There are many different Widow tropes, and although they're used especially commonly in a few particular genres (The Western
and Romance), they can pop up just about anywhere.
Widows can be depicted positively, yet are just as often depicted negatively. It seems that society can not decide if Widows are Wonderful or Wicked. This could be because they are single women who have experienced sexual relations, but quite legitimately. This places them in a moral gray area, by old-fashioned standards; they are either viewed as a potential threat to virtue, or they might instead be used as a way to write in an "experienced woman" character who is also virtuous.
During the mid- to late-1960s TV sitcoms centering on female characters frequently depicted them as widowed (this being when divorce was still considered objectionable to depict), including The Lucy Show
, The Doris Day Show
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
, Julia, etc.
Of special note: in Japan, traditionally, the widow has a very specific cultural reference. She was required to maintain his specific spot in the family hierarchy, especially if she and her husband failed to produce an heir. If she should then re-marry, she would then take on the mantle of her new husband's family, and the prior husband's family would view that as her betrayal (at worst), or abandonment (at best). Often, the widow would get "affection" from her suitors in casual, non-committal ways. While the majority of Japan has moved away from this custom due to increasing equality between the genders, in the eyes of the law at least, there are pockets where the tradition continues, and overall, the "sexually loose" stigma associated with knowingly courting a widow remains.
Subtropes of the Wicked Widow
The Wicked Stepmother
is often, though not always, a Wicked Widow.
Subtropes of the Wonderful Widow
Once each Widow subtrope is launched we can move the short descriptions to those pages.