A character is killed off in a particularly gruesome manner and left to be found just to offend or insult someone, or to cause someone serious anguish. The usual victims are those who matter to the hero, specifically best buddies, love interests, and sidekicks. In some cases, the doomed character may be killed by natural forces or by a character who doesn't have the intent to cause someone else angst — in this case, the intent comes solely from the writer, who wants to rouse strong emotions in another character. If the said character was killed by a villain, this guarantees to become a motivation for a Revenge plot or an immediate Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
The name of the trope comes from a storyline in Green Lantern, in which the villain Major Force leaves the corpse of Kyle Rayner's girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, literally stuffed into a refrigerator for him to find. Years later, Major Force repeated the gimmick with Kyle's mother in an oven. It was just a trick with a mannequin that time, though.
The term (sometimes formed as "fridging") was popularized by comic book writer Gail Simone through her website "Women in Refrigerators." On that site, Simone compiled a list of instances of female comic book characters who were killed off as a plot device. The term came to be used more broadly, over time, to refer to any character who is targeted by an antagonist who has them killed off, abused, raped, incapacitated, de-powered, or brainwashed for the sole purpose of affecting another character, motivating them to take action.
While it is strictly true that Tropes Are Not Bad, this one, especially as a catchphrase, is often given a very negative connotation as it is all too often a hallmark of supremely lazy writing — using the death of a character as "cheap anger" for the protagonist, and devaluing the life of that character in the process, instead of giving the villain something actually interesting to do that can involve all three characters and more emotions than simple anger and angst.
This trope appears in many media. The Throw-Away Country is an extreme example, and the Doomed Hometown is in many ways the RPG Video Game equivalent. See also Disposable Woman, I Let Gwen Stacy Die, and Finger in the Mail. Compare What Measure Is a Mook? If it happens to multiple love interests of the same character, said character likely suffers from the Cartwright Curse. The intended effect is very much akin to Cheap Heat.
Compare Collateral Angst, a more general case where bad things happening to Character A are primarily important for their effect on Character B. Also compare Death by Origin Story. Depending on how useful/interesting the character is, and whether their death was pointless or not, can overlap with Dropped a Bridge on Him. Not to be confused with being Put on a Bus as a Human Popsicle. Also not related to Fridge Logic, Fridge Horror, or Fridge Brilliance. Also don't confuse with Locked in a Freezer or It Came from the Fridge. See Body in a Breadbox and Dead Man's Chest for other types of storing a dead body. Also compare The Murder After, when the corpse is discovered in bed.
If the love interest who gets Stuffed Into the Fridge remains relevant to the ongoing story, continuing to be loved and missed by living characters, sometimes to the point of appearing in flashbacks and dream sequences, and is the standard by which any subsequent love interests are measured by, she "graduates" to being a Lost Lenore — in quotation marks as the trope still needs to be handled with care to avoid being tasteless. The aforementioned scenario also guarantees to have the survivor becoming a Crusading Widower. Related to Men Are the Expendable Gender as that trope is part of the reason this trope applies more to women.
It should be noted that while the term most commonly applies to a male character's female love interest, it can actually be used in numerous different scenarios of both sexes and different relations from romantic, platonic and familial. The core part is that one character is killed (or at least, has something very bad happen to them) for the sake of causing emotional trauma for the target, with said victim often acting as a plot device more than a real character in the worst-case scenarios. As such, while this trope is usually Always Female as some would think, male examples do exist.
Since this is a death trope, SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
- Aika in Blast of Tempest: killed off before the series begins to spur Mahiro onto his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Sort of a deconstruction; he goes to ridiculous lengths to find her killer, and is compared to Hamlet in terms of insane, violent determination. He eventually gives up on vengeance when he learns that she killed herself, even though it was partly Hakaze's fault for telling Aika about it and accidentally making her decide to set up a Stable Time Loop via suicide.
- Bleach: Sosuke Aizen planned to specifically invoke this, killing Ichigo's friends and leaving the corpses for Ichigo to discover. Ichigo appeared in Big Damn Heroes fashion and forcibly moved Aizen out of town.
- Mao in Code Geass attempts a layered version of this — he goes after Shirley and Nunnally to get at Lelouch, and he's only going after Lelouch to get at C.C. (making it an example of going after a male character to get at a female character). Subverted in that he fails on all accounts, but his mind-reading powers end up revealing a rather intense secret about a different character Lelouch cares for a lot (also male), making it a lot more emotionally resonant.
