The Refrigerator Monologues
The lives of six female superheroes and the girlfriends of superheroes. A ferocious riff on women in superhero comicsFrom 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 subversively 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.

The Refrigerator Monologues Details

TitleThe Refrigerator Monologues
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 6th, 2017
PublisherSaga Press
ISBN1481459341
ISBN-139781481459341
Number of pages160 pages
Rating
GenreFantasy, Short Stories, Sequential Art, Graphic Novels, Comics, Fiction, Science Fiction, Superheroes

The Refrigerator Monologues Review

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)
    May 28, 2017
    3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/06/05/...Ever wonder what it’s like to be a girlfriend or wife of a superhero? The answer is not so glamorous in The Refrigerator Monologues, a new book containing a series of linked short stories by Catherynne M. Valente. Inspired by “Women in Refrigerators”, a term used to describe a trope used in many comic book plots involving the deaths, disablement, and disenfranchising of female characters to forward a male superhero prota 3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/06/05/...Ever wonder what it’s like to be a girlfriend or wife of a superhero? The answer is not so glamorous in The Refrigerator Monologues, a new book containing a series of linked short stories by Catherynne M. Valente. Inspired by “Women in Refrigerators”, a term used to describe a trope used in many comic book plots involving the deaths, disablement, and disenfranchising of female characters to forward a male superhero protagonist’s storyline, this clever collection offers both a darkly humorous commentary on the subject as well as a vicious lampoon on these kinds of story arcs as a whole.Meet the six women of the Hell Hath Club, all inspired by well-known characters in the DC or Marvel universes so that even passing fans of comics should recognize some of their origins. There’s Paige Embry, the brilliant and driven college student who saw her bright future snuffed out when she was thrown off a bridge by her superhero boyfriend’s arch nemesis. Gwen Stacy anyone? Or how about the powerful telepath and telekinetic, taken away at a young age for a school for special powered people to fight another group of special powered people by an ostensibly well-meaning professor, who later puts Jean Gre—I mean, Julia Ash on an otherwise all-male superhero team called the “Millennial Men”? And of course there’s also Samantha Dane, based off of Alexandra Dewitt, the girlfriend of Kyle Rayner whose gruesome manner of death in the Green Lantern comics is what inspired the “refrigerated” term in the first place.The tales go on like this, each one exploring the background of a female character who has been killed, depowered, or generally dismissed in favor of the male superheroes (and in one case, a supervillain) in their lives. Now the six of them meet regularly in the afterlife, hanging out at a quaint little joint called the Lethe Café where they share their stories, support each other, and listen to the gargoyles bands play punk rock.The Refrigerator Monologues was a quick read, offering brief but plentiful examples to illustrate the concerning trend in comic books of having bad things happen to female characters as merely a plot device. While these are entertaining stories, I’m afraid there’s also very little lightness to them. After all, the women portrayed here are meant to represent the victims of “lazy writing” and “stock storylines”, most of them reduced to playing second fiddle to their male superhero counterparts or as pet causes for their romantic partners. Valente shines a harsh, subversive light on the injustice and absurdity of these situations, from Gwen Stacy whose death has somehow become an inextricable and defining moment in the life of Spider-Man, to Harley Quinn who is forever standing resolutely by the Joker even after the bajillionth time he leaves her to rot in Arkham. The short vignettes here capture both the tragedy and comedy of the women’s fates by putting readers in their shoes.I also thought the length and format of the book was perfect for the author’s vision. It is clear anything less would have failed to deliver the same level of poignancy, while a longer book containing more stories would have run the risk of being repetitive. The writing style here is very distinctive, aiming for biting humor and as much as snarky finesse, though after a while I found it difficult to distinguish the different voices of the women for they all seemed to speak with the same mannerisms. By the end, I was also feeling a little weary and heartsick from the underlying tones of sadness and dejection. For you see, this isn’t a book that “fixes” things, nor was it ever meant to be—I think Valente put it best in an article I once came across where she said (and I’m paraphrasing based on memory), “I might not be able to swoop in to save the damsel, but I can turn on the mic to let her scream.” You might read these stories expecting more anger and indignation from the characters, but ultimately the Hell Hath Club isn’t so much about fury than it is about a place where its members can come together to vent, grieve, commiserate, or simply to tell their personal stories and be heard.In closing, I also want to give special mention to the world-building of Deadtown. Aside from being the most unique and interesting aspect of the book, this brilliant setting ties all the characters’ stories together and gives this collection a special touch. Being dead isn’t easy—you’re basically stuck wearing whatever god-awful outfit you were buried in for all eternity, and there are bizarre rules like how all food can only be made from plants and animals that have gone extinct, or that the only books available are those that have been forgotten to time, etc. Still, it isn’t all bad. Residents of Deadtown share the afterlife with a population of friendly gargoyles who sure know how to have a good time!Finally, you certainly don’t need to be familiar with comics or comic book characters to appreciate this book, but knowing some of the context would probably help. Sharply droll and acerbic, The Refrigerator Monologues offers a look at the superhero genre from a rare but important perspective. Whether these stories make you laugh or cry, pound your fists or roll your eyes, at the end of the day they’re bound to evoke emotions and start some conversations. And sometimes, that’s all that really matters.
