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I could write a billion posts about how much I love The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu and how relevant and scary and IMPORTANT™ it is right now. I could also write a billion post about how Elizabeth Moss better get an Emmy and how much of a badass she is to me between this and her turn as my spirit animal Peggy Olson in Mad Men.
But I’m pretty sure every other news outlet in the world has written these kinds of pieces and probably much better than me. So I won’t even try… I leave the think pieces to the kids in AP English. Instead we really need to talk about the music. I recently saw a post saying the music in the Handmaid’s Tale was the downfall, it didn’t make sense to the writer and therefore he has to tell everyone! Clearly, this person is an idiot.
Let’s back up for a second… it you haven’t been watching The Handmaid’s Tale you might not know that the music supervisor (the person who assists in music selection and then legally clears it) and production team have used music that is popular and well known to us from 60s pop to 80s classics and current songs.
If you’re like me, you haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale (something I will be remedying once the show is over) so going into Episode One was a mind fuck and culture shock. You’re not sure what the time period is, the clothing is confusing to us now, the “rules” of their society are foreign. Then you have the incredibly appalling “Red Center” sequence with Trunchbull (aka Aunt Lydia) where we learn how the Handmaid’s are “trained.” The episode continues to throw us in the deep end of this story where women are stripped of their dignity (and names in the Handmaid’s case), their privacy and sexuality. As “June” reveals her real name to us along with the names of her stolen family that she promises to survive and rescue, the 60s classic “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore kicks in. You can imagine these songs along with June’s inner dialogue complete with sarcastic remarks are a sort of inner dialogue that help keep her sane.
An anthem for women everywhere whether handmaid or not.
After Janine (with one effing eye!) gives birth in one of the saddest scenes in the series (so far and that’s saying something), we’re shown Janine talking to baby Angela about her brother (we forget a lot of these women have had children in their real life) and then sings her Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. Grab the Kleenez. For reals.
Beyond the music grounded the characters while in a very different reality, the flashbacks serve, along with the music, as a tether, to remind us and show us in bits and pieces what brought these characters to such a surreal present day. One of these scenes, a protest march, looks very similar to what’s happening in America today. Using the Crabtree Remix of Blondie’s Heart of Glass laid over a protest June and Moira are part of, we can see days like The Women’s March could have turned out very differently. The gorgeous string arrangement coupled with June and Moira running for their lives amid a protest march, is beautiful tragedy brought to screen. UGH. I could cry now thinking about this scene.
I’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale with a friend and I remember the moment, very distinctly, where we both commented on how much the music makes this adaptation.
Music… at least rock music from recent memory has always been about defiance, expression and nostalgia. Using these songs we as the viewers know so well reminds us… oh yea, this story doesn’t take place in an alternate reality, this isn’t hundreds of years in the past or in the future. This story takes place in a time close to ours because these songs that we know so well and equate with our life moments ARE June’s songs too. She is experiencing this atrocious reality in a time that could be us today. When “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds blares out of the TV at the end of Episode Two after a particularly upsetting revelation, you’re shaken by the music and reminded that June is a person who is just like us, from a time like ours. We could very well be June’s if we don’t stand up and stay committed.
PS We gotta talk about Max Minghella!
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