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Miserable Massage

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"I'm telling you, she gives the worst massages ever! It was like she was torturing me for information. And I wanted to give it, I just didn't know what it was!"
Chandler Bing, Friends

Getting a massage is supposed to be a positive experience. It can relieve stress, relax your muscles, and even fix chronic pain. However, there's a tendency in fiction for massages to be anything but relaxing; they're agonizing experiences, as the character on the table just gets beaten, pounded, and generally abused while they can do nothing but groan and take it.

Their massage therapist will often be a Battleaxe Nurse or Brawn Hilda, but this sort of massage can come just as easily from not-as-strong amateurs. In fact, sometimes it's a character's friend genuinely trying to give them a good experience- the hilarity in this case comes partially from the fact that a character is inadvertently causing their friends pain without realizing it. Another common scenario is for two characters to get a massage, with the duo's Butt-Monkey winding up in this situation to contrast the luckier character's relaxing time.

This can be Truth in Television, as certain types of massages can be painful; however, in fiction, the agony is exaggerated, and the benefit minimized, all for comedic effect.

Compare Harmful Healing and If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You. Contrast with Massage of Love, which is the tender and pleasing version and Happy-Ending Massage, where the massage is not only pleasant, but sexual.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Mission: Yozakura Family, Futaba heads to the mall to get a massage done by her usual masseuse. Said masseuse is a hulking ex-spy old lady who massages Futaba so intensely that the person in the next room wonders if they're bending steel pipes. The experience is relaxing for Futaba of course, but it's blatantly clear that anyone who isn't at least as tough as she is would be in for a very bad time.
  • Pokémon: In one especially weird episode, an evil Togepi enters Team Rocket's base, and uses its Psychic powers to control the Giovanni robot that Meowth installed in his room to massage himself. This causes the robot to start massaging him so fast it burns him.
  • In Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, one chapter has Kaguya offering to give Shirogane a hand massage because she believes it'll keep him focused on hernote . Unfortunately she's never given a massage in her life which, combined with her extensive knowledge of martial arts, results in her pressing down hard on every single pressure point in poor Shirogane's palm and leaving him (silently) screaming in pain. To make matters worse, Kaguya ends up being the one to produce the "anti-affair hormones", which puts her in a lovey-dovey mood and makes her try to keep the massage going as long as possible.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Archie Comics story, Reggie wrenches his back doing a stunt dive. Archie takes him to the clinic, where they're shown in to the masseusse (which Archie dismisses as quackery). Archie gets a cute one, Reggie gets a Battleaxe Nurse who does more harm then good.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Garfield strip Jon ordered an in-home massage and got The Ahnold for a masseuse. Nothing's shown but Garfield hears a loud cracking sound, followed by Jon asking if that was him.
  • Discussed and Played for Laughs in The Far Side, where Captain James Hook from Peter Pan is visiting the job counselor Doreen, with Doreen stating "Okay, Mr. Hook. Seems you're trying to decide between a career in pirating or massage therapy. Well, maybe we can help you narrow it down."

    Fan Works 
  • In The Loud House fanfiction Nicely Done, Luan tries to give Luna a massage using her ventriloquist dummy Mr. Coconuts. Because he's made of wood, this just gives her a cramp in her back.
  • In Peeking Through the Fourth Wall, Lana reveals that Leni tried giving her a massage earlier, but it felt like she was being kneaded like dough and was unpleasant.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, 117 goes to a Cairo hammam to get a massage and interrogate a Soviet spy there. The massage turns into torture by a big strong henchman on 117 as soon as his cover is blown, but he nonetheless manages to get the upper hand and kill the Soviet spy via Neck Snap.
  • They Call Me Bruce (1982). While Bruce is getting a massage, Karmen sneaks into the room and knocks out the masseuse so she can steal the bag of cocaine that Bruce is delivering. She then has to pretend to be the masseuse but doesn't know how to massage (it doesn't help that she's a dominatrix). First she tries walking on his back, and then jabbing him with an acupuncture needle, eventually knocking Bruce out which makes her task easier.
    Bruce: Owww! Oriental women walk five feet behind a man. American woman walk all over man!
  • In Swindle, part of the plan to stall and trick Swindle is for him to take a massage, with who he believes is the rich auction owner he's trying to impress. Throughout the scene, he's grunting in pain and keeps getting his neck chopped and pushed.