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  • Roshani Chokshi
    June 10, 2017
    "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."It's no secret that I'm a huge Catherynne Valente fan, and this book is no exception. This was surreal, exquisitely written, and brimming with so much VOICE. So often in stories, the death of the "love interest" is just a character impetus for the male protagonist. Her death shapes his purpose, gives him depth, makes him relatable in his suffer "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."It's no secret that I'm a huge Catherynne Valente fan, and this book is no exception. This was surreal, exquisitely written, and brimming with so much VOICE. So often in stories, the death of the "love interest" is just a character impetus for the male protagonist. Her death shapes his purpose, gives him depth, makes him relatable in his suffering. So many women are sacrificed at the altar of the dude's story, and I loved how Valente gave them voice. It reminded me of a phrase one of my college professors often repeated: "cherchez la femme."Look for the woman.Look for the woman in the narrative. Look where her eyes go. Look at the slant of her mouth.Then you know the story.
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  • lauren ♡ (wonderless reviews)
    June 13, 2017
    Can everyone please read this because wow is it important in regards to the way women are treated just to further men's storylines. If you're interested in superheroes and feminism then you're gonna love this.
  • Artur
    June 13, 2017
    *ETA: Updated review now with THREE postscripts! One of which might just be as long as the rest of the review!*I like stories that offer transformation of oppresive structures or suggest ways of escaping them.This book isn’t like that.It is a raging, despairing howl against the world.There is no subversion of the comic-book narratives (and the book is based on very well-known comic book storylines – I was able to identify all but two and I’m a fake geek guy). The women get to tell their stories, *ETA: Updated review now with THREE postscripts! One of which might just be as long as the rest of the review!*I like stories that offer transformation of oppresive structures or suggest ways of escaping them.This book isn’t like that.It is a raging, despairing howl against the world.There is no subversion of the comic-book narratives (and the book is based on very well-known comic book storylines – I was able to identify all but two and I’m a fake geek guy). The women get to tell their stories, but they cannot change them. They are dead. They will remain dead. You can feel, on a visceral level, that every one of the narratives is cut short. Interrupted. That those girls had hopes and dreams and plans that they will never be able to bring to life. And even though there is a beautiful portrait of women’s solidarity between the dead girls, there will be no closure – the stories are designed to make you angry and sad at their fate.This has its purpose, of course, as it might push the reader to act.The thing is... I was angry and sad before.I guess someone else has to take care of the transformation.PS. I’ve had a bit of an issue in the past few years with Valente’s writing – it felt slightly overwritten, too precious, particularly with the anthropomorphisations cropping up seemingly everywhere. This was an issue here at first, but the feeling passed very quickly and I had no trouble immersing myself into the narrative.PPS. I wish the stories in the collection, since they all followed pre-existing plot points, were more formally daring. My favourite was the one about Julia Ash (not gonna spoil which comic book character she is based on), which played a bit with the format of the story.PPPS. I’ve looked at the book as literature and described the affective response it elicits. But this is a prime example of a critical-creative re-writing, a text that is simultaneously literature and literary criticism. As the latter it contains some valuable insights. The line “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” is an incandescent diamond. Given the anticipation of the Harley Quinn/Joker “romance” (*vomits quietly*) in Suicide Squad in some parts of the fandom, the story of Pretty Polly and Mr. Punch should be displayed on bus stops and sides of tall buildings. The Julia Ash story is a great depiction and critique of the “woman with too much power must be stopped” motif (or trope, as kids today would call it, whatever).I was going to say that other than that the books stays in the by now well-trod line of criticism of women in refrigerators, started by Gail Simone and therefore doesn’t offer much beyond that. Only it’s not quite true. There is a bit about the value we place on manpain over women’s pain and emotional responses; there is something about the sacrifices women are expected to make in relationships for the sake of the development of their partner’s career. There is even an incisive critique of mainstream pornography. The result is a multi-faceted look at the marginalisation and victimisation of women in different aspects of life – not just superhero stories and not just art. This is very valuable and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked in favour of the “women in refrigerators” part.
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  • Jacki
    March 18, 2017
    As usual, Valente makes it all look so easy...In this short story collection, six women share the stories of how involvement with superheroes and supervillains led to their deaths or downfalls. Ignore that part of the blurb that tells you to expect an entirely new universe, because although some details are different, the protagonists are blatantly based on DC/Marvel women. You've got:--A Gwen Stacy, whose science experiment gave her boyfriend his powers--A Jean Grey, who pops in and out of the As usual, Valente makes it all look so easy...In this short story collection, six women share the stories of how involvement with superheroes and supervillains led to their deaths or downfalls. Ignore that part of the blurb that tells you to expect an entirely new universe, because although some details are different, the protagonists are blatantly based on DC/Marvel women. You've got:--A Gwen Stacy, whose science experiment gave her boyfriend his powers--A Jean Grey, who pops in and out of the afterlife due to continual retconning--A Harley Quinn, with a fatal attraction to a villain--A Mera, whose grief at the loss of a child takes a backseat to her husband's--A Karen Page, who winds up second fiddle to her hero boyfriend--And of course, an Alexandra DeWitt who literally gets stuffed into a fridgeValente's powerful imagination shines as she creates new superheroes with new powers to frame familiar situations, but for the most part, she simply gives an incisive voice to female characters too long treated as props or frequently rewritten to fit the writers' needs for the male characters' story arcs. A sad, funny, and necessary little book.
