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Ascended Fridge Horror
"I think it's a testament to Pixar that they went there, and they said 'what is the story of the toys?' The authentic story is 'Well, what happens when your owner grows up?' That's a cycle-of-life thing and it's cool that they went there and tackled it."
Joan Cusack, on Toy Story 3, from this interview.

So let's say some work has a form of Fridge Horror, at least according to some interpretations of said work. It could be entirely by accident, and just be a product of Fridge Logic. It could be deliberate, but still left to thaw on its own in the audience's imagination through subtle Fridge Brilliance. Whatever the case, obviously said disturbing aspect of the work is not definitive as of yet, as there could in theory be some way around it. So far, it has left explaining it up to the viewers, so you could probably expect that pattern to continue, right?

Well, sometimes you'd be wrong.

This is for when a prior Fridge Horror concept is openly a major part of the series later on. That disturbing aspect of the series has just gone from ambiguous to absolute, and the series has become Darker and Edgier for it.

This trope is frequently used in Deconstructions, where the Unfortunate Implications of genre conventions and tropes tend to be explored in unsparing detail.

Compare Ascended Fanon for a (usually) more benign category. Might lead to Cerebus Syndrome. May involve an Inferred Holocaust.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ryan Matthews, a Dirty Pair fanfic writer back in the USEnet days, took some of the Unfortunate Implications of Adam Warren's version of the series (for Dark Horse Comics) to their logical, horrifying conclusions. A few years later, "Fatal, but Not Serious" officially confirmed several of those.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
    • The series takes the idea of a child as the pilot of a Humongous Mecha and strips it down to spotlight the fact that these shows are about Child Soldiers. Alternatively, but still in keeping with this trope, it's about the whole concept of placing the responsibility for the future of the world on one person, when that person is not at all cut out for that kind of responsibility, and what that kind of responsibility would do to a person, and what kind of person would put that kind of responsibility on them in the first place.
    • The deconstruction of Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You. What kinda guy ditches his elementary-school-aged son and doesn't write or call until he says "hey, there's this Humongous Mecha we need you to use to go beat up monsters with city-wrecking power?" Somebody who's not a contender for dad of the year, that's who.
  • The Pokémon Special manga acknowledges and occasionally shows that the eponymous creatures are indeed capable of harming or killing others outside of sanctioned matches (humans included).
  • Popotan is about a trio of sisters who travel through time along with their maid. The catch is that when they are given the signal to leave, they have to, otherwise they will be unable to age normally; as such, they are forced to leave any friends they make behind over and over. It's understood quite early that Mai, one of the sisters, is not all that happy about their situation, but it takes episode 9 to show just how it can mess with the lives of both them and their friends: Konami, one such friend of Mai, died hoping she would eventually return to her, putting Mai into a serious depression.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica takes Magical Girl tropes and deconstructs them, highlighting that said magical girls are essentially Child Soldiers. And then things get far, far worse then better at the last second.
    • And are implied to get much, much worse by the end of the movie.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena similarly takes the Magical Girl, prince and princess tropes from the first half and deconstructs them in the second. This is especially the case with Anthy, who demonstrates exactly what someone treated as a prize to be won would actually be like.
