So, you have heard me use the term “fridging” before. I figured, maybe for those of you who are newer I should define that.
The term “fridging” is shorthand for “Women in refrigerators,” which refers to a specific incident in the DC canon where a Green Lantern’s girlfriend is murdered and stuffed in their refrigerator for him to find. Gail Simone coined the term during a discussion with friends about how often women are murdered to further a male hero’s storyline.
There has been a lot of caterwauling about how “male heroes die too,” or “are we supposed to never kill female characters?”
Male heroes usually die for other reasons.
With the exceptions of Robins. Robins are granted temporary women in refrigerators status, because the majority the harm that befalls them is to further Batman’s story arcs. However, the majority of Robins tend to come back at least as powerful, if not more powerful than before. (Don’t get me started on Stephanie Brown and that bullshit.)
Or at least with more amazing butts. Hel-loooo, Nightwing.
This is referred to as “defrosting male characters,” where they get to come back with their original powers intact, or with even better powers.
A lot of female characters either never come back, or come back de-powered, or too broken to function (Hellcat).
Fridging isn’t only found in comics. The show Supernatural had a horrific history of doing this to female characters. Kiss or fall into bed with a Winchester boy, you wouldn’t live out the season. Or even just feel fondly for one, really. For a couple of seasons, fans thought they’d dodged this with the character of Charlie, but nope, even though she wasn’t romantically linked to either of the boys, she died, also fulfilling the trope of killing off queer characters.
In the first two episodes of Titans, we saw three fridgings, four if you count Robin’s mom, but that’s a little bit of a grey area since his dad died, too. And yes, if the fridging happens in canon or is told in flashbacks, it is still a fridging. They gave Raven a mom specifically to fridge her. How fucked up is that? I mean, she’s not a male character, but still. There were a lot of ways they could have handled that without murdering her mother. Then Robin’s partner dies, oh I can’t wait for the main-pain when that comes out in the series, and then Dove.
Then the first two episodes of Doom Patrol. Only one real fridging so far, Cliff’s wife. Then for awhile you think his daughter was also fridged, but then Niles Caulder is an unreliable narrator, and she’s alive. So… who knows? And They haven’t talked about what happened to Larry’s boyfriend.
I mean, it beats Supernatural’s minimum one dead girl per episode, and Titans with three fridgings in the first two episodes.
My bar has gotten so low, you guys.
Can female characters die in ways that are not fridgings? Yes. Jean Grey’s suicide in the Dark Phoenix Saga is not, in my opinion, a fridging. I mean, yes, Cyclops gets a lot of man-pain mileage out of her death, as does Logan. But I feel like that decision is a natural outgrowth of who Jean is. She can’t trust herself not to hurt others with the Phoenix inside of her, so she chooses to die.*
Can male deaths act as a fridging for female characters? I would say yes, but the reason we aren’t as concerned is because it happens so fucking rarely. I mean, go to the site I linked above. Those are just a few of the fridgings that have occurred in comics. And we’ve talked about Robin. But seriously, how many women have been fridged over the character of Logan/Wolverine alone? Batman, like James Bond, has string of dead women behind him.
Oh, James Bond is definitely guilty of this trope in a big way.
Honestly, once you see it, you see it everywhere and you can’t unsee it.
It’s lazy shorthand to give the hero, usually male, a reason to do the things they are doing.
Batman doesn’t fight crime because crime is wrong. He fights crime to avenge his parents.
The Supernatural boys don’t fight demons because the world needs protecting, they do it because their mom and then Sammy’s fiancé were both killed by a demon.
My kingdom for a well-adjusted character who just does the right thing.
I mean, I love Cap, and he definitely started out that way, but then Bucky was fridged (and then not) and that drove his storylines for quite awhile. And let’s face it, Bucky is part of “defrosting male characters” trope, where yes, they may be killed for someone else’s pain, but then they are restored to their default powers, or come back even stronger than before. And, well…. another grey area, yes, his mom died, but it was from tuberculosis, not violence, and he does the right thing because she taught him to, not because of her death. Although, I think she would have had a few words for him upon learning what he did to become Cap. I’m basing this on the Irish Moms I know. So many words.
And Superman is mostly this character, but occasionally you get lazy writers there, too. How many times has Lois Lane died?
It’s like when writers use rape badly to justify a woman being a badass. No woman needs to have been raped to be a bad ass. The fact that we exist in this world makes us bad ass already.
Or they use rape to demonstrate that a character is EVIL… Looking at you, Braveheart.
One writer commented that most title characters are men, and supporting characters need to be harmed to drive storylines, and since those heroic storylines belong to men, then ergo women are the one’s being killed and raped and tortured on paper, so the hero can have his “Noooo!” moment.
Which, as I’ve stated, is lazy writing. And endemic of the fact that we need more female title characters.
Pain is not the only motivation people have for doing things, neither is fear. An awful lot of people do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing.
I know, in a culture brought up on Charles Bronson movies, and Batman, it seems unlikely. But it’s true. People become heroes in real life for a whole lot of reasons. They become military or firefighters out of family tradition, a desire to protect or help people. People become doctors to help, or to make a lot of money, not gonna lie. People become social workers because they want to help. Maybe some do it because they had a fucked up childhood or early part of their life, too, but a lot of people do it to help.
Squirrel Girl isn’t a hero because of a tragic backstory.
Neither is Zephyr from Valiant comics.
The reasons people become heroes IRL are wide ranging and varied. Maybe make the reasons your fictional characters are heroes just as wide and varied, too.
*Jean’s storylines are just a big, giant mess really, because she dies, then she’s back and more powerful, then she dies, but it wasn’t her! Then there’s a clone, then… the clone dies, but not! Shitting hell.
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