Lydia Clements, known to those in the dystopian society of Gilead in the Hulu series The Handmaid's Tale simply as Aunt Lydia, is a frightening, menacing extremely strict teacher to the handmaids. She is responsible for ensuring that they adhere to the rules of the nation, do their duties, and follow their indoctrination. She takes care of them when they are with child and punishes them when they commit a purported sin.
In the latest episode of the series, currently airing its third season through Hulu, we got to see Aunt Lydia’s backstory, who she was before the takeover (not surprisingly, a teacher who had previously practiced family law), and why she might feel so strongly about Gilead’s warped views on women, family, and life.
Regardless of sometimes showing a softer side, and truly believing that what she does is for the greater good (it’s “God’s will”), she has done some seriously cruel things to her girls.
Here are the cruelest things she’s done thus far.
11 Reporting Noelle to Child Services
Despite being upset about Noelle, a mother to one of her grade 4 students pre-Gilead, being somewhat negligent, Lydia eventually formed a friendly bond with her. She’d have dinner with the mother and the boy Ryan, exchange Christmas gifts, and even confide in one another. While she turned up her nose at Noelle’s behaviour, like working in a bar and dating married men, she cast those aside for the companionship.
That is until she had an awakening after almost getting intimate with the school principal and realizing her own weakness and shame. She took matters into her own hands and reported Noelle to child services, noting the frequent late pick-ups, unhealthy lunches, and dirty clothes on the child. Noelle wasn’t a model single parent, but she also didn’t deserve to lose her son, nor did the boy deserve to lose his mother and be sent into foster care. (Photo: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)
10 Removes Janine’s Eye
Never, ever talk back to Aunt Lydia, or question the system. When Janine, one of the handmaids, did just that, she was punished. Janine didn’t like the idea that handmaids, young and fertile women, would be tasked with bearing children for the barren wives of the Commanders.
To that, Aunt Lydia shocked Janine with her trusty cattle prod (yes, she treats her girls like cattle) and had her right eye removed.
9 Blaming Janine For Being Assaulted
When Janine as forced to confess her “sins,” talking about how she was sexually assaulted, Aunt Lydia turned it around on her. She told her that she brought the act on herself and made all of the other handmaids agree and blame the poor girl.
While it makes Aunt Lydia seem cruel to say such a thing, especially to another woman, she truly believes she is right, which is not only terrible cruel, but really sick, too.
8 Sending Girls to the Colonies
When a girl simply can’t work as a handmaid, and isn’t cut out for being a Martha, or has done something bad, she gets hanged or sent away to Gilead’s version of jail. It’s called the Colonies, where women must undergo full days of non-stop hard labour in terrible conditions.
Malnourished, dehydrated, sick with infections, sores, and other diseases from the pollution and radioactive waste, they are essentially sent there to work until they die. And it’s Aunt Lydia who makes the call about who and when you go.
After Aunt Lydia showed the handmaids a video of the Colonies (great scare tactic), the thought of going there for being a Gender Traitor was so horrific for Moira that she opted to become a prostitute instead. (Photo by George Kraychyk/Hulu)
7 Has Handmaids Whipped
Aunt Lydia has ordered countless handmaids to be whipped until there are scars covering every inch of the surface.
June/Offred herself was taken back to the Red Center to be whipped on Aunt Lydia’s orders after she attempted and failed to escape. As a fitting punishment, Aunt Lydia had Aunt Elizabeth whip the soles of June’s feet so she wouldn’t think about trying to escape again.
6 Tased June
In a fit of anger after June quoted a bible verse to Aunt Lydia in response to her prompting that the handmaid “remember her scripture,” Aunt Lydia begins to violently tase June. First, however, she hits her with the cattle prod.
The violence is only stopped by Serena, who steps in declaring that June is pregnant. Once a handmaid is pregnant, this is the only time Aunt Lydia will fawn over her like a special child and would never think to hurt her.
5 Almost Hanging the Handmaids
Aunt Lydia has the handmaids taken to an abandoned baseball field and made to stand in front nooses, their heads inside. A lever is pulled but…nothing happens.
It was all a scare tactic, designed to ensure that the handmaids would never speak out again. Sure, she saved them from being killed by guards when they failed to stone Janine to death for purportedly endangering a child. But threatening death by hanging is cruel on its own.
4 Electrocuting Handmaids
After the aforementioned death by hanging fake-out, Aunt Lydia then had all of the girls sit in the pouring rain, holding a rock. She went by each, one by one, electrocuting them. Again, June/Offred is spared because she is pregnant. But the other girls were not so lucky.
She isn’t finished there, though. Once inside and soaking wet, each girl is chained to the stove, one by one as their wrists are burned. To Aunt Lydia, this punishment is not too harsh at all when it comes to insubordination.
3 Putting June Into Solitary Confinement
Just because June is pregnant doesn’t mean that she’s completely off limits to punishment. Of course Aunt Lydia wouldn’t dare physically harm her in that state. But she does have back-up methods.
Instead, she places a defiant June, who had tried to escape a second time, in an empty room by herself until she’s ready to listen. She’s chained up, with just a bed to sleep on and a floral bedspread that keeps her busy as she counts the flowers on it.
2 Beating Janine
While Aunt Lydia seems to have an odd affection for Janine at times, she certainly does it show it at others. Infuriated when Janine not only breaks protocol and approaches the Putnams to hold her biological daughter, but then also begs to go back to their home, Aunt Lydia begins beating her uncontrollably.
June finally jumps in to protect Janine, who might very well have been beaten to death. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Aunt Lydia prone to angry outbursts, and it’s clear it’s something she struggled with pre-Gilead as well, as per the scene after her failed date when she smashes her hands into her bathroom mirror.
1 Mutilating Ofglen
While Aunt Lydia isn’t specifically shown to be the one to order this punishment, as the one in charge of the handmaids, you know she had something to do with it.
Considered a Gender Traitor, Ofglen, who was in a same-sex marriage prior to being captured, needs to be punished. But they don’t want to kill her since she has two working ovaries. So the fitting punishment? She is taken to a medical facility where she is forced to have a clitoridectomy so she can no longer get enjoyment from sex. Aunt Lydia, upon seeing her after the operation, declares that Ofglen “won’t want what she cannot have.”