The West Wing surprised us this week with a Handmaid’s Tale crossover episode. Whether or not it was spearheaded by Elisabeth Moss, the episode was a revealing way for the writers to address themes common to the two shows: the separation of children and parents, laws dictated by the Bible, and the deterioration of women’s reproductive rights. It made sense, too, given that Moss’s characters in both shows are somewhat similar: rebellious streak, interracial romance, lifestyle heavily influenced by a powerful man. Let’s delve into this week’s darkness.
Under His Eye
The major development in this episode was the Trump administration’s new policy of separating families who seek asylum in the U.S. by crossing the border illegally. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had previously announced that the policy was meant to be a deterrent. An audio recording of wailing children provoked an uproar in response, bringing to mind the parents separated from their children in The Handmaid’s Tale, including Offred, whose daughter is taken from her when she is forced to become a handmaid. We have always known President Trump’s views on immigration to be a far cry from President Bartlet’s, but this episode made it all too clear that his harsh words are meant to be translated into action. This reviewer can’t be the only one who longed for Bartlet, who said in the show’s pilot episode, “With the clothes on their backs, they came through a storm. And the ones that didn’t die want a better life. And they want it here. Talk about impressive.” The only thing impressive about Trump is his impressive lack of humanity. And how truly awful he looks in golf shorts.
In defense of the new border policy, Sessions quoted the Bible. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” he said. If only Bartlet were around to put him in his place, as he did with his sarcastic takedown of the conservative radio host in Season 2: “I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?” His slavery point might hit too close to home for the handmaids, but nobody could touch Bartlet on his Bible quotes, and nobody could get away with bastardizing their meaning in his presence. Despite the religiosity of Sessions, it’s highly unlikely Trump has ever touched the Good Book. A man whose Twitter feed reveals he doesn’t know the difference between “to” and “too” is probably not capable of quoting passages from Exodus.
Blessed Be the Fruit
Justice Anthony Kennedy, long the swing vote on the Supreme Court, retired this week. Trump vowed to replace him with someone more conservative, putting in jeopardy liberal causes from LGBTQ rights to women’s reproductive rights. Women across the country feared the potential loss of their access to abortion and birth control, and many fantasized about escaping to Canada, as Moira and Luke do in The Handmaid’s Tale. It was an interesting reversal of Donna’s freak-out upon discovering she was technically Canadian back in Season 3 of The West Wing. “I’m very upset,” she says. “I don’t know the words to my national anthem. I’ve been throwing out Canadian pennies my whole life.” Ah, that simpler time, when being Canadian could be a cause for concern. These days, women would be thrilled beyond belief to discover they’re citizens of the land of free healthcare and feminist leader extraordinaire Justin Trudeau. O, Canada. True patriot love in all of us command. (That’s a line from their national anthem, Donna!)
When will Trump start talking about the low birth rate in the U.S. and what a problem it is? Will his administration decide to replace ICE with secret police officers called Eyes? Will Ivanka add red cloaks to her clothing line? Tune in next week to find out.