Why Amazon’s Deadtown series is necessary for women in pop culture


Amazon is curating a women-centric superhero series that will help counter the hackneyed and, unfortunately, ever-prevalent women in refrigerators trope in productions.

Amazon Studios is developing Deadtown, which will focus on women empowerment despite the women in refrigerators trope coined by Gail Simone. Given how omnipresent fridging is in comics, television series, novels, and movies, Deadtown could be what popular media needs to tray the trope.

The series will focus on women superheroes who fall into the tragic trope, where they’re depowered, raped, killed, deprived of their basic autonomy, or put through any synonym for extraordinary and unnecessary trauma to help progress male heroes’ narratives in some way. It might seem difficult to put forth a show that focuses on dead heroes, but Deadtown is set in a purgatory realm for fridged women.

If the premise of the upcoming series sounds familiar, that’s because Deadtown is based on Catherynne M. Valente’s illustrated book The Refrigerator Monologues. However, Deadtown sets the televised scene in a more modern atmosphere, which is fitting seeing as fridged women are still a modern issue.

Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR..Gamora (Zoe Saldana)..Photo: Chuck Zlotnick..©Marvel Studios 2018

In the last year, Gamora’s on-screen death was one of the most tragically picturesque examples of the women in refrigerators trope. After being emotionally manipulated, kidnapped, and physically and mentally abused since she was a child, Gamora died both from abuse and by her abuser’s doing. Not only did she have a lifelong history of abuse, Avengers: Infinity War created the problematic implication that her abuser, Thanos, actually cared about her even though abusive people don’t care or love the people they’re harming. Because of her death, it propelled Thanos’ genocidal mission, which is characteristic of fridging.

Within an extension of Marvel-related films, Deadpool 2 has obviously been under scrutiny for its fridging controversy. While Gail Simone doesn’t think Vanessa’s death that was later retconned in the movie doesn’t constitute a fridging, Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds still recognizes why a lot of fans criticize Vanessa’s fate in the film despite her ultimate resurrection, thanks to some time travel.

Vanessa aside, Deadpool 2 still fridged Cable’s wife and daughter, an unnamed woman and Hope (Summers) respectively. His wife’s lack of identity further solidifies her fridging, stripping her of any form of identity, thus reducing her role in the film to solely being a plot device.

The demise of Cable’s family is what brought him to Wade’s timeline, provoking his attacks on Russell and ultimately his antagonist role throughout the plot of the film. Their lives were spared when the haphazard X-Force team convinced Russell (Firefist) to embark on the heroic path; however, that doesn’t omit that their pre-timeline tinkering deaths inspired nearly all of Cable’s actions.

Lando’s droid L3-37 from Solo: A Star Wars story. Screen shot via Star Wars/YouTube.

Then, there was Val in Solo: A Star Wars Story, who had less than 10 minutes of screen time in the film and was whittled down to a plot device where she killed herself to save her husband and his comrades. Val aside, there’s also L3-37’s fridging. She might not be a human woman, but the female droid was stripped of her free will when she was permanently booted into the Millenium Falcon’s navigation system (without her consent too) to help Lando and the other male protagonists.

Film aside, there’s also the death, fridging, or subsequent sexualization of Poison Ivy’s dead body in DC Comics’ Heroes in Crisis. Heroes in Crisis has murdered several beloved characters, men and women alike in its run; however, the cover art, edited or not, for issue no. 7 fetishized Pamela even after she died.

Of course, this is an abbreviated synopsis of all the women in refrigerators in 2018 alone. It shows that the treatment of female characters might have improved overall but fridging is still an issue in media.

Valente’s novella takes a humorous approach to six slain women heroes and girlfriends of heroes and how they cope with their deaths and mistreatment. We may see the same characters from the text, which were inspired by notable women in refrigerators throughout pop culture history.

In case you need a cheat sheet on which The Refrigerator Monologues (and thus, Deadtown characters, most likely) were inspired by which comic superheroes and girlfriends, we have the breakdown: Harley Quinn inspired Pauline Ketch, Mera inspired Blue Bayou, Jean Grey inspired Julia Ash, Gwen Stacy inspired Paige Embry, Alexandra Dewitt inspired Samantha Dane, and Karen Page inspired Daisy Green.

Also. We ranked each hero’s last words in Avengers: Infinity War (so get the tissues). light

As the Deadtown pilot is being developed by Shauna Cross, it’s uncertain how closely the series will resemble Valente’s novella. Given that Deadtown will take place in a modern setting, the characters in the Amazon series might not be or even resemble the characters in Valente’s book.

Perhaps the show will draw inspiration from more recent fridgings. If so, who do you think would make the cut?