  • One theory behind Yume Nikki is that Madotsuki is not a Hikikomori by choice, but is locked within her room, with the only means of escape being suicide. The manga adaptation uses this to force Madotsuki to stay until all the effects in her dreams are collected.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Avengers #200, Ms. Marvel was kidnapped by a character named Marcus — the apparent son of Avengers foe Immortus — and taken to an alternate dimension, where she was brainwashed, seduced, and impregnated. The character gives birth back on Earth to a child that rapidly ages into another version of Marcus, who takes Ms. Marvel back to the alternate dimension with no opposition from the Avengers. The whole storyline felt in bad taste to a number of people, especially Chris Claremont. He wrote an Avengers-X-Men crossover, where Ms. Marvel would escape to Earth, be un-brainwashed with the help of Professor X, then let the rest of the Avengers have it for so callously dismissing what was tantamount to an extradimensional rape.
  • In Spider-Man: Reign Mary Jane was said to have died of leukemia developed because of her continued exposure to her radioactive husband's sperm.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • The Toy Story series starts out taking the concept of sentient toys pretty lightly, but as the series goes on, it explores the Fridge Horror of the concept more and more thoroughly; and eventually, to a further extent than most people would probably expect from a children's movie series. This article from Cracked, which touches on the Fridge Horror hinted at in the end of Toy Story 2, quite accurately predicted the themes of the Toy Story 3 (two years before it was released, no less).
  • The Brave Little Toaster put a very cynical spin on the idea of anthropomorphic appliances and electronics: Like Toy Story 3, the plot kicked off with the main characters believing that they had been abandoned by their owner, introduces newer appliances which threaten their coveted favorite status, and delivers a truly horrific climax where, like Toy Story 3's incinerator scene, the appliances (and their master) are dumped into a junkyard, thrown onto a conveyor belt by a psychopathic magnet, and almost crushed to death.
  • Cars 2, by calling attention to the darker implications of Mater's prior Butt Monkey status, turns him into The Woobie.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captain America was first created as a World War II propaganda mascot. While the character himself has improved, said propaganda today is seen as trite and soulless. Captain America: The First Avenger acknowledges this in one brilliant scene.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be just fine using this trope. Item 47 is about a couple who restore to working condition a Chitauri weapon that'd been laying around in the wreckage after the battle in New York. They then use it to go rob banks.
  • The Bean movie somehow manages to invert it. In the film Bean destroys a priceless historical artifact, but he covers it up by replacing it with a poster of the same painting, and cue the happy if hilarious ending. As it's really only a short-term solution however, the forgery would undoubtedly be uncovered sometime after the film's events. The original script had apparently already considered this, as it ends with someone noticing the change after the painting is slightly damaged, which didn't make it into the final film.
  • More like Ascended Fridge Logic, but Return of the Jedi implies that slaying the Emperor defeated the Empire. Taken apart by Cracked here, and indeed, in the Star Wars Expanded Universe the Galactic Civil War drags on another fourteen years before the two sides sign a peace treaty and effectively switch positions. The Rebels become in charge with a high approval rating and The Empire becomes The Remnant.
  • Star Trek: First Contact: Pulls double-duty on Picard, first confirming that he didn't shrug off the horrifying trauma of assimilation as easily as the TNG episode "Families" wanted us to believe note , and then that Picard still has Borg implants scattered throughout his body.

