The first Handmaid’s Tale trailer quotes The Book of Matthew

The first trailer for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale contains one verse from the book of Matthew, and this post is a short summary of the trailer, and an interpretation of the scene in which the verse appears. You can watch the trailer on the Hulu Youtube Channel.

The trailer for Hulu’s series – based on the book by Margaret Atwood – depicts a slow attack on women’s rights, culminating in hypocrisy, captivity, and violence:

  1. A regime run by white men takes control.
  2. Women, regardless of their racial backgrounds, are no longer permitted to hold jobs or property.
  3. Indoctrination centres coerce and control the captive women.
  4. They become handmaids to powerful, white men, bearing their children. Or they work in toxic conditions as slaves, presumably without medical support

It is an abhorrent future, but one that is based on facts. Chief Culture Writer, and editorial board member of The Guardian, Charlotte Higgins (2016) discussed this question with Margaret Atwood:

Higgins: Are we in Gilead – the America of The Handmaid’s Tale?
Atwood: “Close, yes. For sure.”
And everything in it [The Handmaid’s Tale], she says, was based on things that had actually happened.

One final scene at the end of the trailer ends with a verse and violence.

A woman reads a Bible verse like as slogan – it is Matthew 5:5. Offred then reads a counter argument from later in the same section – Matthew 5:10.

This particular section in The Book of Matthew is named The Beatitudes. These statements can be interpreted as support for those persecuted by an unethical authority. This  fits the scene show in the trailer.

I interpret this scene, of why the verse was included, as a biting message about hypocrisy. The woman holding the grey rod wears a placid mask. Her words are calmly placated to the point of being patronising.

Offred shows the hypocritical act of reading a Bible verse like a slogan by quoting the rest of the Bible verse in more detail. Offred is punished, and the trailer cuts to black. I was left with a strong sense of Offred’s ongoing defiance in the face of overwhelming odds.

And you can read the full interview with Margaret Atwood on The Guardian website.

The Handmaid’s Tale arrives on Hulu on April 26.


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