Black Dude Dies First
"I'm the one black guy. Do you know how precarious that makes my situation?"In a film which involves a lot of character deaths, it seems like the Token Minority will inevitably be the first to go. In the past this perception was because black leads were kept away from any big-budget films outside of those that focused specifically on race or used it to make a point. Historically moviemakers were generally writing to white audiences, so it was natural (in their opinion) for whites to get more screen time. And if the writers throw in a Token Minority to give the cast more believable racial balance, who do you think is going to die first, them or the folks who have a bigger role in the script? Nowadays the film is known more for popularizing Blaxploitation films, but most of those films were popular with audiences at the time for ignoring this trope altogether. Over time and due to social push, access to higher-paying jobs and relative economical stability began to open up for black people, with more and more prominent black characters and more big-name black actors emerging—many of which were not likely to get killed off quietly. Studios had also finally accepted that white audiences are not generally as racist as was once assumed, and do not need to have a white protagonist. In other words, if you're gonna go after the black man nowadays, you might want to check the credits to see who's playing him. If it's no one you've actually heard of, they're probably fair game. Tony Todd? Go for it. Samuel L. Jackson? You can take your chances. Rosario Dawson? Yeah, good luck on that. Denzel Washington? Bad idea. Morgan Freeman? You should give up. Will Smith? Run away and hide. The character doesn't have to be male, or even strictly black. As long as they're the only minority present, their chances of seeing the end of the movie are rather slim. As minority actors became more common in significant roles, this trope found new ways to stay relevant. Films would take a Scary Black Man, turn him into The Big Guy, and kill him off to show how strong the monster is. In action or horror films, The Hero (typically a White Male Lead) might have a Black Best Friend Lancer that gets killed off or do a Heroic Sacrifice to show that this is no laughing matter. 80s horror shows were good at this, and film makers had growing backlash against all the exploitation films. Don't bother putting in 'averted' examples. If a black guy doesn't die first (or remarkably early on) then he doesn't die first. Compare Bury Your Gays as well as Red Shirt and Vasquez Always Dies.
— T-Dog, The Walking Dead
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime & Manga
- Gorobei is the first to die in Samurai 7. This despite the fact that, in the original Seven Samurai film, the first to die was Heihachi. Gorobei was the only black man among the samurai.
- In Berserk, Pippin is the first named character to die during the Eclipse.
- Inverted in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team with Terry Sanders Jr. Every squad he was in before joining the title MS Team has been completely wiped out and he is not happy about it.
- The Halo Legends short "The Babysitter" follows a four-man squad. The one Ambiguously Brown member doesn't even get a name or dialogue before he dies.
- In another Legends example, the one black Spartan in "The Package" is the first of the bunch to die.
- In Blood The Last Vampire, the script seemingly goes out of its way to find a black character to kill first (some monsters had died, but he was the first human to have a graphic onscreen death.) We have an old white woman, running from demons when she runs into a giant black American military man on base. She explains to him that said demons are chasing her, and he starts laughing stereotypically, complete with giant nostrils and lips. Needless to say, he ends up standing under that one creepy tree, and the demon grabs him by the head. Disemboweled instantly.
- In the Gunsmith Cats OVA, the sole black character, Jody, is the only good guy to die, and he dies because he's Too Dumb to Live.
- Out of the 11 students who died during the attack on the Mars base in the first episode of Blue Comet SPT Layzner, Judo is the both only one who was named and the only one who was black.
- In Bleach, Kaname Tousen is the first of Aizen's inner circle to die.
- In one arc of Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke is sent on a mission with five other soldiers to kill Gauron. Out of the group the first to die is the black team captain.
- The native Egyptian Mohammed Avdol in Part 3 of Jojos Bizarre Adventure. Twice.
- Black Goliath is the first superhero to die in Civil War. And he wasn't just any black dude, he's a giant black dude. For the record, perhaps four other people died in that conflict.
- The G.I. Joe comics kill off their black doctor first.
- In the Elseworld comic series, JLA: Act of God, Steel, a.k.a. John Henry Irons ends up being first hero who bites the dust as he gets stomped to death by a giant robot.
- Who is the first character to die in Midnight Nation? That would be the black guy who tries to clue in heroic detective David Gray about what is really going on.
- Variation in Avengers: X-Sanction. The first Avenger to be taken out by Cable is The Falcon, who is knocked out without a fight and used as bait to lure his teammates into a trap.
- Black Panther is the first hero to be killed on-panel in Age of Ultron (though Thor, Cyclops, and the Hulk were all stated to have been killed prior to the start of the story).
- In the What-If version of Avengers vs. X-Men, Wolverine accidentally kills Storm getting into an argument with Namor. He is understandably horrified at what he did.
- Mettle, the first victim of Avengers Arena is half-black, half-white Jewish. This is made a bit more egregious as in an earlier issue of Avengers Academy his friend lamented feeling like the black guy in a slasher movie.
- Tribe, by African American Larry Stroman, was a short-lived series about the adventures of a predominantly African-American superhero group. Issue 1, page 2, panel 4 features the first death: a black dude getting his neck snapped.
- Ambrose Chase from Planetary is normally Nigh Invulnerable, but had the misfortune of entering an Alternate Universe that was governed by Horror Tropes, including this one. He managed to preserve his body before he died, and gets revived in the final issue.
- The page image comes from a strip at the back of an issue of Squee, which parodies Hollywood action movie cliches, including this one.
Films — Animated
- Both Kung Fu Panda movies open with this trope; the rhinoceros characters are consistently played by black voice actors, most prominently Michael Clarke Duncan, and they die (in the first movie, in droves) first.
- In Epic, Queen Tara (voiced by Beyoncé) is shot by an arrow from a Boggan soldier, and is the first important character to die on screen.
Films — Live-Action
- In The Shining, Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers) ends up being the ONLY character Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) kills throughout the entire film. (And he wasn't killed in the book, by the way.)
