The Cougar Effect

September 28, 2009 | NeW Staff

Judith Warner’s weekly New York Times column, “Domestic Disturbances,” features an interesting take and explanation of the cougar phenomenon in her review of the new ABC laugh, “Cougar Town.” The lead character, Jules, is on the prowl as a 40-something, recently divorced, well-groomed real estate agent in sunny Florida. Courtney Cox’s character represents women everywhere who have found themselves older, divorced and eager for revenge. And the target for their revenge: “a pretty young man to call their own.”  

For “cougars,” nailing a younger man is the source of female empowerment and is accompanied by an unnecessary amount of pseudo-feminists language, Warner says.

Hit. Tag. Tranquilize.

While only one episode has aired, I am slow to offer any final opinions, except to point out the comments (as Warner did) made by Washington Post critic Hank Stuever’s roundup. His review of “Cougar Town” concludes that “our culture’s ur-text on desperate women in desperate times, are animated by the same stereotypical “undercurrent”:

“Women today are more than ever uncertain of themselves, nearly broken, worried about senescence, intimidated by the youth around them and depleted by various cads.” He continues: “It is sad, this confused state of American womanhood.”

For Warner this does not cut it. She instead questions whether “Cougar Town” or its sister, “Sex and the City” actually say anything about the state of American middle-aged women.

This is where it gets tricky. What “Cougar Town” does show us is the male interpretation of a female world. With a predominately male board running things at ABC, story lines such this are exactly what the doctor prescribed. But are women’s worst fears; “getting older, losing sexual power, ending up on the slag heap of social desirability?” They are in the world where cougars run wild in the mating field.

So what do you think? Is this what women have to look forward to if their marriages’ end in divorce? Or, is this another example of how the victim hood mentality has targeted not just women, but men too, and made us all think; poor woman, she is alone, she is divorced, and the cure to bring her happiness—the affection of a man young enough to be her son.

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