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The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M.…

The Refrigerator Monologues (2017)

by Catherynne M. Valente

Other authors: Annie Wu (Illustrator)

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2061186,688 (4.2)5
  1. 10
    Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman (brianjungwi)
    brianjungwi: Different, but in the superhero genre

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An utter surprise, and so utterly necessary. It's no secret that there's a bit of problem with how women have been treated in comic books, but I haven't seen anywhere else the objections, and their solutions, laid out as effectively as they are here.

Valente takes some inspiration from the Big Boy comic universes, but her creation takes on a life of its own. In interlocking stories, each member of the Hell Hath club, all wives and girlfriends of so-called superheroes and villains, tells her story and points out the expectations of their world towards them as women, and the failings of their male partners, led to their untimely deaths.

This book is a condemnation of the trope of the woman in the refrigerator, and a parody of the superhero genre. I don't have too many levels in comic nerd, but as a lover of the classics I was able to pick up on the source material for most of the characters here. This is an angry book, but its also bitterly funny and worth a read for any comic fan. ( )
1 vote ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 20, 2019 |
If you know the name Paige Embry, you know that Paige Embry died...the last things she probably saw was the astonishing lights in the sky, the lights of Doctor Nocturne's infernal machine igniting every piece of metal in the city, turning skyscrapers into liquid purple fire while Kid Mercury punched the bad guy...Paige Embry died watching her boyfried save New York City. When the fires went out in Manhattan, they went out in her eyes, too.

Valente's novel is a reply to the women-in-refrigerators trope in comics and popular culture. Gail Simone in 1999 pointed out that, in too many stories, the purpose of women characters is to provide motivation for the men - by being attacked, injured, raped, killed, or stripped of their own superpowers.

There's an entire universe of male superheroes and supervillains in this short book, but we see them only as background for the women. The good and studious scientist, the superwoman, the bad girl, the punk-rock princess of Atlantis, the pretty actress, the artist; despite their unique and varied talents and characters, the script says they all end up in the same place, condemned by their gender. Dead now, they hang out in the afterlife, calling themselves the Hell Hath Club, telling their stories and consoling new arrivals.

The author has great fun fleshing (ectoplasming?) out her concept. The only food in the underworld is extinct species - triceratops pies, thylacine steaks; there's no wine, because no one lets good grapes go extinct. Atlanteans live in their downscale city because "...Brooklyn is full." The dead are stuck wearing, for eternity, whatever clothing they were buried in. Superhero/villain names include Bruce Force, The Clock of Ages, Hal Cyon, and the Arachnochancellor. The Hell Hath Club mourn their losses, but tell their tales with plenty of attitude. Dying well is their best revenge. Annie Wu's illustrations (one per chapter) seem fine to this mostly non-comics fan. An Acknowledgments section at the end calls out Eve Ensler as another inspiration.

There's no solution offered here for the ladies of the Club, but many writers have taken Gail Simone's point. In numerous contemporary stories, a universe of women characters survive and thrive, and both women and men readers are better for it. ( )
1 vote dukedom_enough | Aug 13, 2018 |
The Refrigerator Monologues is a critique of the common Refrigerator Woman trope in superhero stories. This is when the heroes girlfriend/wife is kidnapped and/or killed by the villian to introduce drama to the hero's story and provide a motivating factor to really get that bad guy. In The Refrigerator Monologues, the women who were close to superheroes gather in a support group in the city of the dead to tell their stories. Although the book changes the names and some of the details about the characters that inspired the stories, those with a familiarity with superheroes will be able to pick out which ones are being alluded to. I could pick out Harley Quinn (from Batman) and Gwen Stacy (from Spiderman), but others I was less familiar with. I am not sure that readers unfamiliar with the superhero stories would enjoy this as much as those that can recognize the story being satirized. ( )
  Cora-R | Jun 18, 2018 |
This collection of short tales from the point of view of the girlfriends and wives of superheroes is unique for sure, but somewhat off-putting to me. Some of the vignettes were entertaining, others were just plain strange. These females were all dead or the next thing to it, and these are their stories. It does not pay to be close to a superhero - it is downright dangerous. Perhaps I would have found this collection more palatable if the author could have expressed herself without the overabundance of swear words and f-bombs. ( )
  Maydacat | Jun 6, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Catherynne M. Valenteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wu, AnnieIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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For Heath Miller and Gail Simone
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I'm dead. The deadest girl in Deadtown.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"From the New York Times bestselling author Catherynne Valente comes 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. In an entirely new and original superhero universe, Valente explores these ideas and themes in the superhero genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humor as her fairy tales. After all, superheroes are our new fairy tales and these six women have their own stories to share."--

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