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On November 19th 1915, Joe Hill was murdered by the State of Utah for the crime of filking.

This year’s Joe Hill filk tribute showcases not a song by him, but a song about him: “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” (YouTube). It tells how a man is murdered but his ideals and example becomes much more powerful because of that. By being murdered, Joe Hill became the man that never died.

Earlier this year, I read up a bit of fridging, and the two patterns felt like they sort of complemented each other. And there are arguably two cases of fridging that are famous and can be said to encompass much of its spectrum. The first is Gwen Stacy. The second is Barbara Gordon.


But Barbara Gordon is the woman who walked out of the fridge. (Technically, she wheeled out of the fridge, but idioms are what they are.) Kimberly Yale and John Ostrander took a character that had been written out and tossed aside not by a single writer but the entire DC editorial team, and made her into a new and original hero, with her own unique role. A superhero who didn’t have superpowers because of her disability, but a superhero who was disabled. A superhero who remained a superhero despite being written out by her publisher. A superhero who showed her history and her disability with every single frame she was in, but still was not defined by that history—or her disability.

But the story didn’t end here. After a long tenure as Oracle, DC gave Barbara back the use of her legs and put her back in the role as Batgirl. In effect, fridging the original superhero creation of Oracle in favour of a female Batman analogue, while writing out the two holders of the Batgirl title that Barbara had mentored and tutored. Gail Simone handled that mandated transition as gracefully as anyone could, but later writers seems to have continually chipped away at and removed all her hard-won experience and expertise, pushing her role and identity as Oracle deeper and deeper into the fridge.


I dreamed last night of Oracle
Her sitting next to me
Says I, But Babs, you're Batgirl now
I never quit, says she
I never quit, says she

The Killing Joke, says I to her
Her watching like a seer
They shot and raped and left you, Babs
Says Babs, But I'm still here
Says Babs, But I'm still here

The DC bosses wrote you out,
They turned you into grist
Takes more than pens to unwrite me
Says Babs, And I persist
Says Babs, And I persist

And sitting there as real as life
And smiling with her eyes
Babs says, What they can not erase
My life that I devise
My life that I devise

Oracle's here, she says to me
Oracle still abides
Where girls are fridg’d and written out
Oracle’s at their sides
Oracle’s at their sides

In songs and films and comic books
The valley and the hill
Where women build their life anew
You’ll find Oracle still
You’ll find Oracle still

I dreamed last night of Oracle
Her sitting next to me
Says I, But Babs, you're Batgirl now
I never quit, says she
I never quit, says she

There are lots of great versions of the original song. My favourite is the driving anger of Luke Kelly's version, but this one needed a woman's voice, thus Joan Baez's take on it.

My previously posted Joe Hill filks: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.
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