Outrage over a Handmaid's Tale wedding photo went viral. But it's not as tone-deaf as it seems.

Silent women dressed up as handmaids from Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel Handmaid's Tale have been spotted at protests of women's rights violations all over the world. In London, they were displayed during Donald Trump's visit to the U.K. In America, it was at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing. "The handmaid's costume has been adopted by women in many countries as a symbol of protest about various issues having to do with the requisitioning of women's bodies by the state," Atwood told the Guardian. The iconic red robes send a powerful message without saying a word. "What the costume is really asking viewers is: do we want to live in a slave state?" The handmaid is the perfect symbol for when you want to smash the patriarchy, not support it. So why did faceless handmaids show up in a viral wedding photo?


Wedding photography Facebook page Van Daele & Russell Photography posted a photo of a kissing bride and groom standing against the "hanging wall" seen in the Hulu show. Faceless handmaids stand on either side of the happy couple. "Praise be! Kendra & Torsten are married!" the photographers said in the post.

The photo was taken at Ontario restaurant Cambridge Mill, which served as both the couple's wedding venue and one of the sets for the Handmaid's Tale. While the couple did not have a Handmaid's Tale themed wedding, they're fans of the show and wanted a photo in front of the wall. The handmaids were added in digitally after the photo was taken.

RELATED: Groom's mom shows up to wedding in bridal dress — updo included

The photo went viral. Many people felt the photo was inappropriate, given what the image of handmaids represents.







The photo has since been removed from the photographer's Facebook page at the request of the couple.

Now, Shawn Van Daele and Clint Russell, the photographers behind the photo, are saying their critics missed the point of the photo. "This image was created and put out by a pair of 'Gender Traitors' who are no strangers to many of the subplots of oppression, violence, and inequality that run through Margaret's brilliant work," Van Daele told the Huffington Post. As a gay married couple, Van Daele and Russell would be labeled as "gender traitors" if they lived in the repressive Gilead.

RELATED: A couple's viral 60th anniversary photo shoot includes their sweet advice for a lasting marriage

Van Daele and Russell feel that emotion has obscured the message. "What's sad is that everyone is reacting exactly as expected – just like in Gilead – and missing the opportunity to think for themselves, to educate themselves, to become engaged activists instead of simply keyboard warriors," Van Daele told PetaPixel.

Instead of outrage, the photographers want to see action. "We'd love to see people out in the streets participating in women's marches, supporting equal rights for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation, and so many other important causes…instead of sitting here scrolling through Instagram and knee-jerking their way through comment threads. So you're all correct – it's gross, disgusting, and a horrible concept that is rampantly becoming more "real' in the world day by day and comment by comment," the photographers said in a statement.

Images are powerful. For all the controversy the couple caused, at least they didn't take their wedding photo on rustic train tracks
popular

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular