The Women of Deadtown in The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

the refrigerator monologues

The Refrigerator Monologues calls attention to Casual Violence Upon Women In Order to Inspire “Heroes”

“I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I’m just food for a superhero. He’ll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend.”



Hardcover, 160 pagesPublished June 6th 2017 by Gallery / Saga PressISBN1481459341 (ISBN13: 9781481459341)Edition LanguageEnglish


The lives of six female superheroes and the girlfriends of superheroes. A ferocious riff on women in superhero comics.

A series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.

“Just slip on something black and low-cut, carve yourself the biggest goddamn slice of whatever cake they said you couldn’t have, and be a VILLAIN for a night! Come on. You know they deserve it. You know they ALL deserve it. What’s the use of all that rage you got if you don’t take it out for spin?”


The Refrigerator Monologues calls attention to Fridging, the practice of killing off or hurting a minor character to motivate or torture the main character. The term comes from the world of comics, describing an issue of Green Lantern in which the hero’s partner is killed and stuffed in a refrigerator for the protagonist to find.

Let that sink in a minute. 

This is a storytelling trope aimed at motivating the main character through emotional torture. That violence is usually visited on a female character to motivate a male character. 

Case in point:

Now that you see this trope for what it is, it is hard to unsee it in popular literature. It is everywhere from tv to Comics. Which brings us to the brilliant The Refrigerator Monologues written by Catherynne M. Valente. The Refrigerator Monologues is a combination of The Vaginia Monologues by Eve Ensler and Gail Simone’s Women in Refrigerators. It is six stories told from the point of view of six dead women. Either the superheroes themselves or wives/girlfriends/motivations of living superheroes. The stories are brilliant and based loosely around existing stories in the comics universe. For example, the first story is about a character, Paige Embry, loosely based on Gwen Stacey. Paige is hurled off of a bridge only to have her neck snapped in when saved a la Gwen Stacey from Spiderman. The stories that Valente wrote are much rawer, much more adult, and much more real. And frankly much more interesting. 

I think the best story of the bunch, and that is saying something because every story in this collection is damn good, is the one about Pauline Ketch. This story is loosely based on Harley Quinn. Violence is not sexy, and violence within a relationship is definitely not sexy, it is tragic and sickening. This story is hard to describe, it should be read. It is written from an almost obsessive combination of love/sex/violence where the reader doesn’t know where one emotion ends the next begins and isn’t that what the Harley/Joker relationship is? 

The Refrigerator Monologues is brilliant. Valente created an entirely real universe and canon of superheroes to prove a point. It is not preachy, it is persuasive and well written. 

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Catherynne M. Valente was born on Cinco de Mayo, 1979 in Seattle, WA, but grew up in in the wheatgrass paradise of Northern California. She graduated from high school at age 15, going on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, receiving her B.A. in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics. She then drifted away from her M.A. program and into a long residence in the concrete and camphor wilds of Japan.

She currently lives in Maine with her partner, two dogs, and three cats, having drifted back to America and the mythic frontier of the Midwest.

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