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Handmaid Hypocrisy

"We just see it as a thriller.... We never had any thought of baiting anyone or any group." So says the executive vice president of Cinecom Entertainment, describing Cinecom's thriller, "The Handmaid's Tale."

Like most "thrillers," "The Handmaid's Tale" has its villains who, of course, are bent on terrorizing and brutalizing others. These villains, however, aren't part of an inner city gang. Nor are they the dregs of society. And they aren't even foreign terrorists. Rather, these villains are domestic terrorists of sorts, fascists who promulgate an especially pernicious agenda. They also rape, brutalize, and forcibly impregnate women. And by killing nuns who refuse to recant their vows, they perpetrate mass murder (no pun intended).

So exactly who are the despicable villains of this thriller which, mind you, was never intended to bait anyone or any group? Christians. That's right, Christians, and in particular, fundamentalist Christians.

With a straight face, Margaret Atwood claims that she wrote the novel upon which the screenplay was based to warn America about those who use the Bible as an excuse to suppress the majority (Between the Lines, March 12, 1990, p.7). According to Atwood, "The Handmaid's Tale" is about "how religious fanatics would run the world if they got their druthers" (Ibid., March 26, 1990, p.3).

Let's get this straight. From Atwood's perspective, Christians who participate in America's "participatory" democracy by voting according to conscience have tendencies toward racism, misogynism, and murder. Only in Hollywood! And only when Christians serve as Hollywood's convenient whipping-boys.

After all, Hollywood is out of other whipping-boys. Atwood and Cinecom know all too well that they better not "bait" Muslims (just ask Salmon Rushdie!). And they know as well that they better not "bait" the Jewish community (and rightly so). So instead, they "bait" Christians without having the courage to admit it!

The amazing irony, though, is that by baiting Christians, this film contradicts the very value it feigns to promote: open-minded tolerance. Atwood ends up venting the same hatred, bigotry and intolerance she fabricates and foists on her imaginary villains. Thus, Atwood's mind remains open only until Christians wish to enter the political arena.

But instead of maintaining an open mind and doing battle with Christians on the merits of their claims, Atwood viciously attacks a straw man. Of course, this sort of attack is not new. Not to worry, though. What Atwood's feeble plot loses in originality, it more than gains in absurdity (since only Christianity provides a worldview which can consistently condemn racism, misogynism, and murder).

So while Atwood and Cinecom take their potshots at a caricature of Christianity, they know that such potshots are pure fiction -- which is more than anyone can say about the atrocities of non-Christian regimes. But everyone knows that there's no money in documentaries! DGH

Copyright © by Covenant Community Church of Orange County 1990
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