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  • Anna Eklund
    January 24, 2017
    Brutal. Visceral. Angry. Triumphant. Beautiful. Redemptive. Necessary.
  • Leah Rachel
    June 8, 2017
    I sped through Catherynne Valentine’s The Refrigerator Monologues faster than I’d planned. It’s a collection of high-speed stories about the women whose lives are ‘refrigerated’ to progress the storyline of the superhero. Batgirl is paralyzed. Gwen Stacy dies. The femme fatale sticks around just long enough to be useful, and then the real villain, the male villain, betrays her. We’ve all read those stories, but from the perspective of the men. We’ve never gotten to hear them from the perspective I sped through Catherynne Valentine’s The Refrigerator Monologues faster than I’d planned. It’s a collection of high-speed stories about the women whose lives are ‘refrigerated’ to progress the storyline of the superhero. Batgirl is paralyzed. Gwen Stacy dies. The femme fatale sticks around just long enough to be useful, and then the real villain, the male villain, betrays her. We’ve all read those stories, but from the perspective of the men. We’ve never gotten to hear them from the perspective of the women—until now. The former wives and girlfriends of superheroes and villains gather in 'Deadtown’ as the Hell Hath Club. Some of them tell their stories, others strive to hide them. The reader hears them all. A thinly veiled Harley Quinn falls for the Joker, holding over his head the secret identity of his nemesis. A play on Gwen Stacy is kidnapped by a man who wants the powers she accidentally unleashed. A ferocious Atlantean Queen has the same exact powers as the man who loves her on land, but he keeps the glory for himself. It might sound like these are all simple twists on the stories we know, but they aren’t. They are wholly original, with rich, complex voices and tales, and new creations that are beyond what you’ve read before. A woman gets more and more powerful until people start believing she should be contained. The Atlantean Queen is magnificent. A photographer’s boyfriend can graffiti-spray anything to life, but has to watch as their love and art slip to the background so that he can fight crime. The Insomniac’s powers are both horrifying and magnificent. Valente pulls on the tales we know from DC and Marvel, but she takes them much further. Her world is well-built and each story lives on its own merits, giving us a point of view we always craved from the stories that are fiery and wondrous for men and almost always violent and cruel to their women. The women characters are fierce, bitter, and exciting. It’s one of my favorite releases this year.
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  • Allison
    March 27, 2017
    RTC
  • Didi Chanoch
    March 6, 2017
    These are the stories of the women in refrigerators, the women who die so that superheroes can have angst and a reason for vengeance. This book is a must read for superhero fans, but a powerful read for anyone. In the underworld, in the Lethe Cafe, they tell their stories. Cat Valente is one of the finest writers working today, and this book is another excellent example of that.
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  • Tammy
    June 4, 2017
    The nitty-gritty: A powerful collection of loosely tied together stories of the women who fell in love with superheroes—and died because of it. I never wanted children. Let’s get that straight up top. All I ever wanted to do was to drink beer, play my horn, and ride mutant armadillos till the end of the world. But you don’t get to hit those high notes when you’re Queen of something. Hard to scream-sing fuck the man authority is deathpuke anarchy in Atlantis when your mom is, like, the entire gov The nitty-gritty: A powerful collection of loosely tied together stories of the women who fell in love with superheroes—and died because of it. I never wanted children. Let’s get that straight up top. All I ever wanted to do was to drink beer, play my horn, and ride mutant armadillos till the end of the world. But you don’t get to hit those high notes when you’re Queen of something. Hard to scream-sing fuck the man authority is deathpuke anarchy in Atlantis when your mom is, like, the entire government. Reading a Catherynne M. Valente novel is always a treat for me. Her writing is the equivalent of listening to edgy slam poetry in a smoky bar, but in prose form. No one writes quite like her, and if you like the paragraph I’ve quoted above, then you really do need to pick up one of her books. Even better, her world building is some of the most unique I’ve ever read. I highly recommend Radiance if you have an open mind when it comes to quirky science fiction worlds.But getting back to the book at hand, Valente once again proves she has extreme writing chops, an imagination that won’t quit, and a penchant for poking fun at tropes. The Refrigerator Monologues is a slim book comprised of six short stories, each one told by a girlfriend/side kick/lover of a male superhero. The kicker? All six women are dead and now reside in Deadtown, where they’ve formed a support group called The Hell Hath Club. They gather at the Lethe Café and take turns telling their stories of woe. Valente takes characters from familiar superhero stories, like Batman, Superman, etc., but gives them different names. Still, readers who are up on superhero lore will recognize them immediately.In one of my favorite stories, for example, it was easy to identify Pauline Ketch as Harley Quinn, the brash and crazy (literally, she’s in an insane asylum) girl from Batman. Polly, as she calls herself, had one of my favorite voices, upbeat and slightly manic even as she’s telling us about her horrible life. We already know how Polly ends up—dead—but Valente goes into intimate detail about her weird and destructive relationship with Mr. Punch, and Polly’s death—like each of the other girls’ deaths—is almost anticlimactic (“And then he killed me. The end.”)Each of the stories is preceded by a short interlude chapter that ties everything together, so the reader has the feeling that, like the book cover, each character is taking her turn at the mic, telling her sad story to an appreciative and sympathetic audience. The overall feeling was one of