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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.
Subtropes of the Wicked Widow variety:
- College Widow
- Comforting the Widow
- Black Widow
- Widow Witch: A discredited trope of widows being witches.
The Wicked Stepmother is often, though not always, a Wicked Widow.
Subtropes of the Wonderful Widow variety:
- College Widow: Depending on the nature of the story, it's the Wickedness that makes her Wonderful.
- Determined Widow:
- Romancing the Widow
- Take Up My Sword: The Hero dies and his wife or Love Interest becomes an Action Girl and goes on to continue his fight. The way I've often heard it put is the Hero will say: "Take up my sword if I fall". Also referred to in The Western as "a woman to ride the river with." (The river being the Missouri-Mississippi fur trade route). Does not necessarily have to be a widow, but usually is. Can be connected to Shield Maiden.
- False Widow: Can also be depicted as a Wicked Widow.
Once each Widow subtrope is launched we can move the short descriptions to those pages.