- In Heat the first member of the criminal gang to get killed during the bank robbery shotout is the getaway driver Donald Breedan, played by Dennis Haybert. Doesn't seem fair, since he'd only been a gang member for mere hours. Subverted as Sergeant Drucker (Mykelti Williamson), one of Hanna's detectives, is still standing after the shootout, and the first police casualty is Detective Bosko (Ted Levine).
- In Aliens, Frost is the first major character to go, and Apone isn't far behind him.
- In The Island, Starkweather Two Delta provides a major hook to the film in his horrific early death, while the very distinctly African Albert Laurent manages to escape the violent deaths that claim most of his teammates and make a rather significant Heel-Face Turn at the end.
- As Michael Bay mentions on the commentary track to the DVD, he actually asked the actor Djimon Hounsou something like "How would you like to be the black guy who doesn't die?"
- In The Monster Squad, the only character with any lines to die in the movie is the black cop who serves as partner to Sean's dad. His consolation prize, at least, is that he'll have one damn good story for St. Peter: Dracula blows him up with a stick of dynamite.
- In Big Game, Otis, seemingly only black Secret Serive agent aboard Air Force One, is the first one to die.
- Corporal Eightball in Full Metal Jacket, sent to do recon, first to be abated.
- In Gremlins, the black science teacher dies first.
- Enter the Dragon plays it straight. Of the three main protagonists, Williams exists only to show off his fabulous afro and be killed by the villain first. However, this did not happen by design. In the original script, Roper died in Williams's place. Executive Meddling switched their roles around.
- In Stargate, the black soldier is not even present during the first alien attack, but is still the first one to die. As it happens, the team had split into two groups, and the group without the black soldier came under attack; however, that group was incapacitated by solely non-lethal means, simply knocked out with hard blows to the head. When the other group (with the black guy) returns, the first thing the aliens do is shoot the black guy, and then proceed to start firing wildly at the rest of the soldiers.
- Stealth has 3 pilots on 3 advanced fighters against the rogue AI one. White romantic interest male and female, and a black dude. So guess who gets killed as a first named-character casualty?
- In United 93, between the two pilots of the aforementioned plane, one is white while the other is black. Give ya three guesses who's the first to get shanked by the hijackers.
- Paul Winfield has had this happen to him in his SF films:
- In Resident Evil: Extinction, the only black guy was the first to be attacked by a zombie, resulting in an ultimately fatal wound. Of course he covers it up and endangers his fellow zombie apocalypse survivors. Not to mention his black girlfriend managed to sacrifice her own life, and on a bus no less. To top it off, the same character managed to survive all the way through the previous movie, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, despite being a minor character and the Ethnic Scrappy.
- Completely inverted in Night of the Living Dead (1968). Of the seven survivors in the house, Ben, the sole black person, is the only one still alive after the night is over. And then he's shot by some guy believing him to be a zombie.
- In the 90s slasher film Dr. Giggles this is almost exaggerated as the first two teens to die are both black. The film also has a black cop who has a much more prominent role. He still dies at the end though.
- In Virus, the black crew member appears to die halfway through the movie, but in a surprise twist, comes back at the end armed with a rocket launcher to save the hero and the heroine from the monster. Only to die in the process.
- In The Edge, Harold Perrineau is eaten by the bear first. Roger Ebert, in his review of ''The Edge'', calls this trope the BADF action movie rule ("The Brother Always Dies First").
- Queen of the Damned begins with Lestat waking up from his sleep and drinking a black man dry.
- The first person to die in Alien Nation is Sykes' original partner, who is shot and killed by a shotgun-wielding crook while he's wearing a Bullet Proof Vest and crouched behind a car. It turns out the shotgun slugs were armor-piercing.
- 3000 Miles to Graceland has five Elvis impersonators setting out to rob a casino. The black one dies first.
- Among Sinbad's crew in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is the party-loving Maroof. He is the first (and only) member of the crew to get killed by the bad guys. Guess what skin color he has? Some guards were killed by Zenobia and the Minotaur near the start, and Maroof escapes from a giant walrus while one of his comrades gets stepped on; Maroof dies only a few minutes from the end of the film.
- In B-Movie The Killer Shrews, as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000, the white protagonist's black friend/employee/servant/Dixieland jazz musician goes outside to take care of the boat during the storm and gets eaten by the shrews first. When the hero finds out, he seems genuinely angry for a moment. Their next victim is a Mexican, who gets much less mourning.
- Red Dawn (the original) is an extreme example. In the storyline, millions of people die offscreen. Dozens of white people die on screen. Only one black guy is seen to die in the whole movie, but he's dead within the first two minutes!
- In Assignment Outer Space, this is why The Captain gets the Heroic Sacrifice. (The Millstone saves the day).
- The Agony Booth recap of Hulk featured the insight "It's not so much that the black guy dies first, it's that the black guy dies first 90 minutes into the movie".
- In the miniseries adaptation of of Stephen King's The Langoliers, the sole black man in the group of survivors dies first. (In the original, he wasn't black, though he wore a Red Shirt.)
- Not a dude, but the first member of the team killed in Hollow Man is the token minority.
- Scream 2. The first character to die is black. Omar Epps (pre-House), through use of barely audible whispers to draw him close enough to the wall of the toilet to get stabbed in the ear.
- In American Psycho, The first victim the films shows Patrick Bateman killing is a homeless black man. Of course, it's debatable whether he really did the killing, or if it was just a figment of his imagination - like the other killings in the film.
- Possibly intentionally lampshaded in another deep-sea creature feature, Leviathan (1989): Ernie Hudson bravely survives 90 minutes of battling the unholy result of a top-secret Soviet experiment on the bottom of the sea... after which, as he, Peter Weller and The Girl make it to the safety of the surface, the monster returns and offs him 2 minutes before the end credits. Still a good way to go, especially considering who avenges his demise.
- Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: The gruff black general is killed by Doctor Doom.
- Wing Commander: When Paladin and Knight (the black guy) are making a torpedo run on a battleship, Knight blows up even though he took just as many hits as Paladin did.
- The Gaia's Vengeance flick Kingdom of the Spiders plays it straight as well. The one farm in town owned by a black couple is ground zero for the imminent tarantula invasion. The husband is the first human to die, after the spiders kill his cattle and dog.
