FRIDGING: A Serious Talk About Women in Fiction

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for The Mummy (2017), The Dark Knight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Thor: The Dark World. The last three have been out for a while so you probably have seen them already if you care. Still, just a warning!

Hello, everybody. Today I’m going to talk about something that’s only partially book-related. And quite frankly, that might happen more often. I love movies just as much as books. I’m a media person in general. So I’m sorry if people have a big problem with the concept of me talking about movies and TV as well.

Well… actually, nah, I’m not really sorry.

But I have to talk about this because it’s something that really chaps my ass, really burns my bacon, really twists my knickers. See, I had the misfortune of being dragged to see The Mummy yesterday, and let me tell you, that’s an hour and a half of my life I’m never going to get back. I could have been watching Wonder Woman again. I sat there staring at Tom Cruise’s ugly mug knowing that somewhere, in that very same building, people were staring at Gal Gadot and Robin Wright. It just wasn’t fair. At least I didn’t pay for it.

Anyway. The whole time I was watching the two (count ’em: two) female characters in that sausage fest of a movie, I was utterly bothered, and it took a while for me to realize exactly why I was bothered. These two women, both of them, they weren’t people. They weren’t fleshed-out characters with strong personalities. Ahmanet is a two-dimensional villain who spends the whole movie chasing after Tom Cruise so she can turn him into Set and have a buddy, or a fuck buddy, or whatever, and Jenny was a great character for probably the first minute and a half after she was introduced, afterwards doing a complete one-eighty and also becoming weirdly fixated on Tom Cruise and forgetting that she had her own agenda. I don’t even remember his character’s name, because there was very little acting involved. I’m not even sure they gave him a script.

There are spoilers for the movie beyond this point, but honestly, you shouldn’t spend any money on it, so I wouldn’t really care if I was you.

Jenny spends a significant chunk of the movie playing out the Stuffed Into The Fridge trope. A trope is basically a tool used in fiction, a plot device. Every work of fiction is made up of tropes. The character of female sidekick is itself a trope. As is the sexy Egyptian queen. The Stuffed Into The Fridge trope became famous in a Green Lantern comic storyline of old. Whatever Green Lantern it was (I think it was Kyle Rayner, I could be wrong) came home to find his girlfriend chopped up by the bad guy and stuffed into his refrigerator. This gave him enough man-pain to really get his ass in gear and beat the villain.


Gail Simone, a female comic book writer, later coined the term ‘fridging’ in regards to this sort of plot device. It occurs when a female character is killed, tortured, raped, or otherwise traumatized for the sole purpose of affecting the male main character. Watch, I can make one up on the spot and it doesn’t sound that weird: Undercover Vigilante has a hot girlfriend. Bad Guy somehow discovers Undercover Vigilante’s secret identity, and kidnaps Girlfriend. He takes Girlfriend to Secret Lair and ties her up, maybe has some mooks point a gun at her head. Vigilante comes to rescue her, but it’s too late. Bad Guy waits for him to come into the room before killing Girlfriend, delighted by the way Vigilante crumples and despairs. Sound familiar? It’s happened so many times it makes my head hurt. And yeah, it’s happened the other way around, too, but not very significantly. 9/10 times the one being fridged is a woman, and 9/10 times she doesn’t really have anything to do with the story except for A) being Hero’s girlfriend, and B) launching his Man Pain.

This isn’t a trope reserved solely for girlfriends. In fact, the very same villain did the same damn thing to Green Lantern’s mother, shutting her up inside an oven. Green Lantern writers really need to get their shit together, quite frankly.

Still don’t see the issue? Let’s look at some other examples.

1. Rachel Dawes (The Dark Knight)


This is seen as being arguably the best superhero movie ever made. And yet from a feminist standpoint it’s awful. The only significant female character in the first two movies is Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s (movie-exclusive) childhood friend who grows up with a big ole lady boner for him. And vice versa. Now, in The Dark Knight, Rachel starts seeing Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face (although this is before that, so I guess he’s just One-Face for now). Harvey definitely needs a reason to become evil, and Bruce definitely needs a reason to stand in the rubble and stare down at the ground dejectedly. So what are we gonna do? The Joker’s gonna blow Rachel to smithereens, of course!

