Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fridging Women, part 1 (AKA what is Fridging? and why is it problematic?)

Oh, Fridging.  Oh, Sweet Cosmos Fridging.

Welcome to what is easily one of the most controversial ideas in "Gender Politics in Fridging."

Let's define some terms.

"Fridging" (Short for "Women in Refrigerators") Refers to an act where the villain kills, maims, depowers, or rapes someone close to the hero in order to break the hero's spirit and attempt to make the hero chase him.

It comes from a "Green Lantern" comic (1994) where Hal Jordan comes home to find his girlfriend killed by one of his villains, possibly dismembered, and stuffed into a fridge.

Gail Simone, a well respected writer for DC comics, read it and realized there was a very large pattern here, so she began to pull together a list of women in comics who are killed/maimed, etc by the villains in order to manipulate the male heroes.  (While it can happen to male heroes, they tend to come back with stronger powers.  Females tend to stay dead) 

One of the earliest examples in Comics is...

Gwen Stacy.
And there is really a long list, and it happens in all media, including video games.
Her death serves no purpose in the over game narrative OTHER then to motivate the characters (especially Cloud) in addition, it was not a self sacrifice (even if she did know that she would probably die) and she did not put up a fight.  It... happened.

And why is this problematic?  It turns a female character (who - as a character- should be fully fleshed out with her own ideas, dreams, skills, and emotional and character arc)  into someone who exists solely for the male character's arc. They exist only to propel the main character forward.  We don't know if Aerith wanted to be a teacher or a scientist, or a mom.  And even if we did find (Like we probably did with Gwen, I haven't read her comics) the simple act that she was killed off to promote Spider-man's arc NEGATES any dreams she may have had because she did not die on her own terms or for her own arc.  It was all for Spider-man's. 

Start looking over your old games.  See who dies and why.  Is it to promote their own story? Or someone else's? 


  1. I've never really thought about "fridging" before; I've heard of it but I didn't understand what it was. That was a great analysis!

    In defense of Aerith's death, supposedly that wasn't written into the story because she's a woman or a plot device. The writers knew they wanted one of the protagonists to die in the game, but at the time, they had only thought up Cloud, Barret, and Aerith. Cloud was the hero and the main playable character, so he couldn't die, and they felt that Barret would be too obvious, so they went with Aerith. They didn't want to give it any huge purpose either; it was meant to shock and motivate gamers as much as Cloud & Friends, and it was written that way because the crew felt that it represented a more realistic view of death. Not dramatic and heroic, but sudden, unexpected, and unfair.

    Here's the link: http://www.ff7citadel.com/press/int_egm.shtml

    But yeah, in general, I agree with you; this is not a good trope. Kingdom Hearts does this too, with Kairi and Namine (although that was subverted) and Xion. But Aqua's avoided that so far, thankfully. I wonder if this happens in Disney movies much...I don't think it does...well, except for the infamous death of Bambi's mom! :(

    1. I still count it as fridging though, I knew (and I've talked about) that fact before hand. With Barret, if he had died, he would have died fighting. Aerith doesn't. Fridging can be tragic, I didn't like Aerith and I had to stop playing for a bit, and look it does work sometimes but it is something to really keep an eye on, like the Bechdel test.

      But while the Bechdel test has the written in concept that there are good works that can refute it and there are not very good works that follow it (AKA Stahlag 17 vs Lesbian porn) Fridging may be individually sad but is not really justifiable in the overview of the concept.

      In other words, Aerith is sad, but she's still fridged.

  2. That's Kyle Rayner, not Hal Jordan.

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  4. Ok, but it's not called "the amazing Gwen Stacy" it's called "the amazing Spider-Man" which makes all other characters expendable... Even if just for the purposes of moving along the story. The writers don't need a reason to kill off a character. In some cases they kill of the main character (Superman died). These are the stories being told. In the alternate universe Gwen Stacy got bit by the radioactive spider and became Spider-Gwen... And Peter Parker died. I think people are trying to look for something that isn't there. Want a strong female Heroine... Write it... Or read the ones that are already out there... Stop trying to change already existing stories over some equality bullshit. Don't like the stories that are out there? Don't read em

  5. I don’t see this as a thing ... especially in comic books. Super heroes are just that, super. Most of them cannot be beaten by any normal means, so the super villains do super villainy things like killing loved ones. If they can’t kill the hero, they can take away their reason to live and maybe their reason to fight. It’s also common in real life to desire a disproportionate response to an offense. It makes me think of crime bosses not just killing someone that wronged them but their friends and whole families. Killing entire families goes back to ancient times to erase bloodlines and eliminate the worry of a relative seeking revenge or in the case of a usurper to wipe away any claim to the throne.

    As far as Aerith goes, I thought she was intentionally joining with the lifestream in order to stop the meteor that Sephiroth cast down to destroy the planet.

  6. ^

    Missed the point entirely... This has nothing to do with killing entire families to eliminate a bloodline, nor is it about side characters being virtually worthless in comparison to the main. It's about a lack of creative originality. This coincidentally high frequency to fail at giving female characters justifiable story arcs, equal to those given to male counterparts. No one remembers them for any addition to the story other than being a painful punishment. Why are brothers, fathers, male friends, etc. not used just as frequently? Dare I even suggest male love interests?

  7. I think the worst cases of fridging in pop culture is found in supernatural it has murdered female characters off purely as a plot device since episode one.

  8. So was it fridging when Luke Skywalker's aunt and uncle are killed in Star Wars: A New Hope. The event is not discussed as fridging or offensive. Is fridging offensive when it happens to females or is it just always wrong in any case.