The Handmaid's Tale

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    Following widespread abortion bans across the United States, the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale has released a PSA advocating for the protection of women’s reproductive health. Set in Gilead, a post-American dystopia where the rights of women are both virtually nonexistent and flagrantly violated, the show has become a symbol for the struggle against female oppression.

    With new, abortion-restricting legislation being proposed what feels like every day, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the damage. This PSA, scored with somber music and filmed in black and white, does the math. “Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia”: Samira Wiley and Madeline Brewer, who respectively play Moira and Janine on the show, list off the six states that now have only one legally operating abortion provider. “Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Georgia”: Amanda Brugel, who plays Rita, names the states that have passed “heartbeat bills,” restricting abortion to the first six weeks of pregnancy—usually before a woman is even aware of it.

    “When we start restricting access to abortion, our country takes one step closer to Gilead,” says Elisabeth Moss, who stars in the show as June.

    Just last weekend, Kylie Jenner came under fire for throwing a Handmaid’s Tale-themed party—notably featuring “sexy” handmaid costumes and drinks like “Under His Eye Tequila.” Criticized for her extreme entitlement, the ability to jokingly trivialize the oppression of women clearly demonstrates wealth’s ability to shield her from inequity, the event inspired a number of think-pieces, including those questioning the need for the show’s existence in the first place. In a recent Guardian article, columnist Arwa Mahdawi argues, “Is dressing up as a handmaid for fun really so much worse than watching the TV adaptation, which seems to revel in violence against women and has been described as ‘torture porn’?”

    With the show’s increasingly gory and sadistic trajectory on the one hand and Kylie Jenner’s tactless party on the other, this PSA harkens back to the root of Handmaid's Tale, serving as a sharp reminder of how it should be viewed and understood.

    Think back to the first season. Remember when Serena Joy, Commander Waterford’s wife, wrote books and articles advocating for “domestic feminism”? You know, before plotting the demise of civilization as we know it? Well, people are sure as hell doing that now. Just look at anti-feminist Suzanne Venker who just wrote the ridiculous piece, “The real reason millennials are in such bad financial shape,” for the Washington Examiner, blaming women’s professional ambitions for the downturn of the entire economy.

    How about Aunt Lydia at the handmaid reception/indoctrination/internment center imploring the women to recognize themselves as having been sluts in their former lives, even going so far as to incite a group shaming for Janine’s having been an assault victim? Well, what about the viral tweet by writer Denise McAlister that blamed women’s uncontrollable horniness and “lubed legs” for unwanted pregnancies? These posts have gotten a lot of flack, but they have a lot of support, too.

    In season one, viewers were painstakingly walked through how American democracy fell and authoritarian Gilead rose. Women lost jobs and were thrown out of coffee shops; slurs were hurled at them, their money was taken away. As June says in the show, “Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub, you'd be boiled to death before you knew it.” She laments that she and her family were too late to flee the country, furiously wishing that they had recognized the signs earlier. With a striking resemblance to the trajectory of Hitler’s ascent in 1930s Germany (I mean, this show is basically a futuristic version of the Holocaust, see: the “normal guys” who let legislation pass without intervening, the Colonies, public hangings, etc.), Handmaid’s Tale poses the ever-frightening and omnipresent question: When is it time to cut and run?

    Though Handmaid’s Tale has been swept up by a dramatic and harrowing plot that lends itself both to valid criticism of a sensationalist approach to violence and female brutalization as well as consumption like any other TV show created for entertainment, this PSA serves as a reminder of what it’s really about. Handmaid’s Tale is about activism. It is about recognizing the signs that so many throughout history, like June, saw too late, and responding with swift, uncompromising action. It is about never getting to the point when we’ll wish we left sooner. 

    The show has the capacity to put viewers on their toes, to notice that the headlines we’re scrolling pass—children dying in immigration detention centers, anti-abortion bills, a growing number of humanitarian crimes—if gone unexcused, are horrible precursors to even more horrible things to come. Abortion restrictions must be struck down. Immigrants in border detention facilities must be released. Congress must impeach a President who openly flouts the law. And these measures can only be the start. Sitting quietly as rights are stripped away is how mass atrocities happen. Not just in some text book, but here and now and always. The Handmaid’s Tale, at the core of the show and in this PSA, is more than a disturbing plot or aHalloween costume—it is a call to arms.  

    Text RESIST to 22422 to get involved with Planned Parenthood and the fight for women’s right to reproductive healthcare.

    Top photo screenshot via Harper's BAZAAR US

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    In our May/June 2019 issue, managing editor Emily Rems chose 10 can't-miss events, exhibits, movies, and more coming up the next two months.

    1. Wine Country on Netflix

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    The feature-film directing debut of Amy Poehler, Wine Country stars Poehler alongside fellow SNL alums Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Emily Spivey, and Paula Pell, and centers on a motley crew of friends on a road trip to Napa. A cast this funny doesn’t come along every day. So grab the gals who make you laugh and catch it on Netflix May 10.