intimacy, although I have to admit that after hearing about the terrible lives of these six women, I had had enough. They all seemed to take their injustices in stride—beatings, verbal abuse, abandonment and more—and while I felt for them, I also wanted to shake each one and yell “What the hell are you thinking??” Which is the point, I guess. Women in the male dominated world of the superhero always seem to get the short end of the stick.The book is lightly illustrated by Annie Wu, whose style fits perfectly with the comic book vibe. I loved having some visuals to go along with the narratives, and Wu nails the aesthetic.What I didn’t get enough of, though, was Valente’s amazing world of Deadtown, which seriously, I could read a whole novel about. I want to go there myself, well, provided it’s only a short visit!But in the end? Nothing is really resolved. Polly, Paige, Julia, Blue Bayou, Daisy and Samantha are still dead. In the final story, Samantha Dane reveals that she was killed and stuffed into a refrigerator, describing a term coined by comic book writer Gail Simone—“fridging”—which brings us back to the theme of this book. Valente’s characters may seem to be taking things in stride in the afterlife, but deep down they’re hurting and angry. The Refrigerator Monologues will make you uncomfortable, but maybe that's a good thing.Big thanks to the publisher and Wunderkind PR for supplying a review copy.This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy
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  • Ruth
    June 7, 2017
    Absolutely brilliant. If the Wonder Woman movie showed everything right about what a woman in a superhero movie can be, The Refrigerator Monologues focus on everything wrong about how women are regularly treated in the comic book genre. Inspired by The Vagina Monologues, this collection of stories is told from the perspective of the women who have been killed, abused, or shoved aside to make room for the men in the stories, becoming no more than fuel for hero's manpain. Valente has created her o Absolutely brilliant. If the Wonder Woman movie showed everything right about what a woman in a superhero movie can be, The Refrigerator Monologues focus on everything wrong about how women are regularly treated in the comic book genre. Inspired by The Vagina Monologues, this collection of stories is told from the perspective of the women who have been killed, abused, or shoved aside to make room for the men in the stories, becoming no more than fuel for hero's manpain. Valente has created her own superhero universe, and tells the stories of the romantic interests of that world's Justice League or Avengers-esque group. In a particularly insightful touch, she also tells the story of the one woman - there can be only one, of course - superhero in that group.I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in comics and superheroes. This is the wine to pair with your meal of Wonder Woman. It will make you see the distance the superhero industry still has to go.
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  • Jocelyn
    June 7, 2017
    Valente sharpened her lush and fanciful prose to a hard point and stabbed it through all the way through this book. It's vicious and perfect and exactly what I needed.
  • Coolcurry
    June 2, 2017
    Catherynne Valente tackles gendered superhero tropes with this collection of six stories. The girls of the Hell Hath Club are dead, but they’ve found each other for company is the strange expanse of Deadtown. They gather together, drink Styx water, and commiserate about their lives and deaths. Superheroines, girlfriends of superheroes, supervillainesses… they all got the short end of the stick.I’m not super knowledgeable about comic books. I’ve seen some movies, read a few issues of Ms. Marvel, Catherynne Valente tackles gendered superhero tropes with this collection of six stories. The girls of the Hell Hath Club are dead, but they’ve found each other for company is the strange expanse of Deadtown. They gather together, drink Styx water, and commiserate about their lives and deaths. Superheroines, girlfriends of superheroes, supervillainesses… they all got the short end of the stick.I’m not super knowledgeable about comic books. I’ve seen some movies, read a few issues of Ms. Marvel, but that’s pretty much it. However, I could still tell which comic book characters most of the dead girls were supposed to be. The first one, a scientist who accidentally gives her boyfriend superpowers, is clearly based off of some girlfriend of Spiderman. The extremely powerful, only woman on her team heroine with psychic powers sounded a lot like a certain X-Man. An off kilter villainess with an impressive but misplaced loyalty to her man could be no one but Harley Quinn. Another’s the wife of Aquaman, not quite dead but slipped out of her asylum to search Deadtown for her murdered son. Of the six women, there were only two I couldn’t connect to any Marvel or DC characters. One is the famous girl in the fridge, who I’ve heard of before but don’t know much about. According to other reviewers, the last is a riff off of Karen Page, who I only know from the Netflix series.Each woman gets the chance to tell her story, and short chapters in between bridge the gap from one to the other. It’s not a long book — at only 160 pages, it’s more novella than novel. I think the length was just about right for it. I don’t think there was anything that could be cut, and I don’t see what an expansion would add.At the same time, I was never quite impressed by The Refrigerator Monologues. I think it’s tackling an important subject, but it’s more giving voice to the women stuck in bad tropes than subverting them altogether. There’s not an overarching plot. The women don’t get vengeance or fulfillment, they just get a voice and the chance to share their stories with one another. That’s a valuable thing, but I didn’t find it entirely satisfactory. In the end, I felt like the only really new thing The Refrigerator Monologues was bringing to the table was the quirky, off beat setting of Deadtown itself. Maybe I would have enjoyed The Refrigerator Monologues more if I knew more about comic books. Or maybe my expectations were simply too high.Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.
