Now that I have my definition for Women in Refrigerators, I think it would be interesting to look back at the last year or so (Infinite Crisis #1 on) of bad stuff that has happened to female characters in comics (okay, basically just superhero comics), and see if I think it falls into the category of “Women in Refrigerators.” Spoilers follow! Otherwise…
To refresh, I use a bipartite test to determine if Women in Refrigerators (WiR) has occured.
1. (Objective) A female character is killed/maimed/tortured/raped etc. for the main purpose of eliciting a desired reaction from a male character.
2. (Subjective) I do not believe that the same death/maiming/torture/rape would have occurred had the female character been a male.
So let’s begin!
Phantom Lady being killed
Why?/Why not? She was just one of the Freedom Fighters who were slaughtered.
Pantha getting her head punched off.
Why?/Why not? Just one of a bunch of deaths of Titans. It was pretty hokey, but it seemed pretty indiscriminate as to who was getting killed.
Why?/Why not? Jade’s death during Infinite Crisis was almost solely to make Kyle Rayner change as a character. He gave her her powers, so when she dies, he got the power back, which supercharged him, making him become Ion.
Batgirl becoming a villain
WiR? I say no.
Why?/Why not? I think you could stretch #1 and say that the main reason that Cassandra Cain was made a villain was to mess with Batman and/or Robin’s head. However, this is the same sort of silliness that has happened with all types of comic characters for ages, male and female. Heck, didn’t Jason Todd JUST come back as a villain? So I think it would have occurred if Cassandra Cain was a male character. Still, quite bad writing there.
Batgirl becoming a villain due to Deathstroke pumping her with chemicals.
WiR? I still say no.
Why?/Why not? This one is a lot closer to WiR, as you could make a good argument that the idea of Deathstroke doing it to specifically who he considers to be Batman’s “daughter” as being a sexist thing, but I think it is more a general thing. Batgirl was screwed by just being the most replaceable character in the Bat-titles, which you could argue is an example of sexism, in that female comics sell worse than comics starring men, but that is going way past WiR, I think.
Laurie Collins is killed.
Why?/Why not? Laurie Collins was a mutant student at Xavier’s School for Mutants. She was involved with a fellow mutant named Josh (his codename was Elixir). She was killed by a sniper in front of Josh, causing him to basically snap, leading him to gain new powers (his old powers were healing ones, he now gained powers that could KILL). The story in the comic for Laurie’s death was that the bad guys had a vision of her defeating them, but it is clear in the comic that the main purpose of her death was to cause Josh to snap, thereby advancing his character. And I don’t think the scene would have occurred with a male classmate of Josh’s.
Moondragon got pretty messed up during Annihilation
Why?/Why not? Nothing that happened to Moondragon seemed all that out of the ordinary for the series, where a number of characters were being similarly affected.
Isis killed by the Four Horsemen
WiR. Tough call, but I’m going with no.
Why?/Why not? The point of introducing Isis and Osiris was to give Black Adam his own Marvel Family, and then take them away from him and see what he’ll do. So to that point, part one is certainly fit. But since Osiris’ death was also involved, it seems a bit tough to say that Isis’ death had to be a female, since her brother was ALSO killed. Then again, it was HER death that made Adam go kill an entire country, while he was still hanging on to his sanity when it was just Osiris who was dead. Hmmm…it’s a tough one. I’m going with no WiR, but I’m willing to listen to opposite takes on it.
Batwoman was stabbed
WiR. I’m going with no.
Why?/Why not? I think it just seemed like it was a standard plot device. There could be an argument made that she was a WiR with a twist, as she was stabbed to elicit a specific response from Renee Montoya…and there’s definitely something to be said for that, but also, Batwoman got her own revenge in the comic, so I dunno…I mean, it’s not WiR because it is not done for a male character, but even if Renee Montoya was a male (and Batwoman wasn’t a lesbian), I don’t think it would fit.
Aunt May gets shot, goes into a coma
WiR: This is a tough one…it sure seems to fit, doesn’t it? I’m still saying no.
Why?/Why not?: This has all the trademark qualities of a WiR, in that May getting shot was solely to see what it would do to Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man. The only reason I am excluding it is because of the “wouldn’t happen with a male character” part, in that Spider-Man is probably the most famous example OF a character reacting due to a male character’s death, his Uncle Ben. So killing his Aunt years later seems to be a bit similar to Ben’s death, and I think it takes it out of the typical WiR paradigm.
Thanks, Mike, for the suggestion!
Feel free to point out some other examples that I have missed!!