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 with socially-legitimate sexual experience. This places them in a category all their own, without set rules — not the pure innocent girl, not the established wife, not the vamp
, not the old maid
. She could be good or bad, and writers appreciate the flexibility this offers.
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
, etc. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
was going to have Mary divorced but changed it to a broken engagement since the actress hadn't entirely shed her old persona of Mrs. Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show
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
is somewhere in-between, being often an antiheroic character.