"Husbands should be like kleenex: soft, strong, and disposable."
—Mrs. White, Clue
The maneater, the woman whose husbands/LoveInterests keep on dying.
Usually, a Black Widow is a cross between a Con Artist and a Serial Killer, a woman who seduces, marries, and then murders men for their money, always using a different name and identity each time to keep the police and her intended victims from twigging to her real identity. She's very much a highly successful vamp.
There are too many Truth in Television instances to count.
The name "black widow" comes from the official FBI designation for this kind of killer and from the black widow spider, which is so named because of the occasional habit of female black widow spiders (particularly the Australian redback spiders and the southern black widows) to devour their mates after mating. For this reason the trope may be paired with Arachnid Appearance and Attire to really drive the spider metaphor home.
Not to be confused with Death by Sex or any of the many characters named "The Black Widow", though many of them do fit the trope. Compare Yandere and Comforting the Widow. See also Widow Woman for other widow tropes. See The Bluebeard for the Spear Counterpart of this trope. Leads to Will tropes.
See Black Widow for the comic book character.
- An incredibly strange example occurs in Junji Ito's Tomie series, where the titluar character does, indeed, go after the money like a typical Black Widow... Except she gives men an odd feeling of wanting to kill her.
- Roxanne in Claymore was a low ranked warrior, who consistently would become the best friend of a higher ranked warrior, learn her techniques through yoki synchronization, and kill her. This continued until she became one of the strongest and most notorious Claymores in history.
- Ava Lord from Sin City turns out to be one, though she's not above having other people do her dirty work (such as Dwight McCarthy, who she tricks into murdering her innocent husband so that she can get her hands on all his money).
- One of the women at the Serial Killer Convention complains about female serial killers being stereotyped as nothing but Black Widows & Killer Nurses in The Sandman book The Doll's House.
- This is made all the more amusing because she says this while participating in a panel discussion on "Women In Serial Killing"... whose fellow panelists are a Black Widow and a Killer Nurse who are visibly annoyed with her. And for extra laughs she's complaining about stereotypes despite being an Asian working under the nom de guerre of "Dog Soup".
- Black Widow herself was this, of course, pre Heel Face Turn when she was still a KGB spy. As Pepper Pots describes her, "She mates and then she kills." And she hasn't lost her touch as a hero either, often being a seducer for nobler ends.
- Many Harry Potter fanfics embrace what in canon is only implied about Blaise Zabini's mother (as mentioned in the Literature section below).
- There's this from The More The Merrier by "cassie_black":
Blaise: *says something about his mother*
- In the various According to Plan fics by LysandraLeigh, Lyra (a thirteen-year-old Time Traveling Bellatrix Lestrange) knows that Mirabella Zabini was planning to be a Black Widow since her early days at Hogwarts and thus frequently refers to her current husband as the "future late Mr. Zabini".
- In chapter four of Drunkard's Walk VIII: Harry Potter and the Man from Otherearth, Filius Flitwick outright calls Blaise Zabini "the spawn of the Black Widow" at the second breakfast of Harry's fourth year. Pomona Sprout recounts her history before Filius before nothing that nothing's been proven -- either way.
- Black Widow (1987), played by Theresa Russell, a serial killer of rich men she married for their money. She continues to do this long after she'd be wealthy though, implying her reasons are psychological rather than monetary.
- Stepmonster. There was also a screwed up bit of Gift of the Magi in there, as the monster is a comic book creature and only a specific, very rare and very valuable issue explained how the monster can be defeated. So the kid pawns the violin his dad gave him to buy the comic book; unfortunately, his dad has something serious against comic books and rips it up, not realizing its significance (or value), and it's not until the kid finds the one missing piece - that's right, one panel out of the entire comic book divulged the monster's weakness - that the kid realizes how screwed he is. Of course, the dad redeems himself at the movie's climax in a Big Damn Heroes moment where it turns out he bought back the violin and proceeds to dispatch the monster.
- Debbie Jellinsky from Addams Family Values is one of these. She gets her claws into Fester and marries him, but, Fester being one of the Addams clan, she doesn't quite succeed at the killing part.
- She's been killing since childhood, and often gets rid of people who fail to meet her needs (usually money-related), starting with her parents, who she killed for not giving her a Ballerina Barbie for her birthday.
