Welcome to comics THORsday! Today we’re to talk about the problem of fridging women in comics. Representation of women in comics is a very delicate issue, mainly because it happens all over media and not only in comics. Women are used as devices to explain why heroes act in certain ways. But, from where does the word “fridging” comes from? Why do we say that women are put into fridges?
Let’s discover it!
Back in 1999 Gail Simone posted a list online detailing how many supporting female characters had been harmed or killed in mainstream superhero comics, just to make the hero do something, or just to “get rid of them.” The list was called “women in refrigerators” and it opened the debate on how female characters were treated within comics and how women representation within the media was only a device to cater the male audiences. Plots would be used only to put heroes into action, thus, transforming female characters into things to be disposed of. Women would be killed off or taken their powers and identities off in order to empower male superheroes and appeal to the male audience.
We can see fridging in action with the Green Lantern #54 (1994) and Batman “The Killing Joke” (1988) easily. Green Lantern finds the mutilated body of his girlfriend, Alex DeWitt, and it’s then when he decides to take action. In Batman, Barbara Gordon is tortured, raped and left onto a wheelchair by the Joker. In this case, her powers and identity have been taken away.
Did the authors forget entirely about the female audience? Or was just this a direct consequence of the dominant group letting their fantasies amok? Unchallenged stereotypes and representation of women across media can make belief that their images are those represented in them. Said in other words: stereotypes would become real.
While fridging is one of the hot topics for representation of women in comics, there are other collateral issues that are making the lines every now and then. How female superheroes are dressed on the pages of comics has also a huge impact on the audience. Nowadays we know that readers are almost half male half female. Thus, critics on their customs or how they are killed off can be not only heated but work as a backlash for comic producers. One example is the Spider-Woman cover by Milo Manara, where the superhero has an odd pose and is clearly showing her butt.
Despite fridging and still some critics on the representation of women in comics, some female superheroes have succeeded in representing the female figure in a correct manner. Examples like Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Captain Marvel and Spider Gwen are good news for the medium. Not only we can see more women in the pages of comics taking their chances like their male counterparts, they are also solidifying a new tendency for the comic book industry.
What do you think? Will fridging disappear? Will representation of women change for the better?
Ps: yes that burning gif over there is from Supernatural, a show which has a serious problem of fridging its female leading roles.
Sources and recommended readings:
- Scott McCloud, “Understanding Comics, the Invisible Art,” William Morrow Paperbacks 1994.
- Randy Duncan & Matthew J.Smith, “The Power of Comics. History, Form and Culture,” Bloomsbury, 2015.
Copyright: Images on this post (C) depepi.com (C) DC Comics (C) Marvel / Other images and Memes (C) by their owners.