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The title character is a recent widow who moves to a condominium complex in California, where just about everybody seems to have some sort of problem. In most of the strips, one of the "young" people in the neighborhood is troubled by a problem such as drug abuse, alcoholism, infidelity, or teen pregnancy, which Mary takes it upon herself to fix. Though she is the title character, and the catalyst for most of the strips' dramatic plots, Mary herself doesn't appear all that frequently. Rather she is set up as a frame device to get each plot rolling, usually through her
incessant meddling sage counsel.
There's also an old English legend about a ghost called "Bloody Mary Worth" who will slash at your face if you repeat the phrase "Bloody Mary" thirteen times in front of a mirror. This old legend has nothing to do with the comic strip, though; Saunders hadn't heard of the legend when he named his character, and the comic strip Mary Worth would prefer to serve you salmon squares instead.
Tropes used by the comic strip:
- A God Am I: In January of 2012, Mary rescues a girl from a kidnapper (with the help of a friendly waitress) by delaying the pair with promises of dessert. A few days later she calls the girl's rescue "a miracle". Yes, Mary Worth referred to her own actions as miraculous.
- Ascended Meme: From The Comics Curmudgeon. The author recently opened a Cafe Press store and created merchandise prominently featuring some of Aldo's greatest moments.
- Babies Make Everything Better: It looks like Delilah and Laurence's marriage is heading straight long into this trope.
- Character Title
- Complete Monster: Nola, who among other things ruined a man's life by framing him for embezzlement so she could steal his job and ruined a marriage by seducing a married man just because she could and who sees nothing wrong with ruining lives to get ahead in life.
- Converse with the Unconscious: In the storyline from September-November 2009 featured Scott (new fiance of Adrian) participating in a drug bust, getting shot, then being comatose in the hospital with non-specified injuries. While unconscious he is spoken to by Adrian's father Jeff, then Adrian herself. Concluded, of course, with him waking up just after Adrian has just concluded her speech about agreeing to marry him (he had proposed to her before the bust) and loving him no matter what.
- Cool Old Lady: She's supposed to be, but Your Mileage May Vary.
- Dating Service Disaster: In 2009 the comic featured a character named Ted Confey (get it? Confey? Confidence? Meh...) who was dating Dr. Adrian Cory after meeting her online. He proceeds to bilk her out of $50,000 using lines a three-year-old would see through. Just as he's ready to disappear, he's arrested by a Santa Royale detective who later asks Adrian out - and who turns out to be the son of Adrian's father's old college roommate (whom he seems to have cared about a great deal). The moral of the story? Finding partners in new ways bad, going out with someone approved of by Dad good.
- Determinator: Good Lord, Mary herself. Once Mary Worth has her hooks in you, she will stop at nothing to meddle in your affairs until you are either "fixed" or dead.
- Driven to Suicide: Aldo yet again. Don't drink and drive, kids.
- Emphasize Everything - Every sentence ends in an exclamation point!
- Heteronormative Crusader: Got a character who's not paired up with someone of the opposite sex? That just won't do, and Mary will take care of it.
- Although Mary's never actually done anything to show herself as homophobic: it's just that gay people don't exist in the strip. Then again, neither do people with brown eyes.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Adrian and later her father.
- Wilbur and that kid pretending to be his son subverts it, as we ultimately learn that the fake son is hanging out with Wilbur simply in order to deal with his own father abandonment issues so that he can be a good father for his own kid.
- Lethal Chef: Mary's neon orange "shrimp scampi" is almost as, um....interesting as her salmon squares.
- May-December Romance: Professor Cameron is nearly twice the age of his wife, Toby. In the late 90s, his growing anxiety about the age difference led to an arc in which Toby was Mistaken for Cheating.
- New Media Are Evil: If you use the internet, you will fall in love with a criminal, be deceived by someone pretending to be your long lost child, and have your identity stolen. Facebook is not to be trusted!
- To be fair, the long lost child thing was more sad than evil.
- A recent storyline has Dawn's usage of Twitter reaching levels of obsession akin to drug addiction. However, it all comes to nothing, as Dawn ends up beating her addiction by declaring that she will go ludite for one day a week.
- The storyline was contrasted with Jeff becoming obsessed with his Ipad and Mary Worth vehomently denying being anti-technology (going so far as to reminding Jeff that she has a computer) when he accused her of being an old fuddy duddy for not being Ipad crazy.
- Nosy Neighbor: Good Lord, Mary.
- Significant Anagram: "Aldo Kelrast" = "A(n) Old Stalker." WHAT?!
- Single-Issue Psychology: In one 2010 story, a man is having trouble with relationships because he's estranged from his father. Eventually he finds that his father wouldn't open up to him because the father himself lost a friend as a child. Yeah, nested Single-Issue Psychology.
- Subverted with several characters. Nola is just plain evil incarnate while Jill has a drinking problem and issues with regards to being jilted at the alter.
- Stalker with a Crush: Aldo. He even spawned a meme.
- Aldo's been replaced with Liza, a nurse who is twice as stalkery as Aldo and more insane, literally refusing to acknowledge Drew breaking up with her and abusing her hospital position to find out Drew's personal information to further stalk him.