A friend of mine recently made me aware of the “fridging” phenomena in comics that predominately affects female characters. This refers to the tendency male writers have to kill, de-power, or otherwise victimize female characters for the purpose of either advancing the storyline of male characters or simply to depict females in a weak or vulnerable state. Major examples of this are Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend getting killed and stuffed into a refrigerator in Green Lantern #54, and the paralyzation and implied sexual assault of Batgirl in The Killing Joke. But really, when you starting thinking about it and making a list, the examples are almost endless.
After learning about this, I immediately began thinking about how it related to my favorite comic book characters, the Uncanny X-Men. While female characters in X-Men comics are unarguably victimized and unfortunately often sexualized in the process (I’m looking at you underage Illyana Rasputine), it can at least be stated that during Claremont’s run it is almost never done for the purpose of advancing the storyline of a male character. I think this is because unlike most comic books being published to this day, the women are the stars of the X-Men. Yes, Claremont is often misogynistic with his treatment and visual depiction of these women, but at the exact same time he is quite feminist in the sense that the pages of his comic books focus so strongly on the storylines of the female characters (Kitty, Jean, Storm, Rogue, Rachel). And the women are often depicted as being more powerful and having more depth than their male counterparts. A good example of this is Storm. She is classified as an omega class mutant with supreme power. She becomes leader of the X-Men, the first female or minority to do so. When she is de-powered by Forge’s nullifying laser, it sparks an incredibly intense emotional journey that takes place in some of the finest comic books ever written (see Lifedeath and Lifedeath II for examples). We see her battle her demons and ultimately defeat them, and it is never done for the purpose of exploring anything other than her own character, who is strong, inspirational, and entirely stands on her own. In these very panels we see her kick the shit out of Cyclops to reclaim leadership of the team, and she does both of these things entirely without her powers. Completely awesome. And even better, in either an awesome bit of symbolism or foreshadowing, while this fight is going on in the danger room, the weather outside turns mysteriously ominous.
This is one of my favourite Cyclops quotes because it beautifully illustrates the sad development of radicalisation in him.
At some point he just couldn’t turn the other cheek anymore. Because it didn’t seem to work.
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