    Literature 
  • Seven Sorcerers by Carol King
    • Boogeymen are super strong, super fast, can breathe fire and are invisible to adults. However, they usually use all this to scare and kidnap children (for example, invisibility ensures adults don't believe the child). Since there are just "a few dozens" of them and they spend weeks or months on one child, their total impact is pretty negligible, right? Well, in "Shadow Spell", two of them start a killing rampage on adults (who, unable to see them, are mostly defenseless) and kill hundreds of humans per night. Thankfully, Skerridge, another Boogeyman, rebels and kills them both, ending the rampage.
    • Same goes for Vespilio's Body Surf, distillation machine, and the Maug. The body count in Shadow Spell is gigantic, yet almost completely based on things we learned earlier.
  • The Charles Stross novel Saturn's Children describes the adventures of Freya Nakamichi-47, a gynoid sexbot in a solar system colonized by robots after the extinction of mankind. She was programmed to be overwhelmed by lust at the mere sight of Homo sapiens - how, you may ask, do you condition a robot to behave in such away? Later on in the novel, we find out that Freya's long-dead designers did so by inflicting traumatic sexual abuse on her during her "adolescence".
  • Sukhinov's Emerald City series, continuation of Land of Oz, explores the fact that animals in OZ are sentient. Carnivorous animals (and ogres who are also carnivores) are completely ostracized and slowly driven to extinction, with the exception of cats (mice have to be kept in check after all). This makes the life difficult for several characters who keep carnivores as pets.
  • Nick Perumov shows the ramifications of And Now You Must Marry Me in The Joyless Land. Eltara, an Elven princess, is forced to marry the mage Gordzhelin the Uncaring in exchange for saving her father's kingdom. The oath she gives explicitly states that she will have sex with Gordzhelin any time he wants it, and this will go on until she bears a child for Gordzhelin. Ouch.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Dollhouse we're introduced to the technology to reprogram people's memories and personalities, and it's being used to provide rich people with high quality midwives and fantasy lovers. Why aren't the people with this technology using it for more ambitious and nefarious purposes? Halfway through the season we find out that they are.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow activates the powers of all of the Potential Slayers in the finale, so there are thousands of girls who would have started having horrific nightmares they don't understand and new powers that could be abused (the latter of which we've already seen with Faith). As the Watcher's Council has already been destroyed, they have no one to help them. Angel season 5 shows that there is a slayer that was traumatized in her youth, and the nightmares made it worse, so she ends up breaking out of a hospital and killing people. In the season Buffy 8 and 9 comics there are quite a few rogue slayers who reject Buffy's leadership and use their powers to hurt others (a couple of them plotting to kill Buffy), so Giles recruits Faith to help deal with them, which required desperate measures at times.
  • Doctor Who
    • The new series has Rose leave to travel with The Doctor, though she doesn't think to tell her mother about this. When she returns a year later, her mother is very angry, having feared that she might have died. Rose's boyfriend, the last one to have seen her before her disappearance, is accused of murdering her and was even questioned by the police a few times. This was touched upon in the last regular Classic Who story "Survival", where Ace returns to Perivale and finds she is thought dead.
    • Numerous episodes end with it being very uncertain as to whether the Doctor has fixed anything after he abruptly leaves, and quite a few have been speculated to have ended up worse for his interference. "Bad Wolf" is an episode dedicated to showing what happens when the Doctor's actions do make things worse.