- When The Kid and his gang of bandits ride into town in Cimarron and start shooting the place up, who dies? Not protagonist Yancey Cravat, not his wife Sabra, not their son Cimarron, not the Jewish salesman, not the Miss Kitty character—none of the white people, in fact. The only character killed by the bandits is Isaiah, Yancey's black servant.
- The first death shown in the Saw rip-off Are You Scared was that of a white girl, but when the actual cast of six teenagers was introduced, the obnoxious black guy was the first one to kick the bucket.
- In the 70s picture, The Great Santini, a black dude does die first, but he manages to kill his killer too.
- The heroic party in the Dungeons & Dragons movie consisted of the heroic white thief, the plucky comic relief black thief, the love interest white mage, and the gruff Scottish dwarf, as well as a black female elf. The black thief dies, though the elf survives the film.
- The Sci Fi Channel movie Sand Serpents has the only two black members of a Marine platoon die first, the first eaten by the serpents, the second killed in a car wreck.
- Another SciFi Original, Scream of the Banshee, has the black police officer get killed off first. Otto's actor Todd Haberkorn immediately lampshaded this during the premiere.
- And another one, Ice Age 2012 (not related to Ice Age or 2012) has a giant glacier somehow plow its way across Canada propelled by a bunch of volcanoes erupting, but a black scientist still manages to die first by accidentally flying his helicopter into one of the eruptions.
- Panic in Ticks is only one of the protagonists to die.
- Happened in Death Wish V: The Face of Death when Tommy O'Shea's goons killed a lesser black worker from the fashion department execution style.
- In Christine, a black assembly-line worker is the first victim of the eponymous killer car.
- The first victim in New Year's Evil is the main character's female Black Best Friend.
- The only black character in Spider Baby or, the Maddest Story Ever Told is killed in the film's intro. Interestingly, from the same director who would later bring us Blaxploitation classics Coffy and Foxy Brown.
- The Mutant Chronicles: Both black guys who appear in the film die by bridge within a couple minutes of each other.
- Magma: Earth's Molten Core has the Jerkass mayor die in on coming lava while screaming "NO!" Or was it him getting buried in hot rocks? It's hard to tell.
- In Super 8, when Colonel Nelec's bus is attacked, he tells one of his soldiers to shoot the attacker with a tracking dart while having the driver open the door. Both are black, and both evidently have seen this movie before, because they both immediately give him a look which just screams "Oh, hell no." Predictably, both die.
- Earlier, the movie actually subverted the trope. There was Doctor Woodward, the black man in the Almost Dead Guy state after a train crash. You'd think he would die by the time the Air Forces reached him. But nope, the doctor survived the train crash and the capture, then died after the deaths of a sheriff, a shop clerk and a cableman (all white, in that order).
- Chronicle, which otherwise does a pretty good job of averting or subverting most sci-fi/superhero tropes, plays this straight. The first character to die by Andrew's hands was Steve, the only black character with telekinesis.
- In Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, a group of five high school students (including one black student) is ambushed by an Alien inside the high school. Guess which one the Alien kills first.
- The black character Luther is the first person to die in 1973 film The Sting.
- In Apocalypse Now, the first member of the boat crew to die is one of the black guys.
- In the beginning of Jurassic Park when raptors snatch one of the workers.
- The first major character to die in The Substitute is the Black teacher friend, Mr. Sherman. The first commando to die is also the Black member of the team, Wellman.
- A pair of black policemen fall off a building to their deaths while attempting to pursue a criminal in The Other Guys.
- Dead Air: The security guard at the radio station, while not technically the first on-screen death, is the first of the named characters to die as the Synthetic Plague spreads through the city.
- This happens in Mortal Kombat: Liu Kang's first (black opponent) ends up having his soul sucked out by Tsung after Liu refuses to finish him.
- The Bucket List, which is about two men diagnosed with terminal illnesses, has Morgan Freeman's character die first at the end.
- In 300, Leonidas kicks the black messenger down a well.
- Real Genius opens with a bunch of military and intelligence bigwigs discussing a space-laser-based assassination system. The one black man at the table gets up, announces that he has moral qualms about the project, and asks to be reassigned. After he leaves the room, one of the other bigwigs says "We may have to liberate him." Another says "Liberate? As in 'liquidate?'"
- State of Play begins with a black thief being shot to death.
- A Christmas Story: When Ralphie gets his BB gun and fantasizes about shooting the villains, the black guy gets shot first.
- Played straight after the opening scene in Friday the 13th Part III. Two of the three bikers are all black, and they get killed off one by one.
- Subverted in the same movie, where Ali (the male black biker) is Jason's last victim in the movie, and dies while fighting Jason, distracting him long enough for the Final Girl to kill him.
- In John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars Braddock, the first of the main cast to die, is black.
- In Attack the Block, the first people to die are a pair of white police officers, but the first named character to die is black, as is almost every other casualty. All the white characters survive. However, Moses and Biggz both survive and Moses is the one who ultimately saves the day.
- In Slaughter High, black janitor Digby dies first.
- Discussed in Canadian Bacon, by Boomer and Karbal who is worried it will happen to him.
- In Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, Mercutio, played by a black guy, dies first. (Mercutio dies first in the play as well.)
- Played with in Kill Bill: Vernita Green's death is the first shown, but the second on the Bride's hit list; O-Ren Ishii's name is already crossed out. Part 1 then jumps back to the Bride hunting down and killing O-Ren (and most of her mooks, and a couple creeps back at the hospital).
- Before Vernita Green was killed, the bride came to, killed two guys in the hospital, recovered, flew to Okinawa and got a sword. She then flew to Japan and killed hundreds of Yakuza and O-Ren Ishi. She then dumped Sophia Fatale at the hospital, after which Fatale was reunited with Bill. However, when The Bride showed up at Green's door, she was taken totally by surprise. She was not the first, but apparently no one cared to give her a heads up and apparently she never watched TV or read a newspaper.
- In The Hangover Part III, Black Doug is shot by Marshall and is the first character to die in the film.