- Euphemia's death at the hands of Zero/Lelouch looks like this from Suzaku's point of view, with an extra layer of betrayal on top. In case you were wondering why he's so upset in season two. Again, this show is better than that and the truth is a lot more complicated.
- Rolo's killing of Shirley, at least from a plot point of view serves primarily to distress Lelouch, and drive him to work towards eliminating the Geass altogether.
- Happens at least three times in Danganronpa 3.
- In the first episode, Chisa Yukizome is the first victim of the killing game which is meant to fuel her boyfriend Munakata's grudge against Naegi and the Remnants as a way of pitting them against each other.
- Next would be Kyoko Kirigiri who allows herself to be killed via poison so that Naegi wouldn't die for her. It's her death that motivates the boy to face off against Munakata to resolve their conflict. It's somewhat subverted as the final episode shows that Kirigiri was resurrected off-screen thanks to a special medicine.
- And finally, we have Chiaki Nanami from Side:Despair. Her death was organized by Junko Enoshima in order to mentally break her classmates and push them into becoming the future Remnants of Despair. Additionally, it's through her death that Izuku Kamakura is moved to tears and decides to betray Enoshima to carry out Nanami's will.
- From Darker Than Black: Towards the end of the second season, Yoko, The Team Normal for the Quirky Miniboss Squad, is found horribly murdered, prompting her girlfriend Mina Hazuki to make an It's Personal-induced attempt on the life of the person they believed responsible. Thing is? She thought it was Hei. She was wrong.
- May have happened in the movie of Neon Genesis Evangelion. After all, Shinji emerging from the ruins of NERV HQ and seeing the brutally gored and eviscerated remains of Unit 02 is part of what pushed him over the Despair Event Horizon to start Third Impact.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, a killer appears who skins women alive while recording it. This was actually a case of the trope being weaponized. The killer was a soldier who had been mentally conditioned and trained to go behind enemy lines and commit these atrocities to break the enemy's will to fight. Unfortunately, the mental damage was so great he never stopped.
- Gundam tend to use this into varying degrees. But again, Tropes Are Tools and Yoshiyuki Tomino had a Creator Breakdown while working on several of the series he's in charge of. A very bad example which is not directed by Tomino is Mobile Suit Gundam AGE where Yurin's death in the hands of Desil Galette caused Flit into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Unknown Enemy/Vagan for the next generations.
- Hellsing has a rare male example with Pip Bernadotte, who dies after Zorin Blitz stabs him while he's trying to carry a blind and mutilated Seras to safety. Seras breaks down in tears, and is pushed over the edge when Zorin mocks Pip's death, calling him 'a mere insect'. Seras responds by drinking his blood and becoming a fully-fledged vampire, and going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, culminating in her painting the wall with Zorin's face.
- Subverted in Higurashi: When They Cry. After Rena beats Rina/Ritsuko to death with a metal pipe in self-defense, she's seen stuffing Rina's body into a refrigerator in the junkyard. It's subverted in that Rina's boyfriend/partner in crime Teppei never discovers her; Rena lures him out to the junkyard and hacks him to death with her billhook before that can happen.
- Kamui Den: The rape and subsequent death for the peasant girl Mine early in the first series becomes an inciting incident for two of the major male characters to fight the oppressive powers of their feudal domain.
- Mayonaka no X Giten Kamiya finds his sister, murdered in his bed by someone who was borrowing his body. In a twist, he's the one who stuffs her body in a fridge as a way to hide the corpse.
- In the manga MPD Psycho, Amamiya Kazuhiko's multiple personality disorder is triggered when the serial killer he's tracking mutilates his girlfriend and delivers her limbless but barely alive body to the police station in an ice chest.
- Pain attempted to invoke this trope by killing Hinata in order to anger Naruto, but it was subverted when Hinata survived (and even if she hadn't, everyone killed during the arc was revived several chapters later anyway).
- Rin's death is what would directly motivate Obito into becoming the masked man known as Tobi. Her capture is what would inevitably lead to his "death" and land him into the clutches of Madara. Made even worse with The Reveal that the trope was deliberately invoked by Madara. He was the real mastermind behind Rin's capture and death (Kakashi being the one to actually finish her off was a bonus). The sole reason he targeted Rin was so he could drive Obito into despair and make him his pawn.
