Created By: HiddenFacedMattNovember 20, 2011 Last Edited By: ArivneJune 3, 2014

Hands Out Between The Bars

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Trope
Often times a good way to add extra Nightmare Fuel to the already-scary Prison setting is to show inmates reaching their hands out between the bars like animals. Bonus points if it is done by several inmates at the same time.

More often than not, there is essentially nothing to grab, or alternatively, they reach out way too early to grab it; it's probably more often for the symbolic value of "I'm not completely in my cell."

Sometimes, though, a variation of this trope can come if the imprisoned person is reaching for something (ex: a key) outside the cell.

EDITED IN: Fixed reference to outdated trope name.


Examples

Film
  • The Shawshank Redemption has, on the first night for a bunch of new inmates brought to Shawshank, the majority of the other inmates each reaching both hands out between the bars to clap in unison while repeatedly shouting "fresh fish" as a means of taunting the new inmates.
  • In Return Of The Jedi, C-3PO gets grabbed by that tentacle through the bars in Jabba's dungeon.
  • Seen at the end of the movie Tower Heist, when the Big Bad is sent to prison.
  • In Pirates Of The Caribbean, trapped pirates reach for a dog on the other side of the bars that has the keys around his neck.
  • In Mel Brooks' Robin Hood Men In Tights, Robin is captured and led through a dungeon, where there is a floor grate with prisoners' hands reaching through it. His captor lays into them with a whip, and they withdraw.

Literature
  • In Manda Scott's Boudica trilogy, about the life of the Celtic warrior queen, when the rebel British army reaches Colchester, the Roman capital, she is shocked and disgusted to find British people taken for export to Rome as slaves are kept in an underground pit covered with a grille. This barely allows them room to crouch, so that she sees hundreds of arms waving up through the grille, seeming like disembodied arms growing like grass. She orders the slaves to be freed, and for atrocitas against every Roman they find, and the burning of their city.
  • In Assassins of Gor Tarl takes a tour through a slaver's pens. One woman sticks her hands through the bars begging to be sold, and the tour guide lashes her away from the bars. He tells Tarl that she's not yet ready for sale; when she doesn't run away from the bars when lashed, enduring the whip to try to touch a man, she'll be ready.

Live Action TV
  • On A&E's Beyond Scared Straight, the inmates will often reach their hands through the bars to intimidate the teens.
  • Comedic examples pop up in NCIS and Bones when our heroes are wrongfully imprisoned. Their True Companions come to literally bail them out, and you can see the imprisoned characters reaching gratefully through the bars.
  • In TheCloser, Johnson and Sgt. Gabriel have to walk past a long series of cells, where guys are pounding on the bars and shouting obscenities at her. Gabriel wordlessly steps between her and the prisoners.

Music Videos

Video Games
  • Not a prison, but at one point in Mystery Case Files: Escape From Ravenhearst you need to move down the hall of a reconstructed insane asylum. There are animated mannequins in the cells reaching out for you.

Western Animation

Real Life
  • In Brazil, if you go to jail without having a college degree you will end up in a very small cell with other ten people or more. Duo to this reason, whenever a reportage shows said cells, inmates act accordingly to this trope.

Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • November 20, 2011
    unclerupee
    In Return Of The Jedi, C 3 PO gets grabbed by that tentacle through the bars in Jabba's dungeon.
  • November 20, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    In Battle Angel Alita, this is done by the audience of the motorball races. One of the star players, "Caligula" Armburst has a habit of cutting off a pair of hands and sticking them on his horns for good luck and the fans consider being personally maimed by him a great honor.
  • November 20, 2011
    azul120
    Part of the background in the underground area of the main castle in Castlevania Portrait Of Ruin.
  • November 20, 2011
    Koncur
    Does it have to be prison? Zombies will tend to reach through barricades and barred windows in various settings.
  • November 20, 2011
    troacctid
    ^ I think that's a different thing.
  • November 20, 2011
    JohnDiFool
    Don't forget the mirrors they often use to see what is happening down the cell block.
  • November 21, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^^ It's somewhat separate, though if the zombie variant is a reference to the prison variant it might be worth referencing.
  • November 21, 2011
    troacctid
    ^^ I think that's also a different thing.
  • November 21, 2011
    parttimereaper
    agreed
  • November 22, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Seen It A Million Times It seems like I've seen stock photos of a man's wrists resting on the crosspieces of a cell door, such that the hands are hanging slack between the bars and outside the cell. I think the photos tend to be attached to news stories on prisons and inmates, and the hands in question appear to be those of a POC.
  • November 22, 2011
    Koncur
    Oh, I get it now. I've got a real one then:

    • On A&E's Beyond Scared Straight, the inmates will often reach their hands through the bars to intimidate the teens.
  • November 29, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Seen at the end of the movie Tower Heist, when the Big Bad is sent to prison.
  • November 29, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^ As someone who has yet to watch that movie, I'm not sure to what extent the part after the comma counts as a spoiler, but I'm going to put it in spoiler tags just in case.
  • November 29, 2011
    Lore
    You might want to add, that sometimes the hands come from cells, that are located beneath the characters, thereby creating an effect of getting dragged to hell. Was that sentence understandable?