- In Forrest Gump, an unnamed black Red Shirt gets sniped at the very beginning of the ambush in which Bubba, Forrest's best friend, dies. However, Forrest manages to save several fellow squad members, one of whom is also a black man.
- Terminator Salvation has a blink and miss it shot of an unnamed black soldier among debris towards the beginning who seems to have died recently.
- Grumpy Old Men: Chuck the black bait shop owner is the first to die.
- In Evil Dead (2013), the first cabin member to die is the only non-white member, Olivia, played by a mixed-race actress. (Andre the Black Nerd was particularly annoyed by this.)
- In Serenity, Shepherd Book goes first.
- At the beginning of Star Trek Into Darkness, the film shows a black father desperate to save his bedridden daughter who is suffering from some fatal sickness. He's approached by John Harrison, who tells the man he can save his daughter if he does something for him first. The black man commits a suicide terrorist bombing that kills hundreds of people and sets the movie's main plot.
- In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the first district they go to on the victory tour (District 11) contains the first and only death on the victory tour. That district is prominently black people. Averted in the Quarter Quell with Beetee.
- Largely averted in Elysium, as the only prominent black character ends up being a Mauve Shirt that survives to the end of the film. However, there is a rather high Latino body count, although this was kinda unavoidable since nearly every Earth-based character (including Max, Frey, and Spider) is Latino, and it's set in a future LA.
- Averted (and lampshaded, sort of, by the character at the end) in House on Haunted Hill (1999) when Taye Digg's character survives along with Ali Larter's character.
- Considering the background in universe, Taye Diggs could lead to a headscratcher until his line near the end explains his being in the movie.
- Averted for the most part in Die Hard - Theo (the criminals' computer guy) is the only one of the thieves who doesn't get killed (besides the Frenchman Kristoff); McClane's chauffeur Argyle also survives and gets the last line of the movie to boot; and Sgt. Powell not only survives the night but gets to finish off the final villain. On the other hand, the black half of FBI agents Johnson and Johnson does get blown up - but so does the white one, and it was at the same time so that can't really be called getting singled out.
- Alone in the Dark (1982) the first victim of the escaped lunatics is black orderly Ray Curtis. The only other black character in the film, Detective Barnett, is killed by them too.
- Averted in The Killing Room (2009). Four subjects are locked in a room and told they'll be eliminated one at a time in a psychological experiment. The sole female member is then immediately shot to set the stakes. The only black subject appears to have the least will to survive, and when they're down to two members decides to kill himself in a Heroic Sacrifice. Mooks then burst into the room and kill the other subject, as that's what they're testing for (the experiment is meant to brainwash people into becoming suicide bombers). As the movie ends with him being scheduled for "Phase 2" of the experiment, it would have been more merciful if the trope had been played straight.
- In The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Madame Dorothea, played by CCH Pounder, is the first named character to kick the bucket courtesy of Demonic Possession.
- In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Boggs was the first casualty of Katniss' party.
- Discussed in Everworld, as a joke from Christopher to Jalil.
- Subverted in The Host . The one black man present in the human colony does not die first. He does, however, die the only violent death onscreen, when the Seeker shoots him.
- The In Death series: Judgment in Death has a black cop named Kohli be the first murder victim.
- Though not the first death in the series, Ajihad is the first to die in the second book of the Inheritance Cycle.
- The novel Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts. It's pretty obvious what's going to happen because (a) he is the only black guy, and (b) there's 4 guys and 2 girls and it's a romance novel, so you have to get another girl in the mix somehow.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians's fifth book, Beckendorf is the first to die (in a Heroic Sacrifice, but still). On the one hand The Last Olympian was his debut as a major character (he had been more of a background figure before). On the other, given Bianca and Zoe in The Titan's Curse, he's not exactly the first major character to die in the series.
- Subverted in The Film of the Book—while Grover stays in the Underworld so the others can leave, he returns by the end of the movie, and appears to have had quite a good time with Persephone.
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Ravenor Returned, dark-skinned Zeph Mathuin is the first of Ravenor's warband to die "on camera."
- Tiberius in Robopocalypse, in what appears to be a trap set by the Big Bad to kill the rest of Brightboy squad as they march to Alaska. It slightly works.
- Inverted in Animorphs; Cassie, the black character, is the only one spared by the Bolivian Army Ending.
Live Action TV
- One Tie-In Monk novel, Mr. Monk on the Couch, has a serial killer case where the first victim is a black thrift shop manager.
- Star Trek: There are examples of black Red Shirts all throughout the Star Trek universe who die before their similarly-garbed comrades.
- A Star Trek: The Next Generation example - in "Where Silence Has Lease" an alien face on the viewscreen says that he wants to understand death by way of killing about half the crew and starts by killing the helmsman, the spot normally manned by Wesley Crusher. But he's away from the post at the time, for the only time in the whole episode, replaced by a Red Shirt black guy.
- In an alternate timeline of Star Trek: Enterprise wherein the Xindi are successful in their genocidal bid to eradicate humanity, Travis Mayweather is the first of the main characters to die.
- The first person to die in the pilot of Andromeda is a young black officer named Thompson. He's named after Cronan Thompson, a young black internet personality who was involved in many online arguments with the show's creator, Robert Wolfe. Cronan died of cancer at 19, and Wolfe included Thompson in his pilot as a tribute.
- In the New Zealand TV3 docu-series Aftershock, the first person shown to die as a result of the Cook Strait earthquake is a Maori man.
- In BBC's Merlin, they added black knights to Uther's court. The Monsters of the Week seem to love killing them, and if a knight needs to die to establish the threat, it will be the black dude. Being a Black Knight in Merlin appears to be like being a Red Shirt in Star Trek. Heaven help you if you're a black Knight and wearing a red tunic. The first major character to be killed in the series was Tom, who is also black.
- Also from the BBC is Robin Hood. A couple of faceless Mooks die in the two-part pilot, but the first named character to die (get stabbed in the back, to be precise) is De Fourtnay, the Sheriff's Man-at-Arms. He was played by a black actor in a beret in a show set in 12th century England.
