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.
Aerith?
Fridged:
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? 

3 comments:

  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! :(

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    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.

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

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