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  • Geonn Cannon
    June 7, 2017
    A fine, quick read. There wasn't much in the way of innovation beyond the detail of Deadtown which (along with the illustrations) were the true highlights. The characters were all easily identifiable (maybe too much so... there were too many moments where a character might as well have been named Jane Grey). I've been anticipating this book for a while, so I may have been let down by my own high expectations.
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  • LK
    April 19, 2017
    Original and funny as hell!
  • electrise
    June 9, 2017
    CV's best, most focused work is telling other people's stories.
  • Sarah
    April 7, 2017
    I've been waiting for this book since I heard Cat read a section of it at Readercon 2016 and it was absolutely worth the wait. This book pulls no punches, gives no f*cks, and will catapult you from laughing to crying in the span of a paragraph break. For everyone and anyone who is sick of women in stories (specifically comic books, but applies to all stories) being killed so a man's story can progress, you must read this book. It will hurt, it will cut you very deep, but it is a cathartic pain. I've been waiting for this book since I heard Cat read a section of it at Readercon 2016 and it was absolutely worth the wait. This book pulls no punches, gives no f*cks, and will catapult you from laughing to crying in the span of a paragraph break. For everyone and anyone who is sick of women in stories (specifically comic books, but applies to all stories) being killed so a man's story can progress, you must read this book. It will hurt, it will cut you very deep, but it is a cathartic pain. Highly recommended for all, but especially for comic book fans and for people who are sick of women being fridged in comic books.
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  • Courtney Bates-Hardy
    June 10, 2017
    For everyone who cried and raged at the end of THAT Spider-man movie. Here's your catharsis.
  • k
    June 6, 2017
    the skewering of batman was SO GOOD tho
  • Heather
    April 26, 2017
    Have you ever wondered what happens to the superhero's girlfriend? You know, the one that dies tragically, thereby giving him a more interesting and meaningful backstory. Or how about the villain's sidekick girlfriend- the one who thinks she holds the only key to his twisted, black heart, only to find out, in the cruelest way, how wrong she was. In The Refrigerator Monologues, Catherine Valente explores these forgotten women by giving them their own stories told in their own voices, and it is gl Have you ever wondered what happens to the superhero's girlfriend? You know, the one that dies tragically, thereby giving him a more interesting and meaningful backstory. Or how about the villain's sidekick girlfriend- the one who thinks she holds the only key to his twisted, black heart, only to find out, in the cruelest way, how wrong she was. In The Refrigerator Monologues, Catherine Valente explores these forgotten women by giving them their own stories told in their own voices, and it is glorious! The Refrigerator Monologues is irreverent, eloquent, and perfectly brilliant.
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  • Jason Beck
    June 9, 2017
    Catherynne Valente's The Refrigerator Monologues is a terrific text. 5/5 stars. Valente is the author of one of my all-time favorite books (Habitation of the Blessed), and I thoroughly enjoy her brand of weird (I mean "weird" here in the most positive sense possible), so I expected to enjoy this text. She noted that the prose-style of this work is different than her usual style (and other works); I agree with her on that, but would also note that I felt like her voice still shone through. This t Catherynne Valente's The Refrigerator Monologues is a terrific text. 5/5 stars. Valente is the author of one of my all-time favorite books (Habitation of the Blessed), and I thoroughly enjoy her brand of weird (I mean "weird" here in the most positive sense possible), so I expected to enjoy this text. She noted that the prose-style of this work is different than her usual style (and other works); I agree with her on that, but would also note that I felt like her voice still shone through. This text is about the women in comic books who have been "fridged" - a trope that generally refers to women being killed off (frequently in a gruesome manner) to further the story of a male character (e.g. to set them on a revenge-driven path, or what have you). (Of course, this trope isn't necessarily limited to comic books, but this text is aimed most specifically at that medium.)I did not read comic books growing up, nor do I read them now- the extent of my engagement with them is generally seeing comic book-based movies. I have read, with interest, other articles that specifically discuss the characters that Valente is paralleling in this text, but I could not have told you that myself (as I lack the background). Despite my ignorance in this matter, the text was nevertheless enjoyable and meaningful, and I think it speaks to the strength of Valente's writing and vision that she is able to create a compelling and interesting narrative (or set of narratives) that support her Big Purpose even for people who aren't steeped in comic book culture/history.Indeed, though Valente is taking aim at fridging and (masterfully, I think) de-constructing the trope, this work goes well beyond that, and speaks to the idea of women as having worthwhile stories of their own, and not simply being accessories to men. Valente does this by presenting a series of stories being told by the women themselves: women who are (or were) entangled with male superheroes, and no longer are, because they are (happily?) dead. By giving voice to these women- reversing the narrative, such as it were, and making the men peripheral, instead- Valente artfully wrecks the notion that women don't have stories to tell, or that their stories are less important than that of men. Running alongside this are a number of other critiques of pop culture and literature: though not necessarily the central premise of the work, Valente takes aim at other nonsense in our culture with everything from sub-themes (especially poignant is the juxtaposition, for example, of how men and women are allowed to behave after the loss of a child) to seemingly throw-away one-liners, which often pack a vicious (and, frequently, hilarious) punch.I have, in the end, nothing but good things to say about this text. The alternate-comic universe that Valente has created in order to tell these stories is a delight, and, as I noted earlier, her personality and voice shine through, despite the shift in style. Her goal is, I think, very successfully executed, and this feels like an important cultural critique. That it comes in such an enjoyable, and eminently readable, package makes it all the more compelling. I have no hesitation in recommending this text to basically anyone, and would happily encourage you to buy it, especially if you enjoy comic books (but still would, even if you don't).
