Created By: LokIago on January 16, 2012 Last Edited By: LokIago on April 11, 2012

Token Survival Value

Black guy dies first, gay guy dies second. Black gay guy? You just might make it.

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Black Guy Dies First and Bury Your Gays are acknowledged tropes. However, there seems to be a deeper pattern that runs through the survival rate of a cast. The pattern is this: each character can likely be categorized by what minorities they represent. Any person who contains NO "minority points" (for purposes of this argument, we'll be all sorts of offensive and set "heterosexual white male" as our null set) has the highest chance for survival. Anyone with a single minority point (See above, also include Death by Sex [because sex is bad]) has a very low chance of survival. Anyone with two "minority points" (black girl) will surprisingly have as high a chance of survival as the null set. Three minority points (let's say gay Latino woman) puts your odds right back in the crapper. Four points raises your odds back up, but at this point that's more likely because you're the killer than anything. An odd number of minority points has a significantly LOWER chance of survival, where an even number (including zero) has a HIGHER chance.

Minority points can be awarded for:

- Non-white racial classification

- Non-male gender (include transexuals et al. here)

- Homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, or other "deviant" desires

- Non-Christian religious beliefs (Non-Protestant in extreme examples)

- Age over 40 years

- High intelligence or awareness (The "I have a plan" guy)

- Drug usage

- "Extreme" sexual desire (in most cases cases, having sex AT ALL)

- Physical or mental disability [NOTE: People tend to be squeamish about killing off the mentally handicapped, so expect this category to throw the equation off]

Note that this equation can be thwarted by Genre Savvy writers or well-written/well-balanced casts. Also note that by and large, being a child usually removes you from the equation altogether, and being the child's caretaker usually helps.

Examples of this YKTTW include

  • Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil: As a deconstruction of horror films, one would expect this concept to be defied. But it is actually perfectly inverted.

  • The Dark Tower: Susannah is a black woman (2 points), who is also paralyzed and has multiple personality disorder (+2 points). She survives to the end of the series, making her unique aside from the main character.

  • True Blood - Lafayette is black, gay, criminal, and partially psychic. 4 points, and still kicking in a series where people die more than a fair bit.

  • Community - As a comedy subversion, the equation is again inverted. In order of zombification: Pierce (2, old and racist), Starburns (0), Leonard (2, old and "crazy"), Rich (VERY PAINFULLY 0), Brita (appx. 2, feminist woman), Annie (2, Jewish woman), and Jeff (0). Shirley (2) appears as a zombie onscreen, but is never shown getting bitten. Troy (1) technically survives until the end. Sr. Chang (1, Asian) seems to survive unscathed, and Dean Pelton (1, DEVIANT) escapes the entire incident. Abed (???) serves as the only X factor, as his character is too complex to apply minority points to.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • January 16, 2012
    Uh, can we have some examples? This is a really interesting hypothesis, but, without any examples to back it up, just that.
  • January 17, 2012
  • January 17, 2012
  • January 18, 2012
    Stacking Minorities Increases Survivability?
  • January 18, 2012
    Yes and no, it operates on an even/odd system. Case in point, Just watched Tucker And Dale Vs Evil. Its a deconstruction of horror films, but it predictably followed the REVERSE of the equation. All of the white males (0 points) died first, followed by the black girl (2 points), then the black male and white woman (1 point).

    ANYONE WHO READS THIS AND HAS A BETTER MEMORY FOR HORROR MOVIES, SUBMIT EXAMPLES. I formulated this over multiple films, but damned if I can remember any of them.
  • January 20, 2012
    Um...what about characters with disabilities?
  • January 20, 2012
    Susannah from The Dark Tower series is a 4-fer token minority: Black, in a wheelchair, has multiple personalities, and is the only woman in the group. She's also the only one of the group, other than the main character, to survive to the end.
  • January 20, 2012
  • January 20, 2012
    Works with Lafayette Reynolds, the black gay half-medium drug dealer in True Blood. He never dies, or so I believe.
  • April 10, 2012
    What about The Vasquez? She's sometimes a female non-white (2 points), and although she does often survive longer than many of the other characters, she does end up dead. And as her trope suggests, she does so often. I may be missing a minorty point somewhere though which would make her a 3.

