The Guardian has said that The Handmaid’s Tale, which aired for the first time last night on Channel 4, is “The best thing you’ll watch all year”.
I beg to differ. Not because I have seem something better, but because I won’t be watching the Handmaid’s Tale. Why? Well for a number of reasons.
It is clearly an extraordinary book. People discuss it enthusiastically at length, picking over the story line with fellow readers and making comparisons with our current state of affairs. The notion of a freedoms being taken away and long established orders disappearing is one that is all too real for those living in the US under Trump and is the basis of this book, written by Attwood in 1985.
And that’s the crux of it for me, and I why I won’t be watching it. Right now with the news full of the dreadful event in Manchester last week, Trump, May, Corbyn, bombs in other parts of the world killing innocent people, I want escapism. I want something that takes my mind away from reality. From the fact that man can inflict such brutality on fellow man, or in this case women. The news is peppered with these events, daily there is news of another atrocity, close to home, or further afield but the majority of them man-made. News alerts pop up on my phone almost hourly and my heart sinks as I think “oh God, what now?”
The rape scenes in A Handmaid’s Tale are central to the story, the majority of women being infertile, the few that are not are kept captive, as Handmaid’s, and raped in order to procreate. And whilst I fully appreciate that all the events that Margaret Attwood writes into the story have happened at some point in the past, and it is not, therefore, fantasy, I don’t want to be reminded of that on a Sunday evening. Going to bed with those thoughts, images, questions in my head. When it is already full of news that is current is too much.
All week we have heard more and more stories from Manchester, many of them involving young girls who have been hurt, traumatised, killed, by the actions of fellow human beings. This is reality. These girls, and their families (and the male victims too obviously) are now having to live with these events for the rest of their lives.
And what they are not going to need in a few years time is to see it dramatised or used as a thread to a novel.
I need a bit of fantasy, a load of escapism, something a lot more fictitious.
To my mind there is too much violence towards women on TV, just look at most crime dramas, the victim is undoubtedly a woman, beaten, raped or murdered for our entertainment. The Fall, Game of Thrones, Line of Duty, Paranoid, Marcella, Luther, Dexter, the list goes on, all of them prime time dramas that involve violence, rape or murder. Yes they may have a powerful female lead as well but the underlying story line involves a woman being brutalised.
The line between the news and “fictional” drama is now all too blurred and is one that I feel I need to redefine somehow. Starting with avoiding the Handmaid’s Tale.
Image of Margaret Attwood, courtesy of Shutterstock