Season three of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is off to an explosive start as the revolution finally begins in Gilead. It’s too bad that Serena Joy is in on it.
Pre-Giliead, Serena Joy was a writer and public figure that preached a return to traditionalism and family values in response to a declining birth rate. She directly inspired Gilead. Now, she’s a glorified political socialite akin to aristocrats of Victorian England.
She runs a house, tends to her garden and sulks all day about how the world she created is unfair.
Since season two, the writers of the show have been trying to give her a redemption arc, and they are succeeding in making her a sympathetic character but there is a bottom line to this: she built the cage she lives in. She chose this life.
Her getting her pinkie cut off as punishment for reading, June’s child, Nichole, being taken away, her marriage falling apart and her house burning down were all things supposed to make her sympathetic.
Her manicured, carefully cultivated life falling apart is karmic justice. Her ideas gave birth to a nation of oppression. She never had a problem with it until she was faced with the harsh reality that that oppression extended to her. She reminds me of women who unironically wear “feminism is cancer” shirts at political events.
Serena Joy doesn’t want change because thousands of women are essentially sex slaves but because she isn’t allowed to read. Her fight against the government she inspired is a weak-willed temper tantrum.
She’s only fighting because someone told her no, and no one tells Serena Joy what to do. She doesn’t want freedom of choice for all women, she just wants women to be able to read the Bible. That’s it. She couldn’t care less about the suffering of handmaids and the women dying of radiation sickness in the Colonies. Serena Joy losing her pinkie for reading means nothing. She should be happy it wasn’t her hand.
Her resolve is so flimsy that she high-tailed it out of Gilead and took Nichole back the first opportunity she had. She betrayed June and left her out in the cold with a revolution underway. She broke the world and left everyone else to pick up the pieces.
Let’s not forget that the concept of Gilead was created because Serena Joy wanted a baby but couldn’t have one. Let’s not forget that in season 2 it’s revealed that it was Serena Joy’s idea for Fred to hold June down and rape her to teach June a lesson. Let’s not forget that a redemption arc can only work if there is anything in the character that can be redeemed.
Serena Joy is a selfish, narcissistic coward. She isn’t forged in fire like June. She’d rather be crushed under the weight of the ocean than keep swimming.
I can’t say how this show will end but when it does the only thing I can hope for Serena Joy is that she dies a slow painful meaningless death. It’s not like the show will suffer if she does.
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