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|Gender Analysis Movie The Handmaid's Tale
Over the years, the issue of gender has been controversial because there was no equality or equity depicted between males and females. Most societies considered women to be inferior, and as a result, they were viewed as homemakers and keepers of their husbands and children. In the old times, the gender gap was vast and men were highly ranked while women remained in a state of misery as a glass ceiling had been put in their lives. However, in contemporary society, there is a shift because women have fought and worked hard to ensure that they break the glass ceiling. One of the aspects that showed discrimination on gender is using women as sex objects in adverts in the media for some products to sell. For instance, several skincare products have shown semi-nude women on television to sell their products. Society believes that semi-nude women's products would quickly sell, and this is a state that was never portrayed by men. Through TV series and films, there is an excellent representation of aspects of gender, and this can be seen in The Handmaid's Tale which is an American series
Offred in Season 1, Episode 1 is the premiere of the series, and it introduces a woman in a way that lowers their value and exalts that of the men. I have always wanted to watch the series for a while but did not have a justification for it, but after going through its trailer, I was convinced that this would be the new series to binge on. Several of my friends have been talking about their new addiction on handmaids, and I was wondering about the thing that made them extremely absorbed that they had to set some time even in their busy schedule to watch the series. One of my sisters having to bug me about when I would start viewing the series so that we can have a conversation about it, but I was a little hesitant. Finally, I decided to watch the first season, and I can attest that it is my new addiction. A majority of people say that the series is full of horror scenes and does demonize not only the society but also give people hints on what to do to those who offend them. To me, the series depicts the real picture of what is happening in society and how women are portrayed. It epitomizes how women are subjected to situations that benefit men but against the will of women. The series depicts how society has normalized crucial aspects such as childbirth to be a man's desire and a woman's role. The rationale for choosing the series is because, just from the mention of its title "Handmaids Tale," one can realize that it has to do with gender issues because the name maid suggests that it is likely to incline more on tales of women. A maid is a female servant domestic servant, and the series explores more about the unfairness that women go through in the hands of their masters, which in the series are men.
The handmaid’s tale is an American drama television series that was created by Bruce Miller through the adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel under the same name. The production of the series began in late 2016 and released for streaming by Hulu In 2017. It explores a strange society which after the Second American Civil War, a dictatorship social order subjects fertile women who are referred to as 'handmaids' to slavery in childbearing. It is told from a point wherein the near future in a dystopian society a strange epidemic in which women become infertile is depicted. The mysterious illness impacts women worldwide. In Episode 1, a woman known as June is featured, and she is commonly known as ‘Offred’ because she is a slave assigned to bear children for her master known as Fred. Every fertile woman is known as a handmaid, and they are forced to bear children to childless couples. The episode is non-linear as it entails flashbacks of June even before the rise of Gilead's and the various resistance. Before being a handmaid, June lives with her husband, Luke, but they are pursued so that she would be taken to be a childbearing slave. Luke is killed, and their daughter Hanna is arrested. June is considered to captivity with other women and taken to a facility where they are beaten and forced to believe that they are fulfilling God’s role by being handmaids and helping the childless couple have children. It is an episode that introduces women as slaves who are required to follow the rules of men as well as give birth and rear children.
The gender stereotypes that are being fulfilled are by characters in the group is of the role of women is to give birth; men are to be leaders and give orders as well directions, women should obey and follow the commands, men are the heads of the household, women should not make any suggestions about their lives or families, women should dress decently in public, they should not have any interaction with men unless the men initiate or want them. In the episode, June epitomizes, the stereotype of women being regarded as child-bearers and with of no other significance in the society is depicted. While she tries to escape to Canada together with her family, they are abducted, and she is taken to a facility where she is beaten and forced to bear children to Commander Fred Waterford and his wife, Serena Waterford. It is through her role of handmaid to Fred that she gets the name Offred. June looks extremely sad because she has lost her husband, and her daughter Hanna is also imprisoned.
