“Women in refrigerators” is a comic book trope that denotes female characters who are injured, depowered, or killed as a plot device. It’ll usually propel the main character – usually a male – to spring into action.
Gail Simone, inspired by a Green Lantern comic in which the titular character finds his dead girlfriend literally stuffed in a refrigerator, coined the term. Simone would go on to create a list of instances in which female characters have been injured or worse as a plot device. You can find the list here.
Two notable examples that spring to mind are Batgirl and Gwen Stacy. Batgirl’s alter ego, Barbara Gordon, was shot, paralyzed, and implied raped by The Joker to torture Commissioner Gordon. Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker/Spiderman’s first love, is thrown from a building. Despite Spiderman catching her, she still dies from the whiplash.
The trope has made its way into other forms of popular culture, especially with the explosion of comic book movies. In The Dark Knight The Joker blows up Bruce Wayne’s love, Rachel Dawes. The death was a plot device to push Harvey Dent into madness and reaffirm Bruce Wayne’s commitment to the Batman cowl and capturing The Joker. Gwen Stacy shared the same fate as her comic-book counterpart in The Amazing Spiderman 2. In Thor: Dark the World, Thor’s mother is murdered in order to create a reason for Thor and Loki, a villain, to join forces and stop the forgetable bad guy.
Enter Jessica Jones
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the newest superhero entity to get the live-action adaptation treatment. Critically, it has been a success. I saw it and I enjoyed it better than its predecessor, Marvel’s Daredevil. It’s also the second comic book show this year to feature a female lead, next to Supergirl on CBS.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones is one the few shows on air that has a female showrunner. This is especially important when you realize the themes that this show explores; Rape, consent, and trauma. The show also features a lot of female characters that range a gamut of female identities. The show is incredibly progressive, even featuring an abortion as a result of rape.
Hope Schlottman, introduced in episode 1, is a victim of mind control. She kills her parents as a result in front of Jessica. Jones, who’s already been a victim of mind control vows to save Hope from life in prison. Hope is the embodiment of Jones’s guilt since everything that happened to Hope is a result of Kilgrave’s hunt for Jessica.
***Spoiler Alert*** In AKA 1,000 Cuts we see two major deaths, each plot-points created to drive characters into action. The first death we see is Hogarth’s wife, who has been mind controlled to kill her estranged spouse with “1,000 cuts.” She is killed by Hogarth’s side-chick (I forgot her name) in an act of self-defense. And, then more shockingly, Hope Schlottman commits suicide in order to free Jessica of her guilt and commit to killing Kilgrave.
And it took some time for it to strike a nerve with me. It wasn’t until my partner pointed out how pointless Hope’s death was that I realized the writers stuffed Hope in a refrigerator. She died to commit Jessica into avenging her death. She died in order to make Jessica’s already rich and troubled past even more complex.
And it was a disservice to an otherwise wonderful show. The show that has made such huge, progressive leaps in the superhero genre took a big step back in that episode.
What are your thoughts on Hope’s death? Should the writers have avoided it? Can we as an audience overlook it?