It’s the Women Write About Comics blog carnival’s first week!
The theme, which was decided by vote, is Women In Refrigerators. Do you know what that is?
Here’s the source. It’s from 1999 and the gist is that Gail Simone (who’s now a fan-favourite comics writer) noticed that in comics, specifically, women tended to die in order for men to experience character growth or interesting plot arcs. That is, the continuation of the old old old old really old trope of “men are main, ladies are decoration” was playing out into the end game of “men live, women die”.
When I realized that it was actually harder to list major female heroes who HADN’T been sliced up somehow, I felt that I might be on to something a bit … well, creepy.
It’s named for a scene in a Green Lantern book where the male protagonist opened his fridge to see his dead girlfriend literally inside it. I don’t know whether she was folded or chopped.
That was 1999; this is 2012. In comics-time that’s could represent anything between seven and two and a half years, but in real life it’s thirteen. How do we feel about Women in Refrigerators today?
I have no reason to lie, so: when this was named as the first theme, I felt a mild chagrin.
There’s a post on scans daily from November last year that features a page and a half from the comic Generation Hope. It’s here, if you’d like to see it at the source. I’ve nicked the picture and it’s below. Of course, stupid photobucket has made it little, so you may have to squint.
There was a minor ruckus in the comments section – which isn’t as common as it was. Some people thought Hope was being ignorant, rude and arrogant. Some people (like the OP, and like myself) thought that Hope had a pretty solid point. I’ll certainly concede that she is igorant, and that her delivery is imperfect. But the basic point? Yeah.
My opinion of Women In Refrigerators is that it was absolutely necessary. Simone and team were brave and bold to publicise what they noticed and it’s a horrible, horrible (lazy)trope that needed to be identified and spoken about. It needed to become a meme or a buzzword and comic book feminism owes a lot to the.. event? as a whole.
But despite basic differences to the subjects we’re talking about, I’m with Hope. I don’t think it is, as a marching banner, overly useful right now. To me, anyway.
At this point, I think it’s too easy* to forgive a well written example for being good** and too easy to shrug off a badly written one for being just pulp trash, it probably won’t even stick as canon. I think it’s too easy to use (or just to hear) the phrase in the way that “Mary Sue” became corrupted and near-meaningless. I think we’ve just about used it up.
I think it’s too hard to count percentages and that examples are too haggle-able. I think that comic book fans are too used to giant forum threads niggling about minutiae that there’s almost no hope of getting individual cases taken seriously, and that now that WiR is established as an official thing there are so many more places to thrash out that I don’t have the will or the enegry to spend time discussing about who died for what and whether or not it was art or prejudice or why a creator probably didn’t mean to offend but just wanted to tell an affecting story.
I’m not trying to argue that people should stop noting when female or minority characters get killed or tortured in order to further a man’s journey/at a greater rate than male ones/in a sexualised fashion.
I just.. I find the idea of returning to WiR as the benchmark for ladies-in-comics-issues downhearting. Maybe no-one’s actually asking for that?
On the original site, Simone makes the point repeatedly that her list was patchy, and that the existance of the trope was a question, and that this is an amateur project about mights;
This isn’t about assessing blame about an individual story or the treatment of an individual character and it’s certainly not about personal attacks on the creators who kindly shared their thoughts on this phenomenon. It’s about the trend, its meaning and relevance, if any.
That kind of unsteady ground is too defence-based, for me. Arguing WiR I so-often feel like I’m grasping for approval. Going through the comics I own and looking at what I think are examples of a fridging, or making a point about how it’s bad for ladies to die all the time, or..? I just don’t want to do it. I want something NEW, I want to move forward, and I don’t want the first thing that people think of when it comes to gender equality and progression in superhero books to be something from THE LAST CENTURY.
I don’t feel like I have anything to add to Women In Refrigerators. It’s still relevant, and it’s still important that it happened and that everything it was remains for posterity, but I don’t think it’s the best way to continue to talk about the problem it highlighted.
Is this girl-on-girl hate? Am I disrespecting the legacy? Am i just giving up too easily? I really hope not and I don’t think so. Since it got voted up it’s clear a lot of you have something to say about where it’s gone and how it is. I’m looking forward to reading those.
I think there are enough of us being regularly vocal that establishing new outposts is more of a priority*** than making sure the old base is still shored up and expanding.
To finish, massive thanks and general admirations to Lady In Chief on this carnival, she oft known as the Megs Benedict, found here on twitter. Looking forward to future go-arounds! Sorry to be such a bummer on this one..
* For feminist commentator or non-feminist audience member
** Such as, for example, the treatment of Alice in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. This is a novel rather than a book, but: excellent story, shat all over female character. It worked, but daaaaaarn. Which do I pick? I could’t decide, so I didn’t talk about it.
*** This is not, I hope, one of those “why make a fuss about x when y is so much more of a core issue??” shamefests. :/