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  • Melani
    June 7, 2017
    The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente is a super meta, feminist, hilariously sarcastic novella about women in comic books. I’ve said before that Valente can be hit or miss with me, I love her and even the misses are still fantastic but sometimes her books don’t resonate with me. This one though? This one I devoured and I am considering going back for a second helping. It’s… great. If I’m really honest, it’s probably more of a four and a half star read (partly because I have higher The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente is a super meta, feminist, hilariously sarcastic novella about women in comic books. I’ve said before that Valente can be hit or miss with me, I love her and even the misses are still fantastic but sometimes her books don’t resonate with me. This one though? This one I devoured and I am considering going back for a second helping. It’s… great. If I’m really honest, it’s probably more of a four and a half star read (partly because I have higher expectations for a Valente book and partly for reasons I'll get into below) but I’m rounding up to five. If you are even just a minor comic book fan, or a feminist, you NEED to read this one. The book is more like six short stories compiled together; much like the play Valente used to inspire her title (did I mention this book is SUPER meta?). There are six different women, each one interacting in various ways with the superheroes and villains Valente ‘created’ for this world. For the most part, these characters are directly pulled from Marvel and DC with the serial numbers very lightly sandpapered. Honestly, Valente’s snark at Batman is worth the price of the book alone. I mean, I love Batman but half of my love is the fact that he’s so eminently mockable. Valente takes various famous comic book women, I recognized four of the six but my comic book knowledge tends to be more from cultural osmosis and TV/Movie retellings than from actual comic books, and then tells their stories from their point of view. These women all tell their stories and how the conflicts of superheroes and villains cost them their lives. She doesn’t change the endings. Gwen Stacy Page Embry still dies for example, but the story is about HER, and not Spiderman Mercury Boy.The main reason I don’t give this a full-hearted five stars is that Valente isn’t changing the narrative here. Much like Women in Refrigerators, the other famous feminist work from which Valente cribs her title, this story is simply pointing out the problem. These women are dead; their bodies serve the narrative of someone else in the greater story of this universe. Yet, by putting the focus onto these women, and not the heroes around them, we can see the terrible waste left in the wake of our heroes. It’s something we already know, but I think still worth pointing out. If Valente revisits this world, and I believe she’s indicated that she has an interest in doing so, I would want to see the narrative changed. I already know that women die in comic books (and so many other stories about heroic men), I want to see them take back their lives and become the heroes themselves, or defy the narrative in other ways. My favorite story in the book is the second, which belongs to Jean Grey Julia Ash, who is punished over and over for being more than the people around her think she should be. It’s tragic and infuriating, and thus completely effective.
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  • Kai (Quartzfeather)
    June 10, 2017
    Confession time.... I'm pretty much superhero illiterate. I didn't grow up with them, and they've just never been my thing (well, who knows, maybe they could be if I gave them the chance). However, I've heard quite a thing or two about the horrible treatment female characters often face in the genre, which is one of the reasons I was so eager to read The Refrigerator Monologues.The other reason was the author, Catherynne Valente. If her name doesn't ring a bell, she wrote The Girl Who Circumnavi Confession time.... I'm pretty much superhero illiterate. I didn't grow up with them, and they've just never been my thing (well, who knows, maybe they could be if I gave them the chance). However, I've heard quite a thing or two about the horrible treatment female characters often face in the genre, which is one of the reasons I was so eager to read The Refrigerator Monologues.The other reason was the author, Catherynne Valente. If her name doesn't ring a bell, she wrote The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (really quite the mouthful), an absolutely amazing and totally whimiscal middle grade (though Goodreads thinks it's YA for some reason) book that you should really check out.Valente has this wonderful and distinctive imagination that really shines through in all her work. The Refrigerator Monologues' my first adult book of her's, so I was a bit worried about whether or not I'd enjoy her style as much outside the MG genre. Turns out there was no reason to worry. The world she paints in this collection of short stories is filled with just as much whimsy and fresh originality, though this book definitely does have a more adult tone to it (well duh Kai...).Each of the six main characters has a clear and easily distinguishable voice, and all of their worlds and lives are pretty well fleshed out considering the limitations of the short story format. Apparently each of them are based off DC/Marvel women, though I didn't realize this fact while reading because I'm completely clueless. Anyways, here's a Goodreads review that lists them all out, just in case you're curious.Sometimes I did feel that The Refrigerator Monologues was a bit too heavy handed with some of its feminist messages, but then again, I don't really know much about the comic industry and how it treats women, so this could be something that's sorely needed.This review first appeared on Quartzfeather.
