• Serena Joy played by actress Yvonne Strahovski. (Supplied )
In the latest episode, Serena Joy, one of the fiercest supporters of Gilead is forced to contend with her own marginalisation in the system she helped create.
Sarah Malik

21 Jun 2019 - 8:35 AM  UPDATED 2 Aug 2019 - 10:06 AM

Serena Joy's latest character arc on The Handmaid's Tale, currently airing on SBS, has provoked a furious social media response, with viewers split on how to perceive the evolution of one of the show's female super-villains.   

In season three, Serena, who is the wife of a commander and was one of the fiercest supporters of the misogynist fictional Gilead, contends with her own marginalisation - and that of her daughter Nichole - in the system she helped create. 

The latest episode, where Serena travels to Canada to ostensibly say goodbye to her baby, sees her do another about face and has left fans - again - questioning the volatile character's motivations.

The Handmaid's Tale: Can we forgive Serena Joy?
In the first season and for most of the second she was an easy woman to hate. But now it is not so simple to hate Serena Joy.

Avid viewers of the award-winning drama are discussing everything from Serena's complicity in a misogynist regime, to atonement, redemption, forgiveness and even white feminism. 

"Are we supposed to care about Serena Joy in #TheHandmaidsTale ? Cause, I'm like, "well, you helped usher in a regime that showed they hated you from the get go," one user commented.

"It seems like The Handmaid's Tale equates Serena Joy being sad sometimes with a redemption arc, which I guess tracks with how we normally handle real people's attempts at atonement," another user said. 

There was unwilling sympathy for Serena online: 

But also bewilderment with fans discussing the complexity of 'patriarchal bargaining' and double-bind of women who seek power in systems they are oppressed in. 

"Reminds me of Serena Joy writing pretty much all of the foundations for Gilead’s government thinking she’d be exempt, while her husband knew all along she wouldn’t," one user wrote. 

Other fans compared Joy's regret and empathy only being activated with the loss of her own power and self-interested welfare of her perceived daughter as indicative of the problems with 'white feminism'.  

"Serena Joy is the epitome of the 53%. She's all the things wrong in white feminism personified,"  a user by the handle Dee Lamarr Shines said. 



The Handmaid's Tale is broadcast on SBS in the 9:30pm time slot from Thursday  June 20. All episodes will be available to stream weekly on SBS On Demand. Listen to the award-winning Handmaid's Tale podcast 'Eyes on Gilead' here. 

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