Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

madwoman; game of thrones; hbo; refrigerator; fantasy; tropes


There is an existing trope in the fantasy genre I call the madwoman in the refrigerator—in which a female character is killed, maimed, raped, depowered, and/or made to go mad or insane when she is no longer able to uphold the conventional genre expectations of her role in the narrative, such as the angel, monster, or angelic monster. It is a combination of the theory from Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar that women are demure angels when they are fulfilling stereotypical feminine roles in a narrative and when desire or agency is found, the woman is a monster, portrayed as a villain or a madwoman to be locked in an attic, and the theory from Gail Simone that women in comics are brutalized and killed in order to create an inciting incident for a male’s plot. Daenerys from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones embodies the madwoman in the refrigerator trope, both in how she aligns with the other female angels/monsters and the hero of the story, Jon Snow. After using Dany to prove that the trope exists, I then use her role in the narrative to expose the social problems with the trope and why it is necessary for the fantasy genre to adapt to modern times.

Lay Summary

In the fantasy genre, there is a repeated pattern of female characters being maimed, tortured, assaulted, made to go insane, vilified, and/or killed in order to enhance the storyline of a male character. I call this conceptual pattern the madwoman in the refrigerator, inspired by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s Madwoman in the Attic and Gail Simone’s Women in Refrigerators. To fully realize the extent of this pattern and how it damages the genre, I look to Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones who falls victim to this pattern, as she is painted as successful and desirable until she is written to go insane with power and killed by the male hero. I attempt to explain this pattern’s inspirations, how this pattern works in the genre, how this pattern can be applied to a prominent female character in fantasy, and why it is necessary that this pattern continue to evolve into a socially modern concept while still preserving the essence of the fantasy genre.