    If I'm not missing a minotiry point here, maybe we could add "unusually strong, smart, skilled, etc. for character type" to the list of minority points? (Then this could also apply to say a super strong nerd, or a book smart grunt).

    If not she will probably need to be given an exception from this new trope. Maybe something like: Does not work for The Vasquez. Or contrast with Vasquez Always Dies.
  • April 10, 2012
    ^ well, Vasquez Always Dies is also usually butch, which isn't hetero-normative (doesn't conform to standard gender roles, she could still be straight). This gives her an odd number of minority points and puts her in the danger zone.
  • April 10, 2012
    I find it very interesting if true, but as (Pig_Catapault said) I don't know how accurate it is. It's just that, unlike Black Guy Dies First, it's not something so blatant that we all know it off the top of our heads; we need a lot of examples to be sure.

    For instance, as a counterexample, the black woman dies first in the movie version of Sphere -- to the point where Ebert called it out in his review as an example of "Hollywood's immutable law that the first character to die is always the African American." (She was played by Queen Latifah, which makes me wonder if the celebrity of the actor playing the character affects mortality rates.)
  • April 10, 2012
    ^^That's what I figured, ladygem, but since the butch/non-hetero-normative wasn't on the above list as a minority point, technically making The Vasquez only a 2 using the list as above, that's why I suggested something like this could be added to the list in some form if Loklago wanted.

    My "unusually strong, skilled, etc. for character 'type'" would cover it as well as other against type characters, but it could even be more general than that such as just "unusual for character type" - which could cover a bunch of different situations - like an otherwise badass guy who still likes to act more feminine, wear women's styles, etc., a booksmart burly dude, a Vasquez. Or your "Doesn't conform to standard gender roles" could cover some of these more specific to The Vasquez or the Agent Peacock and similar non-traditional gender-acting characters.
  • April 10, 2012
    A.) I considered the Vasquez as a butch/lesbian Latino female, hence the potholed "Gay Latino woman".

    B.) Celebrities do indeed affect the schedule of demise. This can take the form either of Contractual Immortality, or pull a Hitchcock and nuke the character early on to shock the audience (Psycho, Deep Blue Sea). All I'm trying to establish is a BASE formula. There will always be films that invert, defy, or simply avert the system laid out, but I feel like this is almost the base equation.
  • April 11, 2012
    ^ Ah, okay. I didn't make the connection since in Aliens, Vasquez wasn't a lesbian. One of the other (male) soldiers was her lover (she even almost got herself killed trying to save him - the other soldiers had to pull her back into the armored vehicle). So I wasn't equating lesbian with "butch" since in that trope, though The Vasquez is usually some sort of butch, she isn't always lesbian. But that is easily fixed, because "butch" like "effeminate" (for a male character - if not necessarily gay in sexual orientation) could also be considered/added as a minority point.
  • April 11, 2012
    Even if we pick a way to give Vasquez an odd number of points, the three survivors in Aliens were Ripley (female - 1 point), Newt (female, child - 2 points) and Bishop (android - 1 point). A large number of the people who died were white males (0 points). This is hardly compelling evidence of a trend at work.

    It's easy to find examples that conform to the formula, but that's hardly surprising since you would expect about a 50/50 success rate even at random, and the vagueness of how points are assigned means that scores can be fudged one way or another by adding or removing qualities (things like "criminal", "feminist" and "partially psychic" sound like they were added to get to the number you want).
  • April 11, 2012
    The way I see it, femaleness (or maleness, for that matter) is not worth "token" points in this sorting algorithm. Consider that Men Are The Expendable Gender, and the Final Girl is usually a non-minority woman.