Stuffed Into The Fridge: The Problem With Women

Okay. This week we are going to be discussing fridging. Never heard of it? Well, it is a common trope in comics, literature, film television etc. TV Tropes has a list of places where it occurs and it is defined as when a character is killed off in a particularly gruesome manner and left to be found. Additionally, when this occurs specifically to women in order to further the plot of another character, usually male. The term was also coined because a Green Lantern comic book character was once literally stuffed into a fridge after being killed…Sounds horrible, right? Well one would think so, but the lengthy list of television shows and movies it occurs in very clearly shows how this trope or plot device is used repeatedly.

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Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in The Dark Knight (Warner Bros)

Some examples of this trope in popular movies and television are Rocky, with Adrian’s death motivating him to fight again. Rachel in The Dark Knight is also an example, and her death actually serves as fuel for TWO male characters’ storylines. The trope has been used multiple times in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but also interestingly with Tara’s death the character’s storyline it effects is Willow’s (her girlfriend). Shay was killed on Chicago Fire only to cause pain to the two characters closest to her. Supernatural literally kills all the women on its show, which thrives on the pain and suffering of its two male characters. Anyway, the list is long and disheartening. My question is why? The examples given on TV Tropes are also probably only some of the examples of this, and more times than I expected male characters showed up and reversed this trope which I found equally as interesting. However, I don’t know if I know what to do with that. What I find hardest to grapple with is understanding why writers choose to torture or kill these characters when other storylines could move their characters forward. Also, why is it predominantly women we see this happening to on television? What adds to the uneasy feeling I have when I see this trope used is that the women most times do not feel like full well rounded characters (that in itself is a problem) and are often introduced very shortly before they die. Secondly, it narratively makes more sense-if pain and drama are the end goal-to hurt or kill characters the audience is already familiar with. Doing so allows for audience engagement to be higher because they are already familiar with the characters, while still creating similar effect.

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