Jul 21, 2017
The Republic of Gilead, in what used to be the Northeastern United States, is run on strictly Protestant fundamentalist principles. If the Bible says to stone adulterers to death, that's what we're going to do. Adulterers, fornicators, sodomites, Catholics, and Jews are all executed, unless they are fertile women who can become handmaidens, given the job of getting pregnant in the place of their owner's wife.
June (Elisabeth Moss) was a book editor before, but women are no longer permitted to have jobs, or even to read -- if they are caught reading, their hand gets chopped off. Because she was married to a divorced man, she is an adulterer, sentenced to become the handmaiden to Commander Fred Waterhouse and his wife, Serena Joy. Her name was changed to Offred (Of-Fred) to designate that she was his property.
Serena Joy is not altogether happy with the world she helped to create. She was once a conservative Christian activist who wrote books and held rallies on why women should stay home, and now she is cut off from all decision making ("we have men working on it").
Male infertility doesn't exist. If Offred doesn't get pregnant, she will be sent to the Colonies for a quick, painful death handling radioactive waste.
Although these are fundamentalists, they don't follow any of the rules I knew as a Nazarene. They smoke and drink. There is no religious music. There don't seem to be any church services. One gets the impression that they're Protestant fundamentalists without religion.
There are no gay male characters -- they've all been killed. There are several lesbian characters, including June's best friend from before, Moira (Samira Wiley), and Emily (Alexis Bleidel), married with a child before, now forced to become a handmaiden, first Ofglen, then Ofwarren. When she is found in a relationship with a Martha (a household servant), the Martha is executed, and she is "fixed" through genital mutilation.
Although there are parallels with today's facist society, there are significant differences. Racism doesn't exist in Gilead. There are black and Asian Commanders and wives. Nor is anyone screaming about illegal aliens. One assumes that the society is anti-Muslim as well as anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic, but this is never mentioned. The main injustice is that of women, "restored to their rightful place" in the household, with men in charge.
You don't watch The Handmaid's Tale for beefcake. It's about women's thoughts, women's lives, women's bodies. There are very few men around, except for soldiers with guns, and only three men in the main cast:
Years before Jon Provost created the iconic Lassie image of cherubic blond boy in need of constant saving, 14-year old Tommy started hanging out with the collie (1954-57). Jeff Miller (Tommy) was a slim, handsome teenager who didn't fall into many wells; instead, his plotlines often involved school, friends, and sports. He was the first crush of many gay Boomer boys.
Tony Dow's best friend JoJo (1966). But by the late 1960s, even bit parts dried up.
In the 1970s he tried several careers, including marijuana farming, before finding his niche as a computer database specialist, creating important innovations in DBase and FoxPro.
He was reputedly bisexual; there's a gay dating story on Tales of West Hollywood.
He died in 1996.
That's the last time I let Bob, the19-year old economics major, arrange a hookup for us. On the way east to New York, he somehow found the most disgusting guy of all time, and on the way back, he got the wrong guy!
We stayed overnight in Rock Island again, and went to the Figge Museum of Art, across the river in Iowa.
I had never been there before. It opened in 1997, after my parents moved to Indiana, and on the rare occasions that I returned to the Quad Cities, there wasn't time for much sightseeing.
The second floor had galleries devoted to Spanish Colonial art, Haitian art, Grant Wood, and contemporary art. The third floor was devoted to a corn maze, and the fourth floor to a collection of black dolls.
Some of the galleries had a nice view of the Mississippi.
No beefcake art to speak of, although I did notice a surprising number of Cute Young Things and twinks among the patrons. A lot of cruisy smiles and up-and-down glances going on.
I found out why when I heard a lot of raucous noise from downstairs, and left Bob in the Haitian Art gallery to investigate.
The downstairs exhibition room was full of people, very cute college-age boys in grey t-shirts with "Metro Arts" logos, some girls, a few kids, very well dressed adults mingling with glasses of wine and little sandwiches. Some were already sitting on folding chairs facing a stage. There were t-shirts for sale, and tables of snacks.
Was this a private function? In my t-shirt and jeans, I looked more like one of the college boys than an adult.
I milled about, pretending to belong, trying to find someone alone, not in a group, to pump for information.
No luck. Some of the teenagers were in groups, doing voice exercises and giving each other encouragement. Some were talking to groups of adults. No one was alone.
As usual, I got cruisy glances from the twinks, suspicious glares from the adults.
The adults were parents, friends, and community leaders. Later I discovered that the mayors of both Davenport and Rock Island were there.
First up in the showcase: a comedy improv with three performers. I milled about, taking photos.
Soon Bob joined me, drawn by the noise. I apprised him of what was happening, and we watched in silence for a few minutes.
My eyes were drawn to a father and son standing alone, with no mother. Gay?
The full story, with nude photos and sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.