It’s no surprise that Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale has drawn comparisons between the current political climate and the show’s themes of oppression and threats to agency. No doubt, the show will contribute to on-going debates about current real-life crises and be utilised as a framework for reading the various attacks on civil liberties. Hulu have opted for a mix between simultaneous and scheduled release, with an initial three, followed by a weekly schedule of the remainder episodes. However many reviews of the show reference it’s suitability for binge-watching and, given the nature of the Hulu platform, it will be possible to watch it in many different ways.
Caution was made against binge-watching by The Handmaid’s Tale actor Elisabeth Moss. “I think that it’s important in a show like this to watch, step away and think about it…Every episode is so jam-packed…that I think it would almost be a shame to overdose so quickly on it.”
Perhaps there’s something to be said about the relationship between the temporality and duration of current news and political media and that of the fictional series that seems to reflect it. Contemporary news media seems to have ever more accelerated in presenting a continuous and rapid overflow of fragmented sound bites, what Postman referred to as the ’Now…this’ of television’s form. On television, he argued, no sooner had something meaningful and important been represented, then the ‘Now…this’ interjection indicated an abrupt jump to something unrelated and often radically different in tone.
The Handmaid’s Tale could provide a more ordered and contemplative statement about this same political landscape. Instead of the frenetic and fragmented relay of ever new snippets of information, fictional drama series offers focus and consistency of subject. However should it be binge-watched, it will gain one form of temporality-viewer attention for many hours-and lose another-an on-going and regular counter-point to wider society across time. Of course, it is not the responsibility of a fictional show to act as a regular voice of criticism or dissent but given how it’s already been received as a worthy contribution to current social discourse, The Handmaid’s Tale deserves staying in our minds a little bit longer.