Women in Refrigerators (or WiR) is a website that was created in 1999 by a group of comic book fans. The site features a list of female comic book characters that had been injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device within various superhero comic books. Also, the site seeks to analyze why these plot devices are used disproportionately on female characters.
The term "Women in Refrigerators" was coined by writer Gail Simone as a name for the website. It refers to an incident in Green Lantern #54 (1994), written by Ron Marz, in which Kyle Rayner the title hero comes home to his apartment to find that his girlfriend, Alex DeWitt, had been killed by the villain Major Force and stuffed in a refrigerator. In 2004, Marz revisited this scene. Green Lantern found what he thought to be his mother's severed head in his oven; this was later revealed to be the head of a mannequin.
The list is considered "infamous" in certain comic book fan circles. Respondents often found different meanings to the list itself, though Simone maintained that her, "... simple point (had) always been: if you demolish most of the characters girls like, then girls won't read comics. That's it!"
Women in Refrigerators Syndrome describes the use of the death or injury of a female comic book character as a plot device in a story starring a male comic book character. It is also used to note the depowerment or elimination of a female comic book character within a comic book universe. The term was coined in various forms via on-line discussions and articles. In one on-line article, comic book fan Lauren Dayap made mention of 'the girlfriend in the refrigerator syndrome' without explaining what the term meant. This is the closest reference linking the term 'Women in Refrigerators' to 'Syndrome' that exists on-line prior to June 2005. The terms Women in Refrigerators Syndrome and Girlfriend in Refrigerator Syndrome do not appear in the original writings on the topic at the 'WiR' website. The term 'Women in Refrigerators Syndrome' is used here strictly for clarity.
Cases of 'Women in Refrigerators Syndrome' deal with a gruesome injury or murder of a female character at the hands of a supervillain, usually as a motivating personal tragedy for a male superhero to whom the victim is connected. The death or injury of the female character then helps cement the hatred between the hero and the villain responsible. Kyle Rayner is a particularly cited example of this case, due to the common tragedies that befall women in his life.
Some fans believe the trend started when Gwen Stacy, girlfriend of Spider-Man, was killed by the Green Goblin and refer to the phenomenon as Gwen Stacy Syndrome.
The term also encompasses the depowerment of female comic book characters as a plot device. Examples include the loss of Negative Woman's powers, the maiming and depowerment of 1970s-era Legion of Superheroes member Dawnstar, and the torture of Black Canary in ''''. In the latter instance, the writer Mike Grell has stated that "Dinah Lance wasn't raped. Nope. NO WAY."
Writer Gail Simone coined the term "Women in Refrigerators" in early 1999 during on-line discussions about comic books with friends. With the help of her friends, Simone then developed a character list of superheroines who had been "killed, maimed or depowered." The list was then circulated via the Internet over bbs, e-mail and electronic mailing lists. Simone also e-mailed many comic book creators directly for their responses to the list.
Soon after the release of the list, many comic book fans and professionals responded. Initial reactions to the list came to Simone over e-mail. Some correspondents reacted with hostility at the creation of the list and assumed a radical feminist agenda on the part of Simone. Some responses were neutral and others were positive. Additionally, various arguments on the merits of the list were published on Internet comic book fan sites in early 1999. Different discussions developed regarding the use of gruesome injury, death and/or depowerment of friends and acquaintances of heroic comic book characters as a plot device.
Simone decided to put the list on-line and include many of the responses she received. Journalist Beau Yarbrough created the initial design and coding on the original site. Artist and business executive John Bartol edited the content. Robert Harris,Gay League - WHO'S WHO: The Scarlet Rob a librarian and comic book fan, contributed to site maintenance and updates along with fan John Norris. The idea for placing the list on-line originated with software developer Jason Yu, who also served as the original site host.Women in Refrigerators
Several contributors to the site and the original list later became comic book creators and entertainment industry professionals, including:
It should be noted original site editor and contributor Rob Harris was a long-time fan of the Legion of Superheroes, and created the Legion Academy student Nightwind (originally named Nightwing) through a fan submission to DC Comics. The character debuted in issue 12 of The Amazing World of DC Comics. The character was later renamed Berta Harris in honor of her creator. Robert Harris died in 2004. Nightwind is one of the characters from the original WiR list.
Responses to the list varied, some denying that it represented a trend, others affirming it. Some fans argued that the incidence of injurious plot devices crossed gender lines evenly. Similarly, others argued that, regardless of gender, the supposed death of long-running characters is a common occurrence in comic books. Frequently, these characters are "resurrected" due to either high popularity or authorial whim.
In response to that line of reasoning, content editor John Bartol wrote Dead Men Defrosting and argued that when male heroes are killed or altered, they are more typically returned to their status quo. According to Bartol, after most female characters are altered they are, "never allowed, as male heroes usually are, the chance to return to their original heroic states. And that's where we begin to see the difference."
Several comic book creators also replied, indicating that the list caused them to pause and think about the stories they were creating. Often these responses contained reasoned arguments for or against the use of death or injury of female characters as a plot device. A list of some responses from comic book professionals is included at the site.
Ron Marz's reply stated (in part) "To me the real difference is less male-female than main character-supporting character. In most cases, main characters, "title" characters who support their own books, are male. [...] the supporting characters are the ones who suffer the more permanent and shattering tragedies. And a lot of supporting characters are female.".
After 1999, development of the site largely stopped as the topic had seemingly been thoroughly covered. The original domain of WiR passed through several hands, all of whom maintained the WiR site as an archive. In late 2005, the last domain holder let the original domain expire. The domain was then taken over by a European adult entertainment company, much to the chagrin of the content creators.
Beau Yarbrough then registered a new domain, Unheardtaunts.com, and placed the original WiR site there (www.unheardtaunts.com/wir). This is the only version of WiR that is endorsed by the content creators.
Though the original list and website exist now as an archive, the term Women in Refrigerators continues to spark discussion in comic book fandom on the Internet. The term and the website continue to have an impact on the comic book subculture. In 2004, the plot of the mainstream superhero comic Identity Crisis centered around the rape and murder of a female character, resulting in a resurgence of the term on Internet fan sites.
The WiR content also often sparked discussion outside of comic book fandom. In 2000, several national newspapers ran articles that referenced the site. Some of those articles are still easily found on the Internet. The articles about WiR always generated discussion on the topic of sexism in pop culture and the comic book industry. This discussion often included healthy debate by those who believe sexism exists in those realms and those who believe it doesn't. There were many mainstream references to the site in the mass media. The references even trickled down to smaller mainstream media outlets. Some universities also list the content of 'WiR' as related to analysis and critique of pop culture.Popular Culture - COMIX AND COMIC BOOKS
The phrase has been acknowledged directly within superhero comics. In the 2006 comic The Battle for Blüdhaven #5 by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, Hal Jordan beats Major Force with a power ring-formed refrigerator. Also in 2006, the comic Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #4 by Grant Morrison featured a fight scene in which two female superhuman characters, Bulleteer and Sally Sonic, strike each other in turn with a real refrigerator. A similar possible allusion occurs in the finale of the first season of th television series Veronica Mars. This is most likely an ironic visualisation of the metaphor as -contrary to the common use of the motif- the female protagonist is neither depowered nor does the incident fuel a straightforward grudge among the male chararcters.
This article is based on "Women in Refrigerators" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Women+in+Refrigerators&action=history