“The Handmaid’s Tale” ’s most chilling resonance, though, comes from its vision of a society that compels women to keep reproducing even when it’s become increasingly difficult for them to do so. In the America of 2017, as in Gilead, birth rates are falling, not because of mysterious toxins in the air but because many Americans cannot imagine being able to afford children. Instead of Handmaids, the women most likely to be capable of becoming pregnant are twentysomethings trying to pay off student loans with wages from precarious jobs. (I recently heard one young woman say that she felt “sterilized by student debt.”) Others are barren not because of an ecological disaster but because they have worked straight through their childbearing years. Meanwhile, Republicans of today, like those of the Reagan era, continue to push to further privatize the resources that might support childbearing and child-rearing. Consider the remarkable question, posed recently by the Illinois congressman John Shimkus, of why men should subsidize prenatal care.
Only three episodes in, it already feels like Hulu’s “Handmaid’s Tale” is the most important TV show of 2017. It is an essential watch if for nothing else than to get people to read Margaret Atwood’s astonishing work of speculative fiction — one that becomes less speculative as the years go by.
FWIW’s Elisabeth Moss’s performance as Offred is one for the ages. Elsewhere: this long profile about Moss and Handmaid in Vulture is worth checking out, too.