dystopian · spoilers · thoughts

When is a spoiler a SPOILER?

A few months back, I wrote a blogpost on The Handmaid’s Tale.  Without much consideration for the current tv show on Hulu, I discussed the emotions felt at the end of the book.   In my mind, the book was exempt from spoiler alerts based on its age (published in 1985) and the fact that it had been turned into a movie (1990).  The book is also a work of dystopian fiction, which by definition is a story about “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”  To me, dystopian novels automatically mean “No Happy Ending”.  This holds true for 1984, A Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, Divergent, The Maze Runner, Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games.

The Hulu series briefly crossed my mind and was instantly overridden by the fact that movies and tv shows rarely stick to the book 100% and like Game of Thrones, may divert entirely due to circumstance or creative license.  To mitigate giving away any plot twists or actual spoilers that may appear in the book or movie, I decided to stick to discussing the emotions I felt when reading the book.

The Handmaid’s Tale left me feeling completely out of breath, paranoid, angry, and just emotional in general.  I’d guess these are typical responses when reading Dystopian fiction, however, The Handmaid’s Tale hit closer to home.  Unlike the majority of dystopian fiction where the lead characters are either young-to-middle aged men (1984, A Brave New World,  Fahrenheit 451) or teenage heroes (Divergent, The Maze Runner, Ender’s Game) who’d never know a different existence The Handmaid’s Tale featured a married female in her 30’s who experienced the entire world tipping upside down within a few short years.  Unlike those books about teenage super humans who save the world, this book felt so much more “real”.  It punched me in the gut and left me reeling.

Shortly after hitting “Publish”, a reader commented on the post being a Spoiler Alert, which led me to crowdsource feedback from friends on when a Spoiler Alert is actually a spoiler alert and when a notice should be included in a discussion about a book or a movie.

First on my list of questions for Spoiler Alert exemptions were the age of the book and the general public knowledge of the plot.  We’d never consider references to the soldiers jumping out of the Trojan horse as a spoiler, we all know Romeo and Juliet are fools and die, and everyone born after 1960 knows Luke is Darth Vader’s son.   So when does a book reach that point where the plot twists become common knowledge and even those who haven’t read the book know the outcome?  When does a spoiler alert stop being required?

Apparently, according to the majority of my circle, the polite, responsible answer is NEVER.

So with that, my dear readers, your humble writer apologies and promises to include Spoiler Alert! on any future posts about literature written after the 1800’s.

Cheers and happy reading!

Books to Movies · dystopian · Gonna Need a Stiff Drink For This One

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale is big in my circle right now, with some reading the book and some watching the Hulu series.

The common consensus: alarming, relevant, shocking.

With the popularity of dystopian tales in recent cinema, it’s surprising The Handmaid’s Tale hadn’t popped up before now.  It’s the perfect blend of religious fanaticism and government gone bad to control man-made environmental and population crisis.  Think Divergent meets 1984 meets The Third Reich and you’ve got The Handmaid’s Tale.

A long beach weekend allowed me to dig into Margaret Atwood’s popular dystopian world.  With every page, my bathing suit and bare legs became increasingly apparent as I sunk further and further into the bleak Republic of Gilead and thick red habits.

In Offred, Atwood creates a character so devastatingly traumatized by what has happened to her, that she seems almost flippant in her mannerisms and attitude.  To deal with the complete shock and sensory deprivation of being a handmaid, whose sole responsibility is to procreate for The Wives (rich infertile women), Offred halting and delicately brings forth controlled memories of her previous life and loved ones, always careful to keep herself from stepping too far into herself.

Her understanding of the situation in Gilead, the toxicity of the land, the population decline caused by an epidemic of infertility, the suspension of the Constitution, the religious upheaval, The Sons of Jacob, The Eyes, The Aunts…all are brought forth piece meal, placed randomly within memories, leaving the reader to sort and piece the history of Gilead together as Offred quickly buries and escapes the pain and disappointment of a past reality for the pain and disappointment of the present reality.

Offred’s utter helplessness and the very last shreds of self holding onto sanity tunneled a giant hole right through my chest and I often found it hard to breathe while reading.

Like any book of this popularity, the Amazon reviews are off the charts.  Many of the one and two star reviews claim Atwood’s novel is too slow, too boring, too un-relatable.  The five star reviews tend to treat this book like a cautionary tale, similar to “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson.  For me, this book served as a mirror, a perfect piece for self reflection.  Since reading, I’ve found myself mulling over what it means to be a woman, the roles and responsibilities, the parts and pieces, the relationships, the rights, the rules, and the regulations we hold one another to.

This book left me emotionally drained, clinging to my husband’s body for stability in the night.  Reader beware, there is no happy ending to this tale.