Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Core Post 5 - The Handmaid's Tale Marketing

It was very interesting reading the texts during the weekend of the LA Times Book Fair at USC, where Hulu’s new show The Handmaid’s Tale was being marketed, due to Margaret Atwood’s panel.

In order to maximise the digital show’s physical presence on campus, Hulu hired around thirty actresses to dress up in costume, and walk silently in-sync with one another amongst the book fair. Those brave enough to approach these silent women were handed stick on tattoos which stated “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down” - in Latin, no less ( "nolite te bastardes carborundorum”).

In her essay “Television Outside the Box”, Lotz writes about a “sort of quintessential marketing phenomenon” which “begs the question of whether film studies can continue to talk productively about texts, aesthetics, ideology, and identity in new media… without also talking about the industrial landscape and marketing practices that animate and fuel new media development on a wide scale”. This immersive marketing for The Handmaid’s Tale at the Los Angeles book fair illustrated a venture into this wider media interactive landscape -- these Latin clues act like a secret code, but it excites fans and non-fans alike, who can share photos or Tweet about what the see, as both the confusion and excitement for the series builds.

Similarly, for those baffled by the presence of these women, all they had to do was look up the hashtag quote on the cards they gave out. A simple commanding symbol which indicates where one may find the answers, again making this marketing more immersive, than didactic. This points towards another of Lotz’ statements, that “technologies involved in the digital transition enabled profound adjustments in how viewers used television and necessitated modifications in many other production processes” (49).

 And it is not alone in its unique "beyond television" marketing -- as noted by an article by Gizmodo; "South by Southwest, the Austin-based tech and entertainment expo, is known for hosting some experimental TV promos. This year, American Gods has a giant buffalo, The Man in the High Castle is opening a Resistance Radio station, Better Call Saul and Twin Peaks opened restaurants for Los Pollos Hermanos and Double R Diner. But none of those compare to the uncanny valley insanity that is whatever’s going on for The Handmaid’s Tale." (http://io9.gizmodo.com/a-bunch-of-handmaids-tale-handmaids-are-creeping-people-1793185332)

 The Handmaid’s Tale’s marketing is under scrutiny for Elizabeth Moss’s inflammatory comments declaring it “not a feminist” tale. Clearly this is a) untrue, and b) a line she must quip according to higher powers, in order to make the show more appealing to a wider audience. Which takes us back to conversations around “feminism” being a dirty word -- which Atwood herself managed to tactfully navigate without treading on the marketing hopes of the producers, by saying: "I always want to know what people mean by that word. Some people mean it quite negatively, other people mean it very positively, some people mean it in a broad sense, other people mean it in a more specific sense. Therefore, in order to answer the question, you have to ask the person what they mean."


  1. Thank you for sharing this post. I am looking forward to watching this show. The puppeteering of Moss' words to gain a wider audience for the show isn't shocking. However, I wonder how long the producers can continue to declare it "not a feminist" tale, when undoubtedly, critics will read it as so and this will be the theme most (if not all) will attribute the show to.

    1. I completely agree with this. I've read the book and watched a 'straight to video' adaptation of it. i thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm excited to see how it plays off as a TV show. I've also read up on many critics saying that it is a feminist show and it just bothers me that Moss saying it isn't in order to garner more viewers.
      Funny how people always see the word 'feminism' as angry women who hate men when really it just means 'equality' . So if anything, it being a feminist show is what SHOULD garner more viewers.