June 1, 2019

Mezuzahs in Gilead? [No spoilers!]

Posted in entertainment, Jewish, TV tagged , , at 9:28 pm by degyes

In anticipation of the June 5th airing of the first Season 3 episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, I decided I’d warm up with an interesting, if not amusing, discovery from the wind-down of Season 2, which occurred in Episode 11. Actually, it would be presumptuous of me to claim to even know of any spoilers, as I’m hardly a THT* insider.

Yet I’m certainly an avid fan of the show.

First, a disclaimer. Prior knowledge of the show, and of Jewish ritual objects, is helpful, though not really essential. I’ll do my best to provide references to items not fully described.  

To those not familiar with the program from Hulu, The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the period following a radical fundamentalist takeover of the USA. A brutal regime is obsessed with solving a fertility crisis by sexually enslaving fertile women—known as handmaids—and ruthlessly subjugating most women to a status of the harshest servitude. Punishments for even the slightest infractions, in-deed or expressed thought, are punishable by horrible methods of execution, and grisly forms of torture.

For the full and original account, I could recommend reading the dystopian novel written by Margaret Atwood back in the 1980’s. (A 1990 film starring Natasha Richardson and Faye Dunaway met with limited critical acclaim, and even less commercial success.)

Anyway, those who’ve been following the show will recall how June (Offred), in advanced pregnancy, is granted an opportunity by Commander Waterford, for a discreet visitation with her daughter Hannah. This clandestine meeting, to which she’s driven by her secret lover and Gileadean security “eye” and driver, Nick, takes place in a mansion-sized summer home out in the New England (actually rural Ontario) woods.

The visit goes awry when security goons from a rival commander confront Nick outside the house and, following a brief confrontation, abduct him. June ends up alone in the deserted house, mid-winter, with electricity shut off and apparently disconnected.

And then … her contractions start (no, not Braxton-Hix this time).

Her water having broken and with no medical services at hand, June is forced to keep her wits about her and think fast. Real fast. Oh, and at some point, she’s confronted by a wolf, who oddly—but wisely—backs off.  

At some point, June takes a frenzied walk around the perimeter of the house, looking for ways to perhaps gain access to a vintage muscle car parked in the garage. An attempt to use that vehicle to beat a quick escape from Gilead goes sour when June can’t manage to open the automatic garage door. So much for high tailing it to Canada.

As I was watching the show, I began noticing something a bit weird. As June is making her way both inside and outside the mansion, searching for means of sustenance, escape, and survival, I couldn’t help but take note of a mezuzah on one of the external doors.

Yes, that “door” as filmed looked more like a large window than a doorway. Though what’s affixed to it looks very much like a mezuzah. I placed the thought aside until June came back inside the house, walked through another doorway, which had, yes, what looked like another mezuzah.

Interesting! Did I expect the show to suddenly shift gears and take on a Jewish dimension? No. But it did seem like someone at MGM neglected to take down the mezuzahs prior to filming the episode.

And then, as June continues rummaging for means of getting through an impending cold, lonely, and risky childbirth, what did I see?

You guessed it, another mezuzah!

Well, that’s all the mezuzahs, folks!

If anyone has an alternative explanation for these mezuzah-like artifacts, I’d certainly be curious to hear them!

A full account of the episode (no mention of mezuzahs ☺) appeared on Billboard.

*THT = The Handmaid’s Tale