Those Red, Oppressive Smocks Worn in Handmaid’s Tale Go Up in Flames at SXSW

Hulu promotes Season 2 and women's rights

Hulu burned costumes from The Handmaid's Tale at seven different locations in Austin. Courtesy of Hulu
Headshot of Katie Richards

The Handmaid’s Tale is stirring up a major resistance at SXSW as part of a marketing stunt for the upcoming season of the Hulu show, by setting fire to the oppressive red and white costumes that the handmaids wear. Well, sort of.

In partnership with LeadDog Marketing Group, Hulu set up seven art installations across Austin, Texas. At each location, attendees of the festival will find a big display box with one of the handmaids costumes inside of it. Around the bottom of the cloak there’s a ring of smoke (and at night time it looks more like fire) that’s meant to mimic a scene from a Season 2 trailer where a red dress starts to go up in flames.

“Resistance is a key theme in the second season of the series. The activations are meant to illustrate one of the most powerful scenes of this season, in a way that will inspire emotion and understanding,” said Kelly Campbell, chief marketing officer, Hulu. “We feel this representation is authentic and true to the world of Gilead.”

The whole stunt is meant to showcase the oppression that many women still face today, while also encouraging women (and anyone really) to be rebellious. At each of the seven stations Hulu placed a few brand ambassadors decked out in denim jackets, covered with #ResistSister and “Nolite the bastardes carborundorum” patches to hand out scrolls. Inside each scroll, there are a few red pieces of paper that festival attendees are meant to use to write down something that they want to resist. Then, they’re told to take those pieces of paper and light them on fire.

The stunt isn’t quite as out there as the show’s SXSW last year. In 2017, Hulu sent a swath of women dressed in full handmaid’s garb—a long, wholesome red smock and a conservative white bonnet—around the city of Austin to promote the show.

“When we kicked off our marketing campaign for the series at SXSW last year, the connection fans had with The Handmaid’s Tale was incredible. This year we aimed to continue bringing the story to life in a meaningful way, and SXSW is one of the best places to do so. Here, we can connect with fans and viewers directly. And with the season two premiere right around the corner, as well as International Women’s Day this week, we thought the timing was perfect,” Campbell added.

The second season of The Handmaid’s Tale debuts on Hulu on April 25.

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.