Man, being “woke” is a full-time job. You’ve got to get a handle on the outrage du jour and how it intersects with all the other stuff you’re supposed to be outraged about — the fight of Zoroastrian little people for the right to work in Tajikistan’s steel smelting industry is of a piece with the struggle of Portland’s gay Asian ice cream vendors for the right to scoop in leather Speedos. And then you’ve got to get ready for it to change.
Take Dana Mathis’s recent article on The Handmaid’s Tale for The Week. “Last year, Hulu’s standout feminist series was praised by critics for its chilling depiction of “what could happen” to women in the Trump era.” Got it. Trump era = bad. Evil Christians impregnating women and forcing them to carry the babies to term, female servitude, bad hats. Makes sense.
But the show was “also panned for refusing to acknowledge race in its vision of a dystopian future. But now, in season two, the show can’t even acknowledge race in present-day America.”
Apparently, the book had no black people and Season 1, set in the dark future, only had a few. Reacting to complaints, ” [Showrunner Bruce Miller] made the decision that there would be many more multiracial relationships than there had been, since it was in the present time,” according to original author Margaret Atwood.
Miller added them, but only half-heartedly, it seems, because he didn’t make them obsess over race. It’s just not an issue. It might have made Martin Luther King proud. It gets Mathis cheesed.
Miller’s attempt at a more diverse cast might have been well-intentioned, but by refusing to have the show’s characters even see race, he has created a racial utopia that’s only getting more fantastical with each passing episode.
Imagine a story in which a theocratic totalitarian government takes over America and enslaves women being fantastical!
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She aghast that in one scene, “Annie is a black woman, but there’s not even a hint of racial tension when she confronts June in public after a yoga class.” … “Nowhere in the exchange was the obvious fact brought up: A black man was leaving his black wife for a white woman. None of the parties appear conscious of their race, even when hurling their most hurtful barbs.”
Not one N-word? Not even a Mandingo reference? This cannot stand!
The show’s utter refusal to adopt any critical viewpoint regarding race turns every interracial connection into an idyllic, burdenless bubble for June. She never has to confront what it means to mother a black child as a white woman. She never has to consider any privilege as the wife of a black man in a white supremacist society.
Sounds an awful lot like Mathis wants to punish June for being white, or at least for not being as miserable about race as Mathis herself is. And punish The Handmaid’s Tale for taking on only one liberal bugbear at a time. But maybe she wants her country punished — irredeemably racist as it:
In their faux utopian, postracial re-imagining of “the before,” Miller and Atwood haven’t just erased race. They’ve erased America.