Several years ago, comics writer Gail Simone introduced the term “women in refrigerators” as a way to describe women in comics who have been hurt or killed as a way to further a man’s pain. Since then, it’s entered the general geek vernacular as a way to describe any woman who ends up dead for manpain’s sake, and while more and more people are likely to call out The Powers That Be for writing women this way, it does remain an often-used trope. The whole premise of Supernatural revolves around two fridged women, Mary Winchester and Sam’s girlfriend Jess, and women regularly are hurt or die to make its leading men sad. (A short list: Anna, Sarah Blake, Pamela, Meg, Amy Pond, Jo, and Ellen, just to start us off.) Barry Allen’s origin story in the upcoming Flash series centers around his mother’s death. Rachel’s death in The Dark Knight was purest fridging, and so were Allison’s death in Teen Wolf, Frigga’s death in Thor: The Dark World, and Spock’s mom Amanda’s death in Star Trek XI.
The problem with this trope is that it reduces women from people with agency into objects that are acted upon; they go from characters who make choices to tools whose purpose is to make someone else sad or angry or motivated, and that propagates the idea that objectifying women is a legitimate storytelling technique. One interesting thing about this trope, though, is that it’s become so expected that writers have started to use it in a subversive and surprising way.
Spoilers for Arrow Season 2, Elementary Season 1, and How To Train Your Dragon 2 below the jump.