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Was Elektra's death "fridging"?
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Dimetre
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Joined: 16 Feb 2006
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Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 5:24 pm    Post subject: Was Elektra's death "fridging"? Reply with quote

This is something that came up in the Book Club's current exploration of Elektra: Assassin.

For those unfamiliar with the term "Woman in Refrigerator," take a look at this website from the 1990s: http://lby3.com/wir/

Having now read Gail Simone's motivation for creating that site in days of yore, I guess Elektra's death does count as fridging, because she's a female character in comics and she died. However, for years I was under the misconception that "fridging" referred to a female character in comics whose only purpose was to move the male protagonist's story forward by dying. I think Elektra did much more than that, so I didn't consider her death as "fridging."

Now, the sheer fact that Simone was able to put together such a list is a big problem. The obvious solution is to put out more books with female protagonists, and I think that at least Marvel has gotten better at that. I also think there are more female fans in comic book stores these days, and writers seem to be more conscious of that.

I am writing this less than a week after Secret Empire #7 came out, so that's ironic I suppose.

What do the rest of you think? Does Elektra deserve to be listed as a woman in a refrigerator? Do you think things have changed?
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had always thought the trope was about more than just killing female characters (if it was, both Elektra and the character in Secret Empire 7 would obviously count). Like you, I thought it was about killing off a female character for the purpose of motivating a male character. If so, Secret Empire 7 definitely would not count.

For Elektra, I think it's tricky. I do think she had an arc, but it was also an arc that centered around her love for Matt. The whole point was to tease her with redemption but, at best, show that she was essentially capable of "weakness." She doesn't spare Foggy because she decides killing is wrong. She spares Foggy because he is connected to her time in college with Matt. And, when she's recovering from this emotional impact, she is attacked and eventually overpowered by Bullseye. Her death is intended more for its impact on Matt as he holds her in his arms and then, as he drops Bullseye off the rooftop.

That being said, she's a noir trope character. She does get development but she's still a secondary character and it's unrealistic to expect her to get as much motivation as the main character. Given that, the fact that her life and death in this story can exist as an independent character arc (even if it's heavily influenced by the more important main character's arc) makes her death about more than the main character's story.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can truly answer this question beyond "maybe."
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james castle
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I dunno, I think it has to be a resounding "yes!". She's introduced, established as a major and important love of Daredevil's and then killed by his greatest foe! It doesn't get a lot more fridgey than a shot of the hero hugging the grave of his dead girlfriend.

That said, as Simone notes on her website:

Quote:
An important point: This isn't about assessing blame about an individual story or the treatment of an individual character and it's certainly not about personal attacks on the creators who kindly shared their thoughts on this phenomenon. It's about the trend, its meaning and relevance, if any. Plus, it's just fun to talk about refrigerators with dead people in them. I don't know why.


Whereas the trend is definitely of concern the concept isn't supposed to be an attack on any on instance. The fact is that loss is a great motivator plot wise and the greater the loss the bigger the motivation. Heck, Elektra's dad was "fridged" to motivate her!

So, yeah, I think Elektra's death is an example of the trend. It's made better though given the expansion and importance of the character after her death so it's not the worst example by a long shot.

The death of Karen Page, on the other hand, IS the worst example. She was bumped off for shock value alone. Kevin Smith is a hack.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would you say Bullseye was his greatest foe prior to killing off Elektra or because of it?
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Dimetre
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike Murdock wrote:
Would you say Bullseye was his greatest foe prior to killing off Elektra or because of it?

I think Bullseye probably elevated himself to Daredevil's greatest foe through Miller's earlier stories like "Devils" and "Gangwar", although that latter story made Kingpin a hell of a lot cooler too. Prior to that, I'm not sure who stood out amongst Daredevil's rogue's gallery. The Owl? Death Stalker? Killgrave? Mr. Fear?
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Of the recurring villains, I'd probably say The Owl. I think there's a strong argument for the Jester as well. Killgrave might have had the most significant arc, being responsible for Heather's father's death and learning Matt's secret identity. Death Stalker probably had the most screentime, but he was also deliberately killed off, so I'm not counting him.
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james castle
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Bullseye was built up to be DD's greatest foe by that point but killing Elektra put him over the edge for sure.

