Amazon Studios announced today that they are moving forward with the TV show Deadtown, with Shauna Cross set to develop the pilot. Deadtown is an adaptation of Catherynne M. Valente’s novella The Refrigerator Monologues and will set up an original superhero universe with a focus on female empowerment.
The title of Valente's novella, which features art by Annie Wu, and the premise for the plot, comes from the comic book term “women in refrigerators,” or when a female character is frozen out of the plot i.e. killed, raped, brainwashed or stripped of her powers to provide emotional motivation and backstory for the male character. Now, the novella and the concept will be the basis for a new superhero TV show.
In an exclusive report, Deadline confirmed that the pilot for Deadtown will be developed by Shauna Cross, most known for scripting Whip It (based on Cross’ novel Derby Girl), Bad Santa 2 and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. She will also serve as an executive producer of the project along with Lawrence Gray, Ben Everard, Cliff Roberts and the novella author, Catherynne M. Valente. The series will follow five recently dead women who meet in the titular Deadtown and learn their entire lives were in service to superhero men who ultimately caused their deaths.
Valente, whose novella was published in 2017, stated that the inspiration for the story came from her outrage over Gwen Stacy’s death in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But, the practice of “fridging” female characters in service of male character development goes back much further. The term was coined in 1999 by writer Gail Simone in reaction to an incident in Green Lantern #54 (1994) in which the hero, Kyle Rayner returns home to find that his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, has been killed and stuffed into a refrigerator by the villain Major Force. As more and more superhero movies are made, the trope has found its way from the page to the big screen in everything from Thor: The Dark World to The Dark Knight and, most recently, Deadpool 2 - though they reportedly did consider other options.
Thanks to the abundant success of 2017’s Wonder Woman (and female-led films in general) it's clear there is a large audience for female-led superhero stories - hence the upcoming Captain Marvel and stand-alone Black Widow films, not to mention the team-up, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). It makes sense that this trend would extend to TV as well. Interestingly, unlike male-focused superhero series, Deadtown will be creating its own, original universe. But perhaps it’s just side effect. Maybe they’d have more female superhero characters to adapt if comic books didn’t keep killing them. (Though, admittedly, comic books are just as likely to revive their characters as kill them off.)
Deadtown has been ordered to pilot at Amazon.