Pretty self-explanatory trope: in a film which involves a lot of character deaths, it seems like the black actor will inevitably be the first to go.
In the past this perception was because there were few black leads in 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 (at least 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?
The most notable subversion of this trope came from the 1971 film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. 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. As more black people with money to spend went to theaters, more and more prominent black characters and more big-name black actors emerged—none of which were 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.note She is not even, technically, a dude.Denzel Washington? Bad idea. Morgan Freeman? You should give up. Will Smith? Run away and hide.
As black 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 their monster is. In horror films, the afflicted main character might have a sassy Black Best Friend that gets killed off 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.
Compare Bury Your Gays as well as Red Shirt.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime & Manga
Episode 22 of Code Geass R2 has the introduction of the only black Knight of the Round, Knight of Four Dorothea Ernst. However, she only gets a few seconds of screentime before Suzaku blows her Knightmare out of the sky, seconds after the battle starts.
Gorobei is the first to die in Samurai Seven. 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, Pippen is the first named character to die during the Eclipse.
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.
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 the Gotei 13 captains to die. Go figure. Subverted, because he is resurrected. Then dies again. Yeah. Though, as a villain, it isn't all that surprising that he dies.
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.
Averted in King Of Thorn, but not the adaptation. The black guy (his name is Ron) is one of the toughest members of a group of ActionSurvivors. In the manga he lives all the way to the end of the series. In The Movie he is the third member of the group to die.
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.
His nephew, who became his Legacy Character (but simply calling himself "Goliath"), is a member of the Revengers, a group of heroes with grudges against the Avengers. Goliath got knocked out early into their assault on Avengers Mansion and was the only one of the bunch to be badly hurt.
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 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 Red, Morgan Freeman dies first, then turns up alive, then is the first to die for real.
In Aliens Frost is the first major character to go, and Apone isn't far behind him.
LL Cool J apparently has it in his contract now that his characters can't be killed off, meaning any appearance by him will be an aversion (as well as a total suspense-killer for anyone who's aware of this).
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 team-mates 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?"
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: Draculablows him up with a stick of dynamite.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happens twice in the film version of The Crow. The first of T-Bird's crew who Eric encounters and kills is Tin-Tin, the black knife-wielding guy. Then, near the end of the film when Eric is trying to rescue Sarah, Grange is the first to die when Albrecht guns him down.
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 Vestand crouched behind a car. It turns out the shotgun slugs were armor-piercing.
Among Sinbad's crew in Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger is the party-loving Maroof. He is the first (and only) to get killed by the bad guys. Guess what skin color he has?
In B-MovieThe Killer Shrews, as seen on MST3K, 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 dies in the whole movie, but he's dead within the first two minutes!
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 two characters to bite it are black, both in horrifying ways. 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, to Jada Pinkett being stabbed repeatedly in front of hundreds of witnesses who think it's an act and even encourage the killer.
The black cameraman later points out that "Brothers don't last long in situations like this.". He smartly leaves town shortly, and lives.
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.
No lampshading or reversal in Roger Corman's Deep Star Six: there is only one black guy among the crew, and the accidentally dug-up deep-sea monster bites him in half as the first appetizer.
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.
In Stealth not only does the black dude die first, he was the one out to avoid the conflict that lead to it.
The Nature's-revenge 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.
Inverted in the direct-to-video monster movie Frankenfish, where none of the white characters make it to the end.
Inverted in Night of the Living Dead. The only black guy in the group survives the night, and then gets shot in the morning, after being mistaken for a zombie.
The original Dawn of the Dead also inverts this trope, but takes a somewhat different tack: this time around, the only black guy is one of the two survivors, and he manages to escape with his life. This was changed at the last minute from the original plot ending, where the last two surviving humans in the mall choose to commit suicide. Meanwhile, the 2004 Dawnremake had two major black characters. One goes crazy when his pregnant wife turns into a zombie, and gets shot. The other survives to the Bolivian Army Ending.
