Try Again, Tropes


One topic I have had sitting in my drafts for several months is a link to an article titled “Accidental Cougars.” That term annoys me a lot. I think it’s misleading because either you are or you aren’t. To me, an ‘accidental cougar’ would be not realizing the guy you were …’hunting’ was 10 years younger than you.

What exactly is a cougar? The stereotype would be an older woman who pursues younger “prey” (generally a guy, but I can see some exceptions). So she’s out actively looking for younger men.  Too often though, any older woman with a younger man is labeled “cougar” and that may not be the case at all. She may have been hunted by the man. Neither of them may have been looking for each other and the age difference between just happens to exist. In either of these two latter categories, she is not a cougar at all.

So in my opinion, the relationship category of “older woman, younger man” has sub-categories, one of which is “cougar.”   TVtropes is a site dedicated to pointing out these rules since, evidently, there is nothing unique left in the world, everything can be sorted neatly into piles.  Looking around on Tvtropes, I found myself inevitably on “Mrs. Robinson.”  I think we can safely call this “the cougar trope” because she is arguably the ultimate cougar.  Unfortunately, I feel this is a mistake unless one is willing to split hairs even further than we already have to get here.

“Mrs. Robinson is usually much older than her lover, and her lover may or may not be willing…”

I disagree. A lot. While there is much latitude in specifics of the archetype, that which makes her “Mrs. Robinson” is set in stone. The “Mrs. Robinson” can be any social standing, race, economic status. However, what she can not be is less than “considerably older” than her love interest.  Because “Mrs. Robinson” is a specific character in a specific work, her …trope-ness is bound to the work in question. That Mrs. Robinson was Elaine’s *mother* is absolutely crucial to “The Graduate.” It establishes the relationships between the characters and more importantly to my argument, it establishes that there was a *LARGE* age difference between her and Benjamin. If that sort of age difference is not present, the woman may very well still be a cougar, but she is not a “Mrs. Robinson.”

So this leads me to say that you can split the category of “cougar” into sub-species.  In fact, Tvtropes does it with “pumas” and “Mrs. Robinsons.” But not very well. You can not micro-organize and then go back and broaden the terms once you have sorted them. That only proves that the little boxes don’t really fit everything.

I am not downing The Tropes completely. Yes, I get that they exist. And yes, against my need to scream about my uniqueness, I will cop to conforming to more of them than I want to, because they are often real and valid. But I refuse to be lumped into a paradigm that by the very criteria they use to establish it, is incorrect. Not that I’m going to cop to “cougar” in any fashion, but Jesus, get it right at least.

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~ by Layla on March 18, 2011.

2 Responses to “Try Again, Tropes”

  1. Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you…. ;p I had to. I think I’ll agree that SOME tropes do exist, but I also completely agree that TV Tropes does the world a bit of a disservice by going back and adjusting the boxes to fit what they put into them. By doing this, they admit by action that the idea that EVERYTHING is a trope of some sort or another is incorrect here and there, if not even a bit dishonest.

  2. Love this post – so true, great points!

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