Give Handmaid’s Tale a Try

I just watched season three’s finale of The Handmaid’s tale. I was alternatively weeping for joy or holding my husband’s hand in a vise-like grip due to the suspense. It is, without question, the best television series that I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Everyone I’ve talked to seems to be on one side of the fence or the other about this series. Either they love it and are every bit as obsessed with it as I am, or they have never seen it and don’t want to because it’s got the reputation of being upsetting.

Yes, it can be upsetting. It’s full of rape and mutilation and adversity and violence. It shows what can happen when ruthless fascists take over and think they know what’s best for our society more than we do. It’s the worst-case scenario regarding the subjugation of women. It is about the heartless suppression of the voice of the people and a blatant disregard for human rights at a time when we’re already seeing way too much of that in real life.

But to focus on the darkness is to miss the entire point. That’s not why I watch The Handmaid’s Tale.

I watch it for the triumphs that are so hard-won amongst all that misery. I watch it to remind myself that no matter how bad things get, there will always be those of us who are willing to fight for what is right and never give up. Even while it exposes the ruthlessness of humanity, it also reaffirms my faith in what is good and straight and honest and true. It is an opportunity to celebrate the strength of women against all odds. It also demonstrates just how messy morality can be.

The acting is phenomenal. And the character development is beyond compare. Everyone is full of complex flaws, and I genuinely feel as though I’ve seen more than one person completely lose their mind on this show. And yet they persist.

I’m not going to lie. I also watch The Handmaid’s Tale to bear witness, and to learn what it might take to survive if this nightmare comes to pass. Because sometimes surviving is the greatest triumph of all.

I challenge you to watch at least the first three episodes of this show. If you’re not hooked by then, at least you won’t have to live with regrets. You will at least have had a taste of perfection. And I assure you that each season so far has been even better than the last.

This show is horrible in its excellence. I can’t wait for season four. Best. Show. EVER.

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The TV Experience

One of my favorite things about going to school on Mondays (my only favorite thing, come to think of it) was being able to talk to my friends about the shows that we all watched over the weekend. With only 3 major channels to choose from, it was fairly safe to say that we had a great deal in common when it came to our TV viewing.

I bet kids today don’t have that experience. With so many cable packages to choose from, along with Hulu and Netflix and God only knows what else, no one watches anything at the same time anymore, and none of us occupy the same TV landscape.

For example, I don’t get cable, and can only afford one subscription, so currently it’s Hulu, because I absolutely HAD TO see The Handmaid’s Tale. I seem to hang around Netflix  and cable people, so our conversations regarding the good ol’ idiot box are limited. Yeah, I’d love to check out the Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, or House of Cards (at least prior to the sex scandal), but it’s not within my reach.

So how do kids connect anymore? They sure don’t seem to do anything in the sunshine. Do they even do the same things, or is it every person for him or herself? Do TV characters still feel like parts of their families? I miss talking about what happened on Cheers and the Cosby Show (again, prior to sex scandal), and Hill Street Blues and WKRP and MASH and…oh, you name it. I do believe that variety is good, but I think that kids today have lost a lot because they have a bit too much of it.

Come to think of it, if someone shot JR nowadays, there’d be no anticipation about talking about it at school the next day. It would be all over Facebook even as it happened. So much for the sweet, sweet taste of delayed gratification.

Dang, I sound old.

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Subtle Shifts

Have you ever remarked that a kitten has gotten quite big, and its owner is surprised by that? You haven’t seen the kitten in weeks, so its growth is obvious to you. The owner, on the other hand, has seen it daily, and therefore the change in size has been subtle to him or her and therefor easy to overlook.

We experience subtle shifts every day without giving them much notice. For example, when I was a kid, I used to drink Hawaiian Punch practically by the 50-gallon drum. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Now, I can barely tolerate even a sip of it. It’s way too sickly sweet. I couldn’t tell you, though, the exact point in time when I shifted from being a Hawaiian Punch fan to a Hawaiian Punch disdainer. It just sort of sneaked up on me.

My perception of humor has apparently shifted as well. A week ago, if you had asked me what the funniest thing I’d ever seen on television was, I’d have responded, Season 4, Episode 4 of the sitcom Perfect Strangers. Based on its air date, I must have been 24 when I first saw it. I remember laughing so hard as Larry and Balki struggled to get a piano up ten flights of stairs that I nearly lost my breath, and I had tears streaming down my face. This was TV at its best, I thought.