- In Psycho-Pass:
- Shinya Kougami's Start of Darkness and demotion to Enforcer started when he found the corpse of his Enforcer partner, Mitsuru Sasayama, dismembered and arranged in the most gruesome way.
- After making a short cameo in Season 1, Unit 2 Inspector Risa Aoyonagi seemed to be a prominent character for Season 2. being an Action Girl and having a Sugar-and-Ice Personality most especially when she's with Ginoza. Then, she's brutally killed in Episode 4 by her own Enforcer, Teppei Sugo, who unknowningly shot her with the Assault Dominator. Her death caused Sugo to feel guilty for shooting his boss and Ginoza refuses to talk to him afterwards. But the problem is that she's only mentioned as an afterthought in the second half.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, Kaoru is stabbed through the heart by Enishi and has an X-shaped scar carved onto her left cheek just as Kenshin's, and is left nailed to the dojo wall, slumped in a pool of her own blood. The gruesome display was meant to send Kenshin over the edge with grief, knowing that he failed to save his second love. It works really well. She ain't dead after all.
- In Silent Möbius, Ganossa Maximillian takes an interest in Katsumi Liqueur, the daughter of his former master Gigelf. So he puts her and her lover Roy through hell by siccing the Lucifer Hawk Damia on Roy. Against all odds, the lovers prevail against their inhuman foe. They celebrate by making love the next morning. While Katsumi is taking a shower, Ganossa suddenly appears and disembowels Roy in an instant. Katsumi returns too late to save Roy who spends his last moments holding her hand. Through it all, Ganossa laughs and urges her to hate him with all her might. Cue massive explosion.
- The Gung-Ho guns of Trigun are usually finished by one of their own after Vash claims a (usually circumstantial) victory. For example, this occurs in episode 16 where E.G. Mine nails two of his defeated former comrades atop a building, which Vash only notices once the blood drips onto the back of his head while walking. Mine then proceeds to refer to them as "decorations", making it obvious they were put there to set as examples for the Gung-Ho Guns' intolerance for failure.
- In Tokyo Ghoul, Rize, whose existence has no purpose other than this, as the circumstances of their disappearance sets off the entire plot and their return does nothing more than give Kaneki a necessary moment of closure which allows him to justify his pursuit of power.
- Subverted by Shoko in Valvrave the Liberator who survives. Played Straight with Aina.
- X/1999 has Kotori killed or beheaded (in the manga) by her own brother, Fuuma, who became a member of the Dragons of Earth after Kamui made his choice to join the Dragons of Heaven. This caused Kamui to go into Heroic BSoD until Subaru comforts him and as Kakyou and Hinoto predicted that no matter what happens, Kotori is destined to die by the time Kamui decided the fate of the world.
- There are several instances of fridging in Yu Yu Hakusho, but one notable case is when, in a battle against Shinobu Sensui, Yusuke deliberately provokes Sensui into killing him while Kuwabara, Hiei, and Kurama watch on helplessly, with the intention that his death will cause his friends enough rage that they will be able to defeat Sensui. Later on, Yusuke is resurrected in an exponentially more powerful form. This scenario also falls under the Came Back Strong and Unstoppable Rage tropes.
- A Growing Affection: Itachi's wife is killed by Madara, who leaves her out for Itachi to see, claiming she was an intruder. Both of them know that is not true and the real reason Madara killed her.
- In Circles of Power, a Harry Potter fanfic, Draco defects to the light side. In retaliation, the Death Eaters kill Draco's good friend Pansy and then break into the house where Draco has been taken in by Harry and his friends for protection, just to leave Pansy's mutilated body on Draco's bed.
- It's kind of a Memetic Mutation in the Fire Emblem Awakening fandom to have Lon'qu fridged via being shot with arrows, in fanworks related to the Bad Future. This is because of the massive popularity of the Lon'qu x Lissa pairing, how in their supports Lon'qu does get (non-fatally) shot to protect her, and the canon fact that Lissa's husband canonly died protecting their kid Owain from arrows. Discussed here.
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:
- Alleged to happen with Narcissa Malfoy. According to Draco, Dumbledore burned her alive as a warning to the rest of the Voldemort-supporting Malfoy family. Unreliable Narrator is in full force here.
- Happened more directly with Hermione Granger, leading to complaints of anti-feminism on fan sites. And the narrator is reliable this time.
- Subverted in that instance, in that the effect on the protagonist is quite different from that intended by the killer: instead of vowing revenge and turning Dark in pursuit of it, he doubles down on his opposition to pain and death by vowing to find a way of bringing his murdered friend back to life.
