Stuffed in the fridge; that just sounds unpleasant, doesn’t it? Well, it most certainly is. This is a trope that quite often has dramatic intentions (sometimes even good intentions), but often ends up coming across poorly. And it treats it’s (Often female) victims like objects, and they are turned from a character to a source of angst.
Now, what exactly is “Fridging”? You may ask. To put it simply, it’s when a character (again, usually a woman) is killed off, injured, or in some other way removed from play specifically for the purpose of angering, upsetting, or angst-ifying the protagonist of the story.
So, why exactly is this so bad? Characters get killed off all the time, and nobody seems to see a problem with it. Well, the focus of this trope is not simply the death of the character; it’s the effect it has on another character. In other words, this trope takes a character’s story and turns it into another character’s motivation. Now, while in some cases this can be handled decently, it often isn’t; rather, it serves to completely devalue a character save for their death, taking away who they were as a person and making them into a plot point.
So, what are some examples of this trope? The first that comes to mind is also one of the most infamous: Aerith Gainsborough in Final Fantasy 7. If you are unfamiliar with the story: Aerith, the party’s healer and a close friend of the protagonist Cloud, is murdered in front of the entire group, leading into a battle with the game’s Antagonist, Sephiroth. From then on, Aerith’s death becomes a major point of contention and drive for the party, causing them to redouble their efforts against Sephiroth.
Despite the infamy of this example, it still comes through as one of the better ones. Aerith was a well established character who was used in other spinoff and expanded universe material to grow and improve her character, not only that, but she does have a bit of influence on the plot after her death.
Another less known, though much worse, example is in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness for the PS2/Xbox. The protagonist’s love interest is killed off without even being shown on screen once. This makes her appear totally disposable and invoking this trope in the worst way. Not only that, but she’s replaced almost immediately by another female lead.
So, why is this trope so prevalent? To put it simply, it’s an easy source of drama. After all, who wouldn’t be upset by the murder of a loved one? Unfortunately, this trope takes it in the wrong direction. And writing a good character death means something to the reader, usually because the character was someone they knew and cared about. But with this trope, the dead character is treated as less important than those still alive; killing the actual value of the character and their death!
Overall, this is a trope I’d like to see avoided in the future. Even if it doesn’t go away (as I doubt it will), I’d hope that writers who see tropes like this can recognize where the problems in them lie, as well as the value in them! Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of the good and less of the bad when it comes to character deaths, until then let’s all just be careful around refrigerators.
– Mod Knight