- Brother Tuck was played by David Harewood (black), and was one of the few characters to survive the Everybody Dies finale of the show.
- In Stargate Atlantis, although his death is ambiguous, the first character to leave the main cast is the black Lieutenant Ford.
- In the pilot episode of The Greatest American Hero, the first person to die is Bill Maxwell's black partner.
- In Jekyll Benjamin is Hyde's first (human) kill. After Hyde has tortured, mauled and, um... done other things to people, the first time he actually takes a someone's life is to slice Benjamin's throat for threatening his family.
- Following a number of near-death experiences for various members of the Ashes to Ashes team, the first regular character to truly cop it is black desk sergeant Viv James.
- Technically, given what was revealed in the finale, Viv wasn't the first to die. But he was the only one that ended up in Hell, which is worse.
- Flashpoint: Of the main cast, the first cast member to die is Louis Young, the SRU's sole black officer.
- In the Pro-Life episode of the Masters of Horror series, the black security guard is the first to die.
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Vaccine", the helpful young black man is the first of the group of survivors to die, when feral dogs attack him outside of the quarantine zone and compromise his environmental suit, exposing him to a lethal virus. Ultimately subverted, when he turns up alive at the end; the survivors lived not because they hadn't been exposed to the virus, but because they were immune.
- In the first paintball episode of Community, Troy is the first member of the study group to be "killed." This is shockingly unlampshaded.
- Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps lampshades and parodies this trope in the horror special, "When Janet Killed Jonny". Louise, who is black (and is indeed the first character to die in the episode), comes out with this when creepy things start happening:
(Everyone stares at her)
- In the slasher-esque Masters of Horror episode "Pick Me Up", the black bus driver is the first person to be murdered by one of the killers.
- Doctor Who:
- In The Moonbase, the base is staffed with an international group of scientists, all white except for one black man. He is the first to be killed, getting bumped off in Episode 1 although it is later revealed that he was just kidnapped by the Cybermen and made a partially-converted slave.
- In Time Heist: The Teller's first on-screen victim, Saibra, the only black member of the heist crew and the first to fall by the wayside, appears to be an example until it turns out she survived.
- In Voyage of the Damned, Morvin Van Hoof, the first to die out of the small group of characters the Doctor attempts to lead to safety, is black.
- Reversed in "The Tomb of the Cybermen'', where Toberman, the only non-white character in the story, is the last to die. He sacrifices himself to keep the Cyberleader from escaping from the titular tomb.
- Extant: Molly's ex-boyfriend Marcus, who died before the show even began. It doesn't stop him from becoming a recurring character, though.
- Double Subverted in Agents Of Shield: the first member of the team to apparently die and not be revealed as actually alive before the episode ends is Mack. Towards the end of the next episode, it is revealed to the viewer that he probably survived after all... only for the other black guy on the team, Trip, to die a rather definitive death.
- The Walking Dead - being a black male main character on that show is a death sentence apparently. T-Dog stated it pretty much in a genre-savvy way. Then after T-Dog, there was Oscar, Tyreese, Bob, and Noah.note Even minor black male characters in that show are pretty much doomed - they not only die, they die offscreen with absolutely no fanfare - Shumbert and Duane, that deputy of Rick's, Michonne's baby, boyfriend and boyfriend's friend (though they were dead as part of a backstory at least). So far only two black male characters have avoid death. The first is Morgan, who is, funny enough, the FIRST person Rick met after getting out of the hospital. Probably because they limit his appearances to 30 seconds at the end of a couple of shows. The other is Father Gabriel, who is ironically a Death Seeker and has come close to dying several times and would be the one character who fans and critics would not mind falling victim to this trope.
- The West Wing - In the second ever episode of the show we're introduced to a sweet, funny military doctor who's been specially requested by the President. He gets on really well with him, and has just popped in to give him a check-up before flying to an overseas teaching hospital for a couple of weeks. Not only is he black, he has a wife he adores and a lovely newborn baby girl whose picture he shows everyone. He is of course dead by the end of the episode (terrorists blow up his plane), and his death is used as a plot point to explore how the President deals with a military situation despite not having the experience. First person to die in a series that racked up quite a few corpses over the years. The West Wing is usually trope-savvier than this, though I suppose it was the still nineties. At least we get Charlie (the series' main non-white regular from that point) from the following episode, though the fact that he's the only one until Santos several seasons later kinda makes the Episode 2 thing worse in my opinion.
- In the Supernatural episode "Simon Said" (S02, E05), Dr. Jennings is the first to die.
- Played straight in Pinkie Pie's Exciting Adventure, where the first character to die is a Demoman in Part 3.
- WWE's The Nexus faction sort of did this. Barring Daniel Bryan's legit firing, the first two guys officially dumped were black (Darren Young [beaten down and thrown out after losing to Cena] and Michael Tarver [taken out by Cena himself]). David Otunga did not leave the Nexus, in fact he was the only original member to still be in the Nexus when it disbanded. Wade Barret split from the Nexus and formed The Corre which had a black guy named Ezekiel Jackson. He was the first to be ejected.
- There have been instances such as in Elimination Chamber or Survivor Series matches where the black wrestler is the first one eliminated,
- The first named character to die in Metal Gear Solid was the black DARPA Chief, Donald Anderson. Subverted when it turned out that he was an albino disguising himself as Anderson, and then twisted back around again, because the real Anderson was killed off-screen before Snake's arrival. That said, Master Miller was also killed off-screen before Snake's arrival (being impersonated through the whole game by the Big Bad), and the player is never made privy to which happened first.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is divided into two chapters. In both chapters, the first named character to die is a black man - Scott Dolph in the Tanker portion and Peter Stillman in the Plant portion.
- In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the opening sequence shows an African leader, who was successfully bringing peace to his country after decades of civil war, getting assassinated by the villains of the game whom want to keep the conflict going for their own profit.
- In Fallout 3 the first character to die is the scientist Jonas who was a friend of your character's father. It's his death in fact, that kicks off the main storyline.
- Also, the Player Character's mother, who is seen at the very beginning, dies shortly after giving birth. Her ethnicity is deliberately kept ambiguous in-game, but examining her character in the game files shows her to be African-American.