    2. Primavera Sound Music Festival

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    This year’s most woman-friendly music festival could be Primavera Sound, kicking off May 30 in Barcelona. The mind-blowing lineup features Erykah Badu, FKA Twigs, Christine and the Queens, Courtney Barnett, Charli XCX, Yaeji, Princess Nokia, Soccer Mommy, Rico Nasty, Shonen Knife, Cardi B, Janelle Monáe, Robyn, Liz Phair, Solange, Kali Uchis, Neneh Cherry, Lizzo, CupcakKe, and more. In fact, Primavera is the first major world festival to book an even 50/50 split between male and female performers. And with over 220 acts appearing, that’s lots of girl power! Get the details at

    3. Ma 

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    After playing the wise/helpful/supportive lady in too many films to mention, Octavia Spencer subverts that trope in the suspense thriller Ma. She starts out true-to-form, playing a wise/helpful/supportive lady who offers her home as a safe space where local teens can party. But soon enough, her generosity proves too good to be true. Opens in theaters May 31.

    4. Let’s Get CivicalPodcast

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    If the current administration has left you with more questions than ever before about our crazy government, Let’s Get Civical is the answer to your podcast prayers. Hosted by comedian Lizzie Stewart and political strategist Arden Walentowski, the show tackles such topics as the First Amendment, impeachment, and gerrymandering with a sassy style that will keep you laughing as you’re learning. 

    5. Euphoriaon HBO

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    Produced by Drake and starring Zendaya, HBO’s new teen drama series Euphoria is an American adaptation of a popular Israeli show about sex, drugs, and sosh meeds in high school. The ensemble cast includes Sydney Sweeney (Sharp Objects), Maude Apatow (Girls), and Storm Reid (Wrinkle in Time), and the show is getting good buzz, so look for it in early June.

    6. The Handmaid’s TaleSeason Three on Hulu

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    Mark your calendars! June 5 is the day Hulu brings back its inspired feminist dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale for a third season of pulse pounding #resistance fantasy. When we last saw June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss), she had abandoned a plan to escape to Canada because she couldn’t leave her daughter behind in Gilead. The next 13 episodes should reveal how far she’ll get on her quest for liberation.

    7. Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas Tour

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    In the wake of her groundbreaking Netflix solo show Nanette, Tasmanian stand-up phenomenon Hannah Gadsby is now selling out dates all over America on her first ever U.S. tour, Douglas. From April 30 through July 13, stateside fans can finally catch her signature blend of sardonic wit and radical honesty live on stage. Nab tickets and more at

    8. Lizzo’s “Cuz I Love You” Video

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    Shot in evocative black-and-white, Lizzo’s video for her new single “Cuz I Love You” showcases both her arresting looks and enviable range. Swathed in feathers, Lizzo sounds like a ’60s soul chanteuse for the 21st century. And the liturgical set dressing takes the whole experience to church. Find it on YouTube.

    9. Big Little Lies Season Two on HBO

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    Even though it was supposed to be a limited series, HBO’s Big Little Lies was just too popular to quit. So now the secretive Monterey mommies are returning for Season Two in June. Director Jean-Marc Vallée has been replaced by Andrea Arnold (Transparent, I Love Dick), and the all-star cast of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley will all be reprising their roles alongside newcomer Meryl Streep as Perry’s inquisitive mom. Drama!

    10. Kim Gordon: Lo-Fi GlamourExhibit at The Andy Warhol Museum

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    Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum is launching the first solo, North American museum exhibition of the work of Kim Gordon on May 17. Mostly known as the avant-garde rock pioneer behind the band Sonic Youth, Gordon is also an accomplished visual artist, and Lo-Fi Glamour will showcase her paintings, drawings, and sculptures, some never exhibited before. Grab all the deets at

    This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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    As we move from May to June and spring to summer, there’s tons of new entertainment to keep us busy when we need to just hang in the A.C. From new Handmaid’s Tale to new books, here’s what’s on our radar this week.



    In this psychological thriller, Octavia Spencer plays Sue Ann—A.K.A. Ma—a lonely murderer who takes a group of teenagers under her wing, and then becomes obsessed with them. In theaters May 31.

    The Handmaid’s Tale 

    As we continue to uncomfortably joke that America is looking more and more like Gilead, Hulu’s breakout dystopian masterpiece returns for a third season. New episodes will begin streaming June 5.

    Always Be My Maybe 

    Starring Ali Wong and directed by Nahnatchka Khan of Don’t Trust the B---- In Apartment 23,this rom-com about childhood friends reconnecting as adults is sure to charm. Streaming May 31 on Netflix.


    Bayti Fi Rasi by A-Wa

    After catching global attention with 2015’s “Habib Galbi,” this trio of sisters is claiming their place in the spotlight with Bayti Fi Rasi. Out May 31, and catch our review soon on

    Boat by Pip Blom 

    According to our reviewer, post-punk band Pip Blom’s latest album is “green, gritty, and bound to persevere.” Out May 31, and stay tuned for our review on

    Run Around The Sun by Sacred Paws

    U.K. band Sacred Paws’ second album, Run Around The Sun, is a mix of pop, funk, and ’90s twee. Out May 31, and catch our forthcoming review on

    "Press" by Cardi B

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    Cardi B announced via Instagram that her next single "Press" — presumably off her next album — will be released on May 31, and we couldn't be more excited to see what moves she's making next.


    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

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    Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel follows a young woman coming of age in 1940s Manhattan against a glittery theater backdrop. Out June 4, and review to come on 

    My Seditious Heart by Arundhati Roy 

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    Roy’s essay collection, compiled over the course of two decades, tackles themes of justice, freedom, and compassion. Out June 4.

    In The Deep End by Kate Davies 

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    Davies’ debut novel, about a young woman’s sexual awakening—and its ups and downs—in London’s gay bars and BDSM clubs is equally parts funny and insightful. Out June 4.

    Top photo via Blumhouse Productions / Ma

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