The Handmaid’s Tale

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Literally everyone I know is talking about it.

Rightfully so. It’s amazing. The first time I watched the first 3 episodes, I cried. A lot. It all felt so personal and so real and so horrifying. And I’m mad at them for casting the cutest little girl as Hannah. ALSO. SAMIRA WILEY. SAMIRA WILEY! AHHHH!!!!!!

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Recently, I rewatched the episodes they’ve released – I have a friend staying with me who does not have the privilege to watch it at home. And as I watched it, I could not get over how concise everything is. How every bit of the show is so perfectly articulated.

The opening shot alone deserves all kinds of awards – that follow-shot of the car. Another one that really sticks out to me – as someone who almost became a cinematographer – is that scene in the hospital when (spoilers!) the woman steals June’s baby. I mean – it really appeals to so many of my brain-sections. The direction in it is fantastic, the acting, the cinematography. That kind of shot – most filmmakers nowadays cheap out and do a handheld follow shot. But that shot is pristine, like much of the show. It carefully follows June as she wakes up, runs into Luke, hears the alarms, sees the dead nurse, finds the woman with her baby – IT IS ALL ONE SHOT. IT BLOWS MY MIND. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST CAREFULLY CRAFTED SINGLE-SHOT TAKES I HAVE EVER SEEN. So I’d like to give them another fake award for that shot. Because wow. My friend said after – it’s almost like a video game. And she’s right – it feels first person, like you’re there experiencing it – without the cheapened shaky-cam. Every person in this show is a true god-damned artist.

I guess, before I see the next episode – the other part of the first three that really stood out to me is the cookie. I did a lot of thinking about it – because at first it seems as if June does maybe want that cookie – especially after the comment about real coffee when she enters, but there’s also the awkward tension of neither June nor Serena Joy wanting any part of the interaction. And it’s really interesting to think about what was going through June’s head as she made her way to the bathroom, the sweet, light flavor of the macaron sitting in her mouth after what are probably months or years of this derisive subjugation. How the blandly saccharine taste is a perfect reminder to her of Gilead. Macarons are gorgeous to look at, very cutely crafted – just as much of Gilead is made to affect idyllic aesthetics. And too, interesting – she spits it out, gently makes sure all that was in her mouth makes it down the drain, and leaves the rest of the cookie sitting on the sink, slightly crushed and partially eaten.

I read in some interview that they weren’t going to keep in June’s smile after spitting out the cookie. It is so necessary. She seems so passively against everything for much of the show until then. But that cookie was defiance not for anyone but her. For her to say no to the macaron – to deny herself the small pleasure of eating a dumb cookie, to deny herself the small relief of the forced nicety… It was a moment of strength, absolutely.

I love that everything in Gilead is so beautiful. I love it because people have this deep fascination with equating beauty to goodness. I grew up in and live in southern California, right next to the beach. That’s the world I grew up in – beautiful, but fucked. I’m starting to read the book, and I’ve noticed they’ve beatified things even more – the Commander and his wife are more beautiful in the show. She, unless I missed it, bears no cane. I’m normally against this, but I think it makes sense in this world, for her two captors to be beautiful as the rest of it.

One thing that worries me – and maybe it will less as the show continues and I get further into the book – is the relationship between June and the Commander and June and the driver. I think, at least so far in the show, June seems cognizant of the power imbalance between her and the driver. Ugh, and his white-knighting is gross. I think it’s supposed to be gross. And I’m hoping it’s supposed to be gross. The Commander, too, is almost sympathetic because he can’t bed June without connecting to her. But he isn’t. He’s still in power. And it’s still rape. I’m really interested to see how she uses this against him…

ALSO REALLY DYING TO SEE MORE SAMIRA WILEY BECAUSE I WILL NOT HAVE ANOTHER SHOW KILL OFF MY FAVORITE HYPER-INTELLECTUAL LESBIAN.

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