      • This was done in the 1977 story "The Face of Evil", in which the threat was caused by an unseen event where the Doctor made repairs to the computer Xoanon, but left his personality in the computer driving it insane.
      • The First Doctor story "The Ark" also dealt with this, showing the crew causing a plague on a Generation Ships, fixing it, leaving, and then rematerialising hundreds of years in the future of the same ship after the slave race had Turned Against Their Masters as the result of the instability caused by the plague. Unfortunately, editing left the fact that the last two episodes happen as a direct result of the Doctor's actions in the first two ambiguous, though it is still quite obvious if looked for. "The Ark" also deals with the question of whether the humans are spreading diseases through the universe that the natives have no defence against.
    • In season 5, there are cracks in the universe which were first discovered in Amy's house, and those who get absorbed into the cracks were erased from existence. Amy never explained what happened to her parents, but it was widely speculated that they were erased. It was confirmed in "The Big Bang", and they returned.
    • "Blink" derives a lot of its scare potential from one particularly unsettling bit of Fridge Horror regarding the Weeping Angels' abilities: at several points in the episode, they appear on-screen as stone statues when none of the characters appear to be looking at them, note  leading many fans to conclude that they can also sense the audience looking at them. Then in "Time of Angels", it's confirmed that the Weeping Angels can, in fact, project themselves through pictures and video footage of themselves—and that an image of a Weeping Angel can even become a living Weeping Angel.
    • When Gallifrey was saved in "The Day of the Doctor", though it is in another Universe, some people pointed out that if the Time Lords return it could mean another Time War. This is the threat being staved off in the next episode, "The Time of the Doctor".
    • The new series handles the old series's occasional dependence upon Angst? What Angst? to keep the characters from being utterly destroyed (notable instances include the Fourth Doctor's apparently blasé attitude to the departures of Sarah Jane and Leela, and how none of the TARDIS crew even begin to process the unimaginable scale of destruction in "Logopolis") by suggesting that maybe the Doctor does actually deal with that, through a combination of Stepford Smiler behaviour and forcible denial, because if he stopped to think about all of the loss he'd have a complete mental breakdown.
  • Season 4 of Supernatural introduced a Prophet who had been seeing visions of the Winchester brothers' adventures and writing a book series about them, selling them as fiction because he didn't know they were real. It was humorously treated as a nice way of adding metafiction to the series, but this raised a lot of Fridge Horror issues about Sam and Dean's entire lives and thoughts, fully detailed, being openly available for everyone to see. In season 8 one of the villains finally gets his hands on the books. He uses them to track down and kill off the people they have saved in the past so he can destroy their life's work and deny them the only comfort they have in knowing that these people are still alive because of them, while deconstructing their heroic self-image to break them.
  • In the original Sailor Moon Anime, Usagi and Naru were best friends, however as Usagi met the inner senshis, Naru started to appear less and less until she dissapeared completly in the fourth story arc, although Naru Hand Waved it somewhere in the manga, there is no exploration upon the subject of how Usagi quickly diposes her best friend as new friends appeared. However in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Naru losing Usagi's friendship becomes a plot point, Naru shows jealousy towards the ineer senshi (Specially towards Ami) and shows how sad is being replaced.