- In Crysis, the two black and one Hispanic teammates get eaten by aliens in the first couple of levels. One of the black teammates gets better, though.
- Oh, that black guy who got better? His name is Prophet, and he dies first in the sequel. Although he did get better...sort of. It Makes Sense in Context.
- In Siren: Blood Curse, the black camera man Sol Jackson is the first to be killed. Then everyone goes back in time because Crazy Cult lady's plan got screwed over. Sol is alive again! ...Until he dies first a second time.
- In Dead Space 2, the Dead Space Ignition protagonist Franco Delille dies within seconds of the game starting.
- In Halo, the first major non-gameplay casualties in the first game are the black Sgt. Johnson's seven-man squad. Word Of God indicates this was originally intended to stick, but Johnson's popularity with the fans meant he was retconned into surviving.
- That said, the franchise as a whole is generally good at averting this trope; in fact, Johnson ends up being one of the last characters to die in the first trilogy.
- In Win Back for the N64, the main story involves tracking down your fellow squad members from whom you were separated. One of the first to be encountered is Matt, the black squad member, who instantly receives a sniper bullet to the face from Cecile.
- The early Resident Evil games played this straight with the likes of Kenneth J. Sullivan (Resident Evil), Marvin Branagh (Resident Evil 2), and Tyrell Patrick (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis). While technically speaking none of them die first, they don't really contribute much in the story other than get killed as soon as they appear. The most egregious example listed is Marvin, who was actually intended to be an important side-character in the canceled first version of Resident Evil 2 (aka Resident Evil 1.5), but was Demoted to Extra in the actually released version.
- The first named character to die in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is the token black man, Commander Gore, in the first hour of the game. But he later comes back as the Magical Negro.
- The first member of your squad to die in Blacksite: Area 51 is Mitchell Ambrose, the only black man. He's also introduced by showing you pictures of his family and was also going to ask for leave after this mission.
- In the Chzo Mythos game 7 Days a Skeptic, Barry dies first. The assignment also happens to be the last before his retirement, so he never really stood a chance.
- Also in Trilby's Notes, Abed is the first, and only, character to die. Unless you count the prologue and the flashbacks. Not a typical example since this happens near the end of the game.
- In the suicide mission at the end of Mass Effect 2, Jacob Taylor, the only black party member, volunteers for the first task. If you select him for this task, he gets shot in the face with a rocket. Avertable, if the player is Genre Savvy, or if you didn't upgrade the Normandy's weapons, shields, and/or armor (if any of the three are not upgraded, someone else dies, first). The player can also send ANYONE into the shaft (except Miranda) and get any number of non-black crew members killed. They can also get the entire team out alive, thus sparing Jacob. So really, if Jacob dies first, one could argue that the player is the one enacting the trope.
- Played straight in Clive Barker's Jericho, where the Firstborn explodes two party members before the final battle. It actually targets Cole for trying to analyze it, but Jones stands closest to her and gets gibbed along with her. And true to the trope, Jones is blasted to chunks just one instant before Cole.
- In the 1st Degree has only one character die. His name is Zachary Barnes, and he is a black guy shot dead by his white business partner James Tobin. Fortunately, the point of the game is to make sure Tobin goes all the way down for Zack's murder.
- In the Soldier of Fortune series, Hawk is the first named sympathetic (player's side) character to die.
- In Front Mission Evolved, Captain Hamilton is the first major NPC to die after being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice.
- In Final Fantasy VI, General Leo is the first character to be seen killed by Kefka, who is black in the Yoshitaka Amano design. Whether or not it is evident in the sprite is left for the individual to assume.
- In Silent Hill 4, Cynthia, a Hispanic/Latina and the sole minority character, is the first to die in-game but also the first to be turned into a ghost.
- The first casualty of the entire World War 3 in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 is the black guy who refuse to launch the nuclear missile in the opening cinematic.
- In Call of Duty: Ghosts, Ajax, the first member of the titular team to die, also happens to be the only black member of the group.
- The very first mission in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 begins with the scene of a black African soldier burning to death. The player then spends the entire mission killing a bunch of black Africans just to get information on where to find and rescue Woods. The fact that you're helping another black African leader who's excited about fighting and killing doesn't discredit the trope.
- The tutorial mission of Just Cause 2 literally starts with this trope in spades. First the spunk blonde falls out of the helicopter - but is saved at the last minute. Then the black guy gets shot and falls out. For bonus points you get to jump out and skydive to his corpse (with the blonde telling you over the radio "yep, definitely dead, no point in trying to save him"), take the valuable object from his body, then use your parachute and leave the corpse to fall the rest of the way down.
- Assassin's Creed: Rogue: The first major target Shay kills after leaving the Assassins is the Afro-French Le Chasseur (if only because he'd tell the Assassins Shay is alive).
- Subverted, meanwhile with the Templars themselves. Their only black team-member, Jack Weeks, survives through to the end of the game unharmed.
- In Erfworld, Lord Manpower the Temporary is killed on page 2, and is black at the time. (Later, he's green, like the rest of the uncroaked.) Technically, though, he was the last of Stanley's warlords to die. Just the first dead character in the story proper.
- Afrostar in Sidekicks gets featured on the chapter title along with his sidekick and is one of the superheroes that is actually genuinely a Nice Guy. Come the fight against the villains, he's the first (and only) superhero to get a confirmed onscreen death.
- Superman: The Animated Series, episode "The Hand of Fate". First demon to spring from the giant hole goes straight for the black dude.
- Wolverine and the X-Men: Swat team flees from faceless terror in the middle of a blizzard. Black guy gets dragged off.
- In the Justice League Unlimited episode Dark Heart, Billy the rock climber gets eaten by the alien first.
- The Wonder Woman movie's first loss on the good guys' side is the black guy.
- In Batman: Assault on Arkham, Black Spider is the first member of the main cast to get injured.
- In Spaced Out a black Krach Industries suit got dissolved by acidic pulp, which security aimed at an escaped experimental organism that had to be taken out at all cost.
