185 It’s All About June: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Analysis
We’re back to talk about season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale, a season that offered glimpses of brilliance but ultimately doubled-down on the “color-blindness” and white feminism of season 1. We’re totally fired up, proceed at your own risk!
Clarification: I’m having anxiety that our comments about June’s behavior not “having consequences” may come across differently than intended. We did clarify during the episode, but just to make sure – we don’t think anything June did during this season, or last season, should have consequences. She is living under an oppressive regime, one that has warped all the rules of what good and bad behavior look like. For instance, she shouldn’t be punished for refusing telling an abusive, disgusting man to go fuck himself. However, within the narrative of the show, we see endless examples of how other women, Serena Joy even!, suffer extreme punishments, while June goes by comparatively unscathed for similar conduct.
So when we say “behavior without consequences,” we mean within the structure of what this show itself has shown us to be true about Gilead and the women and men within it. “Behavior without consequences” is Max S. Gordon’s genius way of explaining what he was referring to a June asserting her ‘whiteness’ in the show, as part of his critique of the lack of racial analysis in The Handmaid’s Tale. And it certainly means specifically, without consequences to June directly, as so many other people in the show pay the price for her actions.
This season was hard to watch, June was in some horrendous situations that made our stomachs turn; we don’t want it to come across as if she’s had a walk in the park in Gilead. The rape that she suffered this season was horrific, and we certainly aren’t dismissing it. It’s simply that in relation to others, she is able to assert herself without serious (relative to what others have suffered for similar “crimes”) repercussions, and often others suffer the brunt of her decisions while she seems unaffected by her impact on those around her, and this makes no sense within the narrative of this show or the show’s insistence that June is some sort of hero. – Nichole
In This Episode
We had hopes for season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale. Hearing that creator Bruce Miller had received the criticism that season 1 did not properly address racism in Gilead, or his misguided “color-blind” casting choice, we hoped that Miller had given creative control over to a diverse staff of writers who would understand the nuances missing from season 1.
Sigh. Alas, this did not happen.
Instead, season 2 is arguably MORE racist than season 1, in its clumsy attempts to throw a few more faces of color into bit parts that go nowhere. The Handmaid’s Tale is obsessed with June, turning her from a selfish, reckless, “resistor” with nothing really at risk because she knows she’s pregnant in season 1, to a full-on action hero by the end of season 2. The absurdity in this is only overshadowed by how White Feminist this fucking show is.
We referenced a few articles for this episode. Those written by Max S. Gordon on Medium are simply stunning, we HIGHLY recommend reading them if you have a moment. He puts everything wrong with race in The Handmaid’s Tale into perfect focus. His writing is clear, engaging, and poignant. The other article by Alex Zaragoza has one of our favorite summations of the issues with this show:
And too often, as a woman of color, it seems like the ones most freaked out about America becoming Gilead are white women with minimal experience with violent discrimination and oppression at an institutional level. It’s just torture porn masked as woke viewing for white ladies in pussy hats who are finally feeling the panic and subjugation Black and non-Black women of color have been feeling. The show’s failure in discussing race exacerbates this. The result is condescension aimed at these groups and an erasure of their experiences.
With that in mind, this season of The Handmaid’s Tale has been going all-out in glorifying the lost America within the created world. In one scene, June turns on a car radio and hears a radio announcer (voiced by Oprah Winfrey no less) sharing some world news followed by this line:
“And now a tune to remind everyone who’s listening, American patriot or Gilead traitor, we are still here. Stars and stripes forever, baby.”
Then a live version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” plays. In another scene, following the impactful release of secret letters from women in Gilead smuggled into Canada and delivered into Luke’s hands by Nick, American refugees go into a sing-along of “America the Beautiful.” The scenes are meant to give hope, but no one seems to point out that Gilead grew out of America—America fostered Gilead enough that it overthrew the country. And as a viewer watching the atrocities of the dystopian world go down, I ask myself if they’re longing for the America I currently live in. I can’t help but look around incredulously. Are you for real, Handmaids? Have you seen this place? Sure, I’m not wearing a bonnet or forced to become a baby factory, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Excerpt from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Way Too Real — and Watching It Has Become Masochistic by Alex Zaragoza on The Daily Beast
Links in the resources section below!
Update to Previous Episode
We issued a clarification for Evolve Our Prison Farms and their mission statement, current projects, etc. in relation to a recent news item we covered about prison dairy farms:
- Why Not Prison Dairy (Evolve Our Prison Farms)
Joke in the Middle
What do you call a young potato?
Links and Information
- Top Vegan Organizations Join Forces To Build A Stronger, More United Movement (Plant Based News)
- Two amputations a week: the cost of working in a US meat plant (The Guardian)
- Trade helps propel second-quarter business (Politico)
Links to Amazing Articles
- On Race and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale | by Max S. Gordon (Medium)
- Walking On Broken Glass: How Bruce Miller’s The Handmaid’s Tale Turned Out Racist After All” | by Max S. Gorgon (Medium)
- ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Way Too Real — and Watching It Has Become Masochistic | by Alex Zaragoza (The Daily Beast)