Why Are We Praising ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ but Condemning ‘Confederate’?

New series by ‘Game of Thrones’ creators strikes a raw nerve

'Game of Thrones' Showrunners Announce New Show
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Back in April when Hulu’s adaptation of the 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale aired, the media went to bat for the 10-episode series. It was praised far and wide as a potential allegory for Donald Trump’s presidency, even though he had only been in office at that time for three months.

Sales of Margaret Atwood’s 30-year-old novel soared after Trump was elected, as did sales of George Orwell’s 1984. The media predictably made a big deal about this, even though it ignored spikes of sales of 1984 throughout Barack Obama’s presidency.

Leftist media outlets like Rolling Stone theorized that under Trump we could move toward a situation similar to that in The Handmaid’s Tale, where women have no reproductive rights and are essentially sex slaves (odd that they never mention the similarities between the book and how women are treated in the Middle East).

Rolling Stone writer Phoebe Reilly said the book and the series didn’t “feel unfamiliar enough,” because, you know, a Republican is in the White House.

“A surveillance state with Puritanical roots, the nation has responded with violence to plunging birth rates caused by environmental crisis,” Reilly wrote. “Fertile women such [sic] [actress Elizabeth] Moss’s Offred and [Alexis] Bledel’s Ofglen are captives, forced to bear children on behalf of the barren wives of the ruling class. For them, voluntary intimacy remains forbidden, as are books.”

My God, it’s just like everything Trump promised on the campaign trail! Oh wait, he never discussed anything even remotely like this.

Reilly also brings up the lack of reproductive rights of women in Atwood’s book. The point seems to be that if abortions were outlawed (which isn’t possible even with Republicans controlling the White House and Congress), it would be a slippery slope before all the things feminists complain about would come true. It’s an absurd notion.

Even if we as a society decided abortion is wrong (remember, the other side sees it as a moral issue relating to life, not control over women’s bodies) and outlawed it, women wouldn’t suddenly disappear from the workplace or become pregnancy slaves en masse to rich women.

But the media was eager to compare the book and the series to conservative ideology. Sure, that was Atwood’s original intention as well, but when Reilly talks about the “Moral Majority,” along with sex issues I actually think progressivism. Then again, I write about campus issues where the Left is returning to Victorian-era mores about sex.

Anyway, it’s weird to see The Handmaid’s Tale receive so much praise and then watch as Confederate, the next offering from the creators of Game of Thrones, gets excoriated.

The basis for Confederate is simple: An alternate reality where the South seceded from the Union during the Civil War and slavery still exists in the West. GoT creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were immediately lambasted for being two white men writing about slavery, but the series is being written by Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Maclcom Spellman, both writers of color.

In responding to the outrage, Weiss told Vulture, “Slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history.” He further elaborated on why they were interested in creating the show: “One of the strengths of science fiction is that it can show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could,” he said. “It’s an ugly and a painful history, but we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it. And this feels like a potentially valuable way to talk about it.”

He’s coming at this from a social-justice-warrior mindset: Sure, slavery might be illegal, but America is still racist. It looks like they’re going to try and show the similarities in today’s America and a two-nation region where slavery is still legal (and I’m sure they’ll use pages from the progressive playbook and try to play up the idea of modern racism).

It’s just odd to me that a show about an alternate reality where women in America truly are oppressed is praised while a show about an alternate reality where African-Americans are oppressed is lambasted.

I can sort of see an argument wherein The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian future novel, while Confederate is purely alternate history, and could therefore be seen (in the wrong hands) as slavery fanfiction.

But perhaps people need to view them in the same vein. The Handmaid’s Tale is what the Left thinks would happen in America if conservatives had their way. Maybe they should look at Confederate in the same way with race relations.

That’s how I see the two, especially since they’re both in the spotlight under the Trump administration, which the Left seems to believe is the embodiment of all things authoritarian and evil.

Why Are We Praising ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ but Condemning ‘Confederate’?