How The Handmaid's Tale defaced the Lincoln Memorial

VFX were used to "mutilate" the iconic monument and erase stray tourists.


Though you might not believe it by watching any Michael Bay movie, visual effects can serve artistic purposes besides depicting mayhem. The Handmaid’s Tale VFX company Mavericks recently posted a video that shows how they “destroyed” the Lincoln Memorial, while talking through how it related to the episode’s story and themes.

Season 3, episode 6 (“Household”) is described as a “turning point for the characters. It takes place at the Washington Monument (where the obelisk has been turned into a cross) during a televised prayer attended by thousands of handmaids. “The creative brief on [the Lincoln statue] was that it had been damaged in a battle, but also that revolutionaries had taken jackhammers and chisels to the statue in order mutilate the iconic monument,” the narrator says.

The artists experimented with various levels of destruction before settling on a “decapitated” figure of Lincoln. “Once approved, modelers went about creating, then destroying Lincoln,” the company said. To make sure that it held up for closeup shots, the team matched the original marble textures, making for a pretty haunting image.

Since the monument is a public space and can’t be shut down, the VFX team had to digitally erase tourists that ventured onto the set. Then, they filled the empty spaces with thousands of virtual handmaids. They were clad in the iconic burgundy robes, with Houdini cloth dynamics helping make them flow as realistically as possible. “The locked shots, sparse production design and daylight shooting left nowhere to hide ... [keeping the] audience immersed in the horror and awe that June is experiencing.”