Perhaps you’ve heard by now about a little series on Hulu called The Handmaid’s Tale. The show, whose first season is being released episode-by-episode as of this writing and which has been renewed for a second season, is based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel set in a dystopian future where religious autocrats have taken over what used to be the United States; have stripped away human rights in general and women’s rights in particular; and have subjugated fertile women into a life in which they’re nothing more than, uh, baby-making machines for the privileged (and barren) upper class.
So far, The Handmaid’s Tale has been critically well received, and has certainly gained notice from those like… uh, [sheepishly raises hand] me who do not have a Hulu subscription (note to self: buy it on DVD if and when it comes out) for what have been described as powerful and engrossing acting, writing, and visuals. Of course, one other reason for that notice is how it seems to be an ominous warning. Even though Season 1 went into production well before You Know Who was elected You Know What, the show seems to serve as an advisory for what may lie ahead for society while You Know Who’s cronies desire to take away rights and make America in their own misguided image. It’s part of the reason one critic has labeled the show the most important of this spring.
With The Handmaid’s Tale having such a dark tone and provocative subject matter, one would think it would not be ripe for parody by a satirical outlet such as, say, Saturday Night Live. Well… one would be wrong.
This past weekend’s SNL episode, hosted by Chris Pine, was certainly funny and lively as (mostly) usual. But then there was the inclusion of the above Handmaid’s Tale parody, in which a quartet of “handmaidens” encounter that most unsettling version of homo sapien — the dudebro. You know, the kind of guy who’s not too bright; whose mindset doesn’t go beyond beer and babes (well, perhaps video games); and whose vocabulary is limited to such terms as “whoa, that sucks.”
Now, one would think that the guys depicted in this filmed short are not the type of male society should be worried about. Well… one would be wrong. Sure, these bros don’t have gray hair or wrinkly skin, nor are they dressed in three-piece suits from Brooks Brothers or speaking fine English. But how they look isn’t so much the issue as how they think. But they are clueless. They do not realize the situation that’s literally in front of their noses, that being how this “girl squad” have lost their freedom and are no longer able to stand up and fight without literally risking their lives. Instead, the only reaction they can muster is… well, “whoa, that sucks” and “wanna go out for pizza later?”
This SNL parody (and I hesitate to use the term “parody” as it suggests non-stop humor) may have some fun with a currently hot series. However, only the Netflix dig at the end seemed to generate the most chuckles from the studio audience. Perhaps that’s because the parody wasn’t so much funny as it was thought provoking. Really, it does raise a reality that everyone should consider: The men in charge of our country, they with their misguided beliefs about women’s rights, are certainly worth worrying about. But we should be concerned as well about those who don’t stand up for the defenseless — either because they don’t know how to or more probably because they don’t want to, desiring to think instead about less important things like kegger parties and pizza and sports.
Lest you think this type of “bro” can only be found in scripted television, consider this: My cubicle at work is only three spots down from a trio of bros not unlike those depicted here. While they talk about actual work and occasionally about family, they tend to raise their voices when it comes to the most minutely important sports stories, doing so in volume levels that would give sports talk radio a run for its money. (Don’t get me started about how one of them has a habit of whistling when he’s bored.) These guys may be older than the bros found in this video, but they are those characters’ real-life analogues. I fear that they wouldn’t blink an eye if their supervisor lost coverage for a pre-existing health condition… or if another female colleague lost their reproductive rights… or if another colleague lost their right to marry their partner… or if someone they knew personally was discriminated based on their gender. Really, such obliviousness would be a scary thing to consider.
The not-so-magic word is “complacency,” and it’s something that shouldn’t be practiced right now. Because, you know, if one gets too complacent, another not-so-magic word will apply: “oppression.” Think about that as you let out a chuckle or two in this pointed, powerful, and well-crafted SNL short.