- In keeping with many canon films, the James Bond Fan Film "Property of a Lady" had this happen to Bond's girlfriend as she is specifically targeted to have an effect on him. However, Bond is wise enough to call an ambulance and its implied she survives.
- A rare male example in the Pokémon fanfic Symbiosis; Atsushi and her young apprentice Brittany are killed when they get mind-controlled by a Rocket psychic to destroy Saffron. Sabrina (Atsushi's lover) swears revenge on the psychic that did this to her.
- In Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams, Rick Sheridan's friend Cyrus is Driven to Suicide after he suffers a brutal Mind Rape at the hands of the demon Cobweb. What makes this even worse is that it becomes a twofer, as Sleepwalker is eventually forced to kill his brother N'ogskak as a result of the same plot.
- In Straight Edge, Jack Slash killed Kiritsugu's wife just to get a reaction out of him during the Holy Grail War.
- See the "Ode◊ to Aeris." Also known as◊ "Patron Saint of wannabe girlfriends that get dumped The Hard Way."
- In the ninth Alex Rider book, Scorpia Rising — which, when it was written, was intended to be the last book in the series — Alex and Jack are both captured by the Big Bad, Razim, a sociopathic ex-terrorist who has become a member of the series' recurring Nebulous Evil Organisation Scorpia. Razim is fascinated by pain, and conducts extensive experiments in the hope of developing a precise measurement for it. To this end, he subjects Alex and Jack to such an experiment: he gives Jack a stage-managed opportunity to escape that actually leads her into a deathtrap whilst Alex is forced to watch. It has nothing to do with his Evil Plan at all, he simply wants to see how much it hurts Alex.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- The first book has a rare example of the sexes being switched for this one — Khal Drogo's fatal injury and subsequent death are all to motivate Daenerys to take her next level in badass.
- Later on, Lady Hornwood was married to Ramsay Bolton for politics, then promptly shut in a tower and left to die. She was found with her own fingers gnawed off in hunger and desperation. Her cousin Wyman Manderley was not pleased and is now plotting his revenge against House Bolton. Manderley is also taking revenge against House Frey, who had allied with House Bolton, to take down the Starks, the banner-lords for Houses Bolton and Manderley. Also, Wyman's son Wendel was killed at The Red Wedding.
- Both Eddard and Septa Mordane's heads are displayed on the Red Keep's walls by Joffrey to traumatize Sansa.
- In Tyrion's backstory, Tysha is an example of this, especially after he finds out she really did love him. Shae is also an example, except instead of her being killed to cause Tyrion angst, Tyrion kills her to show that he's fallen off the deep end.
- The entire plot of The Count of Monte Cristo is Edmond Dantes doing this to the people who betrayed him and had him imprisoned, culminating in an Aesop about how revenge ultimately corrupts one's soul. He only stops because a murder happened he hadn't planned for, and that one of the people he'd sworn to protect as they'd kept faith in him fell in love with one of the people whose death he did plan, and only finds out at the last minute.
- Charlie Parker's wife and child are murdered by a serial killer and left in the kitchen of his house for him to find in John Connolly's Every Dead Thing.
- Connolly tends to use women like that. In Dark Hollow, Charlie Parker is motivated by the gory death of Billy Purdue's wife and son.
- In The Killing Kind, Charlie Parker's ex-girlfriend is found killed and he is hired to find out what happened. He is later effectively fired but ultimately chooses to continue the job so he can bring some justice to Grace Peltier and the rest of the Aroostok Baptists.
- In Leon Uris' Exodus, a story about the founding of Israel, the lover of a main character is kidnapped, raped dozens of times, and dumped in pieces near her home.
- In Firestarter, Vicky is murdered and stuffed behind the ironing board.
- A rare "heroic" example occurs in the Guardians of the Flame series. The heroes adopt the habit of mutilating the bodies of slavers they kill in humiliating ways, then leaving them for other slavers to find as a warning.
- There's also the backstory about Barons Nerahan and Arondael during the Holtun-Bieme war: Nerahan captured Arondael's son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren during his siege of Arondael's castle, had them all gang-raped by his soldiers in sight of the castle, then catapulted them over the walls one at a time, in a failed effort to goad Arondael's garrison into a suicidal sortie against the much larger besieging force. Due to the general amnesty that ended the war, Nerahan is still alive and ruling his barony years later; Emperor Karl reflects that he'd love an excuse to depose and execute the baron, but that Nerahan is too canny ever to give him one.