    • One of the early missions in the first Assassins Creed game has you go after a slave trader, once you enter his lair the people he has captured there to sell do this.
  • November 30, 2011
    Antigone3
    Not a prison, but at one point in Mystery Case Files: Escape From Ravenhearst you need to move down the hall of a reconstructed insane asylum. There are animated mannequins in the cells reaching out for you.
  • December 1, 2011
    AgPrv
    Literature: in Manda Scott's Boudicca trilogy, about the life of the Celtic warrior queen, when the rebel British army reaches Colchester, the Roman capital, she is shocked and disgusted to find British people taken for export to Rome as slaves are kept in an underground pit covered with a grille. This barely allows them room to crouch, so that she sees hundreds of arms waving up through the grille, seeming like disembodied arms growing like grass. She orders the slaves to be freed, and for atrocitas against every Roman they find, and the burning of their city.
  • December 2, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    ^^^ Not sure what you mean.
  • December 12, 2011
    sliz225
    A variation of this trope can come if the imprisoned person is reaching for something (ex: a key) outside the cell. Comedic examples pop up in NCIS and Bones when our heroes are wrongfully imprisoned. Their True Companions come to literally bail them out, and you can see the imprisoned characters reaching gratefully through the bars. In TheCloser, Johnson and Sgt. Gabriel have to walk past a long series of cells, where guys are pounding on the bars and shouting obscenities at her. Gabriel wordlessly steps between her and the prisoners. In PiratesoftheCaribbean, trapped pirates reach for a dog on the other side of the bars that has the keys around his neck.
  • December 14, 2011
    wazootyman
    In Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood: Men in Tights", Robin is captured and led through a dungeon, where there is a floor grate with prisoners' hands reaching through it. His captor lays into them with a whip, and they withdraw.
  • December 14, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In Assassins of Gor Tarl takes a tour through a slaver's pens. One woman sticks her hands through the bars begging to be sold, and the tour guide lashes her away from the bars. He tells Tarl that she's not yet ready for sale; when she doesn't run away from the bars when lashed, enduring the whip to try to touch a man, she'll be ready.
  • December 19, 2011
    Sligh
    Real Life example: In Brazil, if you go to jail without having a college degree you will end up in a very small cell with other ten people or more. Duo to this reason, whenever a reportage shows said cells, inmates act accordingly to this trope.
  • May 26, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    There has to be more details as to what makes this trope creepy.

    otherwise, it's just "people reach out when behind bars".

    I can see the trope, it certainly is one, but the meaning is pretty thin at the moment.

    I see this as creepy because it's technically "Disembodied hands reaching out to get you". And the bars dehumanize the ones behind it. making it a case of Nothing Is Scarier.
  • May 26, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of Fox's Danger Theatre's "The Searcher" parodying Silence of the Lambs the Searcher goes to a prison to see [a Captain Ersatz of]] Hannibal Lecter. The prison guard tells him to stay on the left side of the corrider. The Searcher starts down the corridor, and then the guard has an Oh Crap moment and yells after him "I meant the right side!" Cut to The Searcher being grabbed at by the prisoners, all of whose cells are on the left.
  • May 26, 2014
    Quatic
    In Nightbreed the Berserkers, too insane to be allowed to roam free, are kept locked up deep below Midian. When Boone first visits Midian and is shown where the Berserkers are kept, they grab him through the bars, but are taunted away by Boone's guide.
  • May 26, 2014
    eroock
    Film:
  • May 26, 2014
    lakingsif
    To do:
    • Explain what makes this a trope, as Shanghai suggested.
    • You have enough examples to organise them, now, by media type.
    • Example formatting, specifically italicisation and work names.
    • The title may want to reflect the scariness, e.g. Creepy Prisoner Reach, or something of the like.
    • No Real Life Examples Please — even if you're claiming "oh but this article", no. They are more subjective than Tropers.
  • May 26, 2014
    DAN004
    • In Kungfu Hustle, when Sing is infiltrating an insane asylum to find The Beast, he stumbles across one prison door and the prisoner inside tries to grab Sing from the bars. Sing quickly runs away.
  • May 27, 2014
    Arivne
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Sorted examples by media and added media section title(s).
    • Corrected spelling (cellblock).
    • Namespaced and italicized work name(s).
    • Namespace a Creator name.
    • Changed the work name Robin Hood Men In Tights from quotes to italics as per Welcome To TV Tropes - Editing Articles.
  • May 27, 2014
    DAN004
    • In One Piece, in Dressrosa arc (in the Corrida Colosseum tournament), Rebecca and Luffy goes to the prison of the colosseum (with the latter having no idea why he's brought there). Suddenly Luffy's grabbed by the prisoners inside, and Rebecca suddenly turns around to stab Luffy with her sword. Luckily he escaped it.
  • May 27, 2014
    Bisected8
    • Air Force One has a slight variation, where the prisoners are cheering as a dictator (whom the villains demanded be released in exchange for the lives of their hostages) is being lead from his cell to a waiting helicopter.
  • May 27, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Planet Of The Apes:
    • In the book:
      • Ulysse [the protagonist, roughly equivalent to Taylor in the 1968 film] sticks his hand out of the bars of his cage in order to grab a notepad from an ape keeper in order to prove he's from another planet.
      • After Ulysse convinces ape society he's an intelligent human, he is taken to a zoo where he sees some humans in their cage, who stick their hands out in hopes of treats.
    • In the 1968 film Taylor sticks his hand out in order to try to grab Zira and convince her he's sentient.
  • June 2, 2014
    randomtroper89
  • June 3, 2014
    DAN004
    Pic's cool.

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