    Music 
  • Eminem's 2000 song "Stan", from his Magnum Opus The Marshall Mathers LP, ends with the eponymous Stan (an obsessed, stalkerish fan) dying by driving his car off a bridge. However, a throwaway line mentions that Stan's little brother Matthew "likes you (Eminem) more than I do". Come 2013, and the first song from The Marshall Mathers LP 2, "Bad Guy", is all about Matthew attempting to kidnap and murder Eminem, as he blames what happened to Stan on the latter's fanship of the former. And he succeeds.

    Theater 
  • The first act of Into the Woods is a cheerful Fractured Fairy Tale. The second act is every single nasty consequence of every single person's actions coming back to haunt them.

    Video Games 
  • The Ecco the Dolphin series does this in Ecco: Tides Of Time, (the sequel to the original game) with the questions the concept of time travel raises. The original had Ecco time travel into the past one time to get a globe from past-Asterite to bring to present-asterite, and another time to save his fellow dolphins from a Vortex invasion. One cannot help but think the developers noticed this left various questions about the effects of time travel in the minds of fans, because the sequel explored them in frightening and confusing depth.
  • Pokémon
    • Pokémon Black and White introduces Team Plasma, an Animal Wrongs Group that believes keeping Pokemon is slavery and forcing them to battle is cruel, which is an idea that's been around ever since the start of the franchise. However, it turns out that while N is sincere about his motives, Ghetsis only preached this to try and convince everyone else in the world to release their Pokémon so that he'll be the only one with Pokémon.
    • On the same note as Pokémon Special listed above, Pokémon Colosseum and XD let the Donphan out to play with Cipher attacking trainers that try to obstruct their operations. The S.S. Libra is the biggest case, with its human crew lost at sea after XD001 takes their ship away.
  • When Marle is temporarily removed from the timestream early in Chrono Trigger, she's still alive and conscious in some sort of void. Chrono Cross explores the implications of changing the timestream and condemning people to that void.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link goes to the future and saves the almost post-apocalyptic world, then goes back in time to prevent the world from ever needing to be saved. Some fans theorized that that future world didn't cease to exist, and continued on on an alternate timeline. Then came The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which confirmed that theory, revealing that in said timeline the whole world was flooded because Ganon returned and Link wasn't there to stop him from taking over.
  • The Extended Cut of Mass Effect 3 retconned various aspects of the endings, after fan outcry pointed out that the original ending had accidentally caused several major Inferred Holocausts. However, getting the Destroy ending with low EMS takes all the horror from the vanilla endings and makes it that much worse.
  • The Mega Man Zero series used this trope to its advantage when it was called to make a Post Script Season. Zero 3 was the original Grand Finale, and while its ending ties up most loose plot threads and resolves Zero's concern over his identity, it leaves one big loose end hanging—by the end of Zero 3, a revived Copy X and the remainder of his ruling cabinet are killed off, leaving Big Bad Dr. Weil alive and essentially with sole rulership over Neo Arcadia. Zero 4 explores this and kicks off its plot with a caravan of human refugees fleeing the hellhole that Neo Arcadia has become under Weil's iron fist.
  • Phantasy Star IV deconstructs the idea of "the chosen one" with Chaz. Being informed that he's one of the Protectors of the Seal, destined to defend Algo from the forces of evil, he outright rejects it, saying that mindlessly following the orders of an uncaring, distant god would make them no different than the story's villains.
  • In the third Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game, that fact that one of the game's culprits was executed is a plot point. It's never stated whether any of the other killers you've helped convict were given the death penalty, but seeing as most of them don't appear afterwards, it's certainly likely, though it's never addressed. Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney, however, doesn't sidestep the issue: the true culprit of the second case is shown being excecuted on-screen, and via horrifying Cruel and Unusual Death to boot.
  • The ending of Myst, at least the "good" ending", shows us the results of Atrus's decision on how he'll handle the atrocities that his son committed. That result left the player wondering what really happened to them when Atrus enacted his decision. Myst IV: Revelation put that wondering to rest quite firmly.
  • The "Moriya Arc" in Touhou note  introduces three new factions to Gensokyo, each wanting to expand their worshipers and ideology, and each having reason to dislike the others and the local authorities. With each introduction fans were wondering whether war would break out, and speculated endlessly over how it would happen. Then comes Hopeless Masquerade, where the human population falls into desperate pessimism because Gensokyo Is Always Doomed (another bit of Ascended Fridge Horror) and all three exploit the crisis to gather more faith for them themselves, fighting the other factions over worshipers. Turns out they were all manipulated by an independent party, though.

