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Nightmare Fuel / The Handmaid's Tale

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From the Novel

  • A snippet from the book.
    "But WHOSE fault was it?"
    "Her fault. Her fault. Her fault."
    "WHO led them on?"
    "She did. She did. She did."
    "And why would God allow such a terrible thing to happen?"
    "Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson. Teach her a lesson."
: Now factor this in — they were talking about a 14-year old girl being gang-raped.
  • The Colonies. They're used for cleaning up nuclear waste until they die from the radiation poisoning. It's basically gulags. At one point Moira tells Offred that her mother ended up there (she saw her in a propaganda video) and when Offred expresses relief since she thought her mother was dead, Moira simply says "She might as well be. You should wish it for her."
  • It is hinted that "the Children of Ham" (black people), who are supposedly sent to "national homelands" (a la South Africa), may in fact be suffering extermination.
  • While we learn the (possible) fates of the black and Jewish populations, there is no mention of other ethnic or religious groups. What about the Asian, Middle Eastern, First Nation, etc. groups? We don't know, but we can imagine that it was horrifying.
  • The whole concept of being a Handmaid. You're separated from your loved ones, and if you have children they've given away to be adopted by other families. You're forcibly indoctrinated (including such charming little exercises as the one shown above) and then passed around the upper echelons of the military as a brood mare. Your very name is taken away from you, to be replaced with the designation of whatever man currently owns you, e.g. Offred, Ofwayne. You're raped periodically once per month, with the Wife of your owner effectively holding you down. You're blamed if you're not fertile, even though it's most likely the men who own and use you that are sterile, and the Wives resent or even hate you regardless. If you don't manage to get pregnant in one of three "assignments", you're declared defective and packed off to the colonies to die of radiation poisoning or slave labor. If you do actually manage to get pregnant and carry the child to term, it's removed from you except for feeding times and, as soon as it's weaned, you're bundled off to another family to start the whole miserable process all over again. And while you're given a sop of never being sent to the colonies if you bear a live, healthy baby, there's always the possibility that the baby's a "shredder", born with a mental or physical defect that only appears later. You will never be safe.
  • Gilead is the sort of nation that would consider perfectly normal things to be "defects." What if the kid grows up to be gay or transgender? What if they're autistic? What if they're schizophrenic or otherwise mentally ill? In our society, any decent parent would love them just the same, but in Gilead...
  • Particicution, where the women vent their frustrations on a male "criminal" (in one case a political dissenter) by ripping him to pieces with their bare hands. During that scene in the book, Janine, who's had at least two "shredder" babies, finally loses her shit and wanders around with a bloody chunk of the person's scalp in her hand and a vacant grin on her face. The epilogue theorizes that Gileadean society came up with the custom of Particicution not just to get rid of unwanted elements (they had the Wall for that), but expressly to provide a stress outlet for otherwise terribly oppressed Handmaids, to the point where instead of just having one in the rare case the occasion arose, after a while they started to hold them on every equinox and solstice, that is 4 times a year.
  • Offred doesn't know what happened to her husband and her daughter, especially considering that before the rise of Gilead, the reader learns that a crazy woman tried to take Offred's baby daughter from Offred's shopping cart when Offred had her back turned to get something off the shelves. Yikes.
  • The fact that the entire premise — a takeover by religious fundamentalists, the utter loss of rights for women — is inspired by true events. Iran had been developing into a modern, secular country over the 20th century, but made a complete turnaround after the 1979 revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Since then Iranian women have had to live under a barrage of restrictions, including laws about how they dress, though thankfully they still have access to education. note 

From the 1990 Film

  • In the beginning of the film, there were women ruled as infertile being led into trucks and cells previously used for livestock (one soldier just crossed out the "Livestock" and wrote "116" and the Female Biological Symbol). There was one woman screaming "you made a mistake!" and the screams made it all the more jarring.
  • The screams of the nuns as the fertile ones are forced onto a bus. You know that they are aware of what's happening because you can hear one shouting "you can't make me break my vows!" To them, they are not only being forced into sexual slavery but also being forced to give up the vows that they had made thinking it would be for their entire lives. Not to mention what probably happened to the infertile or elderly nuns.


