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Women In Refrigerators

Women in Refrigerators is a trope recognized in comic books, originally in 1999 by a group of comic fans. It refers to the death or disempowerment of main female comic book characters to advance the plotline of a male character.
The name refers to Green Lantern character Alex DeWitt – the girlfriend of titular character Kyle Rayner – being killed by a series villain and unceremoniously shoved into a refrigerator for him to discover. Disposing of a female character by placing the woman in freezers or refrigerators is a long-recognized plot driver in many other forms of pop media, and serves to develop the main character (who is usually male) by having him confront the death of his girlfriend or close female associate. Forms of this ‘second character refrigeration’ are frequently utilized in many stories.
Given five minutes to think, most of us can remember a slew of television shows or movies, particularly of the action-adventure variety, where the male protagonist’s girlfriend or love interest is held hostage, terrorized, or otherwise mauled by the villain of the piece. The female character is thus reduced to a disposable tool that drives the male protagonist’s storyline, rather than being developed as a fully-formed, three-dimensional character in her own right, with her own motivations and story. Rachel in the Batman series, Lady Flash, Rogue from X-Men; the list goes on, and on, and on. Less actual protagonists and more pretty accessories for the male character, these women all exemplify the treatment that female characters tend to receive in pop culture. How often do you see a male comic book character brutalized or tortured in a villain’s lair, only to be rescued by a bad-ass woman? Not often.
The creation of the original Women in Refrigerators list caused many comic book authors to react with hostility, but many more to consider the short-shrift that they themselves had given their female characters. The phenomenon began an ongoing discussion in comic book circles about the treatment of female characters, which continues to this day. Since then there have been many more strong and independent female comic book superheroes, in the vein of Wonder Woman, Catwoman, and Tank Girl. Still, though, the trend is skewed toward male protagonists and their vulnerable female sidekicks and squeezes. Whether things have improved since the creation of the trope remains to be seen, but it certainly made many fans and creators more aware of the screaming, helpless lady in comic books.