The Cartwright Syndrome

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Synonyms: The Cartwright Curse, The Bonanza Syndrome
See also: Women In Refrigerators, Mysterious Wife Plague, Samantha Carter
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The Cartwright Curse, or The Bonanza Syndrome, is when a fan creates a female love interest for a male character, only to have her die by end of the story, a trope that also happens in canon.

The term refers to the classic Western series, Bonanza, in which all of the leading male characters lost a wife/lover and no female survived more than a few episodes.

Gender-inverted examples are rare, but exist, usually called "black widow" syndrome. Samantha Carter from the Stargate franchise is one such notable example.

Examples of Use

  • "There's a name for that killing-off-of-the-romantic interest. We refer to it around here as the Bonanza Syndrome. (Think back—none of the Cartwrights could keep a wife over two days before she faded out from a rare disease that only attacks female love interests and elm trees/burned alive in the torched barn/got stomped by a jealous horse.) And let's not forget that dear, undaunted, loveable (if terminal), beloved female must die with her makeup in perfect order. Heaven forbid she keel over gracefully with her eye liner smudged!" [1]
  • "Why did the Klingon woman [probably referring to Worf's mate K'ehleyr from "Star Trek: The Next Generation"] have to die? Are we getting infected with the Bonanza Syndrome (love a Cartright and die)?" [2]

Notable sufferers of the curse


  1. ^ from Between Friends #12 (July 1985)
  2. ^ from Comlink #46