- In Leo Tolstoy's novelette Hadji Murat, the reader is first aware of the death of Hadji Murat when someone shows off his head in a sack. This rather brilliantly makes a death that for the history savvy reader is inevitable something rather shocking and horrifying, just as it is to the characters in the story, who do not have the benefit of hindsight.
- Tim Rackley's young daughter, Ginny, is raped and cut up, leading to the Deputy Sheriff to go on a mad rampage in Gregg Hurwitz's The Kill Clause.
- Quite early on in the first book of The Last Werewolf trilogy, the title character finds his long-time human companion's severed head in a bag in the boot of his car.
- In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Capa Barsavi's daughter was killed by the Grey King and sent back to him in a barrel of horse urine.
- In the climax of Lord of the Clans, Blackmoore hurls the head of Thrall's human surrogate sister at his feet when the Orcs besiege his castle, trying to break his spirit. Unfortunately for him, Orcs do not work that way.
- In Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series about an elite counterterrorism agent, the protagonist's backstory includes a tale of his high school sweetheart dying in a terrorist bombing as the impetus for his career. Aside from a couple of prequel books, her character is rarely mentioned outside her death and the role it played in enlisting the protagonist into the murky world of espionage and black ops.
- In Masques, there is a little girl the only little girl who is named, the other kids are all boys whose sole purpose in the narrative is to do something so incredibly stupid that it is not even believable considering that she's little more than a toddler, and, as direct result, get slaughtered by the monsters just so that the protagonist can ride after her, endanger herself, and be taken prisoner by the bad guys.
- In the backstory of Sword of Truth, this happens to Zedd's wife. She's viciously beaten and raped by D'Haran soldiers, and just to twist the knife in further, she's left for Zedd to find. Zedd, being a Wizard of the First Order, naturally attempts to heal her, only to find that doing so sets off a trap spell designed to kill her painfully in response to any magical healing. Ouch.
- Richard finds Kahlan like this. People stop him from healing her for that reason. It takes her months to get better.
- Richard does this with Brother Narev for Jagang to find, and then later has this done with all of the Fellowship
- In Twilight, James attempted this trope, videotaping him torturing and killing Bella to make Edward seek revenge and start a "game" with him. Lucky for Bella, Edward was fast enough to avert it.
- In Villains Inc. (sequel to Wearing the Cape), this is played with. Early on, Astra is presented with a superhuman murder where the victim was reduced to soup-in-a-box. Then she learns that Blackstone, one of her teammates and mentors, was killed in the same fashion in a potential future. The threat is very motivating.
- In Without Remorse, Pamela escaped from a gang of drug traffickers/pimps and becomes Kelly's girlfriend. Her brutal rape/torture/murder when she is recaptured inspires Kelly to use his SEAL training to coldly murder the entire gang over the course of the novel.
- In a rare example from Council Wars, Dionys McCanock decides against slitting Daneh's throat post-rape, just so she can go tell Edmund what was done to her.
- Gender-Flipped in Frostbite. Mason Ashford suffers a Neck Snap from Isaiah the Strigoi, sending Rose into a Heroic BSoD.
- Cover art for a reprint of Richard Brautigan's noir fantasy Dreaming Of Babylon has detective C. Card discovering a refrigerator from which a woman's shapely foot is protruding.
- Deconstructed and parodied in The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente, which focuses on the afterlife of six women who were (thinly disguised) famous female characters from superhero comics who have all suffered in gender-stereotypical ways. (Paige Embry is Gwen Stacy, etc.) The final story directly deals with this trope, parodying the trope-naming Alexandra De Witt example from Green Lantern.
- Midway through the Great Hunt, book two of The Wheel of Time, Dena is introduced, a female aspiring gleeman and love interest for returning character Thom. Soon afterwards she's found dead in their shared bed to spur Thom onto a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. She only appeared alive in a single chapter.
- Controversial Male example in the book Halo: New Blood which has the Rookie killed near the end of the novel seemingly just to build up Buck's character.
- Music writer Tom Ewing accused Kenny Rogers's "Coward of the County" of this.
- The traditional folk song and child ballad "Lamkin" or Long Lankin".
