The Black Widow

I’ve been thinking lately about the black widow character.   You know, the TV show lead female whose ever lover dies on her.   Usually, it’s for convenience – the lovers are just a plot device, to be discarded at the end of an episode.   But in at least one case – Maggie O’Connell of Northern Exposure – there’s a little more analysis, and it’s a bit troubling.

Maggie’s had five boyfriends in her lifetime.   They’re all dead for various reasons.   Why?   Because there’s something toxic about her – specifically, her brand of false feminism.   She needs men, but pushes them away under this banner of independence that isn’t even genuine.   She can’t give of herself, and so they die.

Which would all be very interesting as a character study, if maybe one of the 8 billion male TV-land characters who push women away while needing them desperately had a string of traumatic girlfriend deaths haunting them.   C’mon, just one.   Guys?

What’s the real message here?   That men never stop needing mommy figures, and a woman who deprives them of mommying has done them grave injury?   Meanwhile, women are supposed to be so strong that they can survive toxic men, over and over.   I mean, I’ve been thinking all this time that the black widow character was supposed to condemn feminists for not being barefoot and pregnant.   But maybe the real message from male writers is that they can’t live without women.   They need women so badly, they’ll die without them.

Considering how entire societies have been designed to force women into depending on men financially and supporting them in every other way, this view might make a lot of sense.

So the next time you see a Black Widow character, don’t worry that the writers are condemning her shameful independence.   Look at it as a plea for help from men who are so needy they can’t function without women.

Yeah, there may be a little sarcasm and tongue-in-cheekiness in this post.   😉


  1. Mecha says

    I think any show that uses the concept that ‘all my lovers die’ is either a murder mystery, covers a really long time frame, or really crazy on that front. How many people experience a close death (family/boyfriend) every year or two?

    An example from TV that does this on the male side is Highlander, not that I’d
    hold that show up as a model of feminist principles, but the ‘tragic’ element of someone who lives through their lovers’ deaths over and over again (probably a flashback to such a situation every other episode), with sometimes those deaths being his fault, does ring notes. I’m not even sure they’re unique ones, in society, however, I’m not sure that, with the male focus of the show, it holds as a really good example. (I am reminded of the time he refused to kill a previous lover-immortal because she was a woman and he was old school chivalrous. Bad stereotype following writer or good writer?)

    The other example I spent the last couple minutes thinking of, again, not a great example of equality, is the James Bond movies. They make it all but explicit in one of the more recent ones where the villain pretty much says, “How many lovers have you had, and why are all of them dead?” Put in the context of this, that actually seems like it might be surprising from the male side. In some of the recent movies there really has been an ’emotional’ spin to the death of specific leading females, even whe nhe moves on. (Tomorrow Never Dies being the strongest example therof.)

    I can’t say the concept is new to me, and I’m not sure why. Although I do know that it’s so emo it bleeds in text alone, and emo’s been big lately online. 😉 One too many tragic vampires, I guess.



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