Handmaid’s Tale – from hopeless reality to Hollywood struggle.
It is the hopelessness in the Handmaid’s Tale that makes it so realistic and so depressing. In real life, once a totalitarian machine starts rolling, the resistance is futile. In fact, the resistance usually disappears even before the full power of oppressive government is brought in. A few guerrillas may grow lice in the forests or the mountains for a few years, but the overwhelming mass of civilian population succumbs to the totalitarian regime.
Any kind of struggle, even against the impossible odds as in Warsaw ghetto uprising, still carries an element of glory and hope. At least, people keep true to their convictions and their pride; they go down fighting.
However, an efficient totalitarian system doesn’t allow it. It co-opts and corrupts its citizens in crimes against humanity. People are drawn in till they become evil. A person is not able to stay a bystander or even to be a only a victim. Everybody either participate in crimes directly or, at least, support the crimes publicly; men and women slowly lose their humanity. Whoever is not yet dead, become engaged.
Totalitarian regimes don’t stay forever, of course. But they don’t get destroyed by the opposition fighting from below; there is nobody left to fight. Rather they are brought down by major economy failures, external military intervention or ruling class looking for a change.
The authors of the first few episodes understood it very well. That’s why the show feels like a punch in the guts. From one episode to another, the utter hopelessness steadily envelopes a viewer. But it’s difficult to watch nauseating hopelessness forever; people wants hope brought by struggle. Hence the show started changing till in episode ten, an army of red coated Handmaids parades down a street in a slow motion. Then, the viewer knows that the horrors of reality are over and he can relax, drink a beer, eat chips and enjoy a good fake Hollywood struggle.