So I was delighted when I discovered that Hulu was now showing every episode of Perfect Strangers. I would start with that iconic episode, and then binge watch the entire series. What fun!

I fixed myself a bowl of popcorn, got into some sweat pants and a t-shirt, snuggled in with my dog Quagmire, and prepared to be entertained.

Imagine my shock when I realized just how bad the show really was. Poorly written, cheesy, in fact. Poorly acted. Predictable. What a freaking disappointment. Needless to say, I won’t be binge watching any other episodes.

But I used to love that show. I really did. What the heck was I thinking? Who was I?

Now, if you ask me what the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on television is, I’ll respond the episode of Carol Burnett in which Tim Conway discusses the Siamese elephants, joined at the trunk. I’m happy to say that that one STILL cracks me up.

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It’s Not That Complicated

I go to work. I come home. I start dinner. I sit on my back porch in my fifteen dollar red plastic Adirondack chair, and put my feet up on my brown plastic thrift shop stool.

My dog Quagmire jumps on my lap. Sometimes I ask him to tell me about his day. He’s never very forthcoming.

I enjoy the sunshine when I have it. I enjoy the rain, too. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I just sit and think about the fact that I’m not spending any money at this exact moment, and that’s a relief.

When dinner’s ready, I eat it, in my Adirondack chair, this time sans Quagmire, unless you count his baleful stare from the back stoop. (He’s been fed, but to hear him tell it, it’s never enough.)

I look at the lawn and tell myself I really ought to mow. I water my flowers. I do that much.

I go inside and put my dirty dishes on the growing pile in the sink. Maybe I take a bath. Maybe not. If I have a pimple, I pop it. Etc.

I change into a tank top and climb into bed. Maybe I watch Hulu. Maybe I check Facebook. Maybe I text a friend. Sooner or later I just spoon with Quagmire and go to sleep. As I drift off, I think about how lucky I am.

The next day, I wake up, get dressed, poach myself an egg, feed the dog and go to work. My life isn’t exciting. But it’s enough for me.

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You Have Been Warned

I’ve seen two things recently that have made my hair stand on end because they seem to be so prescient. We are living in terrifying times. And they’re all the more terrifying because these things have happened before.

The first thing I’m referring to is the Hulu series, the Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Here are some of the events that have taken place in the first 4 episodes. These things either sound very familiar at the moment or very possible:

  • Militarization.
  • Propaganda and catch phrases.
  • News is regulated.
  • People who protest are shot at.
  • People are forced to don particular clothing to identify their role in society.
  • Special rewards for the rich.
  • An atmosphere of divide and conquer.
  • Forced religion.
  • Doctors, professors, and homosexuals being executed by hanging them on a wall.
  • People encouraged to do violence by the ruling party.
  • Calling women sluts and whores.
  • Increased surveillance.
  • Book burnings.
  • Travel restrictions.
  • Martial law in response to terrorism, real or imagined.
  • Women’s credit card and bank accounts suspended.
  • Women fired from jobs.
  • Institutionalized misogyny.
  • Women’s rights over their own bodies prevented.
  • Rape by men in positions of power with no consequence.
  • Women being blamed for all of the above.

Chilling, isn’t it? Even more disturbing is a website that lists the events that occurred in the first 100 days of Fascist Germany. I read every single day. I actually learned quite a bit that makes me even more worried about our future. Here are some of the things that went on:

  • Attacks on the press.
  • Widespread belief in unsubstantiated conspiracies.
  • Prohibition of protests.
  • Public urged to report foreigners who are causing conflict.
  • Communists rounded up.
  • A big effort to crush resistance.
  • Politicians overstate successes.
  • Jew bashing doesn’t start until Day 40. (That surprised me.)
  • Hitler wants to arm all the people.
  • There as much more resistance than I thought. People were going into exile.
  • Artists and writers and homosexuals attacked.
  • Gay bars closed down.
  • Trade Unions banned.
  • Jews begin to be fired.
  • The first concentration camp, Dachau, is open by day 49 and starts receiving political prisoners by day 51.
  • The press warns that its freedoms are being diminished, and stresses the importance of relying on multiple sources to confirm the validity of information.
  • On Day 55 Goring states that persecution of a person based on ethnicity will not be tolerated. The next day the Nazi Party orders a nationwide boycott of Jewish merchants.
  • Hitler says the press are issuing “slanderous propaganda” about Germany. The Nazi party claims that the press is run by “international Jewry”.
  • Book burning.
  • Civil service workers who do not agree with the Nazis are dismissed.
  • Anti-semitic signs begin to appear everywhere.
  • The government begins identifying all non-Aryans, using early IBM computers.
  • Day 74, an opinion piece appears saying that actual Christian values are nothing like the values of the conservative Christians who have aligned themselves with the Nazi party.

