The Walkerville Weekly Reader

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Walkerville, VA
Monday, May 20, 2024
Carolyn Purcell, Editor

Handmaid’s Tale experiences backlash over handling of religion

Fans of Margaret Atwood’s new television show turn against the series after revelations the story is a metaphor for Islam’s treatment of women.

Kneeling handmaids: Scene from the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.; The Handmaid’s Tale; Hulu

Scene from The Handmaid’s Tale first episode. The victims kneeling in a field, watched over by armed fundamentalists, is reminiscent of recent images from the Middle East. The show’s creators claim the similarity is deliberate.

Once almost a shibboleth among left-leaning science fiction fans, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is now seeing heavy criticism from advocates of religious freedom. Recent comments by the author and by show creator Bruce Miller, say these once-fans of the show, “make it clear that the series is a racist diatribe against Islam and Middle-Eastern refugees”.

“What attracted me to the project,” Miller told reporters during a recent interview, “was the high concept: what if western Christianity was like Islam? What would that mean for western culture, for the United States? What would it mean for women?”

After the interview went viral, fans online quickly turned against the show and threatened its corporate sponsors. A tweet from fan @starchild111 called Miller a “sellout to the Trumpamentalists” and another decried Miller’s “backwoods morality”.

“When The Handmaid’s Tale was about exposing America’s Christian fundamentalism,” said Huffington Post blogger Blanche Ivory, “it was brilliant. Now that I know it’s a right-wing fantasy, I can’t watch it. And I’ll boycott anyone who advertises on it.”

Twitter user @NotBeSilenced added “There is no room in America for Atwood’s racist hate speech,” and in another tweet, “I need to apologize to women in other countries, Atwood doesn’t represent the United States.”

Ms. Atwood agreed, claiming on Twitter that she’s Canadian.

Atwood, author of the book that the Hulu series is based on, claimed surprise at the backlash Miller’s statement generated.

“I don’t understand how anyone could miss that message,” the author said during an Oprah interview. “Those oppressive laws against women in my future dystopia don’t exist in Christian countries, but every one of them exist today in Muslim countries.”

Atwood listed prohibiting women from reading books, traveling, or having financial independence from their husbands and fathers, as well as strict segregation of women, veiling, polygamy, and enforced prostitution, as examples.

All of these things happen to women today in Muslim countries, and, increasingly, in Muslim communities in western countries.

In many ways, my future dystopia is a better place for women than Muslim countries today. Women in The Handmaid’s Tale are not mutilated at birth. In the first episode of the series a man who raped a handmaid is executed; in some Muslim countries rape victims are punished.

The author told The Reader that it was “seeing sharia law applied to women in free countries” that inspired her to write her novel.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a warning,” Atwood told the Reader. “It is what could happen in the United States if we don’t provide sanctuary for at-risk Muslim women, if, instead, we open our doors to their persecutors and even adjust our laws to enable their persecutors.”

She cited honor killings in Dallas, Phoenix, New York City, Houston, and Detroit to support her apocalyptic claims.

Cult film director Kevin Smith praised Atwood and Miller for their “reckless bravery”.

Dogma is about Christianity and only about Christianity,” Smith told the Reader. “When I started that project, when I wanted to write about the dangers of fundamentalism, I made the decision to avoid any mention of Islam. I worried that would put my family at danger, and even endanger the other people working on the movie. I mean, people get killed for that shit.”

“It was safer,” Smith added, “to make the movie about Christianity. I applaud The Handmaid’s Tale team for their bravery, but holy shit, for any Muslims listening, Dogma is solely about Christianity.”

  1. <- Rape culture controversy
  2. Monuments removed ->