- Literalized at CHIKARA Hour of Power 7, April 23, 2017. Merlok, a big piranha character, abandoned his match with Ashley Vox to brutalize her sidekick Jawsolyn, throwing her around garbage cans and finally throwing her into a refrigerator. Director of Fun Mike Quackenbush announced he was cutting the feed, with the match being ruled a no-contest. (Jawsolyn never returned to CHIKARA.) This led to Ashley's Roaring Rampage of Revenge, culminating in her following Obariyon (formerly of The Batiri)'s advice and channeling the darkness within her to become Oceanea, and finally defeating Merlok at the Season Finale Closing Time on December 2nd.
- This occurs in Survival of the Fittest with the death of Adam Dodd's girlfriend, Amanda Jones, at the hands of Cody Jenson. It was overshadowed by the simultaneous death (and rape) of Madelaine Shirohara.
- Aleena the Cleric's fatenote in the "red box" version of Dungeons & Dragons was some 1980s gamers' first introduction to fridge-stuffing.
- A character with the Signature Move "Sacrificial Buddy" from Hong Kong Action Theatre has an Extra in every one of their movies who is a friend or relative of the role they play, whose main purpose is to get killed by the bad guys (usually in this fashion) and give the role some serious motivation for revenge.
- Omi Kurita, the daughter of the ruler of the Draconis Combine in BattleTech was assassinated by Kathrine Steiner-Davion, leader of the Federated Commonwealth, specifically because she was the lover of Kathrine's brother Victor and Victor had thwarted one of her political schemes. The revelation that she was dead sent Victor into a deep depression right as he and Kathrine were in the middle of a civil war and nearly cost him the war.
- Saya no Uta sees several characters dismembered and stuffed into a fridge with the purpose to preserve them and eating their flesh later. This happens to both men and women though, which is less usual for the trope. When Koji finds the remains of his girlfriend, the player decides how he reacts about it. Neither variant ends in a good way.
- In the first chapter of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Kaede Akamatsu is revealed to be the murderer and then killed off, thus giving her Love Interest Shuichi Saihara something to angst about for the rest of the game, and catalyze his Character Development. In fact, it's revealed toward the end of the game that since Danganronpa is an in-universe TV show with real people being brainwashed into fictional characters (and dying real deaths), that those responsible deliberately made Kaede and Shuichi fall in love, thereby invoking this trope.
- In Your Turn to Die, Sara's best friend Joe is marked as the Sacrifice in the first round of the Deadly Game, and subsequently put through a Cruel and Unusual Death, causing Sara to hallucinate in grief. In this case, a male supporting character is killed off to traumatise a female protagonist.
- In Broken Saints, Shandala's mother, then later, pet cat are fridged by Lear as part of his plan to drive her across the Despair Event Horizon so she can become a living component of his Kill Sat weapon system. This is an interesting case in that it involves the planning of two identically similar deaths, done several years apart, with the second death providing the victim with final push towards insanity.
- Subverted in RWBY. Cinder attempts to spite Jaune when he gets a lucky hit on her by impaling Weiss in a similar manner to how she had previously killed Pyrrha. However, doing so gave Jaune the necessary trauma to unlock his Semblance, which allowed him to heal Weiss' injuries.
- Blur the Lines subverts this trope. 
- The B-Movie Comic: Mopey pulls this to provide encouragement to Biff here.
- One humorous scene from 8-Bit Theater:
Ranger: Honey, I'm home. Apparently. Hmm, a note... covered in blood, hair, and brain.
"Dinner is in the fridge. Your Wife."
Ranger: How strange that she would not use her name or handwriting. Oh well! [looks in the fridge] O.J., '''purple stuff''', my brutally murdered wife...
[a hail of arrows sprays from the fridge, turning Ranger into a fine mist]
Sarda: He went home. Forever.
- Darths & Droids: Padme dies at the end of episode 3 in order to provide angst for Anakin, turned Darth Vader. This of course is exactly the same as the source material, and like in the original, it gets away with it due to the fact that we knew it was coming the entire time. Subverted when it turns out that Palpatine failed to save Anakin on the banks of the lava river, and instead revived Padme (with an infusion of midi-chlorians to give her Force powers) to act as Darth Vader instead.
Luke: You killed Padmé, the woman you loved. My mother!
Darth Vader: No.
Luke: You are my father!
Darth Vader: No, Luke. I am your mother.
- This Exterminatus Now comic combines this trope with Goldilocks, when their boss (an anthropomorphic bear) is royally pissed with the protagonists' latest screwup.