- Of course, this being The Addams Family, once everyone understands the depths of her issues they all start to really empathize with her and regret not really getting to know her.
- This is Mrs. White's backstory in Clue. She's had five husbands, and we learn the fate of two. One was an illusionist who disappeared and never reappeared ("He wasn't a very good illusionist"). As for the other, according to Mrs. White, someone "had cut off his head and his, well, you know."
Men should be like Kleenex, soft, strong, and disposable.
- Steve Martin marries one in The Man With Two Brains.
- Mike Myers parodies the trope in So I Married an Axe Murderer—his character believes he is dating the mysterious "Mrs. X." She's not. Turns out her sister was an insane Clingy Jealous Girl who murdered all of the poor girl's previous husbands (she thought they had all just up and left her).
- In the Laurel and Hardy short film The Private Life of Oliver the Eighth Ollie courts a wealthy widow - only to discover on the wedding night that she has murdered her seven previous husbands who were all named Oliver. Hilarity Ensues. Partly a subversion, since it is Ollie who was hoping to benefit financially from the marriage.
- In Onibaba, Kichi's mother makes her living by preying on passing soldiers.
- Blaise Zabini's mother is implied to be this in Harry Potter.
- And when Blaise is revealed to be black, this gives us an amazing Stealth Pun.
- A real-life example is in the non-fiction book 'Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets' (later made into the popular TV drama Homicide: Life on the Street) which goes into detail on the case of Geraldine Parish, who was murdering her husbands and relatives (using a contract killer) for insurance money. An FBI profile mentions that the typical 'black widow' killer is an older and less attractive woman than the beautiful young fatales of Hollywood stereotype.
- Marcus Didius Falco (a private investigator in Ancient Rome) investigates professional widow Severina Zotica in the novel Venus in Copper.
- Nora Roberts, the main character in James Patterson's Honeymoon, is one of these. She kills two rich guys a short while after they propose to her with her two piece signature dish: an omelet laced with one poison, and sparkle water mixed with a second poison.
- Madame Olympia and (a rare gender-flipped example) Sir Simon Montpelier in Eva Ibbotson's Which Witch?.
- The Duchess D'Longeville from The Darksword Trilogy.
Simkin: I decided a change was in order, as the Duchess D'Longeville said when she married her fourth husband. Or was it her fifth? Not that it matters. He'll be dead like the others before long. Never take tea with the Duchess D'Longeville. Or, if you do, make certain she doesn't serve you from the same pot she serves her husband.
- Faye Cochrane in Wings was thought to be one of these in one episode, what with the mysterious deaths of all her husbands George.
- Although that may have been a coincidence, considering all the angst over the likely fate of her latest fiancée George during the show.
- The Practice had an episode where they defended a woman accused of being a black widow, due to her habit of marrying much older men. Her most recent husband had died of a heart-attack induced by viagra.
- Maggie O'Connell in Northern Exposure. She doesn't kill any of them; her boyfriends just seem to keep dying on her. One got hit by a falling satellite.
- Monk had this in the episode "Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding". Natalie's brother was about to marry a Black Widow, and she murdered the photographer after he recognized her.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Teacher's Pet" combined this with Hot for Student: a teacher who seduces and then kills virgins. And she turns out to be a giant praying mantis.
- From an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody:
Carey Martin: You know you're heartless.
- Maxwell Smart had to marry a KAOS agent who used this as her modus operandi for knocking off CONTROL agents in the episode "Widow Often Annie." 99 was not amused, as Max had already married her.
- It is not an actual example of the trope, she actually has a pretty effective Cartwright Curse instead (And provides the page quote), but Samantha Carter's boyfriends all seem to wind up six feet under in pretty short order (Unless you're MacGyver, of course). DVD audio commentary reveals that the writers actually called her "Black Widow Carter," and were going to title an episode as such until they went with Chimera.
- Minus the wealth part, on CSI the youngest daughter of a compulsive hoarder seduced boys from the halfway house where her brother worked and after she killed them to make sure they wouldn't leave she hid them around her mother's cluttered house. When mom found out what was happening she handcuffed her daughter to her bed and barricaded her behind a wall of boxes, and when her other daughter found one of the bodies she got hit on the head and left to die in a pile of newspapers.
