Get Bombed on ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Wine to Forget that There’s ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Wine
“Offred” and “Ofglen” varietals are only the latest in disturbing Handmaid merchandise
Electric Lit relies on contributions from our readers to help make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. Please support our work by becoming a member today, or making a one-time donation here.
Update: After social media outcry, the wines have been cancelled. You know what this means: clown on Brett Kavanaugh on Twitter as hard as you can without stopping for any reason!
I f contemplating the increasing plausibility of The Handmaid’s Tale makes you want to drink, we have some (sort of) good news. Hulu, which airs the extra-violent TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic, is putting out a line of three wines that People.com describes as celebrating the series’ “strongest female characters,” a phrase that has absolutely lost all meaning. These characters are two Handmaids, women used as sexual and gestational surrogates by the upper echelons of a fundamentalist regime that views them as walking wombs, and the wife of a Commander, one of the privileged men afforded the use of a Handmaid due to his complicity in the repressive society. We’ll drink to that! But only because we really feel like we have to right now!
This is not by any means the first incidence of disturbing Handmaid’s Tale merchandise. In Vulture, Laura Bogart detailed some of the more tin-eared examples of packaging Gilead as a female-empowerment opportunity. The Wing, the relentlessly millennial-pink network of private women’s coworking spaces, launched a line of products in cooperation with Hulu that reimagine the novel’s desperate battle cries as go-girl encouragement.
Or, you could swaddle yourself in a red cape and hood, literally the symbol of brutal oppression under a religious regime that values women’s fertility but not their humanity!
Last year, to coincide with the show’s debut, Hulu commissioned the gritty chic label Vaquera to design a Handmaid-inspired line: This line includes a red hoodie with the novel’s signature catchphrase, Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (or “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”) printed, in a Sex Pistols–esque torn-magazine font, on the front, an extra-long spin on the white bonnet, and a red jacket with the word Maidez stitched across the shoulders. According to the designer, this capsule collection addresses “poignant social issues” and seeks “to reverse cultural norms, celebrate individuality, and empower oppressed individuals.”
The splayed-leg pose really makes it:
But at least the clothing line pegged to a rabidly misogynist dystopia that reduces women to sex and pregnancy slaves isn’t lingerie, right? Lol psych it’s lingerie too.
There’s something almost more sinister about the Handmaid’s Tale wine, though; it’s attaching the Gilead brand to a tool of numbness and forgetting. A gendered tool, no less—think about the “wine mom” archetype and all those jokes-not-jokes about getting bombed on wine with your girls (or alone) to forget about the pressures of dating, motherhood, career, or living under capitalistic fascism. It basically begs for the tagline, “Tired of living in a society that’s hurtling towards dystopia? Forget all about it for one evening with Handmaid’s Tale wine!”
If there’s anything we’ve learned, or should have learned, from The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s that complacency lays the groundwork for tyranny. But wine lays the groundwork for complacency. (Also, not for nothing: the wines named after Handmaids are called Ofglen and Offred, even though these are possessive monikers enforced by their status as non-person possessions. Why not Emily and June?)
Hulu, if you’re looking for a more appropriate marketing opportunity, we have some suggestions: Handmaid’s Tale the pepper spray. Handmaid’s Tale the foamcore protest sign. Handmaid’s Tale the IUD. Handmaid’s Tale the enormous donation to the National Network of Abortion Funds. But while we can’t say “Handmaid’s Tale the despairing attempt to anesthetize yourself against the terror of living every day in the face of encroaching despotism” is off-brand, exactly, it may not be the message you most want to send.