- In at least two episodes of Teen Titans Go! Cyborg is the first to die.
- When Ambrose Chase dies in Planetary, the Genre Savvy villain comments that "this is science fiction movie. The black guy always dies in the science fiction movie." (They were in a reality-warping field that made reality follow movie cliches, so this was, literally, the reason he died.)
- Parodied in a comic by Jhonen Vasquez describing the worst movie ever made.
"In classic tradition, ethnicity means a deathmark, and a reason to motivate that noble white guy."White guy: "AAARGH!! YOU KILLED BLACKY!!"
- In Kyle Baker'snote war comedy Special Forces the opening splash page of the very first issue is the black squad member's head exploding and the main character actually lampshading this quote in her narration.
- Gorilla Girl from Avengers: The Iniative sums it up perfectly:
- Set up in The Expendables' parody, where there is a character known only as (even by that character himself) "Muscly Black Dude Who Dies A Gruesome Death", and whose purpose is only to say "You're totally mad, bro!" and "You said it, dude!". He frequently lampshades this behaviour, and even explains how a family photo is the way they chose to give depth to his character. Eventually averted, because the first one to die is Dolph Lundgren's character.
- In A Day In The Life OFA Commissar, two Guardsmen see Commissar Steve get gassed. One trooper, horrorstruck, wonders who's going to be the first to die. His buddy says "we should go by the movie rule that states the black guy always dies first." They're relived that none of their troops are black. But then one trooper says, "wait, I'm half-black!" and is promptly blown to pieces.
Films — Animated
- Defied in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, where Chef has joined the military, and is in an all-black battalion - the only one there, in fact. The General wants to use them as "Operation: Human Shield" in conjunction with everyone else in "Operation: Get Behind The Darkies". Chef seems to be the only one to notice how much of a raw deal they're getting, and gets the rest of his group to abort the mission, leaving the soldiers behind to get blown up, though.
Chef: Operation Human Shield, my ass!
- Lampshaded in the DVD extras for The Incredibles. In the "commentary" for an episode of an in-universe cartoon about Mr. Incredible, Frozone complains when his character is captured by the villain: "The black superhero gets caught!" When Mr. Incredible reminds him that he had already complained about the show making "him" white, he amends it to "The TAN superhero gets caught!"
Films — Live-Action
- Evolution comically named this trope, but actually avoids it with a verbal Defied Trope. Since it's a rather light-hearted comedy, almost Everybody Lives.
- The guy who said it (Orlando Jones) had even originally used the line in a MADtv sketch.
- In Scream 2, a black guy decides to defy it when he leaves town after a few bodies pile up. He ends up surviving the entire ordeal.
- Scary Movie:
"The worst thing a brother can do is to party with white people, 'cause you know you're gonna die first. You should all get out of here.""W-what about me?""Mulattos, too!"Brenda: Uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh UH! Now wait a minute, hold up! How come when anytime this scary shit happens, and we should stick together, you white people always say "let's split up"?Theo: She's right, we should stick together.Dwight: She's right. Okay.[points to the white people in the group]Dwight: You three, follow me![the three black people are left alone]Shorty: Ain't that a bitch.[the three of them begin to cry]Brenda: We gonna die, y'all.
- Parodied and defied in the first movie. After the Scream (1996) parody that opens it, a line of reporters discuss the story in front of the school. The last one is from BET (Black Entertainment Television), and the reporter declares "white folks are dead, we're gettin' the fuck outta here!" - at which point he and his crew jump into their van and speed off.
- Also, it's discussed fully in another scene, with text to this effect:
- Parodied and defied in the first movie. After the Scream (1996) parody that opens it, a line of reporters discuss the story in front of the school. The last one is from BET (Black Entertainment Television), and the reporter declares "white folks are dead, we're gettin' the fuck outta here!" - at which point he and his crew jump into their van and speed off.
- Undercover Brother's Conspiracy Brother complains about this trope.
"Hey black man, turn on the power there's dinosaurs running around. Hey black man, look out he's got a gun!"
- Canadian Bacon features a scene in which this theory is discussed, and various examples are given. It ends with the one black guy looking really nervous. He not only survives, though, he goes on to prove that black athletic superiority extends to hockey, too.
- Preacher of Deep Blue Sea is well aware of this trope, and records his legacy - the perfect omelet recipe - in anticipation of his death. He lives all the way to the end, although the other black character does die mid-way through the film.
- The lampshading may have also been intentionally magnified in that out of the two black guys in this horror movie, one is played by a rapper (LL Cool J), and the other one by... Samuel L. Jackson. And Jackson, the bigger star, is the one who gets closely acquainted with the film's superintelligent genetically enhanced angry sharks.
- In the hip-hop drama 8 Mile, one of B Rabbit's opponents, Lotto, raps during their freestyle battle: "I'll spit a racial slur honkey, sue me/This shit is a horror flick but the black guy doesn't die in this movie."
Live Action TV
- Wayne Brady on an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? during a game of Questions Only set at the Bates Motel, and also during a game of Themed Restaurant, with the theme being horror.
Wayne: "Am I going to be the first one to die, like I always am?"
- Wayne nearly always lampshades this trope in any game that involves horror movies.
- Wayne also lampshaded it on a ninth season episode of How I Met Your Mother, although the death is not...death. He sacrifices himself by talking to the old people so Barney and Robin can sneak away and not have to talk to them.
- In an episode of Psych parodying slasher films, Gus refuses to leave the house because "I've seen enough slasher movies to know that when the brother goes off to the woods, he doesn't even sorta come back!" Ironically he not only survives, but is the ONLY person to best the killer in a one-on-one fight.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 7, the following exchange occurs after some of the potential slayers (including Rona, who is black) are "killed" in a training exercise:
Spike: OK, these two are dead. Why?
Rona: 'Cause the black chick always gets it first?
- In an episode of Married... with Children, Al, Jefferson, and Griff join the National Guard and have to quell a garbageman strike. They've holed up inside a truck during a riot and Jefferson orders Griff to get out and do something.