My gut reaction is that Bullseye was DD's greatest from (excluding Kingpin) the instant the two met. The problem with The Owl and Mr. Fear and the Jester and, to a lesser extent, Killgrave is that they're all lame. Bullseye is not only cool but he's the perfect foil for DD both personality wise and visually.
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Sunni
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I say no. IMHO romantic feelings are acceptable for character arcing and agency, and I wouldn’t like Elektra as much if her love for Matt wasn’t so strong. Also, it’s important to note that media traditionally targeted at females does the exact same thing. Like a lot of other women, I watch the soap opera General Hospital, and just last week a male character was shot and almost died just to fuel a female character’s plot of suffering from a brain disease. Moreover, it’s Matt’s book. His supporting characters can have their own arcs and agency, but at the end of the day, he’s the draw, so the story has to serve him as the lead. If it was Elektra’s book, then he would have died instead.

Dimetre wrote:
Do you think things have changed?

Yes, because there’s more female led books, and both creators and readers are aware of the trope. In many ways, it’s a larger symptom of the fact that death is sometimes badly handled in superhero comics because it’s over used at the expense of other dramatic options. Previously it was just a numbers game that it impacted the female characters more because fewer were leads.

james castle wrote:
The death of Karen Page, on the other hand, IS the worst example. She was bumped off for shock value alone. Kevin Smith is a hack.

Yes, it was for shock value, but didn’t Smith also say that he felt she was no longer a relevant part of the book due to character disuse?

Mike Murdock wrote:
Would you say Bullseye was his greatest foe prior to killing off Elektra or because of it?

james castle wrote:
I think Bullseye was built up to be DD's greatest foe by that point but killing Elektra put him over the edge for sure.

My gut reaction is that Bullseye was DD's greatest from (excluding Kingpin) the instant the two met. The problem with The Owl and Mr. Fear and the Jester and, to a lesser extent, Killgrave is that they're all lame. Bullseye is not only cool but he's the perfect foil for DD both personality wise and visually.

I agree, and the fact that Bullseye has so many mini-series points to how strong of a character he is.

I also agree The Owl is lame, but I think Killgrave has been successfully revamped, and both Mr. Fear and the Jester could benefit from similar tweaking. I also really liked Death Stalker; he could be revived or someone new in a supernatural vein could be a good addition to Matt’s villains.
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Mike Murdock
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunni wrote:
Yes, it was for shock value, but didn’t Smith also say that he felt she was no longer a relevant part of the book due to character disuse?


If he said that, he was flat out wrong. She had a major arc between Karl Kesel and Joe Kelly just prior to his story leading to a story where she was falsely accused of murder. Maybe Kevin Smith didn't know that since Guardian Devil is a somewhat sloppy version of the same story with Mysterio instead of Mr. Fear (and I actually enjoy Guardian Devil), but she certainly wasn't out of use at the time.
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The Overlord
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

james castle wrote:
I think Bullseye was built up to be DD's greatest foe by that point but killing Elektra put him over the edge for sure.

My gut reaction is that Bullseye was DD's greatest from (excluding Kingpin) the instant the two met. The problem with The Owl and Mr. Fear and the Jester and, to a lesser extent, Killgrave is that they're all lame. Bullseye is not only cool but he's the perfect foil for DD both personality wise and visually.


Some people would say Kilgrave is not lame anymore, he certainly has his moments of being a scary villain since Bendis revamped him in 2001. Mr. Fear has gotten a few moments like that since the 90s. Kilgrave is not exclusively a DD villain anymore though.

At a certain point, I would say there are no lame villains, only bad writers (except maybe Stilt-Man), Bullseye was fine in his first appearance, but if Miller didn't use him, he could have ended up a forgotten gimmick villain.

There's been hints of a potentially interesting villain with Owl, but no one has put everything together in a such way that it become iconic and future writers stuck with it, instead Owl is often just a generic bad guy the writers use when they don't like using Kingpin or Bullseye. Sometimes the writers make him scary, other times they make an him incompetent loser, there is little consistency with the character, so they make him generic villain.

Owl is not a lame only good for comic relief villain like Stilt-Man, but the writers making him generic or abandoning plot threads with him, means there are no real iconic Owl stories.
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