Pretty self-explanatory trope: 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?
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. 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 FriendLancer 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.
Compare Bury Your Gays as well as Red Shirt and Vasquez Always Dies.
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.
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 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.
Lily C.A.T. averts this trope, by having the only black crew member of the ship die after two other characters bite the dust.
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.
The remake of Carrie averts this. Both George and Erika survive the Black Prom. George's survival is particularly notable as he was in the middle of the prom, trying to help people escape.
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.
But averted in the first Alien, since Parker (Yaphet Kotto) is one of the LAST crewmembers to die.
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: 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.
Paul Winfield has had this happen to him in his SF films:
Averted in The Terminator, as several other people die before him, and he ends up dying in a huge massacre that takes out an entire police station.
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) 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-MovieThe Killer Shrews, as seen on MST 3 K, 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!
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 trying to avoid the conflict that led to it.
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.
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 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).
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?'"
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.
An interesting inversion in his earlier movie Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), in which a black police officer manages to hold his own against a seemingly endless hoard of gangsters, ultimately being one of the few survivors. Most if not all the other cops who are present at the station at the time are white, and all of them are killed early on.
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 killed due to them being infected. 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.
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 EpicQueen Tara is shot by an arrow from a Boggan soldier, and is the first important character to die on screen.
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.
The Karate Kid: The first Cobra Kai kid Daniel-san beats at the karate tournament is black.
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.
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.
One Tie-InMonk 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.
Averted in at least one episode (TOS "By Any Other Name"), where of the two redshirts reduced to small polyhedrons in the first act, it's the white woman who gets crushed and the black man who's restored.
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.
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.
Inverted in Red Dwarf. In the first episode, the entire crew is wiped out, barring Lister. Not as obvious as some, as Lister is Ambiguously Brown.
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.
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.
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 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 assasinated 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, 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.
Not only does he get better, but by the third game in the trilogy it's made clear that he's the main protagonist the story is about. Even though he's no longer human.
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 (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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Averted in season 1. Artemis, not Aqualad, is the first one to die in the episode "Failsafe". She's later the first member of the team to be Faking the Dead.
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.
Later it gets subverted. Not only does Aqualad come out of his catatonic state, his plan is the major reason the heroes were able to OutGambit the villains by the end of the season.
Kid Flash (Wally) dies and remains dead for good.
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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 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 himself an Af-Am comics creator 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.
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.
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.
Defied 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.
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!"
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.
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."
"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."
Inverted in the Key And 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.
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."
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."
The Nostalgia Criticdubs 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 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.