Griff: Haven't you ever seen a war movie? The black man always gets it first! ...Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen, Laurence Fishburne in Apocalypse Now, Bubba in Forrest Gump! Any black man in Star Trek! We go in, test the waters, get killed, and you white guys go home to your families.Al: See? We both lose.
- Discussed by Turk in the Scrubs episode "My Long Goodbye".
"If this were a horror flick, I'd be so scared that I was next. They always kill the black folks off first. Now I'm not really worried about it, 'cause there's still Snoop Dogg Resident and Leonard the security guard... y'know, when you think about it, this is a white-ass hospital." (beat) "I'm gonna miss you. You take care, okay?"
- A skit on Fridays called "The Moral Majority Variety Hour" included a magician who made the only black man in the audience disappear.
- In one rather funny moment on Smart Guy Moe and Marcus are sitting down to watch Scream 2. Marcus' girlfriend objects to the violence, Moe says he's only watching it for Jada Pinkett. Marcus and his girlfriend get into an argument about something else, and are suddenly cut off by loud screaming. Moe, oblivious to the argument, moans "Oh no, Jada's in the beginning. Black folks always get killed early in these things!" Seconds later, a woman's scream is heard in the movie and Moe says flatly "There goes Jada."
- Mentioned by Liz Lemon in Thirty Rock.
- During Community's Zombie Apocalyptic Halloween special "Epidemiology" this trope is inverted when Abed sacrifices himself to make sure that Troy escapes, though Troy gets infected only a scene or two later.
- Abed: "Troy, make me proud. Be the first black man to get to the end."
- Parodied in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy:
Damon: Why am I always the decoy?
- Inverted in the Key & Peele sketch "Suburban Zombies". The white guy (Kevin Sorbo) is killed and eaten first, and it later turns out that the zombies intentionally spared the black protagonists because they're afraid of black people.
- Nicole Beharie of Sleepy Hollow is well aware of this trope, and has said one of the major reason the show appealed to her was because unlike most other horror or fantasy narratives, the black woman isn't just the white heroine's best friend who ends up getting murdered.
- In an episode of Are You There Chelsea, Dee Dee and Olivia are watching horror movies. Olivia says "There are no black people in this movie, so I don't know who dies first!"
- Referenced on Mock the Week, for the category "Unlikely Things to Read on a Health Insurance Form":
"Are you the only black guy in a horror film?"
- Busdriver references this trope in "Unemployed Black Astronaut":
Oh my / sorry I / left my acceptance speech / in the back of the private car / and I rewrote the Hollywood ending / fluxed the motion picture screen / made it so the black guy doesn't die by the opening scene
- In a 1999 The Boondocks strip, Huey writes an e-mail to George Lucas saying how excited he is that Samuel L. Jackson will be playing a Jedi Master (Mace Windu, for the uninitiated) in The Phantom Menace (and very formally so). He then pauses, and with a grim expression, writes "...but he had BETTER not be the first one to die."
- When Leah Von Dutch to go ghost hunting on "LVD TV" following a dream wave event, Moose protests on the grounds of being black but later volunteers to accept his fate when she comes across an unlit room and refuses to go farther.
- In Bad Guy High a corrupted Super Dan killed Jacob, the black member of the team, and it's lampshaded.
- Sort of referenced in this Captain SNES Halloween special, despite several people having died already.
- One of many horror movie cliches parodied in the "KITTEN" arc of Sluggy Freelance.
- Discussed in Ansem Retort, where Zexion notes that as long as the black dude is alive, the rest of them are safe. Then Namine points out that racism aside, they don't have a black dude.
Ooh, right. Yeah, we're gonna die. Painfully, too.
- This chart on GraphJam detailing the life expectancies of horror film characters.
- In SOTF-TV, the first character to die is Anthony Rollins, who is, well, black. He actually hangs a lampshade on this right before he dies.
"Really? I'm the black guy that dies first? I knew I could've done more for this fucking show working the camera."
- And this◊ shows even polar bears are subject to this trope.
- Tobuscus lampshades this in his literal trailer of Shark Night, when the black man Malik is attacked.
- "She can't believe that THAT guy died first."
- The idea is repeatedly and viciously lampshaded in SF Debris's review of the aforementioned "Where Silence Has Lease".
"...And naturally there'd be no shortage of volunteers [From red-shirted black men for bridge positions]. People who've seen Science Fiction know the black dude dies first. And people who've seen the original series know the guy who beams down in a red shirt dies. So, black dude pluse red shirt equals get a bridge job as fast as you can and hope an alien doesn't show up on the view screen looking to kill people for no reason."
Negilum: "Now would be a good time to learn about death by killing one of you."Riker: "Oh, no!"Picard: "Oh, no!"Troi: "Oh, no!"Data: "Oh, no!"Black Red-Shirt: "MOTHER FUCKER!" *dies*Picard: "Send another red-shirted black fellow to the bridge."Geordi: *leaves*.
- and later. He does the voices of the various cast members to summarize the scene:
- This poster of Red Tails.
- From the "Letters to Mr. Potter" tumblr:
Dear Dean,Thank you for not being the first one to die.Sincerely, Black People Everywhere
- The Nostalgia Critic dubs the thoughts of the only black guy in Jaws 3D: "All I can say is, I'm worried. We're in a lousy horror movie and I'm the only black person around. Clearly I need to hire more black people." He does, and just as planned, they get eaten by the shark instead. Success!
- Parodied in one Achievement Hunter Let's Play when Ray Narvaez, Jr. is the first to be downed in an FPS game, he, as a Puerto Rican, gripes that it's the "brown guy who dies first".
- Parodied in an episode of South Park, itself a parody of the movie The Core. In the original, a black scientist dies after engaging a switch deep while in almost direct contact with the Earth's mantle; in the parody, Cartman explicitly picks Chef as "the black man who will sacrifice himself". This is subverted, however, as Chef safely makes his way through the crowd of Hippies, does what was asked, and gets back... only for Cartman to keep going on as though Chef had died.
- The episode of The Simpsons with the infamous MENDOOOZZAAAAA! Skyward Scream features McBain's black partner getting killed.
- The animated series Funny Face has the black watermelon as the first and only character to die.