Though the premise of the show is largely based on
Kimmy Schmidt’s past as a captive confined to a bunker with three
other women – the media later labels them “mole women” due to
the fact that the bunker where they were imprisoned was
underground – the only depictions of this time period are short,
10-second scenes that show only brief moments from her captivity.
These scenes are usually vignettes of her and the other imprisoned
women doing different things that help them make the bunker
livable, including pretending to drive a car, having staring contests,
and reenacting movies for each other. Though these scenes are
extremely funny, it’s definitely humor that comes from a dark
place. The focus of these scenes never depicts explicit violence
enacted upon them by the Reverend, though there are often
allusions to it. The storylines are usually structured around how
these women survived as a group instead of focusing on the man
who trapped them there, making this a story of survival and
resilience rather than victimhood.
Though never explicitly said, it is implied that Kimmy and
the other mole women have experienced sexual violence while in
the bunker, perhaps also physical violence, and certainly
psychological trauma. This is shown in the way that Kimmy reacts
to certain actions made of people around her. In the first season
when Charles (Andrew Ridings) covers her eyes from behind, she
reacts by immediately pushing and kicking him away from her.
When Dong (Ki Hong Lee) tries to kiss her during the second
season, even though it is consensual, she can’t help but react
involuntarily by hitting him over the head with a telephone. Rape
survivors are the largest group of people who have post-traumatic
stress disorder (Foa and Rothbaum 1998, 35), and Kimmy receives
this formal diagnosis in one storyline contained in the second
season of the show.