Critically acclaimed author Margaret Atwood predicted so many of the horrors that are coming true to varying degrees under the Trump administration in her prescient 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, but even she may have had trouble envisioning just how much the novel would become a part of the pop culture zeitgeist. Thanks to the timelessness of Atwood’s work and Hulu’s series based on the novel that was in production even before Donald Trump ramped up his xenophobic campaign of hate more than a year ago, The Handmaid’s Tale has become a part of the vernacular with memes of Elisabeth Moss as Offred, the lead character in the series, making the rounds, and feminist resistance fighters on Twitter greeting one another saying, “Blessed be the fruit.” So it’s no surprise that Saturday Night Live, in its first episode since Hulu’s series dropped, took The Handmaid’s Tale to the next logical level in which even the “good guys," due to their privilege, are complicit in the oppression of women.
The plot of the novel and series revolve around the totalitarian government of the Republic of Gilead, formed following an ecological disaster and widespread sterility that result in a conservative revolution that strips women of their rights and reduces them to the viability of their reproductive organs. Women who are thought to be able to bear healthy children are consigned to male commanders to bear their children against their will. The men of Gilead in the novel and the series are fairly divided into camps of monstrosity and not to be trusted for fear they are spies for the heads of the government, but SNL offers up a third option — the clueless bro-ey guy who can’t be bothered to notice what the women are forced to endure.
In the sketch, Cecily Strong steps into Moss’s sensible shoes as Offred, while Vanessa Bayer, Sasheer Zamata, and Aidy Bryant play the handmaids who were all once part of a fun “girl squad.”
“In the not too distant future, the world is a dystopia. Women are enslaved. We have no rights and no freedoms,” Strong says in voice-over. “Forced by an oppressive government to bear children under penalty of death. ... My name is Offred and I intend to survive.”
Following Offred’s foreboding statement, a couple of “good guys,” played by host Chris Pine and Mikey Day, happen across the quorum of handmaids who become increasingly terrified that they’ll be punished if caught speaking to men.
As the women greet each other saying “Blessed be the fruit, may the Lord open,” Pine’s and Day’s white guys greet the women as if at a frat party, completely oblivious to the flowing red dresses and winged hats the handmaids are forced to wear.
“Girl squad, what the frick is up?” Day says while Pine’s bro chides the women.
“You missed my Cinco de Mayo half birthday, what’d you do? Flake, or what?” Pine’s guy says as the women twitch in terror of being seen.
Because the guys fail to notice the women’s situation, they explain it to them. And, as well-intentioned white men of means can tend to do, Pine offers up an unrealistic solution. “My dad’s a lawyer — he could help you out. I mean, he mostly does entertainment law, but I’m sure he knows someone good,” he says. “Just drop me an email.” When Zamata’s handmaid points out that they can’t “drop an email” (because they are someone’s property and not afforded electronics) he’s affronted. “OK, sorry for helping,” he responds.
SNL does a solid job of nailing the disconnect shown by the white guys, who would not be considered the enemy by everyday standards, but who, when contrasted with a group completely stripped of their humanity, are fairly monstrous in their complicity. The sketch adds a layer to that idea when Alex Moffat shows up, also completely unaware of the women’s plight. Once they get him up to speed on their collective situation he asks, “Isn’t there a protest or something?” When one of the handmaids explains that the protests were several years ago, he replies blandly, “I meant to go to that.”
Since Trump took office and the record-breaking women’s marches have put women’s rights and feminist issues front and center, SNL has hit it out of the park with a couple of sketches, and the Handmaid’s Tale sketch is right up there with the mansplaining skit that was timed for the Day Without a Woman protest that occurred the week Scarlett Johansson hosted.
Watch the Handmaid’s Tale sketch below.