Writing Philosophy: Fridging

We got some OJ, Soda, Purple Stuff, my girlfrie-… HOLY CRAP!

Today’s topic:
Fridging

So, what, am I going to write about what to put in your fridge now?

Well, funnily enough there IS something of a writing technique about what the contents of a character’s fridge tell about said character…

But no, the term “fridging” comes from a website:
Women in Refrigerators.

Written by the comic writer Gail Simone in 1999, the website discusses the Comic Book Trope where female characters are injured, raped, killed, or depowered as a plot device intended to move a male character’s story arc forward.

It even has a list.

The Trend

Now before some Men’s Rights Activists go harrass Gail Simone, I’d like to point to what she put in the actual website itself:

An important point: This isn’t about assessing blame about an individual story or the treatment of an individual character and it’s certainly not about personal attacks on the creators who kindly shared their thoughts on this phenomenon. It’s about the trend, its meaning and relevance, if any. Plus, it’s just fun to talk about refrigerators with dead people in them. I don’t know why.

Gail Simone, March 1999

So yeah, let’s talk about the trend like adults, shall we?

The name of Women in Refrigerators references a moment in Green Lantern #54 where Kyle Rayner, the titular Green Lantern, comes home to his apartment to find that his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, had been killed by the villain Major Force and stuffed into a refrigerator.

“Honey, this is not what I meant when I told you to stay in the kitchen!”

Some people will argue that male heroes get killed and depowered as well, but they kind of miss the point. Simply getting killed off isn’t the same as getting “fridged”. The main point is that the “fridged” character’s death is MAINLY used to further the story of the main character, who’s either the love interest, parent, sibling, mentor or best friend of the fridged character. The point is that their death is NOT meant to end THEIR story, it’s to FURTHER the story of their loved one.

Comparison

That of course still means there ARE male characters who are fridged, but there’s a MUCH higher percentage of fridged characters who are female characters, which is what the trend is about.

By comparison, MOST male superheroes die in a heroic self-sacrifice that’s meant to be admired (albeit tragically).

When Superman died in “The Death of Superman” (Oops, did I spoil it?), his death wasn’t done to further Lois Lane’s story. Lois Lane basically became the woman in mourning throughout the next issues just to remind the reader that “Yes, Superman is dead” up until Superman returns back to life in “The Return of Superman” (Now I DEFINITELY spoiled it).

To compare this to ACTUAL fridging, when Gwen Stacy died in The Night Gwen Stacy Died (Okay, to be fair, the title only got revealed on the final page on this one) it’s specifically so that Spider-Man’s story would be furthered as he has an additional tragedy to overcome. It leads to the character development of both Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson as they change after Gwen Stacy’s untimely death.

Mind you, The Night Gwen Stacy Died is still one of my most favourite Spider-Man stories. This is not a case of “Trope bad! COMIC BAD! RAWR!!!”. But it’s still part of a trend where female characters are generally considered disposable compared to their male counterparts.

Of course, it’s also kind of inevitable when most Comic Book Heroes ARE male, meaning if you’re gonna kill off the love interest, USUALLY it’s a female character.

One of the few examples of a male character getting fridged, even if it’s a reversal in an alternate universe where Gwen Stacy became Spider-Woman

Female Super Heroes usually either stay single or have ANOTHER Super Hero as their love interests, which makes it less likely that they’ll have a male love interest who gets killed off. And if they DO get killed off, it’s usually either because the love interest is one of the rare ones that are civilians or it’s done similarly to The Death of Superman where his death is seen as a tragically admirable self-sacrifice over him being a victim.

But it sells!

Now, you could look at it like a capitalist.
“Women in danger sells more than men in danger”.

It’s why when a Super Heroine dies it’s usually that she’s a VICTIM of a powerful (usually male) Super Villain, while when a Super Hero dies it’s some kind of tragic (but badass) Last Stand™ against a powerful Super Villain (and usually leads to the Super Villain’s death as well).

But yeah, you realize that reasoning like that is what led to the Comic Book Industry becoming a toxic place for women to be in, right? You can’t exactly put the fault on THEM for being less likely to enjoy a medium where Women die as plot devices while Men die as heroes.

Conclusion

Now, I’d like to point out something that Gail Simone added in a later revision on the website:

Also, the list as included here needs some revision, since some of these characters have seemingly changed status since last year. Maybe people are listening?

GAil Simone

The term of fridging has been circling the internet ever since the website got launched, and writers have become aware of the trope.

It made them more careful about fridging. Either the female characters die admirably like heroes, or they actually try to be more creative about causing the male characters emotional pain instead of killing off the love interests.

Fridging still happens, of course, but you know what? That’s okay. You shouldn’t feel limited in such a way that you now REFUSE to kill off female characters to further a male character’s story. As long as you know that it’s a bit of a cliché.

Nothing is stopping you from having a villain looking like Snidely Whiplash either, but people USUALLY don’t do that because it’s cliché. That’s the same case with fridging, really.

I don’t know about you, but this guy seems very trustworthy to me.

Also, you know, fridge some male characters every now and then to balance things out. I think there’s some space next to the OJ.

Published by Huy Minh Le

Huy Minh Le is a Video Game Enthusiast, Movie Lover, Writer, Content Marketeer and regular TvTropes reader! His studies in Game Design, Art, and Writing has led to a very creative, yet analytical mind.

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