“Under His Eye”: Religious Appropriation and American Civil Religion in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale

Erika Engstrom, David Stephenson, Yung Soo Kim, Joseph M. Valenzano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study explores how the Hulu streaming series The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-) extends Margaret Atwood’s novel by depicting the aftermath of the transformation of the United States by the fake theocracy of Gilead through visual cues that evoke American civil religion, a performative system of symbols and rituals that reifies national values and unites a pluralistic society. A textual analysis of the episode “Household,” set in Gilead’s capital of a reimaged Washington, D.C., found four main themes regarding the onscreen depiction of Gileadean theocracy and its surface victory over the United States and its accompanying symbols of American civil religion: (a) religion used as a façade, (b) desecration of sacred sites in American civil religion, (c) silencing, and (d) surveillance. This study adds a unique contribution to the study of American civil religion through its examination of visual images in a fictional televisual text.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-68
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Media and Religion
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Religious studies

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