  • Everworld: During their stay on Olympus, the cast learns that guests can opt for a massage (along with other... services...), one of which is implied to be this by David.
    "Your choice of nymph or satyr. Or nymph and satyr. Or nymph, satyr, and a helot they call the Harsh Spartan. Don't ask. I did, and trust me, You Don't Want to Know."
    Christopher spread his hands wide, encompassing the marble and alabaster perfection of the room. "I am home. I mean, this place? Do you have any idea of the profit potential if we could book people from the real world in here? I mean, this is what, a five-thousand-dollar-a-night experience?"
    "Extra for the Harsh Spartan," Jalil said.
  • In Stark by Ben Elton, one of the characters is a Granola Girl who insists on giving her friends massages but isn't actually any good at them, so her victims get a lot of painful kneading and no benefit.
  • In the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel Q-in-Law, Wesley is given a clumsy slave girl whose attempt to massage him results in a broken rib.
  • In Making Money, Moist rather unwisely takes Gladys up on her offer of a massage technique she read in a women's magazine. Gladys happens to be a massive golem. Moist ends up passing out, but admits the massage did help in a weird way.
  • After getting run off the road in a failed assassination attempt, Quiller insists on getting shiatsu massage from his Japanese martial arts instructor, over the objections of his British doctor. It's understandably painful, but gets him back on his feet so he can find out who did this to him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Drake & Josh: One episode had the two brothers getting rich by selling grills two men gave to them, not realizing that the grills were stolen. Using their new money, they pay for massages. Drake's masseuse is a young, attractive woman. Meanwhile, Josh's masseuse is a stereotypical Brawn Hilda. She even cracks her fingers before starting the massage, suggesting that the experience will hurt for Josh.
  • Friends: In one episode, Monica gives Chandler terribly painful massages, but he's too afraid to tell her, because he doesn't want to ruin their relationship. Apparently Rachel claimed she was allergic to massages to get Monica to stop inflicting them on her. Phoebe, a professional masseuse, lasts about two seconds before yelping in pain and telling Monica to never massage another human being.
  • Downplayed in an episode of Home Improvement. Tim has a business meeting in a Japanese hotel, and has to join his bosses in a full Shiatsu massage. While they enjoy themselves, Tim is clearly in pain when the masseur starts stepping on his back.
  • In Long Way Round, Ewan and Charley go for a spa massage in Almaty, Kazakhstan to relax them after a grueling ride. In a case of possible cultural differences, they basically get the crap pummelled out of them by two huge guys with stinging soap and it's about as far from the relaxing experience they wanted as you could imagine.
  • Mythbusters: During the "Don't Drive Angry" myth, Kari needs to get Tory angry enough for the comparison test. Her method: a visit to the "anti-spa" with one of these, including potato chips getting crushed on Tory's back.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Deja Q", Dr. Crusher administers one of these to the recently-made-human Q to relieve his back spasm which causes him to complain in-between cries of pain (though it's implied that Q is just being a wuss because he's never experienced pain before).
      Q: "Your bedside manner is admirable, Doctor. I'm sure your patients recover quickly just to get away from you."
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Scientific Method", aliens are experimenting on Captain Janeway, making her feel a bit snappish and groggy. Given that she's a notorious workaholic, the Doctor mistakes the symptoms for Sleep Deprivation and gives her a vigorous back massage.
      EMH: You work absurdly long hours under constant stress, eating on the run, without sufficient exercise or rest. Your body is crying out for mercy.
      (Works his elbow into Janeway's back, which gives a Sickening "Crunch!")
      Janeway: It certainly is right now! There must be some easier way to do this, Doctor. A hypospray, maybe?
      EMH: Always looking for the simple fix. Sometimes there's no substitute for intensive osteopathic pressure therapy. You're fortunate to have a masseur who can work all day without tiring. (Janeway gets Oh, Crap! look)
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Done intentionally in the episode "Have A Nice Trip". To prove that a guest was lying about having been hurt by Zack, the twins enlist Maddie's help as a fake hotel masseuse, who, among other things, uses burning hot rocks as part of the massage, all in an effort to make him admit his injury is fake.
  • The Goodies
    • Graham Garden tries to massage Tim Brooke-Taylor's stomach with a medicine ball and drops it clean through his body. In another episode, Tim's stomach ends up being kneaded like dough.
    • In "Kung Fu Capers", Bill relates how he recieved a delicate massage from the temple ladies of the School of Eckythump, which involves him being pounded by a Brawn Hilda wielding an oversized mallet.
  • Whammy! The All-New Press Your Luck: One of the Whammy animations has the Whammy aggressively massage a stack of dollar bills until there's nothing left in the stack.
    Whammy: Now just relax and I'll work on that knot. [beats on the stash until there's nothing left] There. No more knot!
  • In the The Benny Hill Show skit of The A-Team, B.A is getting a massage during the Avengers Assemble.
    B.A: That liniment is making my arm smart!
    Masseuse: Then I'll pour some on your head.
    B.A: I'm telling your there's something wrong with that!
    Masseuse: (Taking a swig) There's nothing wrong with it.
    (B.A. answers the phone just as she pours the rest on his back)
    B.A: Oh, hi there HanniBARRRRRRGH!

