Women in Refrigerators
Type of site
|Created by||Daniel Merlin Goodbrey |
Women in Refrigerators (or WiR) is a website created in 1999 by a group of feminist comic-book fans that lists examples of the superhero comic-book trope whereby female characters are affected by injury, raped, killed, or depowered (an event colloquially known as fridging), sometimes to stimulate "protective" traits, and often as a plot device intended to move a male character's story arc forward, and seeks to analyze why these plot devices are used disproportionately on female characters.
The term "Women in Refrigerators" was coined by writer Gail Simone as a name for the website in early 1999 during online discussions about comic books with friends. It refers to an incident in Green Lantern #54 (1994), written by Ron Marz, in which Kyle Rayner, the title hero, 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. Simone and her colleagues then developed a list of fictional female characters who had been "killed, maimed or depowered", in particular in ways that treated the female characters as mere devices to move forward a male character's story arc, rather than as fully developed characters in their own right. The list was then circulated via the Internet over Usenet, bulletin board systems, e-mail and electronic mailing lists. Simone also e-mailed many comic book creators directly for their responses to the list.
The list is infamous in certain comic book fan circles. Respondents often found different meanings to the list itself, though Simone maintained that her simple point had always been: "If you demolish most of the characters girls like, then girls won't read comics. That's it!"
Journalist Beau Yarbrough created the initial design and coding on the original site. Technology consultant John Bartol edited the content. Robert Harris, a librarian and comic-book fan, contributed to site maintenance and updates along with fan John Norris. The idea for placing the list online originated with software developer Jason Yu, who also served as the original site host.
Simone received numerous e-mail responses from comic book fans and professionals. Some responses were neutral and others were positive. Additionally, arguments on the merits of the list were published on comic-book fan sites in early 1999.
Simone published many of the responses she received on the website.
Several comic book creators indicated that the list caused them to pause and think about the stories they were creating. Often these responses contained arguments for or against the use of death or injury of female characters as a plot device. A list of some responses from comic book professionals is included at the site. Marz's reply stated (in part) "To me the real difference is less male–female than main character-supporting character. In most cases, main characters, "title" characters who support their own books, are male. ... the supporting characters are the ones who suffer the more permanent and shattering tragedies. And a lot of supporting characters are female."
Dead Men Defrosting
In response to fans who argued that male characters are also often killed, content editor John Bartol wrote "Dead Men Defrosting", an article arguing that when male heroes are killed or altered, they are more typically returned to their status quo. According to Bartol's claim, after most female characters are altered they are "never allowed, as male heroes usually are, the chance to return to their original heroic states. And that's where we begin to see the difference."
Discussing the site in his book Dangerous Curves: Action Heroes, Gender, Fetishism and Popular Culture, Bowling Green State University professor Jeffrey A. Brown noted that while male comic book heroes have tended to die heroically and be magically brought back from the dead afterwards, female characters have been likelier to be casually but irreparably wounded or killed, often in a sexualized fashion. To support his claim, he cited the Joker shattering the original Batgirl's spine just for fun, resulting in her being written as a wheelchair user for over a decade. He also cites the torture and murder of Stephanie Brown by the villain Black Mask.
In popular culture
References in mass culture
In 2000, several national newspapers ran articles that referenced the site, generating discussion on the topic of sexism in pop culture and the comic-book industry. Some universities also list the content of Women in Refrigerators as related to analysis and critique of pop culture.
Within the comics medium, during the 2009 DC storyline "Blackest Night", Alexandra DeWitt was one of many deceased characters temporarily brought back to life as part of the Black Lantern Corps. While she appeared briefly, she was seen inside a refrigerator construct at all times.
Brian Tallerico of Vulture, when reviewing "The Whole World Is Watching", an episode of the 2021 live-action Disney+ miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, was critical of the death of Lemar Hoskins, a Black person, as an example of racial, rather than sexist, fridging, to further the story arc of John Walker, a White person.
In December 2018, Deadline Hollywood announced that Amazon Studios was developing a television series called Deadtown, an adaptation of the Catherynne M. Valente novel The Refrigerator Monologues. The story centers upon five recently deceased women who meet in a purgatory-like location called Deadtown, where they discover that their entire lives, including their deaths, were merely in service of providing emotional backstory for male superheroes.
Several contributors to the site and the original list later became comic book creators and entertainment industry professionals.
- Daniel Merlin Goodbrey – digital designer and underground comicbook author, creator of the hypercomic Six-Gun: Tales from an Unfolded Earth, and the iPod comic Brain Fist.
- Brian Joines – writer of the independent comic The 7 Guys of Justice and as of 2006 publishing new comics through Platinum Studios.
- Greg Dean Schmitz – creator of UpcomingMovies.com, AKA Greg's Previews, and columnist for Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes.
- Gail Simone – author of several comic books including Birds of Prey for DC Comics and Marvel's Deadpool.
- Comic book death
- The Hawkeye Initiative
- Portrayal of women in American comics
- Redshirt (stock character)
- Simone, Gail (March 1999). "Women in Refrigerators". LBY3. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Condon, Michael (October 2002). "The Fanzig Challenge". Fanzing. Retrieved January 11, 2006.
- Prowse-Gany, Brian (August 12, 2015). "Rise of the Female Superhero". Yahoo! News.
- Simone, Gail (March 1999). "The List". lb3.com. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Simone, Gail (March 28, 1999). "Email as of 4/28/99". LBY3. Retrieved January 11, 2006.
- "Who's Who: The Scarlet Rob". Gay League. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "Women in Refrigerators". lby3.com. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
- Simone, Gail; Bartol, John (Editors). "Fan Reactions". "Women in Refigerators". Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Simone, Gail; Harris Rob (Editors). "Responding Creators". Women in Refrigerators. LBY3. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- "Ron Marz responds". Women in Refrigerators. LBY3. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Bartol, John (March 1999). "Dead Men Defrosting". Women in Refrigerators. LBY3. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Brown, Jeffrey A. Dangerous curves: action heroines, gender, fetishism, and popular culture. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 175–6. ISBN 160473714X.
- "Letters: Wonder women". Dallas Observer. May 25, 2000. Archived from the original on September 3, 2000. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
- "Popular Culture". WSU.edu. Washington State University. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
- Moore, Perry. "Who cares about the death of a gay superhero anyway?". Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
- Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2 #46 (May 2010).
- Enlow, Courtney (April 2, 2021). "What Is Fridging? 'Law & Order' Gave Us Another Unfortunate Example Of This Tired, Sexist Trope". Your Tango. Archived from the original on April 2, 2021. Retrieved April 19, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Tallerico, Brian (April 9, 2021). "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Recap: Front Line". Vulture. Archived from the original on April 9, 2021. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
- Fleming Jr, Mike (December 7, 2018). "Amazon Sparks To Shauna Cross eOne Hourlong Female Superhero Saga 'Deadtown'". Deadline Hollywood.
- "Sixgun: Tales From An Unfolded Earth". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "Brain Fist". E-merl.com. August 7, 2007. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "Fan Reactions". Women in Refrigerators. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Weiland, Jonah (December 27, 2002). "'7 Guys of Justice' return this July in special giant-sized issue". Comic Book Resources.
- "Yahoo! Movies: About Greg's Previews". Movies.yahoo.com. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- "Yahoo! Movies - Greg's Previews". Movies.yahoo.com. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
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