In the British/Irish horror movie Wilderness, the only black inmate was the first one to die.
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.
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 the Halloween remake, Joe Grizzly is Michael's first "proper" victim after he escapes the mental institution.
Earlier Halloween movies managed to avert this. In Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and Halloween: Resurrection the black guys makes it to the end while rescuing the main girl.
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).
And more to the point, Darwin's comic book counterpart actually did survive having his body destroyed.
It's worth noting that he is not the first character to die, only the first mutant. We see a friend of the protagonists killed a few minutes before Darwin, and dozens of CIA agents are killed in one shot by the big bad before Darwin's death.
Will Smith isn't even immune to this trope in a movie he's the lead in. Witness I Am Legend. Sure, 99% of the population has died by the time the show starts, and various Dark Seekers and animals, but Robert Neville is the first immune human to bite it. Admittedly, on his own terms, but still...
It is notable however that in the Alternate ending, he actually lives, but with a much bleaker look for mankind as a whole.
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 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?'"
A Christmas Story: When Ralphie gets his BB gun and fantasizes about shooting the villains, the black guy gets shot first.
Sanctum is a sort-of case; the first male character to die is a New Guinea native, dark-skinned but not African.
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.
Played straight after the opening scene in Fridaythe13th Part 3. The three bikers are all black, and they get killed off one by one.
His other movie The Thing (1982) is interesting that beside the main character, the two black characters survive up to the very end, one of them even a Red Shirt. The film doesn't even have one black character die in the whole film, with Childs surviving and Nauls presumed dead, although so was Childs at the time.
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 every other casualty. All the white characters survive. However, Moses and Biggz both survive and Moses is the one who ultimately saves the day.
Inverted in Independence Day. The hero is black and sidekick/comic relief is white. The white guy is the first named character to die in the movie.
2006 ghost movie La Llorona a.k.a. The Wailer is another example.
In the French zombie flick Mutants the only black character in the film is the third to die. The first two to die were men shev killed due to them being infection. The reason for her death was because she shot a guy who the couple didn't think was infected and they protested. She was going to shoot them if they didn't cooperate and they shot first. Ironically the man was infected and his blood contaminated the husband.
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.
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.
The In Death series: Judgment in Death has a black cop named Kohli be the first murder victim.
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.
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.
Live Action TV
One Tie-InMonk novel, Mr. Monk on the Couch, has a serial killer case where the first victim is a black thrift shop manager.
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 pilot, the spot normally manned by Wesley Crusher. But he's away from the post at the time, 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.
There are also examples of black Red Shirts all throughout the Star Trek universe who die before their similarly-garbed comrades.
An aversion: Early in the Star Trek episode “By Any Other Name”, the alien Kelvans reduce two Red Shirts to blocks: Lieutenant Shea, a black guy, and Yeoman Thompson, a woman. The Kelvan leader crushes one block, killing that crewmember, and restores the other block; Thompson’s the dead one, and Shea is restored to normal.
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.
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.
In "Vampires of Venice", the only black characters are the only people to die, a girl followed by her father's heroic sacrifice.
The only black man on the pirate crew is the Siren's first onscreen victim in "Curse of the Black Spot".
In the episode "Closing Time", the pre-credits death is that of a black woman, and in the episode proper the Scary Black Man security guard also bites it.
Eventually extremely subverted in the series 6 episode "Let's Kill Hitler", when it turns out that Black Best Friend Mels, who gets shot by Hitler and should have died, is actually River Song, who's able to regenerate.
Also one instance in Russell T Davies' run: In "Rise of the Cybermen", when the eponymous robots attack Jackie's party, the black President dies first.
Subverted with Mickey, the first black companion on television - who not only lives, but goes from a wuss in over his head to a total kicker of cyberman ass.
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 LimitsRevival 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.
