Quit Fridging the Girlfriend: The Umbrella Academy

“Fridging”: a trope where a (usually female) character is injured, killed, or otherwise lose their agency as a plot device to further the arc of another (typically male) character.

Since that’s out of the way, let me get to what’s pissed me off this week: The Umbrella Academy. My S.O. was away for the weekend, leaving me ample time to binge-watch season one of Netflix’s superhero show. And the first few episodes showed promise. Not a lot but enough to keep me watching even as it turned into an utter trainwreck.

UA undoubtedly has a number of issues. I could honestly do three or four posts on how the storytelling went to shit. Depending on how well this post satisfies my rage, I very well may write another one.

Anyway, to the point of this post: fridging. (Usual disclaimer of spoilers).

There are at least three instances of fridging in the ten episodes of UA: Patch’s death, Allyson having her throat slit, and Agnes being held hostage. Want to know how many male characters die to further the arcs of female characters? Zero.

Patch’s death becomes Diego’s motivation for going after Cha Cha and Hazel. Never mind the fact that they’re assassins (as his brother, Five, can confirm). And never mind that he’s established early on as a character who goes after criminals and other bad guys. Because those two things aren’t good enough reasons for him to hunt down the pair, but his ex’s death (after she takes his advice to “break the rules”) is.

Allyson nearly dying after Vanya slits her throat not only makes Luther overly protective of his sister-slash-crush but also literally silences her. As in she can’t speak. She can’t  defend Vanya or to talk to her daughter on the phone as the apocalypse looms, and she’s forced to rely on (and defer) to Luther. And Luther manages to trigger the apocalypse.

Then there’s Agnes. Shes such a sweet, albeit cliche character who causes Hazel to turn his back on life as an assassin, and that honestly would’ve been one of the lesser sins (and forgivable) UA committed. But then ChaCha literally ties up Agnes and nearly drowns her in a hot tub. And if that’s not enough, the Handler then holds Agnes hostage until Hazel and ChaCha succeed in their mission of making sure the apocalypse happens on schedule. Would Hazel have become a quasi-good-guy without Agnes? No. But he’s such an interesting character that he should’ve been given another (non-fridging) reason to return to working with ChaCha for a final mission.

The superhero genre has a history of screwing over female characters in order to further the male heroes in their journey or mission or whatever. And in 2019, this shit needs to stop. Guys should be allowed to have motivations other than women and their suffering. Women should be allowed to have their own narratives not tied to a guy’s.

Have you seen The Umbrella Academy? What’s your pet peeve when it comes to storytelling tropes?

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