It’s 2019, Can We PLEASE Stop “Fridging” Women?
A few weeks ago, I gave a glowing review of Cold Blood Samurai #1, going so far as to call it “the best debut of 2019.” I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was really looking forward to what came next for the anthropomorphic samurai epic.
Unfortunately, what came next was horribly disappointing.
In flashbacks meant to reveal the unnamed lead character’s motivation to help villagers fight off an evil ganglord named Gnarled Shell, the lead character’s girlfriend, Akio, commits suicide to avoid being raped.
Akio, notably the only female character to appear through two issues, was a prostitute who “belonged” to Gnarled Shell. On the day she was supposed to be rescued by Cold Blood Samauri‘s hero, she is offered to westerner “friends” of her owner. These westerners proceed to talk about the ways they plan to defile Akio, while arguing over who gets to “do her” first. She puts up a small fight, before stabbing herself to death. The hero arrives moments too late, and Akio dies in his arms.
Her death propels the “hero” into an ongoing conflict with Gnarled Shell. That’s the only reason Akio gets to exist at all. It’s the textbook definition of “fridging.”
It’s been 20 years since Gail Simone coined the term, “Women in Refrigerators,” to describe the death of a female character for the purpose of motivating a male protagonist. She compiled an alarmingly long list of female characters who had been murdered, raped, or injured to advance the story of a male protagonist. In doing so, she added fuel to an ongoing conversation about the treatment of women in comics that has impacted the comic industry, and storytelling, for the better.
At best, “fridging” is lazy writing that comics are better off without.
At worst, it sends a clear message that female characters are less important than the advancement of a male character. It’s toxic storytelling in a space that has never done a good job of welcoming female readers. It’s also harmful to an industry that struggles to find a large reader base among a demographic that constitutes half of the human population.
It’s 2019. There are literally adult comic fans who weren’t born when this was first called out as an issue. It’s fair to expect writers, artists, editors, and publishers to know better by now.
To be honest, I was really rooting for a new comic from an upstart publisher like Action Lab to be a breakout hit. It’s disappointing that the creators, editors, and publisher would allow the story to go down this path.
Comic fans should expect better. Comic creators should do better. It’s been long enough.