- Lampshaded in the superhero-deconstruction Heroes.inc, when a retired superhero tells his wife who was just attacked to stay 'home', because he thinks the attack was meant to get at him. His wife furiously replies that she won't be his private "Woman in the fridge".
- Homestuck has several Ensemble Dark Horse characters killed off rather suddenly to show the stakes of Sburb, as well as a few just plain Dropped a Bridge on Him deaths to clear out the massive Cast Herd. Hussie has lampshaded both.
- In the Joyce and Walky finale Rachel was revealed to be a robot double possessed by the Head Alien. David Willis, however, realized he had done this trope (by specifically doing it to give Joe pathos, and not to finish their character arc like he had to Ruth and Dina) and wrote a storyline in Shortpacked! specifically to avert this trope by revealing Rachel had been trapped in an alternate dimension.
- Octopus Pie heavily exaggerates this, although non-canonically in their 2010 Halloween story arc: Greg is cut apart and his body parts self-reportedly stuffed into multiple cupboards throughout the house. Hannah eventually comes across this sight, and has such a violent physical reaction to it she ends up dying as well... It's a comedy arc. Link
- Subverted twice in Sluggy Freelance.
- First there was when Horribus killed Alt-Zoe. Torg is all geared up to strike Horribus down, but in the end chooses to pass on revenge in order to Save the World instead.
- Then there was when Dr. Schlock ordered Feng's death. Everyone expected Oasis to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after that, not stopping until she killed Doc Schlock and everyone who worked for him. Instead she giggles and runs off to get married. Oasis is not a well person.
- Completely subverted, with a lampshade and Shout-Out to the trope-namer thrown in for good measure in this Super Stupor strip.
- Happens to Socks (who by the way was promoted to Kid Hero from Adorable Evil Minion for this reason) in the Kings War arc of Roommates. His death served the narrative purpose of motivating James to end a war (in one way or another). This even got a person shaped lampshade in the form of the representation of the narrative, who arranged this. The thing was literally made out of an Ironic Nursery Rhyme when it guided the spear that killed the kid.
- In Ash & Cinders Cinder and Azoc's mother was killed before the story even starts. As if being orphaned wasn't bad enough, Cinder later discovers her mother, a Nymph, was going to be used for firewood. Her death breeds animosity between Cinder/Azoc and their Wicked Stepmother Phira.
- The Hangman does this to Aelia, Gaven's guide, during the Third Night of The Tale of the Exile by yanking her up a building and strangling her while Gaven is speaking to her, solely to spook Gaven into running into a trap set by Despair.
- This fueled the creation of Women in Refrigerators, a protest site by comic-fan-turned-writer Gail Simone, who pointed out that these roles are not only almost always applied to female characters but to lead characters who happen to be female. A healthy amount of debate has risen up about whether the list is good evidence or not, but the meme, at least, lives on. By the way, if you an opinion on the topic, please keep it to the discussion page.
- In the SCP Foundation tale Senescence, Consumption, Persecution, which is set in the Rats Nest canon, SCP-590 is killed by the Chaos Insurgency to strike a personal wound against Dr. Bright, who becomes a member of the O5 Council in this timeline. He disappears and is implied to commit suicide shortly after this happens. Not that it would mean much to him anyways.
- In Demo Reel, the two main women are Rebecca Stone (who has a Rape as Backstory that she's dealing with) and the memory of Elissa Hoffman (Donnie's mom who committed suicide). "The Review Must Go On" ass pulls that Demo Reel was a purgatory punishment for The Nostalgia Critic, and all the characters were never-alive-to-begin-with constructs to help him along.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Penny dies to fulfill Dr. Horrible's quest to kill someone to join the Evil League of Evil, despite taking away his hope in the process. Her disposable status is even lampshaded by the news coverage of the death of "Captain Hammer's girlfriend, Whats-Her-Name". She's also the only genuinely good character in the show, sealing the crap firmly into the Crapsack World that Dr. Horrible will now rule over.
- Anita Sarkeesian discusses this trope in the Feminist Frequency video Women in Refrigerators. She also mentions its overwhelming use in video games as well, in her "Tropes vs Women — Damsel-in-Distress" series, along with it being combined with Distressed Damsel in "The Damsel in the Refrigerator".
"Writers are using the Women in Refrigerators trope to literally trade the female characters' life for the benefit of a male hero's story arc. They are making clear that women, even powerful female superheroes, are basically disposable."
