Frozen: The woman in the refrigerator and the revenge-driven hero

Posted by Spacey (200 posts) - - Show Bio

Now, I don't know about you, but if a loved one of mine was stuffed into a fridge, I'd be pretty ticked off. Ditto if they were shot by a mugger, or dropped off of a bridge or irradiated or any number of other violent deaths that seem to be inflicted on C-list characters and super girlfriends every time I turn around. How would I react? Badly, I imagine. It would probably involve a lot of weeping openly in public places and perhaps the occasional cursing of whatever greater power might be responsible. For characters in comic books, though, it frequently results in a desire to fight crime. This is the revenge-driven hero, a hero whose motivations centre around the desire to avenge a person or group of people, and who extends this quest for vengeance until it covers villains ranging from "that douche who stole some lady's purse" to "that douche who stole some lady's purse and is now going to explode the universe".   One of the most famous revenge-driven heroes is, of course, Batman, who subsumes his dual desires to avenge his parent's deaths and protect the city they loved into punching costumed villains in the face.  And of course there are characters like the Punisher, who react to the violent deaths of loved ones by saying "Screw it, I'm gonna go shoot things in the face until it stops being funny". And then there're characters like Kyle Rayner, who had his girlfriend stuffed into a fridge, then his mother stuffed into an oven (sort of) mid-superhero career. These sorts characters are most often driven by grief as well as revenge, as they're already well into fighting crime.  
What is it about  heroes like this that we as readers find so easy to relate to? It probably comes down to the fact that the desire for revenge is something that we've all probably felt at least a little twinge of. Say you're out driving and some guy totally cuts you off.  What a douche! He must be made to pay. I mean, sure, we all know that you're not really going to avenge yourself on this guy, but you really want to, and that's what matters. It's kind of awesome to read about a superhero who is just like us, who has been driven to serve a greater good because of some tragic past. We can pretend that, if circumstances were a little different and if we were driven to it, we could totally be that guy.  
And then of course there's the fact that revenge is pretty much "instant characterization, just add tragedy!" Say you're writing about a superhero, and he's pretty cool. He kicks bad guys in the face and he has some pretty funny quips for when he does it. But he's still just like every other face-kickin', quip-sayin' superhero out there. He needs a little something more... and that something is a dead little sister, or dead parents, or a dead great aunt, or a dead puppy. Bam! You've got yourself an instant backstory, and you've sufficiently humanized your character, now they can go off and kick some more people in the face, and all you have to do is throw in a line now and then like "I wish my sister/parents/great aunt/puppy hadn't been murdered by the villain/eaten by zombies/hit by that car that cut me off" and your audience knows that your character is serious and deep and cares about proper driving etiquette.  
I'm not saying that revenge is bad motivation for a superhero, I actually think it's pretty great. I mean, some of my favourite superheroes are revenge-driven, so you know I'm not prejudiced. I just find the trend of murdering B-, C- and even E-list characters in the name of creating a motivation is a little disturbing. 

#1 Posted by Mr.Q (1051 posts) - - Show Bio
most of those 'motivation characters' are created just for that purpose as cold as it is to say so I just kinda accept that. what does disturb me is when they kill off different characters that have been already well established in order to make other developed characters to make them, as Joe Quased(?) put it 'more interesting'. like killing jean Grey to make Scott Summers 'more interesting'. or when they killed the Wasp to make her ex-husband Hank Pym 'more interesting'.  as for the women in the refrigerator, one time is 'dramatic' twice or more is revolting. the fact that many of the mainstream heroes are (strait) men makes it a problem. I don't notice too many female heroes with the back story ' My name is Renee Montoya, you killed my husband, prepare to die'. ( I know she will never have a husband just play along) seems strange. women in refrigerators, I think Joe Q owns that refrigerator. I believe its in his basement. well enough of my inane ranting. thanks for your time.

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