- They also did an episode where two women conspired to act as wife and secretary for their victim and poisoned him with Selenium (and further investigation revealed they had done the same previously). Unusually, our heroes weren't able to prove either of them guilty.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: The It Lives by Night episode ends with Pearl Forrester regaling Professor Bobo and Brain Guy with slides from her numerous honeymoons, and descriptions of the untimely demises that each of her husbands and fiancés met with.
- White Collar: In "Veiled Threat", Neal, Peter and and Jones go undercover as wealthy bachelors to snare a black widow.
- Batman once had to capture a criminal known as the Black Widow. Her deceased husband's name was Max Black. However, instead of having to prevent her from killing husbands for money, he had to prevent her from robbing banks.
- Leverage had the team discover an entire team of these.
- The 1975 Alice Cooper song "The Black Widow" depicts this trope literally, with a opening spoken-word part (by Vincent Price) carefully describing the female black widow spider's lethality and mating habits. Unfortunately, the song itself negates this lesson both by making the spider character male and by depicting him as a Depraved Bisexual.
- The song "To Keep My Love Alive" is all about this trope.
- "The Wound that Never Heals" by Jim White is about a woman who does this, though the title refers to her having been molested by her father and no less than five uncles as a child.
- Though it's not spelled out in so many words, "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" by Herman's Hermits could be interpreted as being about this from the perspective of the latest victim. Which would also make the song a classic of Lyrical Dissonance. (It's also amusing considering the real life Henry VIII is considered this trope's Distaff Counterpart, The Bluebeard.)
- Natasha Kerensky from BattleTech. She became known by her moniker after her lover (who was one of the founders of the renowned Wolf's Dragoons) was taken hostage and later killed by Anton Marik, due to a fallout in relations. She reacted violently to this and lead her unit to storm Marik's stronghold and kill him and his remaining forces.
- Ravenloft uses this trope with Ivana Boritsi (who's even called "the Black Widow") and her mother Camille. Also done literally with the red widow monster, which seduce men in their guise as gorgeous redheads, then paralyze them and fill their bodies with eggs.
- The Dark Eye has Alara Paligan, widow of Emperor Hal and grandmother of the current Empress. Though she's not actually a self-made widow, she is a grand weaver of intrigue, and her soul animal is a black widow spider.
- The latest Revamp of The Haunted Mansion at Disney Theme Parks replaced the bride in the attic with a creepy Axe-wielding Black Widow Bride - cackling wedding vows including "In sickness and in... Wealth" (being proceeded by portraits of her former husbands' heads disappearing after a chopping noise).
- The band My X was the main attraction at Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream 2010. It used to be called XY, but female lead Sylvie took over the band and renamed it when the male lead/her ( apparently abusive) boyfriend mysteriously vanished. Now Sylvie spends her nights picking out guys from the concert crowd, hooking up with them backstage, and bringing them to her dressing room where she hangs them up, chops off their fingers, and kills them. Check out their signature song.
- Fun fact: My X was actually an unsigned band from Tampa; they renamed the band and wrote three new songs for the park's Halloween special. This troper unfortunately knows neither the name of the band nor what it is up to post-Howl-O-Scream.
- There's a player challenge for The Sims 2 that revolves around creating one of these.See it here.
- Also in the pre-made neighborhood Strangetown, Olive Specter is implied to be one of these.
- Played straight, and almost literally in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. In the second visit to the Hotel Sedgewick you fight the "Spider Witch", the ghost of a woman who murdered her previous husbands who takes the form of a Giant Spider.
- She hung them upside down and drained them of all their blood in the service of Gozer's cult. It's not clear if she did this before or after she killed them.
- Mad Moxxi in Borderlands.
- Morinth, a character from Mass Effect 2, is an asari with a rare genetic defect. Asari mate by merging their nervous systems with each other, and can do so with anyone of any species. When an asari with this defect, known by the asari in general as an Ardat-Yakshi (meaning "Demon of the Night Winds" in an old asari dialect), mates, it burns out her mate's nervous system, causing brain hemorrhage and killing them, and not only does this give her a sort of high that becomes increasingly addictive, but she becomes smarter, stronger and deadlier with each encounter. Morinth is extremely predatory and carefully chooses targets who are especially creative or special in some way. And she's been doing it successfully for 400 years. Morinth is actually a variant on this as she mainly does this to feed her addiction rather than for money, and she targets both sexes.