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 split from the Nexus and formed The Corre which had another black guy Ezekiel Jackson. They were the first to be ejected, though at least Otunga was against their will. Otunga did not leave the Nexus, in fact he was the only original member to still be in the Nexus when it disbanded. Wade Barrett started the Corre.
In a Fatal 4 Way elimination battle royal in 2004 in which Gail Kim debuted, the first diva eliminated was Jazz, infamously because she was champion. Guess her ethnicity.
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.
Metal Gear Solid 2 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.
Apparently averted in Metal Gear Solid 3 when Sigint lived through the end of the game. However, in Metal Gear Solid 4, it's revealed that Sigint was actually Donald Anderson, who was, of course, the first character to die in the very first Metal Gear Solid.
Metal Gear Solid 4 itself averts this, since the only two black characters in the game, Ed and Drebin, both managed to survive.
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, your character's mother at the very beginning, during the birthing sequence. (According to the ingame files, she's 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.
A lot of people died in Dead Space before the Kellion crew (including player character Isaac Clarke) arrived, and he wasn't even the first of the Kellion's crew to die (a pair of redshirts bit it at the start), but Hammond was the first major character to bite it; torn limb from limb by a Brute.
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 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.
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 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.
Inverted in Metroid: Other M. Anthony Higgs is the only member of the federation crew to survive the bottle ship incident.
Played straight in Clive Barkers 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 The1st Degree has only 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 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 the Mech Commander intro, who is the first target of the Mad Cat? The black guy (Hardcase) piloting a Hunchback. He survives, barely, by ejecting from his stricken 'Mech.
Justified, in that he had the biggest gun. The Mad Cat's pilot likely felt it was prudent to take the Hunchback and its massive cannon out of the equation as quickly as possible.
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.
Superman The Animated Series, episode "The Hand of Fate". First demon to spring from the giant hole straight to hell 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.
On Total Drama Island, neither DJ nor Leshawna gets killed first during the horror movie challenge—-but, DJ is the one to get voted off. The same thing happens in TDA.
In Spaced Out a black Kratch Industries suit got dissolved by acidic pulp, which security aimed at an escaped experimental organism that had to be taken out at all cost.
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!"
Motor City: Averts, not only does the Black Guy live, he also found the cure to the Zombie Apocalypse and was the only person to not get completely infected.
Averted in Teen Titans where one episode has Raven accidentally bringing a horror movie to life, Beast Boy gets Genre Savvy when Robin suggested to split up and says as the Plucky Comic Relief, he would be the first to go. And he was. In fact, Cyborg was the last to be taken, followed by Raven as the final girl.
Averted in Young Justice: Artemis, not Aqualad, is the first one to die in the episode "Failsafe." She's later the first member of the team to "die."
Played straight in season two. Aqualad is the first member of the Team to have something unequivocally horrible (and potentially irreversible) happen to him on screen when he's rendered catatonic by M'gann.
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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 JhonenVasquez 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 Barker's 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.
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. Also, it's discussed fully in another scene, with text to this effect:
"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."
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.
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.
Lampshaded and subverted in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, where Chef has joined the military, and is 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!
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 (L. L. Cool J), and the other one by... Samuel L. Jackson. And Jackson is the one who gets closely acquainted with the film's superintelligent genetically enhanced angry sharks.
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.
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 not only survive a one-on-one fight with the killer. And he also WINS.
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 some kind of riot. They've holed up inside a truck and Jefferson orders Griff to get out and do something.
Lampshaded 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 a scary movie. 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, "There goes Jada. Black folk always die first."
"Word of advice: If the will says you have to spend the night in a haunted house you better hope that everybody else there is black guys and sluts.”
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."
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."
In Bad Guy High a corrupted Super Dan killed Jacob, the black member of the team, and it's lampshaded.
The idea is repeatedly and viciously lampshaded in SF Debrisreview 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."
and later. He does the voices of the various cast members to summarize the scene:
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."
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! 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.