(Warning. The discussion is on sensitive graphic content and violence on women. Reader discretion is advised)
Before this year’s Women’s History Month ends I thought we need to make sure to remember someone who might not get mentioned by name but is probably one of the most influential woman in modern comic books. Someone who helped redefine the view on female supporting characters as more than love interests and against the abuse of women as a literary plot device.
In 1994, an dramatic shift in the Green lanterns books occurred when in the Emerald Twilight arc, Hal Jordan became the tragic villain Parallax following the destruction of Coast city and failure to recreate it that Hal Jordan would kill all the Green Lantern Corp and the guardians of Oa. The last Green Lantern ring would find itself on the hands of Kyle Rayner, an struggling artist who excited by this revelation goes to meet his girlfriend. It is here where we are formerly introduced to Alexandra DeWitt.
DeWitt like most contemporary female love interests in the late 80s and 90s was a well-rounded character who didn’t did fit the damsel in distress archetype of yesteryear. She wasn’t amused when her than ex-boyfriend Kyle became the Green lantern because she knew it requires responsibility which Kyle severely lacked. Kyle argued Dewitt, an photographer who takes pictures of heroes and their various fights with villains could make it big if he and her were to work together as she can get all the best pictures from him saving the day.
DeWitt reluctantly agrees but later when Alexandra and Kyle are on the road they encounter a villain attacking the city. DeWitt tells Kyle that he isn’t going to do anything he wasn’t ready for yet. Kyle goes anyway and unsurprisingly gets his butt kicked.
It’s only the advice of DeWitt that Kyle is able to persevere long enough to beat the villain. Despite the win, DeWitt takes Kyle away from the scene before he makes an a$$ of himself in front of the public as well.
Later Kyle and Alexandra are discussing the costume when DeWitt encourages him to change it. Saying it belongs to someone else, referring to Hal Jordan. Arguing for a new change, DeWitt Inspires Kyle with seeking his own identity to create his iconic Green Lantern outfit.
From everything I explained, this was our first interaction with Alexandra DeWitt. Somebody who is smarter than her hero boyfriend and someone who is incredibly brave to walk into danger and inspires Kyle to make him an hero both on the field and in his superhero identity.
In later issues she coaches him to train with his powers and concern over his safety against an clearly stronger foe. For their time together, Kyle and Alexandra were two young people who found themselves in the hero world, in love and having fun working together.
Unfortunately in issue 54 of Green Lantern, Alexandra DeWitt met a untimely end when Major Force, an Captain Atom villain, was tasked to kill Green Lantern finds DeWitt at their apartment. DeWitt puts up a fight but died protecting Kyle’s whereabouts. Later when Kyle Rayner arrived back home, he finds a letter by Major Force “Surprise for you in the Fridge.” The next panel is where we see the undeserved final fate of Alexandra DeWitt.
To an outsider, this panel alone is surreal. In It’s own story this is a death of a beloved character, but taken as it is in face value, it’s a almost hilarious unnecessary death of an female character for shock value.
If you been paying attention, Alexandra DeWitt was more than a love interest. She inspired Kyle Rayner. Her first to last scene was propping him up to become a superhero. Her death proved a crucial point to the character as it became the primary motivation of Kyle Rayner to become better as a hero and as a person.
However, years would pass and while important to his pre-flashpoint history, Alexandra DeWitt would fade into obscurity as just another random death of a supporting character in an 90s comics. Nobody would care to know her.
It wasn’t until 1999 when future superstar Gail Simone would coin the term for a blog site titled Women in Refrigerators a place that dissect the great and minor female characters who met untimely ends or suffered punishment as an plot device, usually for their male leads.
You might be aware of several in fact. Any DC fan would remember Infamous stories like identity crisis were centered around the abuse and death of Sue Dibny. That is a example of women in refrigerator. Even no refrigerator, this is not how you treat your female characters.
While the website never picked up a huge discourse the term itself lives on to describe a scenario where female characters were killed primarily for shock value. Comic writers like Gail Simone made sure this term lived on and given a F##k you by redefining the female characters in new and or better positions. In fact, whenever the use of a dead love interest come into play, comic writers love to mention “Fridging” as a concept to describe a love interest in a situation where they’re potential deaths would be used against against said heroes.
It even has been deconstructed with a gender reverse on occasions.
Fridging, much like the Bechtel test has become an unofficial writing rule online to avoid writing female characters in a certain way and makes people ponder a question on how writers would approach the subject altogether if killing those particular characters is really worth it.
Alexandra DeWitt died with the knowledge she was protecting Kyle. Kyle knows she was his hero, and her death while ugly made a impact on all of us, even if we can’t see it.
Goodbye Alexandra DeWitt and in honor of Women’s History Month, thank you.