and journalists, a much smaller plot than a conspiracy to attack the WH, Congress and the Court.

Unless the US was in a severely weakened state, these commanders aren’t going to defeat the generals and the intelligence, police and national guard.  Even if they successfully assasinated the president, every member of Congress and every judge in the land, a nation of 360 million doesn’t fall under the control of religious extremist like these in just a few years — all the characters were alive “before” Gilead, meaning the US fell just a few years ago.

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