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy VII Remake, to convince Madam M to help Aerith get into Don Corneo's manor, Cloud must pay for a hand massage. If Cloud opts for the cheapest option, he ends up visibly in pain and his health bar actually shows that he took damage.
    Madam M: I should warn you. This technique has certain risks.
    Cloud: Huh?
  • Final Fantasy XIV: In the sidequest "Ancient Goblin Secrets", a goblin gives an adventurer an "ancient secret goblin massage" that is apparently "quite painful and quite embarrassing" to receive, to the point that Notched Bones initially mistakes it for torture. To its credit, the massage does work, though the thought of actually getting it is enough to elicit a Big "NO!". Notched Bone describes it as being the most painful thing he's ever experienced in his life.
  • SPY Fox 2: Some Assembly Required'' has Fox getting info from a bear massage therapist. Her massage routine is obviously painful for Fox, which he politely brings up each time you ask for her services. At one point she'll even fold him up into a paper airplane and fly him around the booth.
  • Happens off-screen, but in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, there's a special treatment called a bed and massage at Rollin' Inn in Goron City. When you choose it, a Goron named Tray leads Link to the bed to have another Goron named Volcon massage him. As the screen goes black, we can hear Volcon give Link a painful massage and Link screaming in pain. It gives Link three extra hearts and a bit of Stamina wheel, however.

  • In the Housepets! arc "The Four Animals you Meet in Heaven" Keene visits a weasel massage parlor where they cartoonishly stretch him out, twist him up and release, then flatten him with a rolling pin. Oddly he seems to enjoy it.

    Western Animation 
  • In Amphibia, Anne get this kind of massage. Justified, since the masseuse usually worked on frogs, who are more flexible than Anne.
  • Darkwing Duck: In "Star-Crossed Circuits", after Darkwing has gotten fed up with the super-computer, he returns home to find Gosalyn and Honker outside, with the boy telling him he shouldn't enter. Naturally, Darkwing ignores him. The spurned D-2000 gives him a painful pre-bath massage with a rolling pin. He would also go get a professional massage with the same result.
  • The Jetsons has George Jetson at work, enjoying a massage in his reclining chair from a motorized roller. Mister Spacely walks in, clearly displeased, and presses a button that makes the roller pound on George's midsection, then sits him bolt upright. You're a mean one, Mister Spacely...
  • Johnny Bravo had the episode "Spa Spaz" in the 2000-2002 series, set in an Aron City spa. An Inexplicably Identical Individual of tough-guy navy veteran threatens to crush Johnny using massage, and leads to a bizarre ending where the masseuse is pigging herself out on nachos with cheese and dissatisfied spa customers walking out.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: One episode had Bugs and Daffy head out for a spa day and get some massages. Daffy notices he's marked down to be massaged by "Joe" while Bugs is getting "Leslie." After switching them around, he finds to his dismay that Joe is short for Josephine, a pleasant female masseuse, while Leslie is a hulking muscular man who puts Daffy's back through the wringer.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Castle Sweet Castle": Spike, in an attempt to keep Twilight occupied while her friends make her new castle more like home to her, decides to take a "deep tissue, hot rock massage" at the Ponyville day spa. Afterwards, he is shown walking around in agony. It doesn't help that his masseur happened to be Bulk Biceps.
    • "A Rockhoof and Hard Place": Rockhoof tries his hand at being a masseur, but his Super Strength works against him; Bulk Biceps is shown fleeing in agony after Rockhoof presses down too hard on his back.
  • Total Drama: In the exclusive clip of "Sweden Sour", the authentic Swedish massage Team CIRRRRH has won is revealed to be a painful experience. The masseur is a burly viking with rough hands who stands on top of Alejandro and comes close to breaking his spine what with the strength with which he pulls on the boy's arms. Alejandro questions that this is meant to be a reward, compares the masseur to the devil, and begs him to stop.
  • Zig & Sharko: In "Nurse Marina", Bernie tries to massage Zig back to health after he falls out of a tree. His screams of pain can be heard around the island. Subverted when Marina gets involved: even though her sleeves make pump-action sounds as she gets ready to massage Zig, she does it gently enough that he doesn't scream.


Video Example(s):


Poor Man's Course

In "Final Fantasy VII Remake," Cloud has a choice of massage options at Madame M's. The "Poor Man's Course" is only 100 gil, but he gets what he paid for - an "experimental technique" that brings him a world of pain. Afterwards, he's left complaining that everything hurts and tells Aerith he needs a sec, or maybe a few minutes.

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