Additionally, June fulfills the role of a housekeeper as she is given the purpose of carrying out ordinary house shores such as going for grocery shopping. Besides, it also depicts the stereotype of men being regarded as the people who give instructions and even rule over women who are supposed to fulfill their sexual desires. It is evident when June is regularly raped by Waterford, and it is referred to as 'the ceremony' and justifies him to commit the act as June is her handmaid. The stereotype of women having address code, which depicts them as modest, is also shown when June is dictated on what to wear before going for shopping because she is not supposed to be seen by other men except the one she is assigned to as Offred. Besides, the rules of men are also in how June is supposed to operate while going shopping she is accompanied by another handmaid who, in this case, is Ofglen, also known as Dr. Emily a maid attached to Glen. Ofglen is a lesbian and having an affair with Martha, and when it is known, they are severely punished for lesbianism. It also fulfills another stereotype where women are not allowed to explore and enjoy their sexual desires through their orientation but to be sex slaves to men, as seen in 'the ceremony.'
On the other hand, the gender stereotype that is challenged is regarding a profession where men are viewed to be good at being doctors. It is challenged by Dr. Emily, who defies the odds and pursues the career to become a physician. Another stereotype that is challenged is that of women being leaders or taking up duties to offer commands and directions. The challenge is evident when Aunt Lydia takes up the role of training, ordering, and commanding handmaids. She is extremely brutal to them and punishes those who defy her orders. Before her role of being in charge of the handmaids, she was a teacher and was known as miss clement. It is an indication that the stereotype of women being regarded as maids can be challenged, and they can be professionals just like men.
Additionally, women are regarded as physically feeble, and in most cases, they cannot fight. It is a stereotype challenged when women are called upon to beat the man who is accused of rape. The man is beaten and killed in a ceremony known as participation and the person who kills him in June when he kicked him. It is an indication that women are strong and can fight physically when need be.
The other identities that are portrayed by the casting are Religion, class, and sexual orientation. Through the episode, a flashback showing a Christian ruled society is seen. It is a cult that almost takes over the entire American society, and it is renamed Gilead. Gilead is a patriarch theocratic rule that is strict and forms the government. It introduces a class of patriarch theocracy which governs the aspects of humanity through a deity.
Furthermore, another identity of sexual orientation is also depicted where lesbians and gays are heavily penalized through capital punishments. People are not allowed to follow their sexual orientations and are dictated to be straight. Any deviance from what is considered normal is a criminal offense that is punishable through death and brutal beatings. A good example is the case of Dr. Emily, who is spared at the beginning of the heavy punishment because she has two fertile eggs that are of importance in society. However, she is eventually punished when she gets involved with another lesbian known as Martha.
The stereotypes and treatment of the characters are influenced by more than just their gender because there are other issues such as Religion, which in part play a role in their treatment. According to the Christian doctrines, homosexuality is an abomination, and this played a part in the treatment of characters such as Martha and Dr. Emily. They were punished not because they had committed any other offense but that of following their sexual orientation and exploring it. Besides, the treatment of the characters was also impacted by the type of government portrayed in the series. It shows a dictatorial government which did not allow any member to pursue their rightful desires as it dictated between right and wrong.
It is important to pay attention to and how gender is framed in the media because of the several stereotypes that have put one gender, specifically the female, in a disadvantaged position so that men can dominate. Additionally, it is critical to analyze it to raise the concern and offer appropriate solutions to the problems emanating from gender concerns, for instance, the pursuit of career, leadership, and the limits that have been attached to a specific gender.
Magee, S. (2018). The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1, 2017). Created by Bruce Miller, based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood. Reproductive biomedicine & society online, 7, 44-46.
Martínez-García, Á. (2020). The Handmaid's Tale (2017) or Hulu's Major Investment in Great Storytelling. In Handbook of Research on Transmedia Storytelling, Audience Engagement, and Business Strategies (pp. 43-55). IGI Global.
Miller, B.(2017) The handmaid’s tale retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B073X6Y2QW/ref=atv_dp_season_select_s1
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