Wake up, people! Wake up! Wake up!

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Populating Fields

I think my laptop knows more about me than anyone else does. Disturbing, but true. And your computer does, too. It knows your likes and your interests, it knows who your friends are, it even knows what you look for when you job hunt. If you have some kinky propensity that you haven’t shared with even your best friend, rest assured it knows about that, too.

Think about it. It finishes your sentences for you, as if you’re an old married couple.

When I open my browser and start to type in a web address or something in my Google search field, I often don’t have to type more than one or two letters. What’s interesting is that every single one of us can do this and it will yield completely different results. If that doesn’t equal a digital representation of who we are as individuals, nothing does.

Here are some of my keystrokes and my computer’s helpful suggestions for web addresses. I’ll let you decide what this says about me.

  • t = https://theviewfromadrawbridge.wordpress.com/  (of course!)
  • f = Facebook
  • y = Youtube
  • h = Hulu. (Are you sensing a trend? I don’t really lead an exciting life.)
  • d = dictionary.reference.com (and you thought I was a confident writer.)
  • j gives me my local public library. Yay books!
  • k sends me straight to kayak.com, although I have no idea why. I haven’t been able to travel in years. Wishful thinking on my laptop’s part?
  • m takes me to Mapquest. I may not get to travel, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still get lost.
  • s  = Second Life. Even though I don’t have much of a first life, my second one can be rather exciting.

And here are some of my recent search terms on Google, apparently.

  • A is for Aborigines and Ad blocker.
  • B is for Barack Obama, Bobby McFerrin and Bear Hibernation.
  • C is for Capricorn and Carpe Diem.
  • D is for Dogs for Defense and Daddy Saddle (Only for research purposes, I swear. It’s a long story.)
  • N is for Nelson Mandela and Nutrasystem, which is kind of an ironic juxtaposition.
  • P is for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Pete Seeger, may they both rest in peace.
  • Q yields nothing. Poor neglected Q.
  • T really reveals my eclectic nature. It gives me Trepanning, TED Talks, and The Peeling Garlic Trick.
  • W is for Wizard of Oz and a ton of questions that start with What.

There is really no need for interrogation in the modern world. To find out who someone is, where they’ve been, and what their intentions are, simply look to their laptop and all will be revealed.

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Life without Television

A few years ago I was in a period of nearly constant relocation, and during one of those moves I became heartily sick of the whole process and just never got around to setting up my television. I discovered that I really didn’t miss it, so during the next move I simply donated it to Goodwill along with a mountain of other junk. Now I can easily imagine a future in which I never own a TV again.

Don’t get me wrong. I still watch shows, but I do so on my laptop. When I’m bored I’ll go pull something off Hulu or Youtube. I’m not completely commercial free. But I avoid series. I don’t want that kind of commitment.

I have to say it’s been nice not having a heartless screen staring back at me in the bedroom or living room. It’s liberating to watch shows when I want to, and have no cable bills. It’s nice not planning my life around various series or specials or events. It’s delightful to be more discerning as to my sources of news. And I have one less thing to dust. I feel strangely liberated.

When I tell people I don’t have a TV they look at me as if I have two heads. Some random telemarketer called me up to try and sell me a cable TV package, and when I told him I don’t do television, he didn’t believe me. He couldn’t grasp the concept at all. I strongly suspect no one had ever said that to him before. He probably thought I was lying to get him out of my hair. (Which is not something I’m averse to. Whatever works. It’s just that this time it happened to be the truth.)

Television has become such a big part of our lives that we find it hard to imagine living without one, but it really is a relatively recent phenomenon. There was life before it, and there will be life after it. These “things” that we use to clutter up our lives are highly unnecessary.

Having said that, if you try to get between me and my laptop, you’ll pull back a bloody stump.

Television

“They’re heeeere…”