- Lady D from Henry Hatsworth, who hangs around a graveyard swamp and stands on a giant wedding cake/fort, shooting skulls out of a fake groom at anyone who rejects her.
- The talking black widow spider in King's Quest VI.
- In A Vampyre Story, the Baroness, previous owner of the castle in which the protagonist is currently imprisoned, is heavily implied to be one of these; that, or crazy unlucky in marriage. In her old bedroom is a shelf full of funerary urns, each containing the remains of a husband. Whatever the reason, she's spent so little time actually married that she has to resort to black magic in order to have a child, namely the villain of the piece (well, maybe "resort" is the wrong word; she was a witch to begin with).
- In Fallout 3, your female character can learn an ability by this name, which allows you to charm and manipulate members of the opposite sex with ease. Also, this perk grants a minor combat damage increase against male characters. Lady Killer is essentially the same perk for men.
- New Vegas as well. You can even seduce and kill Benny if you have the perk.
- In World of Warcraft, it's implied that Elder Crone Magatha Grimtotem murdered her husband, the chief of the Grimtotem clan of tauren, to claim his leadership position.
- The Contessa of Sly Cooper 2 is implied to be this. While it is never explicitly stated that she killed her wealthy husband, she definitely used his money for illegal purposes after his death.
- Lucrezia Flathead of Zork Zero was married dozens of times, and none of the husbands lasted more than a couple months. Most of them died on the wedding night. Some of the details provided in her biography make it pretty obvious that the deaths were not accidental, though nobody at the time (Including the biographer) was able to figure this out.
- Blackarachnia (who is an actual black widow spider, or at least turns into one) threatens to do this to Silverbolt in Beast Wars, citing her beast mode's predilection towards eating their mates. The fact that he still refuses to stop loving her both endears Silverbolt to her and makes her think he's a moron.
- Hilariously she's right on both counts.
- Piella Bakewell of Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death, marries bakers, then kills then, to get a "baker's dozen". Naturally, she tries to kill Wallace.
- In American Dad Stan's mother is set up to be this but subverted because Stan has been stealing her dates to keep her 'safe'.
- In Code Monkeys, Mr. Larrity is a rare, repeatedly successful male example. How he can keep this success when he profits obscenely off of it and stuffs his wives to keep in his office, we don't know.
- In the Family Guy episode "Trump Guy", Melania Trump (overlapping with Adaptational Villainy); when Donald Trump and Peter get into a fist-fight, she tosses Peter a golf club and tells Peter to kill him in a rather evil-sounding tone.
- Chechen female terrorists (read: suicide bombers), the likes of whom were involved in i.e. the Nord Ost Siege and the Beslan School Shooting are often nicknamed black widows.
- Mary Ann Cotton ("she's dead and she's rotten"), who killed three husbands and at least eleven of her children in Victorian County Durham, to a large extent for the insurance money.
- Even worse was that she used the same method for all of them: arsenic. And yet nobody noticed until she happened to slip up and mention that her last (then apparently healthy) little boy would "probably go like the rest of them" while speaking to a local preacher.
- Anjette Lyles used the same method to slowly poison her two husbands, her mother-in-law, and one of her daughters for the insurance money.
- Black Widow Spiders, Praying Mantis, and too many insects to count.
- Though interestingly, the spiders that give this trope its name have a number of different species, and most do not kill their mates and even let them hang around in their webs for a while.
- "Black Widow" is the official FBI designation for this type of killer.
- The whole point of the Oxygen channel's show Snapped. The show highlights women who killed their husbands (usually for the insurance money). At least, when the show isn't making the victim out to be an asshole.
- Annie Palmer, the (in)famous "White Witch of Rose Hall", who resided at the eponymous plantation outside of Montego Bay, St. James in Jamaica, and who is reported to have murdered three husbands and countless lovers, as well as many of her slaves.
- Margaret Rudin, who married five times and at least two of her husbands perished in very strange circumstances. The fifth one, Ron Rudin, turned out to be somewhat more Genre Savvy than believed...