Valente’s “The Refrigerator Monologues” Offers Great Premise, Poor Execution
As both a comic book fan and a lover of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, I was really, really looking forward to reading The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente. Unfortunately, I think that left me with higher expectations than I should have had, because while it was a decent read, it wasn’t what I expected (and no, that isn’t a good thing).
I simply believe that the title and basic description of The Refrigerator Monologues are very misleading. Clearly they are meant to invoke The Vagina Monologues, but TVM is – for the most part – an uplifting collection of women’s stories, whereas The Refrigerator Monologues is simply a rehashing of, well, female comic book characters who have been fridged. There are literally no lessons to be learned from this book; the bad things happen to the women and they all sit around and talk about it and that’s that. The only truly positive aspect of the story that is told is that sure, the women are friends, and for the most part support each other.
As for the writing, it’s good but in my opinion doesn’t jive with the overall tone of the book. It’s almost too poetic, or feels like the author is trying too hard; the story simply seems to be begging for a more light-hearted tone.
Having mentioned that The Refrigerator Monologues is a lot of rehashing, I feel like it’s important to note that this goes for the characters as well as their stories. Valente changed up the details just enough to avoid this being fanfiction (or outright theft of creative property), but the parallels are pretty darn obvious, with the main characters being not-so-loosely based on the Marvel/DC characters Gwen Stacy, Jean Grey, Harley Quinn, Mera, Karen Page, and Alexandra DeWitt. I’m honestly torn as to whether this was a better choice than the author creating entirely new characters and stories, because while I understand what she was going for and at times enjoyed the way she created ones that were parallel to what already exists, some of them were too close to the source material (especially the Harley Quinn-esque character) while others were barely passable as their own tales (mainly the Alexandra DeWitt-type story).
Overall, The Refrigerator Monologues has a great premise and was a quick and easy read, and as I noted, I do think the writing was very good – I just don’t think this book is, as a whole, well-executed.
The Refrigerator Monologues is now available for pre-order is scheduled for a June 6, 2017 release.
* I received a free copy of The Refrigerator Monologues in exchange for an honest review. *
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is a fandom and geek culture expert, public speaker, and character cosplayer who is best known for her Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones), Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica), and Andrea (The Walking Dead) cosplays. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.