    Western Animation 
  • In Family Guy Meg is quite dark example of a Butt Monkey, being horribly abused by her parents and is always played for Black Comedy. The episode "Seahorse Seashell Party" deconstructs the abuse as a serious issue, turning her into The Woobie. Even Meg mentions that "If people in the outside ever saw how Peter treats her, he would've been put in jail along time ago." One would think Meg finally catches a break as her family breaks down in tears from the revelation, but Meg later realizes that the reason her family treats her like shit is because they need someone to expel all their negative energy into and without Meg for that, they would turn on each other. Meg decides to apologize for what she said and lets her family abuse her again for the sake of keeping everyone slightly sane. Some fans may see this as a cheap in-universe reason for why Meg is abused in nearly every episode, giving the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that abused people should continue to be abused if it keeps their abusers happy.
  • Sonic Sat AM did this with the concept of Robotnik turning innocent creatures into evil robots. The prior video games did not explore the process of roboticization in much depth, other than implying that the robots were more like mecha being piloted by a brainwashed animal (hence why a random critter pops out of one and runs away when a Badnik is smashed) while Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog sidesteps the issue by having Robotnik build the robots from scratch. SatAM, on the other hand, thoroughly explores the Body Horror and loss of identity implicit in the robotic transformations; Uncle Chuck stated that roboticized people actually know what they are doing, but cannot do anything about it.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • The series is built on the premise that some people can "bend" different elements: water, fire, earth, air. To waterbend, one needs a source of water to do it. In the episode "The Puppetmaster" Katara meets a Waterbender elder who teaches her that she can draw water from almost anywhere: the ground, plants, even from the atmosphere around her. But wait! Isn't the human body 70% water? Can't a waterbender theoretically control a person or draw the water right out of them? In this episode, the creators answer those questions to a horrifying degree. Hama doesn't call it Bloodbending for no reason.
    • Sequel Series The Legend of Korra has many of its major and minor plot points based on the Fridge Horror of what if the special talents exhibited by the main characters became widely used. Ty Lee's chi-blocking is the main combat form of anti-bender terrorists, all the main villains can Bloodbend, and Aang's "spirit bending" is how Amon plans to rid the world of benders (though he's actually just Bloodbending).
    • The anti-bender movement of Season 1 in itself points out the downsides of being a normal guy in a world full of people who can tear steel and shoot lightning.
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise confirmed several fan theories that ending a hundred years war did not suddenly fix all problems created because of that war.
    • Season 3 of The Legend of Korra has a dearth of new Airbenders popping up after Harmonic Convergence. Now, while the Air Nomads were pacifistic, developing their bending into a primarily defensive art, Fridge Horror has long abounded among the fans since discovering Monk Gyatso's body and those of the soldiers who tried to kill him regarding what an airbender could do if the user wasn't focusing on defense, especially since there isn't much that can easily stop an airbender. These fears have now been realized as the apparent Big Bad of the season is one of the new benders, and he is not holding back with his new powers.
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law liked to play around with some of the implications of various Hanna-Barbera cartoons, the one most following this trope being that The Jetsons really do live above a post-apocalyptic wasteland (as well as that commuting everywhere on moving sidewalks instead of walking means that even moving across a room under their own power is a monumental feat).
  • The Venture Bros. explore the dark idea of how messed up a boy adventurer would grow up to be and verbally expresses it through Rusty's despair of the gloomy future that awaits his boys only because they were born with the Venture name.
  • * My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The episode "Secret Of My Excess" applies ascended fridge horror to the implications of a dragon living in a pony community, even though most other episodes before it stepped around it. Later, though the issue isn't explicitly dwelt on for very long, "Dragon Quest" addresses the fact that Spike is an orphaned child and neither he nor Twilight knows where his egg came from or who/where his real parents even are. Ouch.
    • It's been suggested by some that Fluttershy's Shrinking Violet characteristics are at least partially the result of childhood trauma. "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" establishes that she was bullied, but Rainbow Dash seemed to get it about as badly as her (at the hooves of the same bullies, no less), and look how she turned out. But then "Hurricane Fluttershy" shows us just how pervasive the problem really was, and how it affected her to the point that its resurgence is enough to provoke graphic, demonic hallucinations well into her adulthood.
    • "Keep Calm and Flutter On" confirms the popular theory that Discord is still aware of everything while in his stone prison.
    • "Princess Twilight Sparkle" revolves around how Discord, a massively vindictive Reality Warping Manipulative Bastard, left a few nasty surprises around for his captors even after he was defeated the first time, an idea that fanfiction writers used constantly ever since his debut.
    • Despite the show itself glossing over it, fans quite reasonably speculated that Celestia being forced to banish her sister to the moon for a thousand years, to save Equestria from Nightmare Moon, would have been devastating to her. Cue Twilight's vision of the past in "Princess Twilight Sparkle", which shows Celestia desperately pleading with Luna to stop, tried to stop her by herself, only using the Elements of Harmony when it was clear Nightmare Moon was too powerful, and when she makes that decision she starts crying, one of only two times in the series she does so (the other being when Luna returns to her old self in the pilot).
      • Similarly, the first part of the season opener addresses Celestia's feelings about the Summer Sun Celebration, with Celestia confirming to Twilight that to her, the Celebration was for a thousand years little more than a bitter reminder of the banishment mentioned above, with Celestia putting on a brave face for her subjects while hiding her inner pain, and that she's happy that it can now be a reminder of their reunion.
    • When It's About Time introduced the realm of Tartarus, where various monsters and villains were sealed away, many people feared that someone may have been able to escape it while Cerberus was away from his post in that episode. In season 4's finale, it turned out Tirek HAD.
      • The same episode also addresses the fan-theory that Discord may not have been sincere in his Heel-Face Turn.
  • Adventure Time: The Ice King's Aesop Amnesia and rampant sociopathy led to the idea that he is physically incapable of learning his lesson or changing in any way, and that he will be forever doomed to repeat the same behavior no matter how many times it fails. Cue the reveal of his backstory, which among other things shows this is exactly what happens.


    Series TropesCerebus Rollercoaster
All There Is to Know About 'The Crying Game"Spoilered RottenAssimilation Backfire
    DeconstructionGenre Deconstruction

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