Friday, November 9, 2018

On television (part two): Handmaid's Tale

(Two screenshots I took of THT, with Prisma filters added)
1. I got sucked into The Handmaid's Tale (THT) a few weeks ago. I began watching at least an episode every day, usually just before bed. Never has a show affected my mood so much. Every torture depicted on-screen became my torture. The utter boredom and despair of a handmaid's life was mine. More and more of my dreams were of being held captive, of trying to escape. 

Even in the daylight, the trauma from the previous evening clung to me. As I went about my day, I often found myself panicked about how Offred could flee from the commander's home. 

Was a compelling story really worth this much psychological trauma?

2. I stopped at Season Two, Episode Four a few days ago. (If you've watched the show, you'll know which episode this is.) It's hard to watch a character who seems to have succumbed to her circumstances. 

Why should I care anymore? I understand the perils and horrors of June's life and don't need to see them repeated and expanded upon without some sense of impending relief. Ongoing grimness and misery are not what I usually look for in a TV show.  

[After I wrote this entry a few days ago, I went back and finished season two of the damned show.]

3. If this was a British drama, it would be done or nearly done by now. A a total of 10 or 20 episodes, issued over two or three seasons, and the story would be complete. No need to keep expanding it, adding more tortures, backstories, and characters just to keep it going. 

Alas, I read recently that the creator of THT TV show envisions having it play out over 10 seasons. That would include, I assume, at least one season of rebellion and war, and perhaps another season of Life-After-Gilead--which would mean at least six more seasons of handmaids being raped, unwomen continuing to dig up radioactive dirt, and traitors being hung for public display.

Why would I want to stick around for that? 

It's time to release Offred (and me) from this trauma. End it with season three or--perhaps even better--with a two-hour special in which the anthropologist from the future at the end of Atwood's book has tried to piece together what happened to Offred and the women of Gilead. 

If I remember it correctly, the anthropologist laughs occasionally during her presentation on Gilead--not to make light of the handmaid's life, but perhaps to show that such a life was unbelievable in the much-saner present day. The appearance of laughter--or a scene invoking laughter--might be the most shocking twist of all in a future episode of THT.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On Television (part one)

1. I watch too much TV.  In my defense, so much TV is so good now--or maybe it's so easy to watch. One show runs into the next on Netflix and before I can reach for the remote, the next episode has started and, well, it will only be another 21 minutes.

2. I rarely just sit and watch TV--can I pat myself on the back for that? Most of the time I am washing dishes, or cooking dinner, or folding laundry, glancing at the screen when I can.

3. There are few shows that are "downstairs-worthy," which means I am willing to walk downstairs to the bigger TV and sit down and just watch a show. Currently the only downstairs-worthy network show is "The Good Place"--and it's the only show I watch with someone else. Hubby and I watch it together, otherwise afraid we would reveal any spoilers to each other. It continues to surprise me.

4. Most of the time, we all watch something different, in different rooms. I'll watch John Oliver on YouTube while changing my sheets. My husband will read the paper and watch a ball game downstairs. The teenager will watch something on her phone while doing rote work. A few years ago, before the teenager had so many activities, we set out to watch every episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but we drifted away from it. At least we got to Chuckle's funeral. The disc for Season Six sat in the DVD player for months.

5. After college and living out West a few years, I came back home. My mother would insist that we all watch television together in the evenings. "Come on out of your room and be social for awhile," she would say. This was before you could zip through ads. The sitcoms and dramas would be interrupted every eight or so minutes with commercials for hair products and floor cleaners. Having lived for years in dorms and communal houses without a television set, it was a shock to have all those shows reel before us--people shot, lovers ferociously kissing, actors smirking to a laugh track--and then perky actors insisting I needed products I had no money for. They were all at our command, yet at the same time, captivating us. I often sneaked back to my room to read a book.

Sometimes now, alone in the den, watching TV and folding laundry, I can understand her sentiment, how she thought TV might bring us together, that it could be a common language for us--even if our common language was Dallas or Dynasty.