What has to happen so that women no longer need to be afraid of the dark? Don’t pull out your phone and pretend you’re on the phone. Don’t put the key in your fist as soon as you hear footsteps so that you can defend yourself in an emergency. More public gender debates? A pink princess ban? Karate classes for everyone? The novel “The Gift” by Naomi Alderman has an answer that only science fiction can give: They must grow a new organ. One they can use to generate electricity. That she is able to inflict pain and yes, that too: to kill.
This is exactly what happens in the book, which was published in 2016 with almost clairvoyant punctuality just before the start of the “Metoo” debate. Like the novel, the series uses several characters to tell what causes the reversal of the balance of power between the sexes. The mayor of Seattle, played pleasantly annoyed by Tony Collette, takes on the governor of her state because he wants to monitor the electric women. An autocrat’s wife in Eastern Europe takes power herself, with brutal consequences. A black orphan girl kills her foster father, runs away and becomes a religious leader. And that’s not all of them. The multitude of voices and characters, which works excellently in the novel, takes some of the momentum out of the series adaptation, which is very faithful to the text. After the six episodes that reviewers have been able to preview, it feels like the show will take many, many seasons to tell all of the suspenseful fiction. But will she get it?
What’s wrong with the cliché that female domination is gentler?
It would be desirable. Even if you get the impression that the series is far from exploiting the full potential of Alderman’s idea, this thought experiment is so fascinating that you really want to know how it will continue: the premise that equality ultimately depends on realities as rough as physical Superiority fails, may be sobering. But turning this balance of power upside down offers enormous potential for knowledge: How does sexuality change when men lose control of their women in bed – and fear painful electric shocks? What’s wrong with the clichéd notion that female rule is gentler, more peaceful? The gift has something archaic. That’s why the series, like the novel before it, hits a nerve of longing: What kind of mad feeling of freedom, of carelessness, would it be if you suddenly belonged to the “stronger sex”?
The gift doesn’t yet have the big visual vision that a great series needs. But she manages convincing moments. When a young, impulsive Londoner threatens to fail a club bouncer because she’s underage, she lets a few sparks fly between her fingers – she threatens him. He lets her through, but that’s not enough for her. “Smile for me,” she says to the bearish grump. After a few tries he succeeds. The girl says, “You look pretty when you smile.”
The Gift, three episodes, on Amazon Prime. More episodes every Friday.
You can find more series recommendations here.