From the 2017 Series

    Season 1 
  • The arrest, trial, conviction and punishment of Ofglen and her lover.
  • The book only made references to how the takeover happened. Here, flashbacks show it and it is nothing short of horrifying to see women bluntly told they can no longer hold jobs or have their own money. The fact most see it more as an annoyance at first is worst as they have no idea of the horrors that are coming.
    • The turning point is a peaceful protest ending with soldiers gunning down unarmed civilians. Everyone runs in panic as the close-ups reveal how June knows this is the end of the world she knew.
    • Fred and Serena are shown in a movie theater when he receives a text message of the upcoming False Flag Attack that will kick off the takeover. She kisses him, saying "this is for the greater good." They settle back to watch the movie, surrounded by a crowd of laughing, talking, texting people who have no idea that in three weeks, their world is forever changed.
  • Nick hearing Rita's screams of horror and running in to see the previous Offred's body hanging from the ceiling. What makes it even more terrifying is that the scene almost comes out of nowhere.
  • The Humiliation Conga orchestrated by both Wives and Commanders that leads to Janine attempting suicide with her child in her arms.
  • In a flashback to when the infertility problems first started, a woman who had a mental breakdown when her baby was stillborn tries to steal June's, insisting it's hers.
  • Offred seems to have found an ally in a doctor who freely uses the forbidden word "sterile" and offers to help her. Then it turns out by help, he means having sex with her right there to possibly impregnate her when the Commander can't and avoid future punishment, with the implication that he's done this extortion to a lot more women, all while keeping the same Faux Affably Evil tone. Then you add the Fridge Horror that the Commander suffered from The Loins Sleep Tonight that month, meaning if she'd agreed and did get pregnant, she would have been immediately found out.
  • The possibility that the doctor was sincerely trying to give her the best chance he could might be even more horrifying than him being a predator; it says a lot about how hideous the situation is when a genuinely good guy's options to help a woman in June's situation are limited to making an offer which would be utterly repugnant in any sane society.

     Season 2 
  • The second season starts off by the handmaids being blindly taken to Fenway Park to be put in the gallows, which turn out to be fake in order to scare the handmaids into submission. Everything they experience in the training centre is a form a psychological torture in order to punish them for disobeying.
  • The punishments for disobeying, include the psychological torture. In addition, they are made the kneel in the rain, each holding a heavy stone. Next, they are lined up inside the cafeteria in a straight line, and made to listen to the screams of Ofrobert. Alma gets more punishment than the others. Because Aunt Lydia cannot punish June, due to her condition, she uses the next unruliest Handmaid. The others are lined up in the cafeteria of the Red Center Forced to Watch, as she and Aunt Elizabeth drag her screaming and kicking into the kitchens, where she handcuffs her hand to the stove and turns on the gas, her screams filling the entire cafeteria.
  • June is forced to listen alongside. As she was being rebellious, the Aunts took her to a prison room, where another pregnant Handmaid, Ofwyatt was chained up for being Driven to Suicide by drain cleaner, with the implication that she'll be killed after having the baby. June knows that if she acts up, she'll end up like her, and is forced to eat the lunch Aunt Lydia prepared for her and act as though nothing happened. We also don't see it but the implication was that all of the handmaids but Offred were burned like Ofrobert, so they all had to listen to her being tortured knowing it was about to happen to them, as well.
    Aunt Lydia: You're first, Ofrobert.
  • June hides out in the old Boston Globe building, where everywhere she looks there's signs of a mass slaughter of the staff, including a long wall full of bullet holes and bloodstains.
  • The entire last act of "Other Women" gives us the moment we hoped would never come: June is broken. After a parade of all the other people who've suffered on her behalf, she gives up and retreats fully into the personality of a smiling, simpering Handmaid, with even her internal narration only repeating her inane comments about the weather. There's nowhere to hide from the realization that the story's hero is gone.
  • As punishment for speaking up for Janine, Ofglen #2 is given an ironic punishment by having her tongue ripped out. The only literate women allowed in Gilead are Aunts and for all others, it warrants the removal of a finger for the first offense, and the amputation of an entire hand the second offense. They removed her way of communicating with the outside world!
  • The line-up of child brides and a building of people applauding the mass marriage. Even Rita notes it's off and tries to rationalize it.
  • During the marriage the men have no idea who they are marrying until after the vows have been said and the rings placed on the fingers. It certainly would have not have been what they signed up for... or even more horrifyingly, it's exactly what some of them signed up for.
  • Eden Spencer, who shows a representation of the next generation of Gilead. She is 15 years old and has no idea of the world outside of Gilead. In addition, she is married off to a complete stranger in an Arranged Marriage and from the looks of it, was the only one of the child brides who was happy at the prospect. When Nick won't touch her she believes that he believes her to be ugly, or even worse, that he is a gender traitor, which warrants death in Gilead. Granted, she was naive, but Nick could've ended up on the wall because of her.
  • Nick consummating his marriage to Eden. The only reason he is doing it is because June forced him, as he doesn't feel any attraction to Eden, but Eden is brainwashed by the Gilead regimen and believes that Nick is gay, which merits execution if she were to report him. The consummation process involves having to pray beforehand, and then have them each strip, with Eden using a special sheet in a hole in it. Eden is roughly 15 and brainwashed to be pious and a dutiful wife, which by modern standards means Nick is committing statutory rape, while Nick is twice her age and old enough to be her father. Sex-via-coercion is still considered rape.
  • June discovers she's had vaginal bleeding, and desperately tries to keep the possible miscarriage secret even as the problem becomes steadily worse to Body Horror levels. This includes waking up in the bath to find the water is completely red.
  • June is Driven to Suicide and falls out her window the night that Nick marries Eden, as now she feels she has nothing to live for. She is found by Nick, heavily pregnant and her lower abdomen covered in blood. Nick's Adult Fear: the woman he loves is pregnant with his child, but is mentally broken and so gone from life that she decides to take her own life. Only, that also entails taking the life of the child you both share.
  • The way Waterford slowly takes the heavily annotated Bible and reads from it before whipping Serena with his belt. How many other awful things have little blue tags that Gilead uses as justification? There are a lot of tags...
  • Serena Joy being given a schedule with only illustrations in Canada. Why? Because women in Gilead are not allowed to read, even though they were out of Gilead territory, even though Serena Joy was an educated professional before the takeover.
  • During the diplomatic meeting with Canada, Fred mentions he wants to get the Canadians to agree to expel the refugees from Gilead, referring to them as "illegal emigrants". While it ultimately doesn't come to fruition due to the Waterfords being forced out of Canada after Luke, Moira, and Erin release the Jezebel letters, the idea that Moria, Erin, Luke, and others who've escaped Gilead being forced to return after how welcoming Canada was to them is spine chilling.
  • Fred raping June in "The Last Ceremony" while Serena holds her down in order to induce labor. What makes it absolutely chilling is the fact that June has never fought back in the Ceremony before, and here actually tries, which includes screaming for help and fighting Serena. Their looks sell it all. If it's that hard to believe, Serena Joy and Fred Waterford both crossed the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Nick and June are spotted by Guardians after Hannah - now Agnes - leaves with her Martha. Nick tells June to stay inside while he talks to them, and he ends up being beaten and taken away, leaving a heavily pregnant June in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere and in the freezing cold, no less.
  • In the description for "The Last Ceremony", there was a Warning beforehand. No episode of the series has gotten that so far. In a show featuring female circumcision, rape, slow death via radiation poisoning, suicide, the almost death of an infant, and among other things, this episode received a warning in the description.
  • The way Serena screams “Offred!” in “Holly” at the top of her lungs.
  • Emily's assignment to Commander Joseph Lawrence brings the show into a whole new realm of Gothic horror, with a bravura performance from Bradley Whitford making both her and us constantly question just what kind of person Lawrence is, and if he might snap at any moment. And then there's the way his own wife is terrified of him and calls him a monster to his face for being the one behind the prison at the Colonies.
  • The drowning. Execution method of two teenagers in love. It looks almost like everyone is at a swim meet as it is held in a old swimming pool. The juxtaposition of the location and what is happening is chilling.
  • During the execution, there are several other iron balls at the bottom of the pool. How many people have been killed this way?
  • Serena revealing her amputated pinky to June after the former gets taken away to be punished for reading in front of The Commanders. Another example to Serena that all of the misogynistic, inhumane laws she helped write do very much apply to her.

