How I met your mother in a refrigerator

Always liked HIMYM but the finale really bothered me. If it bothered you too, and you can’t figure out why, let me tell you about a comic book issue called: Women in Refrigerators.

This is why you’re bothered by the HIMYM finale

How I met your mother
Wasn’t planning on writing two back-to-back opinion posts but these things have been bothering me enough to say something.


If you’ve watched the finale, you know that the mother was a red herring the entire time. The story really was, and is, about how Ted and Robin end up together after years of orbiting around each other.

But if it left a distaste in your mouth and you can’t figure out why, let me tell you about the Women in Refrigerators issue in comic books.

The term comes from a 1994 story where a superhero returns to find that his girlfriend has been killed and stuffed into his refrigerator.

It’s a plot device, whereby a female character is killed or maimed in a male-centered story purely to make stuff happen for that male character. And it happens enough to have a name.

Turning back to HIMYM, we essentially meet the mother in a refrigerator in that we met her when she was already dead six years.

The purpose of the refrigerator in comic books is to shock and horrify; ditto for the reveal in HIMYM.

Green Lantern Kyle Radner finds his girlfriend in a refrigeratorThat’s why the finale bothered me. Because this character was ostensibly there purely to provide story impetus – and offspring – for Ted and then is conveniently killed off to make room for the person he’s loved all this time, Robin.

The entire last season, which could have been a look into the mother’s life – let’s call her Tracy, because characters of meaning deserve names –  was instead just about Robin’s marriage, which itself was a red herring.

And Robin’s life is essentially a waiting game for Ted. So both females lives are disposable and there to serve the protagonist of the story, that is all.

We’re not even told how Tracy died or why, that’s how marginal her death actually is.

Of course, does this happen in real life? Sure. Girlfriends and wives are killed every day, spurring the men in their lives to take action. But men are killed as well and this isn’t a major trope in writing.

Ultimately, to devote close to a decade of storyline to characters only to do a fake out seems cheap and easy.

I’m no hardcore feminist, but this is so glaringly distasteful that it’s difficult not to notice it.

End rant. Back to nuthin later on this week.


Location: apartment on a rainy Monday morning
Mood: still irritated
Music: Girlfriend in a coma, I know, I know – it’s serious
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2 replies on “How I met your mother in a refrigerator”

Ran across your blog while searching for anything about that weird line in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty film where Boris Karloff points out that if you were to stick an icicle in someone’s brain, supposedly it would melt and there would be no trace of how the person was killed. Still haven’t figured out why that led me to your blog, but I did read this entry I want to add something.

This women-in-refrigerators trope is much of what bugs me about the ending to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (speaking of blogs). We’ve been invested in Penny’s character for three episodes… (in real life, that played out over the course of a week, in which we twice were left hanging for a couple of days waiting for the next installment as songs from the previous installments played in our heads so incessantly that occasionally we had to sing them out loud, even though they had lyrics about pouring poison in the water main and we had to make sure no one was near us at the teacher conference who might think they needed to act on their “see something, say something” moment). Yet in the end, it turns out she exists purely to provide an origin story for our anti-hero.

I found this profoundly disturbing at the time — and continue to find it so — all the more as I began to learn how Joss Whedon was constantly being presented as some kind of uberfeminist who created strong women characters, apparently pretty much on the strength of Buffy. The more I became familiar with his work, the more I simultaneously admired the genius of it and ground my teeth over how often he got a pass for subordinating female characters to male characters’ stories.

Back to “women in refrigerators” and origin stories: I’m additionally reminded of what Douglas Adams said in The Hitchhiker’s Guide Radio Scripts about how he came to an event a sperm whale and bowl of petunias in the middle of the vastness of space. It seems he had been watch me to episode of the ’70s action program “Cannon” and had been troubled by how frequently characters existed purely to be killed as collateral damage in the course of Canon solving a mystery or crime. Adams decided that he was going to create these two characters, as it were, purely to be killed after having actually spend some time exploring their existence. He was amused by the massive amounts angry letters he received for this, given that presumably the authors of Cannon did not share that experience.

In closing, hello from 5 years in the future – which, curiously, bring us full circle to the topic of HIMYM.

(As there appears to be no way to edit my comments, please excuse the occasional artifacts of dictation errors I failed to spot while editing in the teeny tiny space on my phone that’s left after my huge virtual keyboard sucks up half the screen.)

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