Is Jezebels A Real Place? 'The Handmaid's Tale' Takes A Trip
Warning: Episode 8 spoilers ahead! In Episode 8 of The Handmaid's Tale, Commander Waterford crossed yet another line with his Handmaid, Offred, whose real name is June. What began as late night Scrabble and magazine reading took a turn when Waterford decided to take June out for the night. He gave June makeup and a sparkly minidress to wear, as well as one of Serena Joy's blue cloaks to disguise her on their journey. They drove into what used to be Boston, to a club called Jezebels. But is Jezebels from The Handmaid's Tale a real place?
While there was a strip club called Jezebel's in Wichita, Kansas that has since closed, that's not the same place Waterford takes June to in the series. Jezebels is fictional, an invention of Margaret Atwood's in the novel the show is based on. From the looks of it, Jezebels was previously a luxury hotel, though it would be difficult to pinpoint which hotel exactly; though the show takes place in Boston, it's filmed in Toronto, making it hard to pin down exact locations. And while the Jezebels of The Handmaid's Tale might be reminiscent of real places, it's not actually a real club. Within the world of the show, Jezebels is a government-sanctioned brothel that caters to high-ranking commanders and visiting dignitaries. The women who work there have very little choice in the matter.
Jezebels is where women are sent when they don't fit into any of the other roles the society of Gilead has set up for them. The women who can't be Handmaids or Marthas or Wives have a choice between being sent to the Colonies (and facing certain death) or becoming sex workers at Jezebels. It buys them a few more years, but it's hardly a choice at all. When Moira was caught trying to escape to Canada, she agreed to be sent to Jezebels to avoid the Colonies. It gave her a modicum of freedom, but her bodily autonomy was still taken from her. It was not the life she would have chosen if she was still allowed to have choices.
Waterford described Jezebels as being just like stepping into the past, but unless your extracurriculars are of the Eyes Wide Shut variety, it probably wasn't very familiar. Jezebels wouldn't be the kind of place you went to during happy hour. There are certainly sex clubs and brothels in existence throughout the world, but it seemed telling that Waterford would characterize Jezebels as though it were typical of the past instead of unique.
According to those in charge in Gilead, the United States was a vile place in need of cleaning up, which they felt they did. But, of course, they still needed to keep places like Jezebels around — places that indulged in the very things they opposed — so that they could have their cake and eat it too.