The Handmaids And Me

Mar 24

These are strange times.

To wit: How the hell could a show as bleak as The Handmaid’s Tale actually improve my outlook on life in this time of global pandemic and economic meltdown?

I had no idea.

For months, years even, my brother the cinematographer has been telling me to watch The Handmaid’s Tale. But would I listen? Of course not. I already was  watching too many things on TV, and was paying for Netflix, Amazon, and HBO, not to mention renting lots of movies that I streamed on my Apple TV. Get Hulu too? Not gonna do it.

But then, my friend Alex’s kid was in a brief scene on High Fidelity and so I purchased Hulu “for the month,” which, of course, I forgot about until after the month was over, so now I am the proud owner of a Hulu subscription for as long as I forget to cancel it. BTW, the operative word in the sentence about the kid’s appearance was “brief,” but hey, it was his first speaking role on a series, and we have to celebrate every piece of good news we can get our hands on. Especially now.

I Take The Plunge

So, armed with my newfound access to Hulu, and having a bit of time on my hands, I gingerly turned on the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. I had read the book, ages ago, so I knew the basic story, and I was aware that it wasn’t pretty. But just how gritty this show was going to be, I had no idea.

Elizabeth Moss, doing about as perfect a job of acting as is possible (And did we expect any less from her?) is subjected to the most savage, demeaning, sadistic experiences you can imagine. And she’s not alone. All the “handmaids” get the same treatment—or worse. You will never hear the biblical phrase, “If thine eye offends you . . .” without literally cringing.

And yet. This show was not depressing me. And I had to know why.

Further Proof That I Can Rationalize Anything

Well, for one thing, anything done this well (it is brilliant) tends to make me overlook its darkness (Wagner being my most notable exception). And for another: it makes me realize that what I am going through now is merely house arrest—in what fortunately is a nice house.

Sure, I miss getting closer than six feet with friends or even people I meet in the elevator. We’ve taken to waiting for the next one if it’s occupied—really! And I hate that everything (Everything!) is closed. No restaurants, no movies, no theaters, no museums, no libraries, no operas. I’d even do five hours of The Ring right about now.

But, OTOH, I have food, toilet paper (for now anyway), TV, radio, and my iPhone, which gives me FaceTime, which enables me, coronavirus be damned, to be connected with— in this single day— Italy, Puerto Rico, and even New Jersey!

Plus, no one is raping or beating me, or forcing me to say  “Blessed Be,” when I’d rather be saying “Up Yours.”

I once heard, or read, or saw, something about the birth of the blues. People wondered why musicians played this sad music when they were already so sad. You’d think they’d want to play something cheery. The answer was vague, but somehow, somehow, it gave them comfort. Maybe just to be able to express their feelings. Maybe to know they were not alone. And then, too, some of the “blues” are more like the “reds,” railing against injustice. In a convoluted  kind of way, could this be what’s happening to me and this TV show? Living in this dystopian world of Covid-19, but watching another one that’s far worse, makes me feel connected or something. All I know is that it’s working. For now.

House Arrest Isn’t All Bad

But if you want another way to look at all this, and who could blame you if you did, there’s a terrific book called A Gentleman in Moscow. It’s about an aristocrat after the Russian Revolution who’s under house arrest at the swanky Metropole Hotel. Think the Plaza on steroids. He doesn’t complain, he copes. Actually way better than copes: he thrives. He uses all the facilities of the hotel: the restaurants, the bars, the barber, the manicurist, and makes friends with an Eloise-type child who’s up for adventure. He even has an affair with a movie star who’s passing through.

Okay, so none of us have THAT. But most of us under house arrest have basic comforts and friends we can call or even face, on FaceTime or iChat, or Zoom, or something.

And if that doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you’ve heard about the new drink that’s sweeping the nation (well, something should be sweeping the nation). It’s called the Quarantini. I, myself, have experienced the first solo martini in forever, because to me, a martini has always been something you had with someone else. But hey, my Quarantini was just the way I like it: very, very dry, misted with vermouth, with  three olives. And I didn’t have to stand six feet away from myself.

Strange times indeed.

23 comments

  1. Diana /

    Gee, I feel the same way about Wagner and I’ve gotten quite good at Quarantinis. Working on Zoom so we entertain at an acceptable distance.

    • A virtual Happy Hour!
      But them we can’t call them Quarantinis.
      How about Zoomatinis?
      That would make us Zoonsters. . .

      • When can we do Zoomatinis. I am in!!

        • Diana is setting something up. We’ll have to figure out a way around the time difference, but hell, we’re all adaptable. I’ll tell her you’re interested.

      • Sara Coe /

        Hi Pat and Diana, miss you both. Our trip to NYC cancelled. We are both fine, taking a Zoom class and our film society is broadcasting new independent films. I’m managing to do some painting in a pretty crowded space. Stay healthy!!!!

        • I’m doing Zoom for my classes too and am amazed at how well that’s going. Also nice to see familiar faces, even if it’s only on my computer screen.
          Keep painting and keep healthy!

  2. Eloise /

    The Quarantini! I love it! I may have one this evening.

    • I definitely am! As I’ve said about martinis themselves, it’s the lowest form of religious experience. But how many religious experiences do we get to have? And with olives!

  3. I haven’t figured out zoom YET! I guess it could be worse but having the chance to read the 700+ books on my kindle is making this a bit better.

    • I haven’t figured how to set it up, but someone did it for me and I’m taking online classes with it.
      In the normal world, I wouldn’t have loved it, but now! Seeing people and communicating with them is wonderful. Desperate times . . .
      I’m having a hard time concentrating on reading, but I had fun writing this blog.
      Do you have any book recommendations (to add to my 700 on my kindle)?

  4. Pat: Wonderful ! Now I am totally energized again. I was depressed think some
    people really think St Pat’s would be open for Easter….

    Not humorous, but thought clearing is ON TYRANNY by Timothy Snyder. Only 126 pages and published in 2017, but could have been written last night.

    Love you All,

    Dick

    • Hi, Dick:
      I’m reading a book called The Impeachers, about Andrew Johnson’s presidency and impeachment, and I was writing “Sound familiar?” so often in the margins that I started abbreviating it “SF?” All this apart from the current pandemic!

  5. Louis Venezia /

    I love the Quarantini and your description of it. Glad to hear everyone is being safe and vigilant

    • Safe, vigilant and crawling the walls! But this, too, shall pass, or so I hear from The Handmaid’s Tale.
      Nice to hear from you, Lou.

  6. Caroline /

    Sooo funny! Keep up your good spirits!

    • Yes, Caroline, I am keeping the spirits (that is, the Belvedere Vodka) chilled and ready to serve.

  7. I LOVED “A Gentleman in Moscow.” Finished it a month or so ago but hadn’t made the connection till now!
    But I couldn’t get thru the Handmaid book, and won’t be watching the show.
    Instead, I’m gorging on Korean teen rom/com/violent…well, I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a hoot! Stay in and stay safe, everyone!!….

    • I thought a lot about the “Gentleman” before any of this current situation because in a sense we’re all under house arrest of some sort, and making the best of whatever situation we’re in is the mark of a true kind of nobility.
      Wow. I didn’t know I was going to say that!

  8. Audrey /

    Thanks for your reminder, Pat.
    The Quarantini really validates
    the wise observation:
    Candy is dandy;
    But liquor is quicker

    • And yet. I was not given a “Chocolate Girl” tee shirt for nothing. And I just HAD to finish those Mallomars before they got stale . . .

  9. Nicely done. I like the way you combined comments on a TV program based on a dystopian novel with the liquid cure for surviving a pandemic.

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