- Parodied in The Nostalgia Chick's Dark Nella Saga. Dark Nella captures Chick in parts 1 and 2 and stuffs her (alive) in a conveniently empty fridge. She gets out both times. It helps that said fridge is Bigger on the Inside. Mara Wilson also quite casually mentions that she'd been planning to kill Chick to make The Nostalgia Critic suffer before he died in To Boldly Flee.
- In Vigilant, Rita, a fully-fleshed character with a plot line, is (presumably) killed to cause Wayne anguish (and promote character growth). We're not sure she's dead yet, though.
- Archer: Near the end of season three, Nikolai Jackov, (former) head of the KGB and one of the candidates for Archer's father, is brutally murdered by Barry Dillon to spite Archer. The method — being blown up by a crude time bomb — was to deliberately leave as little DNA for a paternity test. On learning of his death, Archer kind of frowns, then seemingly forgets Jackov ever existed as he is not mentioned once in any subsequent episodes, not even when Barry reappears two episodes later, or again in season four or in season six. The only character to mention him at all is Cheryl, when she admits to the FBI it was her fault for leading Barry to the safe house, in the Continuity Cavalcade in the season five premiere.
- The Batman has what is either a parody or a G-Rated version of this trope. In the episode "A Fistful of Felt", Arnold Wesker (AKA The Ventriloquist) has been seemingly cured of his criminal ways. As part of his treatment, Wesker has been given a new puppet: Mister Snoots. One day, Wesker returns to his apartment, only to find the refridgerator door has been left ajar. When Wesker opens the fridge, he finds Mister Snoots inside! With an eye missing!
- Exaggerated and parodied 3 times in The Boondocks episode "It's Goin Down". Jack Flowers's 3 successive girlfriends are decapitated, pushed off a skyscraper and then exploded in midair, and tied to and fired from a cross-town rocket then blown up. All three are lampshaded, ending with "what kind of fucked up, Wile E Coyote shit is that?".
- Justice League Dark: Apokolips War exaggerates it: Most of the superheroes that the 14-film series has spent amassing are mercilessly massacred within the first half an hour or so of the 90-minute runtime, to establish the desperation of the handful that remain to try to take on Darkseid.
- In an episode of Samurai Jack assassin robots destroy several villages and kill their inhabitants (surprisingly unsettling, considering the only onscreen victims are robots) solely to draw the title character to them. Probably the horrific brutality with which it's done, which had they been human would have bumped up the rating two or three notches.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) Karai has attempted to invoke this trope several times in her attempts to hurt Splinter (whom she believes killed her mother) by targeting the guys, and hurt the guys by targeting April.
- This has happened at least twice in Transformers Animated, first to Ratchet—while Arcee didn't actually die, having your memory completely wiped is still pretty bad. Next episode we find out that Optimus' friend (and Sentinel's implied girlfriend) Elita was eaten alive by giant spiders. Or so they thought. But as Blackarachnia, she fared little better, being a Faux Action Girl who wound up the Damsel in Distress every time she appeared.
- In the Wakfu special "Goultard the Barbarian", the villain Katar kidnapped and murdered Goultard's wife and children just to piss him off. Katar wanted to make Goultard look like a more appetizing host for the parasitic rage eating demon inside him. It worked, but Katar only got to enjoy a few seconds of freedom before Goultard finished him off.
- The second season of Young Justice has been doing this after a five-year Time Skip.
- Beast Boy is now on the Young Justice team after getting his superhero origin last season. But the episode "Earthlings" reveals through flashbacks and dialogue that his mother, who shared his original spotlight episode, was killed in an accident that was really orchestrated by supervillains. This traumatized Beast Boy deeply. But he is an orphan in the comics, so his mom was sadly Doomed by Canon. Also, Beast Boy wasn't even the hero Queen Bee was getting revenge on. That would be Miss Martian, who grew up idolizing Beast Boy's mother on her short-lived television show and wormed her way out of being blackmailed by Queen Bee. Queen Bee tells Marie Logan point-blank that she's only killing her for revenge, and the time stamp shows it was less than a month after the first season ended. So Marie is both murdered to hurt Miss Martian and Death by Origin Story to enable her son to become a superhero.
- Aqualad has gone through a FaceHeel Turn after being driven mad by the death of his former girlfriend, Tula. This turns out to be a ruse to that Aqualad could infiltrate the enemy's cadre. Tula certainly is dead though.