In honor of her best friend's birthday, Kylie Jenner threw Stassie Karanikolaou a Handmaid's Tale-themed viewing party to watch the first episode of the new season with friends. Jenner's party offered all of the dystopian accessories: red capes, white bonnets, Gilead flags, and she even hired people to play Marthas, who greeted guests.
As someone who loves themed parties, my first question was: how would that even be fun? While The Handmaid's Tale is undoubtedly iconic with its bleak world contrasted by the blood-red robes of the handmaids, it doesn't strike one as a good time. The cast of the Hulu original series and fans alike have some thoughts on the party and the consensus is that it was in poor taste.
In an interview with CBS, Bradley Whitford, who plays Commander Lawrence, said about the viewing party: "I don't know... seems a little tacky. You know, that costume is so kind of iconic, and it’s interesting how it’s changed from initially a sort of symbol of oppression, to now, as the show is moving ahead to a symbol of resistance. So, yeah, cocktail party seems to sort of dash all that significance."
The Hulu series is based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 dystopian novel of the same name, where women lose a finger for reading as a message that they are socially significant for nothing more than their wombs. The power (and horror) of both the show and the book is that the seemingly fictional abuses have actually taken place all over the world.
In countries like Cambodia, where laws are more lax, women have been forced into surrogacy. Around the world, refugees are killed trying to flee oppressive regimes, just as in the series, June and her husband try to flee to Canada with their daughter. The show's character Ofglen is given a clitoridectomy for being a "gender traitor" (she's a lesbian), so she will no longer experience sexual pleasure. This genital mutilation still occurs around the world.
So the backlash that Jenner is receiving post-party seems fair in light of the bleak situation laid out by Atwood and Hulu alike. It seems surprising that anyone would want to replicate and celebrate within a world where women are stripped of their rights, ritually raped and draped in red as a symbol of their singular worth: fertility. Not exactly a "Happy Birthday" scenario--despite the fact the event's purpose was to watch the show.