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  • Berni Phillips
    June 12, 2017
    I loved this. Valente writes a series of short stories, each illustrating the all-too-typical demise of female characters in comics, deaths which exist only to add depth to the male characters. Bah, humbug.Since she obviously could not write specific characters which belong to major publishers, she made up her own universe. Most of the characters I recognized, but a few I didn't. I was familiar with Gail Simone's famous statement about women in refrigerators, shocking and titillating ends to fem I loved this. Valente writes a series of short stories, each illustrating the all-too-typical demise of female characters in comics, deaths which exist only to add depth to the male characters. Bah, humbug.Since she obviously could not write specific characters which belong to major publishers, she made up her own universe. Most of the characters I recognized, but a few I didn't. I was familiar with Gail Simone's famous statement about women in refrigerators, shocking and titillating ends to female characters. Valente takes this further, writing about the women up to (and after their deaths).There is a frame story that they are all in the Hell Hath No Fury club where each woman has her story. We hear first from the good girl, a Gwen Stacy type, who empowers her hero boyfriend. We have the sad ending of a Jean Grey type, endlessly cycling through her Marvel Girl/Phoenix/Dark Phoenix, an eternal victim of forces beyond her control. The psychotic twin of Harley Quinn makes an appearance as does the Queen of Atlantis, one-time squeeze of an Aquaman clone. There were a couple of others which I couldn't identify, ending with the dead girl in the refrigerator whose ending inspired this. (My memory was that she originally was Iris West, Flash's wife, but I could be misremembering or this could just be yet another change in the multiple resets the DC Universe has done.)Recommended if you are a fan of comics or sexual politics or feminism or Valente or all of the above.
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  • Joy
    June 13, 2017
    I picked this up after seeing it on Scalzi's "Big Idea" feature a week or two back, and started reading it on my phone at lunch yesterday after forgetting my Kindle. Then I went home and finished it, as it was unfortunately much too short and I wish there had been more there.The setup is simple - the girlfriends and wives of superheroes, that are killed to further the hero's plot, share a table at a coffeeshop in the afterlife where they share their stories. These aren't the women you know from I picked this up after seeing it on Scalzi's "Big Idea" feature a week or two back, and started reading it on my phone at lunch yesterday after forgetting my Kindle. Then I went home and finished it, as it was unfortunately much too short and I wish there had been more there.The setup is simple - the girlfriends and wives of superheroes, that are killed to further the hero's plot, share a table at a coffeeshop in the afterlife where they share their stories. These aren't the women you know from the movies, per se, as the author is very careful to not tread on anyone else's intellectual property, but you can figure out their inspirations pretty easily. Their responses to their deaths vary as their personalities do, although they are all angry to some extent to have been thrown away just to further the plot and character development of their lover.Really excellent read, and makes you think of the tragic losses that superheroes suffer in a whole new light, one that's really rather misogynistic. The world that these ladies inhabit is incredibly detailed for such little space, and I'd honestly love to read more about daily life in Deadland just because it sounds fascinating. Any woman who enjoys superheroes and comics should read this - especially younger ladies who need to see that women are more than plot points.
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  • Devann
    June 13, 2017
    This was absolutely amazing. Besides the obvious and much needed look at how horribly women are treated in comics, the author managed to create not only a unique version of the afterlife but also an entire cast of completely new superheroes that is really quite impressive in its own right but also manages to be [in most cases] immediately recognizable in relation to the series it is parodying. If you are a comic fan, if you are sick and tired of the roles women are reduced to in media, or if you This was absolutely amazing. Besides the obvious and much needed look at how horribly women are treated in comics, the author managed to create not only a unique version of the afterlife but also an entire cast of completely new superheroes that is really quite impressive in its own right but also manages to be [in most cases] immediately recognizable in relation to the series it is parodying. If you are a comic fan, if you are sick and tired of the roles women are reduced to in media, or if you just want to read a genuinely funny and entertaining satire [while also maybe wanting to set a few things on fire. not through any fault of the book but just because you know, society] then you should definitely read this book.also just for fun, the ladies being parodied in this story, although there were a few i couldn't figure out. in order, we've got gwen stacy, jean grey, harley quinn [the batman character is SUPERB], someone related to aquaman??, i have absolutely NO idea who the porn star is supposed to be, and then green lantern's girlfriend which is where the whole 'women in refrigerators' thing comes from, although i am sad to say that i don't remember her actual name, which really just says a lot.
