What is a dead mom hairstyle?

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Most commonly shown through Japanese animations, or anime, the “dead mom hairstyle” is generally known as a signifier that the mother either already has or will soon end up passing away. The hairstyle is either a loose braid or ponytail pulled over one shoulder, as in the image shown above. After becoming an internet meme, individuals began to notice the high frequency with which this hairstyle appeared among young mothers who were destined for death in anime and manga aimed at young men, also known as shonen. Usually, the mother in question has one or more children, and a son is the main antagonist of the show. The son usually gains a new life perspective or growth in character due to the death of his mother, making him into the character we come to know. Character arcs such as this have been influential to the plots of major shonen anime such as Fullmetal Alchemist and Attack on Titan. 

The genre of shonen is targeted toward young men and is, thus, predominantly consumed by boys and men alike. In order to appeal to their audience, these shows also tend to favor male characters heavily, especially in regard to main characters. It has caught my attention how common it is for these shows to brutalize the women in these boys’ lives in order to further their own narrative. Therefore, it is my opinion that the “dead mom hairstyle” is a newer and updated version of the “woman in the fridge” trope.

“Women in refrigerators” originates from a Green Lantern comic from the early 1990s, in which Kyle Rayner returns to his home to find that his girlfriend has been murdered and shoved into the fridge. This is an important turning point for his character arc and has, thus, named the appearance of this trope throughout media. Specifically, “women in refrigerators” refers to the brutalization of women as objects to further the growth of their male counterparts. This misogynistic objectification of women is prevalent in all forms of media but is especially apparent in media that is geared toward men. And if men are shown to believe through the media they consume that the suffering of the women around them is for their own personal gain, is it our responsibility for creating this environment by writing and marketing this media as normal?

Ultimately, there are a multitude of systemic reasons for the misogynistic environment we live in today. However, it is worthwhile to note that the hostility that we normalize towards women in media, whether it is women in fridges or dead mom hairstyles, can contribute to the hostility women face in real life.