What flashes in Aunt Lydia's head in the moment when Ofmatthew points a gun at her? Does she even recognize her own culpability, why the Handmaids would want to hurt her?
Dowd: No, I don't think so. I think she's chosen a very narrow, flawed view, and has had it reinforced over and over again, that these girls were living dreadful lives before Gilead -- rampant cursing, promiscuous sex, always on their phones, not one second of a relationship with God. Gilead is a chance for them to redeem themselves, and redeeming oneself means penance, and penance happens over time. And they can repent by showing remorse, having a baby, and giving this baby to a family that can raise it properly. That's her way of thinking. She doesn't even consider it brainwashing. She considers it putting them on the straight and narrow, because clearly they were lost.
You know about conversion therapy, right? I tried to watch a film about it, but I couldn't. It was too upsetting, what they do to young people. But the guy who is teaching that, he's not wondering if he's doing the right thing: "It's going to be painful, but it's the way to salvation." So I don't think Lydia feels conflicted.
You've spent so much time in Aunt Lydia's head, and understanding that particular headspace, that kind of rigid belief system, and I wonder if it gives you any insight into how to change the mind of someone like that, if it's even possible? Because there are plenty of people with very similar beliefs who want to restrict women's rights, so how do you penetrate that kind of thinking when the usual arguments aren't working?
Dowd: That's a very good question. It's a very, very scary time. Protest. Fight. I don't mean physically fight, but pay attention. Speak up. Don't let one single thing go by. It's so appalling what's going on, and that they dare call themselves pro-life, because there is nothing pro-life about that. What they are is pro-birth. This is the argument from my perspective about pro-life. Go to the foster and adoption agencies and say, "Show me the children who have no home. Let me take them." That's pro-life. "Let me find the children who do not have love in their life and let me help them. Let me go to the border and fight for children to be reunited with their parents and not be treated as less than animals." That's pro-life. I don't know how you change their minds. What the fuck, you know? As if Trump gives a shit about abortion. Imagine him speaking up for pro-life, as if he cares. On so many levels, it's just appalling.
What Lydia would do at the end of the day would be to get on her hands and knees and pray for forgiveness, and pray for guidance: "How can I better understand my Handmaids?" But if you won't listen to the answer… if the answer comes from deep in your gut and it says, "Leave them alone," she would just say, "That's the devil speaking." See what I'm saying? You have to be open to change. You have to let it penetrate. But clearly, as we've known since the beginning of time, regarding women, the desire to control is as old as time.
I did an Australian miniseries that isn't in the US yet called Lambs of God, and it's about three nuns who live on a remote island in a broken down monastery, until a priest finds them. It's based on the novel by Marele Day, and so part of the homework for that one was to read about the early Church, and it's so appalling, the way the Church was run years and years ago. It used to be run by women, until it was overtaken, through violence, by men. And it's so enraging. You can only take so much, especially when you see where the Church is today, excluding women. So what's the answer? I don't know. But it's deeply upsetting.