If you have a hit show, it stands to reason that you want to release tie-in merchandise for that show, and The Handmaid's Tale is certainly a hit show. The series, adapted from Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel, has drawn more viewers to the Hulu streaming service and raked in plenty of awards and critical acclaim in its two seasons so far, but the show's dark subject matter makes tie-in products tricky, to say the least. Which brings us to the wines...
On Tuesday, MGM and wine retailer Lot18 announced, via People, a line of three limited-edition wines inspired by the series: Two reds named after the characters Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), and a white named after Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski).
This might not be a problem for other shows, but The Handmaid's Tale — which just dropped its gripping Season 2 finale — is set in a horrifying version of the near future in which fertile women are ceremonially raped by prominent men in order to bear children to ensure the future of their society. Yes, there's more nuance to the story, but that's essentially what's happening, and when the line of wine was announced, people were... not pleased. The Guardian published a detailed breakdown of why the wines might be the "worst tie-in ever," and Twitter users including TV critic Margaret Lyons were quick to point out issues with the language used to describe the wine.
The swift backlash prompted an almost equally swift response. By Tuesday night, Lot18 had canceled the wines "after further consideration," which both People and Vulture confirmed. No additional comments have been made (we have reached out to Lot18 for further comment), but the web page that once featured the wine is now unavailable.
So, the story of a strange marketing decision ended almost as quickly as it began. The Handmaid's Tale was always going to be a tough show to market, but in 2018 you have to be especially careful.