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Posted on October 8th, 2012, by

Traditionally, children played an important role in the life of communities. Children were always expected and people viewed the birth of a child as a significant event that made parents happy. At the same time, people often attempted to protect children from offenses or threats from the part of other people or communities. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the anti-abortion movement, which still influences consistently the public opinion and stands for the total ban of abortion. However, often people, which pretend to be protectors of children, turn out to be negligent in relation to children to the extent that they view children as commodities. In such a context, the book The Handmaid’s Tale and the documentary Jesus Camp can be viewed as warnings to the modern society since creators of the book and the film attempted to warn people that children are not commodities and their rights and opinion should be respected by adults. However, often adults impose their will and their philosophy on children making them dependent on adults and unable to think independently of meaningful adults. In such a way, they transform into commodities, which are used as puppets by adults who play the role of puppeteers.

At first glance, adults presented in both The Handmaid’s Tale and Jesus Camp take care of children. The main characters view children as the main values of their life and believe that adults are responsible for the well-being of children. At the same time, they attempt to protect children from other adults and negative impact of the environment on health, both physical and psychological, of children, although, often such care takes quite perverted forms, especially in The Handmaid’s Tale. In fact, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that both the book and the film stand on the anti-abortionist ground. It is possible to trace a strong religious background behind people depicted in the book and the film.

However, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that, unlike fictional characters of The Handmaid’s Tale, people depicted in Jesus Camp are real people and their attitude toward children and their ideas are widely spread in the modern society. In such a context, The Handmaid’s Tale may be viewed as a sort of hyperbolization of contemporary people, whose faith and beliefs overshadow the rational and adequate attitude to children as humans, who have equal rights and opportunities, and who cannot be conditioned from the early childhood in accordance to adults’ beliefs.

In this respect, the setting of the book and the film are very significant because it defines, to a significant extent, the upbringing of children, their education and the formation of their beliefs and personal philosophy as well as the attitude to children. In this respect, it should be said that the plot of the book unfolds in quite extreme setting, in the post-apocalyptic world, where the modern civilization has been already totally destructed and the new theocratic civilization has raised instead. The action of the book takes place in the Republic of Gilead, the former USA, which suffered from a nuclear and chemical pollution in the result of which the majority of people became infertile, while women capable to carry children remain quite a few. The main character of the book, Offred, or June, is one of such woman, but she is totally deprived of her basic rights. In fact, she does not have the right to take care of her own children, since children belong to Fred and his wife, who are owners of Offred and who treat her and her as commodity. They use her to born children to Fred and his wife, who are infertile. Moreover, it is clear that Fred and his wife will treat children of Offred as commodities too. At this point, the name of the main character is quite symbolic since it is actually a patronymic slave name. In fact, she is Of Fred, while her real name is June, but she has almost forgotten her real name being transformed into a rightless concubine of Fred.

Obviously, children cannot grow up as independent individuals since the formation of their personality is influenced consistently by the environment, which is determined by principles of theocracy, totalitarianism and slavery. Many people are deprived of their rights, while the position of children is even worse since if adults can be either free or slaves, than children born in such a community can either stay alive or die, depending on their physical capabilities. What is meant here is the fact that in the post-apocalyptic society, children are valued, but they valued as commodities, as subjects which are supposed to give birth to a new, healthy generation of human race. Hence, all children are divided into two groups after their birth: unbabies and keepers. It is only the latter that survive, because they are born without defects, while unbabies are born with significant defects or they are simply still-born. Anyway, all of the unbabies are doomed to die because the society eliminates physically all babies with defects. In such a way, people in the post-apocalyptic world develop their concept of selection, where it is up to community’s leaders to decide whether a baby should stay alive or die, while mothers do not have even a right to raise or take care of their children.

In fact, such a division of children proves the fact that the community treats them as commodities, which adults can condition in whatever way they wish. At the same time, from the beginning of their life children learn the strict division of the community into superior and inferior groups. Moreover, they learn that, if they belong to the superior caste, they can be rulers of the world, while inferior caste is not worth living and should be treated as commodities as well. On the other hand, it is important to emphasize that children in the Republic of Gilead are conditioned by the theocratic authorities.

In this respect, children depicted in the film Jesus Camp are similar to children, who survive in The Handmaid’s Tale. In fact, the three main characters, children named Levi, Rachael and Tory live in a religious environment, which may be not so radical in its actions but ideas of the charismatic Christian summer camp community are quite radical. At this point, it is possible to trace certain similarities promoted by the theocratic authorities of the Republic of the Gilead. For instance, both communities stand for the ban of abortion, while their scientific views are extremely limited and, as the matter of fact, children learn science, which is adapted to the religious environment of both communities. For instance, children in Jesus Camp learn physical science from a book that reconciles a young-earth creationism with scientific principles. Moreover, they are taught that global warming is a hoax and that the Earth’s temperature has a history of fluctuations not caused by humankind. In this regard, children in The Handmaid’s Tale grow up even in a less scientific environment.

As a result, children grow up poorly educated. To put it more precisely, their beliefs and views are shaped by adults who convey them their own vision of the world and their personal philosophy, instead of the objective education, with a solid scientific ground. In such a way, people in Jesus Camp are also treated as commodities. In such a context, it is quite symbolic that children attempt to follow the lead of their parents. To put it more precisely, children are religious and they closely associate their adult life with religion. Moreover, they reject all values but religious. For instance, they do not like music which is not Christian. Hence, they prefer Christian heavy metal music to other, non-religious music styles, for instance.

Obviously, children are deprived of liberty in their development. Similarly to keepers in The Handmaid’s Tale, they have been conditioned since the early childhood, while adults, who pretend to be extremely concerned with the well-being of children, deprive them of basic human rights and grow them up in an almost totalitarian environment.  At this point, both the book and the book is similar. However, the substantial difference between the book and the film is the focus on physical and spiritual life of children. The characters of the book are concerned with physical development and physical health of children, which is the main priority in the post-apocalyptic community. In contrast, adults in Jesus Camp are concerned with spiritual development and education of children. They attempt to spread their ideology in the camp and convince children in the righteousness of the doctrine promoted in the camp by adults.

In fact, both the book and the film have a strong impact on the audience, but, it is worth mentioning the fact that the film produces a stronger impression because it uses visualization to prove every point stated by the director of the film. Moreover, the audience sees the real community, which does exist in the modern USA, while the book depicts a post-apocalyptic, fictional community. At the same time, the book warns the audience against religious radicalism, which is widely spread today. In such a context, the book and the film perfectly complement each other as the film reveals the actual impact of religious communities on children, while the book shows potential effects of the radical religious education of children. But what does unite both the book and the film is the attitude of adults to children. Adults treat children as commodities and, in this respect, their attempts to demonstrate their concern with the well-being of children seems to be extremely hypocritical.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that The Handmaid’s Tale and Jesus Camp are similar in the problems and themes discussed in the book and the film. Both the book and the film are warnings to the modern society. At the same time, they show the importance of respect of children’s rights and adequate treatment of children as personalities but not as commodities.

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