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  • Susanna Parker
    June 8, 2017
    If you've read a superhero comic book series, you've probably come across a woman in a refrigerator. Maybe literally, as with the Green Lantern, or figuratively, as with one of the many women who have been killed, maimed, or depowered in such a way as to serve as a plot device and character motivation for the main superhero. Coined by writer Gail Simone, the "women in refrigerators" trope is a well-known and infuriating phenomenon in comic books. In The Refrigerator Monologues, Cat Valente takes If you've read a superhero comic book series, you've probably come across a woman in a refrigerator. Maybe literally, as with the Green Lantern, or figuratively, as with one of the many women who have been killed, maimed, or depowered in such a way as to serve as a plot device and character motivation for the main superhero. Coined by writer Gail Simone, the "women in refrigerators" trope is a well-known and infuriating phenomenon in comic books. In The Refrigerator Monologues, Cat Valente takes that trope and examines it from the other side; how do the women feel about what's been done to them?Six different women are stuck in Deadtown. Six women who loved superheros (or supervillains) and wound up dead for it. From the plucky scientist girlfriend to the teammate whose incredible superpowers ignited jealousy from her teammates, these women's stories are all different and all, sadly and terribly, the same. Valente's trademark prose shines through the coat of fantastic comic-book lingo. Names and faces will be not-quite-familiar; a story that you've maybe heard before, or an echo of something that you don't entirely remember, but all of them are unique and terrible and wonderful.If you like Spiderman but were always furious for Gwen Stacy, this is the book for you.
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  • Everdeen Mason
    June 5, 2017
    In “The Refrigerator Monologues” (Saga) Catherynne M. Valente explores the old trope of women in comics who are abused and/or killed in service of a male-driven plot. In this novella, the superhero girlfriend gets to tell her own version of events in the afterlife. Through six entertaining if sometimes heavy-handed narratives, the women’s voices are strong: bitter and full of pain, yet steel-tipped in sarcasm and humor. Valente’s universe is a thinly veiled play on some of the most famous love i In “The Refrigerator Monologues” (Saga) Catherynne M. Valente explores the old trope of women in comics who are abused and/or killed in service of a male-driven plot. In this novella, the superhero girlfriend gets to tell her own version of events in the afterlife. Through six entertaining if sometimes heavy-handed narratives, the women’s voices are strong: bitter and full of pain, yet steel-tipped in sarcasm and humor. Valente’s universe is a thinly veiled play on some of the most famous love interests in comics. Even non-comic readers will be able to pinpoint faux-Jean Grey or not-quite Harley Quinn. The women here gather in “Deadtown” as part of the “Hell Hath Club” and tell their stories to each other Alcoholics Anonymous-style. It’s not clear whether doing so is a form of entertainment in an afterlife that’s only a duller version of reality or as a way of absolution.Read more: https://t.co/Y50bViP4W3
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  • Pete
    June 14, 2017
    This is worth your time. It's an examination of the Women In Refrigerators trope--named by Gail Simone for Alexandra DeWitt, the girlfriend of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. She was murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator for no other reason than to motivate Kyle to get revenge, and then to forget about her. It's a lousy way to treat a character, and it happens to female characters a hell of a lot more than it does to the male ones.This novella gives some of these characters a chance to tell their This is worth your time. It's an examination of the Women In Refrigerators trope--named by Gail Simone for Alexandra DeWitt, the girlfriend of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. She was murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator for no other reason than to motivate Kyle to get revenge, and then to forget about her. It's a lousy way to treat a character, and it happens to female characters a hell of a lot more than it does to the male ones.This novella gives some of these characters a chance to tell their side of the story; stand-ins for established characters (it's pretty easy to tell who's supposed to be who) perform the eponymous monologues, explaining who they were outside of their protagonist paramours. It's really well done, and if you've a guy who reads comics, it'll probably make you a little bit ashamed of yourself.
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  • Antti Rasinen
    June 6, 2017
    Loved it. I've long considered short stories the genre where Valente is at her best. This book is in effect six separate short stories, held together by the theme and the inevitable end.Even though the subject matter is heavy, Valente injects in humor where necessary. The allusions to the superhero comics and Greek classics alike make for pleasant moments of headscratching followed by an A-ha!And the names of the superheroes and villains, what joy! Grimdark was my absolute favorite.But the most Loved it. I've long considered short stories the genre where Valente is at her best. This book is in effect six separate short stories, held together by the theme and the inevitable end.Even though the subject matter is heavy, Valente injects in humor where necessary. The allusions to the superhero comics and Greek classics alike make for pleasant moments of headscratching followed by an A-ha!And the names of the superheroes and villains, what joy! Grimdark was my absolute favorite.But the most impressive feature of the book are the women. Valente gives each of them a unique voice and so much depth that the original comic book characters begin to feel flat. It's as if the Paige Embry is the definitive version and Gwen Stacy is the copycat parody.
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