5 votes

Compassion without respect: from distress to the refrigerator

Partially inspired by the Abduction as Romance topic.

Both the Damsel in distress and Women in refrigerators tropes exists heavily in both written and screen media, especially in the comic book world, where women are reduced to easy plot devices to tell a man's story.

Women are "important" in that they matter to a man, usually the hero. They are mothers, daughters, girlfriends, but nothing more. They are defined purely by their relationships to the hero. If they are depowered, maimed or murdered, the tragedy is in the hero's loss, not hers.

People, men and women, do get hurt and die in fiction and in reality, and I'm definitely not saying this cannot be done on the page. A guy grieving his girlfriend's death doesn't automatically make her a "refrigerator girl".

For example, Gwen Stacy, who may or may not have been accidentally killed by Spiderman in his attempt to save her. Her death, and Peter's reaction afterwards has always been very organic and real to me. Her death didn't feel frivolous, and readers felt the loss as much as Peter.

As for an example of a damsel/refrigerator girl, (there are too many to choose from), let's go with Mr. Freeze's wife, Nora, who is literally in a fridge. I'm pretty sure there's no even passing Batman reader who doesn't know Nora. But do we honestly know anything about her?

Thoughts? Any common damsel/refrigerator girl that you think actually shouldn't be classified as such?