     Season 3 
  • After June tries to convince Lawrence to use his considerable power to aid the Resistance in much more overt ways, Lawrence takes June for a ride to a dark, eerily lit building surrounded by guards. Inside, packed in standing-room-only cages, are people. Hundreds of them. The only visible furniture inside each cage is a single port-a-potty. These people are going to the new colonies Lawrence talked about establishing earlier in the episode. Maybe the most horrifying thought? Lawrence said colonieS, plural. There have to be other facilities just like this one.
  • The revelation that Handmaids in DC have their mouths wired shut is as horrifying to the viewer as it is to June. It really doesn’t help that all marthas and handmaids wear cloth mouth coverings. Some scenes suggest its not done as a punishment. ALL handmaids and marthas seem to have their mouths wired shut. It really doesn’t help that the mouth covering looks like its clasped on like bdsm gear, with each clip giving a loud ‘SNAP,’ like shackling.
  • The idea that Handmaids' mouths are wired shut at all is horrifying. The idea that they might still be wired shut even during natural, painkillerless childbirth.
  • Serena despite getting a finger amputated for the ‘crime of reading’ doesn’t seem to really seem to care about the fact that ALL the Second class women in DC have had their mouths wired shut. Not only does she want to raise a female child in THAT environment, but there isn’t really anything protecting Second class women outside DC, or the Gilead wives either.
  • June's descent into He Who Fights Monsters territory in her revenge on Ofmatthew, ultimately watching the woman's psychotic, murderous breakdown with a satisfied Slasher Smile even with a gun pointed right at her, to which she actually nods, seemingly fully prepared to die if it means the person who hurt her goes down with her. Also keep in mind that Ofmatthew is pregnant during all this, yet June still watches her dead body being dragged out without a hint of regret. Although the pregnancy part might be seen in the opposite way, when we realize that June seems to think that being born a girl in Gilead is Fate Worse than Death - meaning that Ofmatthew future child would be saved by her death, just like Ofandy's daughter was by being stillborn.
  • Christopher Meloni's exceptionally realistic performance of having a perforated lung after June stabs Winslow with his pen.
  • June continuing to descend into cold calculation, allowing Eleanor to commit suicide rather than save her and risk her blabbing about the child rescue scheme.
  • The opening of the season finale, Mayday, flashes back to a point soon after June was captured on the way to Canada, showing the absolutely hellish processing of numerous terrified, confused women. The elderly and disabled — including children — are herded off to be brutally killed right away. The survivors are shouted at and abused, stripped and examined, and are transported in meat trucks.

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