Harvey gets hit with the blast as well and ends up with his extra face. And man, it is not pretty. But it’s not really his face that freaks him out, it’s Rachel’s death, how unfair it was, making him obsessed with flipping his dumb little coin. So both he and Bruce are going full testosterone-fueled rage tantrum. And somehow, Christopher Nolan could think of no other way to turn Harvey Dent into Two-Face other than killing… pretty much the only woman in the movie.

How I’d fix it: Quite frankly, I’d get rid of Rachel altogether (stay with me here). It’s clear that the purpose of her entire character is to act as a big fridge unit for Bruce’s man-pain. She has no purpose other than to be in danger, give Bruce valuable but shallow life lesson lectures, and eventually die to tip both Bruce and Harvey over the edge. Were it up to me, I would replace her with a canon female character (why not have Selina from the very beginning and not just cram her in the last movie?). Maybe a steamy fling between Bruce and Selina before he knows she’s Catwoman, that ends badly when he does find out. That’s some angst for ya. Even more angsty, in my humble opinion, because now he has to fight her, someone he used to (and still does) care about. As for Harvey, shit, I’d be pissed enough if the Joker bombed me and my face got blown half off without the dead girlfriend part. I think that’d make a supervillain out of anyone.

2. Jenny Calendar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)


Ah, Buffy. One of the best shows to ever grace television, even to this day. It made an entire generation of girls, including myself, feel awesome and powerful. But even a show as feminist (for its time) as this had its major flaws. One of the biggest is this woman here. Jenny Calendar. A computer genius, a Romani techno-pagan who’s really the first major female role model Buffy and Willow have. She also strikes up a romance with Buffy’s Watcher, Giles, resident hot old librarian.

But when Buffy’s creepy vampire boyfriend goes from Angel to Angelus, from brooding but good to crazy and evil, she’s the first major character he targets, on account of her knowing exactly how to beat him and get his soul back. So he can go back to being brooding and mildly creepy. So what does he do? He offs her, of course. And what was the purpose of it, exactly? The season would have progressed nearly exactly the same if she had lived. To show how evil Angelus is? I think we got that by the way he strung up Willow’s dead goldfish. Unnecessary.

How I’d fix it: Don’t kill her, Angelus. Turn her into a vampire. Giles gets all his man angst, but Jenny becomes an active player on the antagonists’ side instead of just being fridged and turned into a martyr. Then, when Willow eventually performs the spell on Angelus to restore his soul, she does it on Jenny as well. Angel still dies by Buffy’s hand, but Jenny becomes the new team vampire and pulls Giles into the type of romance he and the rest of the Scoobies criticized Buffy for. Some perspective for you, Rupert.

3. Frigga (Thor: The Dark World)


A boy’s best friend is his mother. Alright, probably a bad quote to use here. But by the time Thor and The Avengers are done, Thor and Loki can pretty much only agree on one thing, and that’s that they both love their momma. But they still hate each other, and they need to work together! So how are we going to make sure they find some common ground and join forces?

Let’s kill mom!

Yeah, that’s right. These two grown-ass men could not find any other way to put aside their differences to literally save the world unless their mother died while saving Thor’s girlfriend (who I love, don’t get me wrong) and brought them together in grief. The writers could think of no other feasible way for Thor and Loki to work together except to kill the woman who raised them. Loki isn’t a complete fucking idiot. He knows there would be advantages to helping Thor fight Malekith. Defeat of Malekith would mean a chance for Loki to rise to power again himself. But nah, better make it out of revenge.

How I’d fix it: Oh, god, how would I? This whole movie is just a mess, honestly. Maybe just, I dunno, have Frigga succeed in protecting Jane without being murdered, go and talk to Loki herself, seeing as she’s the only person he listens to, and persuade him to go with Thor. Sure, he’d end up doing it for the wrong reasons, but Loki’s a total slut for approval of any kind, let’s be real.

I’m unsure how to end this entry, except for stop killing women if the only reason you’re doing it is to make your main dude sad. Kill them for a reason. Have them make a difference, take an active role, be a genuine tragedy. Kill them with the goal of affecting the audience, not the male leads.

I’ll see y’all next week for Top 5 Wednesday!

♥ Kell


One thought on “FRIDGING: A Serious Talk About Women in Fiction

  1. Pingback: HEROES NEED DISPOSABLE WOMEN: The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente | TREAT YO SHELF

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