It only took 22 seconds into the new teaser trailer for Season 5 of The Handmaid’s Tale for me to start screaming, “Oh my god, this is a JOKE!” I shouted this to no one in particular, isolated in my bedroom and recovering from COVID. For a second, I thought it might be the quarantine stir craziness kicking in and playing tricks on my mind, but no. That is, indeed, a moody indie girl cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” scoring the trailer. The Handmaid’s Tale Industrial Complex has got to be stopped!
Sure, Hulu’s series about Elisabeth Moss battling a fundamentalist nation forcing women to give birth to the next generation of the human race is definitely more timely than ever. Reproductive rights are under siege in America, and trigger laws have already gone into effect after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. But, my god, the last thing we need in these awful times is more Handmaid’s Tale.
In the years since it became one of Hulu’s hallmark scripted shows, The Handmaid’s Tale has completely devolved into a mess of virtue-signaling and preposterous overacting. This series was once an excellent showcase of talent, an anxiety-inducing glimpse at a future that might not be so far off. “You know, that’s where we’re headed,” we’d say at parties in the spring of 2017, fresh off the election of Donald Trump, always assuming that things couldn’t really get that bad. The Handmaid’s Tale was a proxy for our darkest fears, which have all now come true.
But that was Season 1! Anyone with two eyes and half a heart who watched even a frame of the show past the first ten episodes knows that it has since fallen completely apart. It’s stretched itself past the material of Margaret Atwood’s source novel, becoming a jumble of torture porn and absurdist political theater. People think Stranger Things was the first modern show to implement a Kate Bush song in a pivotal moment, but I’ll never forget the Season 2 premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale where producers used “This Woman’s Work” to soundtrack a scene where a bunch of women were sent to the gallows to hang themselves at Fenway Park. Like, come on.
And by the looks of it, the new season won’t be much better than that crock, either. Ann Dowd is still there, doing her Ann Dowd thing as Aunt Lydia. By the time she showed up in the teaser and shouted, “Oh, blessed be this day!” my eyes had rolled so far back in my head that I thought I’d have to go spelunking to find my pupils. Aren’t you tired, Miss Dowd? Haven’t you electrocuted enough women with cattle prods for one lifetime?
And, of course, what would The Handmaid’s Tale be without 16 separate tight closeups of Elisabeth Moss’ face, stiffened and awash in determination? This teaser has plenty of that too, along with every character clad in a different colored peacoat. The costume department received a $200 budget for the entire fifth season, went to Burlington Coat Factory, and absolutely freaked it out.
I have a soft spot for stunningly realized emotional performances, so of course, I will watch anything that Elisabeth Moss is in. But I draw the line at any more Handmaid’s Tale. It has basically paid for a new wing of the Scientology Celebrity Center at this point, and I can no longer conscientiously contribute to this show’s baffling popularity. Xenu has enough coins to last him multiple clearances.
There is no more place for this show in our current hellscape. “Dystopia” is a word that no longer means anything when everything is already worse than we ever could’ve imagined it would be. At this point, it actually feels like it The Handmaid’s Tale is doing more harm than good. Every pro-abortion protest is still infiltrated by a handful of people in maid costumes, thinking that showing up in a red cloak and a bonnet is somehow a powerful—or even shocking—statement anymore. My god, Kylie Jenner even threw a Handmaid’s Tale-themed birthday party for her friend, well into season three!
The show has become nothing more than a totem, a hollow symbol that people use to make themselves feel smart and clued in. There is nothing of value left to mine in this story. We’d all be better served to use the hours that would be spent watching this show doing something that’s actually in the service of the marginalized parties in America. Elisabeth Moss can scowl at the camera all she wants, it’s not going to do anything.