By: SARAH E BULL
Since 2006, Saint Mary’s College has held an annual Christian Culture Lecture in which a guest speaker is invited to share their ideas with the community. This year, that speaker came in the form of Margaret Atwood, author of 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
This book-turned-Hulu-series won multiple Emmy Awards in the past year, and, as Atwood put it, “has become an internationally known meme that has somehow grown more relevant with time than less.”
A small group of IU South Bend students made the journey across town to watch the lecture on October 25, finding it to be funny, thoughtful and entertaining.
Atwood began the lecture by letting people know, “Cards on the table, I am a strict agnostic,” and she then proceeded to explain her experiences with religion as she grew up, and how those experiences influenced her creation of the fictional nation of Gilead, in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
According to Atwood, her creation of the world in “The Handmaid’s Tale” was based off of the question that if America were to take on a totalitarian dictatorship, what form would it take? “It wouldn’t be like Stalin’s,” she said, “and it would be intent on destroying all rivals. It would only be Christian in the most cursory way—it would use religion to wallop people into submission.”
Atwood continued to describe her experience with the Bible and her religious background.
“We didn’t learn about the good stuff in the Bible. I had to find that myself… The Bible has held attention not just because of piety; it’s the HBO factor.” She explained, “What you chose to read in the Bible says a lot about you.”
This concept is shown in “The Handmaid’s Tale” under the principle of religion being used as a tool to keep people down and in fear. The world of Gilead focuses more on that HBO factor than the love thy neighbor bit.
Viewers appreciated Atwood’s honesty and her moments of levity. Student Jeff Crowder said of the experience as a whole, “She was funny, whip smart and even sang a few tunes. Well worth seeing.”
The few IU South Bend students who were able to attend the lecture could consider themselves lucky. Tickets to the event sold out almost immediately. Many found themselves star-struck at the prospect of meeting someone so influential in pop culture. When Atwood opened up for questions, one asked, “What was it like to be at the Emmy’s?”
Atwood’s presentation brought much to the table. She placed her own spin on Christian culture and gave a listener a background on how “The Handmaid’s Tale” came to exist.
The Hulu series “Handmaid’s Tale” is scheduled to return in 2018, as is the Christian Culture Lecture series.