An Army of Me: Representations of Intersubjective Relations, Ethics, and Political Resistance in The Handmaid’s Tale

Valerie Oved Giovanini


The Handmaid’s Tale uniquely offers more than just a possibility for critiquing patriarchal society. The show’s neo-realistic form also offers its viewers an engagement with new concepts of subjectivity, morality, and political resistance through the presentation of its main character, Offred, whose identity is both shattered and empowered by her empathic relation to others. In this article, I consider how a circumvention of power for a new form of resistance comes into view for Offred’s dynamic character and for viewers who have critically used its aesthetics in political protests. In the first section of the essay, I analyze how formal aspects in the show’s cinematography represents trauma and defense mechanisms according to Freud’s ego-psychology, which I then contrast with representations of developments in intersubjective psychotherapy. In the second section, I take the show as an aesthetic object to understand how it affects the viewer’s unconscious by opening new moral horizons that challenge and resist patriarchal norms of self-sufficiency and individualism. In the third and final section, I relate the intersubjective context within the show’s narrative to contemporary US politics, showing how hashtag movements like #MeToo and the successful mobilization of the show’s aesthetics, such as the use of handmaid’s robes, have become a potent protest symbol against oppressive ideologies.


psychoanalysis, neo-realism, aesthetic formalism, subjectivity, relational ethics, Sigmund Freud, #MeToo

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