‘The Handmaids Tale’ S4, Episode 5 ‘Chicago’: Gaza, Nuremburg (1945) and Jean Baudrillard.

Marc Barham
6 min readMay 20, 2021
Episode 5, ‘Chicago’

The transition from signs that dissimulate something to signs that dissimulate that there is nothing marks a decisive turning point.”
― Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

We are midway now through Season 4 and Episode 5, ‘Chicago’ is very midway in its dramatic content and entertainment. June has gone to Chicago which is now, a bombed — out, shell of a city. The effect for me is not that shocking as I am not an American but I am sure seeing a major American city reduced to ruins would be deeply disturbing for many.

As a Brit we have had the Blitz. Although of course not in my lifetime. But the bombing of London and the devastation around the country — particularly Coventry — left many scars mentally and physically and is a deep seated historic memory. It is one of the defining moments in modern British history.

Yet the ruins of Chicago felt unreal. It felt this way for me because the images of bombed cities have become a constant image now in the media. WE know intimately and exactly — as if it were the contours of a loved one’s face — what a bombed city looks like due to the interminable reports made from inside them or from footage on mobile phones as the bombs hit. The Atrocity Exhibition is daily, constant and in our living rooms. Iraq, then Syria. And now Gaza.

We are now within the philosophy of Jean Baudrillard where simulacra and simulacrum feature so prominently, Simulacra and Simulation (1981).

Associated with postmodern and poststructuralist theory, Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007) is difficult to situate in relation to traditional and contemporary philosophy. His work combines philosophy, social theory, and an idiosyncratic cultural metaphysics that reflects on key events and phenomena of the epoch.

Baudrillard denies any possibility of a (mimetic) duplication of reality. In his theoretical system all distinctions between the real and the fictional, between a copy and the original, disappear.

Yet here in Episode 5 of ‘The Handmaids Tale’ a fictional, mimetic reconstruction of a bombed out Chicago, just cannot compete with the real, which has now become as regular as a TV show…

Marc Barham

Column @ timetravelnexus.com on iconic books, TV shows/films: Time Travel Peregrinations. Reviewed all episodes of ‘Dark’ @ site. https://linktr.ee/marcbarham64