"To put it simply: men are neither supposed nor allowed to be dependent. They are expected to take care of others and themselves. And when they cannot or will not do it, then the assumption at the heart of the culture is that they are somehow less than men and therefore unworthy of help. An irony asserts itself: by being in need of help, men forfeit the right to it."
Female characters can lose audience sympathy, but they have to work harder. Female villains are more likely to be redeemed and also less likely to be taken seriously in their villainy.
Male characters get more explicit and brutal deaths. If a man and a woman are killed in equally brutal ways, the woman's death is treated as worse. Extra points if the camera cuts away right before she gets butchered.
Sympathetic male characters are expected to put themselves at risk to protect female characters. Female characters do not lose audience sympathy for being unwilling to put themselves at risk to protect characters of either gender.
See the Analysis for more.
There are a lot of related tropes:
A show where Anyone Can Die may or may not be an aversion, depending on how the deaths are depicted.
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Baccano!: The only female character to even get noticeably injured in the bloody events aboard the Flying Pussyfoot is Rachel — and we never actually see her injury, only the gunshot and her subsequently bandaged leg.
Bleach: Earlier on, there's a limited example of the lack of anonymous women in the Soul Society arc. At the beginning Soul Reapers are generally being used as Mooks, and all such are male, as opposed to the leading cadre which includes a handful of females. Once the named characters have been shown enough that we can start sympathetically viewing Soul Reapers as a group, we start seeing Academy flashbacks in which a reasonable proportion of the anonymous Soul Reapers are female, and proceed from there, making it clear this trope is the Raison d'être.
Elfen Lied: Plays this completely straight. On one hand, many women die horribly. On the other hand, the characters very directly responsible for most of the death are girls, whom we are still expected to feel sympathetic for even after they slaughter dozens of people, innocent or not. And when a scientist shoots a rampaging disclonius, we are expected to see him as a heartless bastard. Also, most of the women killed off get a slow-motion sequence to go with it, while the guys get their heads torn off with brutal swiftness.
Naruto: It mixes this with Men Are Generic, Women Are Special, you would be hard-pressed to find a random ninja that was female. Pretty much any female in the series is important in some way, and outside of flashbacks (where women tend to die much more often, and even then they are still rarely generic), important [good] characters very rarely die, and if someone does die, they are likely male. This becomes really noticeable when the ninja world unites to take on Madara and a shot of the united army is shown. If there are random female ninja there, they are buried under the males. So when the ninja casualties start happening, only men tend to die.
Thankfully FMA is a bit more justified and lenient about it, It's set in a 20s setting so female soldiers would be uncommon (they still are, for reasons of this trope), and even then, many characters that are male get lingering shots and it's shown with Mustang that to him, his men are not expendable, his friends are not mooks merely sent to die. I.E a example of a lingering shot on a dead male character Colonel Maes Hughes
Noir: The two main characters are female assassins who mow down the male mooks.
In Ooku, the trope is completely inverted. A plague reduces the male population to one fifth of the total. Men thus become very valuable, especially for their seed, and are kept out of harm's way and carefully bartered.
Saint Seiya: Despite the high death count, all the female Saints, Marin, Shaina and June, manage to survive while all but the five main bronze boys die.
Sky Girls: Mentioned but never expanded upon. It was stated that nearly 90% of the male population aged 20-30 was wiped out in the first war with the WORMS. Among the surviving humans actually seen, however, there appear to be just as many young adult men as women.
Strike Witches: Men are pretty much Cannon Fodder for the Neuroi on the other hand the show treats all deaths as equally tragic, even Minna's boyfriend was given a well-rounded backstory which is more than can be said for a lot of male deaths in such stories. Witches are the only ones who can seriously harm Neuroi, conventional weapons are fairly effective but not nearly as much. Obviously the military brass are not too happy that the women are getting all the military glory while the men are sent back in body bags or soup cans on other hand it's not expanded upon exactly how much male combatants are actually involved in direct combat and as such it seems that most men are limited mostly to support roles while the Witches do all the heavy lifting. Most instances where men actually do fight seem more accidental than intentional. The fact that there are no non-Witch women serving on the front-lines is on the other hand justified by simple reality and explained in universe. The brass originally didn't want girls on the battlefield just like in real life which is why they were almost all male but had to conscript teenage magical girls because nothing else was effective. Despite this there do appear to be non-Witch women serving on battleships but even their roles are no elaborated upon. If there's any reason women aren't being hired as cannon fodder it's because the brass doesn't want women killed unless absolutely necessary.
One Piece tends to follow its Shonen brethren in this issue, in that women are often seen in combat roles, but only in positions of authority (the show has been accused of The Smurfette Principle, but women are numerous enough generally to dodge that) and never in the faceless pirate/marine hordes that serve as cannon fodder. The closest comes in with Amazon Lily, where, by the island's nature, women had to serve as mooks. Civilians, meanwhile, tend to be a realistically even mix.
Done in Black Lagoon. Would you expect anything less of what is essentially an action movie parody?
Gintama tends to zigzag this trope and mixes it with Females Are More Innocent: on one hand, you have the Night King arc where the presence of an Amazon Brigade warranted a high female death toll; on the other hand, this was the only time this would occur and, after that arc, you would be hard-pressed to see a woman die brutally. In addition, there aren't many villainesses in the series and neither one was ever killed for what she did... unlike male villains who are almost always dealt with permanently.
Attack on Titan averts this pretty much across the board. The military sees men and women serving together in all capacities, and being slaughtered in roughly equal numbers. Whether their death is played as tragic or not depends less on gender, and more on that particular character or the senselessness of their death. Among the Trainees killed at Trost, Marcos's death is the only one played as tragedy while the girls killed are mere Red Shirts never mentioned again. Civilians can be of either gender, and there doesn't seem to be any sort of "Women and Children first" standard in play. The Titans play with this in a strange way, as while they are Mooks and appear to be male, in reality Titans lack any sort of external sexual organs and may or may not even have a distinct gender.
In Y: The Last Man, two male astronauts who survived the Gendercide by being in orbit when it happened die ensuring the survival of their female crewmate after a fiery re-entry, because she was pregnant with a baby that could have belonged to either of them.
Also, male corpses are pictured in an advanced state of decomposition as well as piled on each other and loaded into a garbage truck. Female corpses, on the other hand, are handled with a lot more discretion. This is probably because there are just so many bodies that they can't deal with them all like they should, and the woman who Yorrick sees loading men in a dump truck does go out of her way to see every man gets a proper funeral at the end of her one-shot and states how disgraceful it was to the men.
When the Justice League of America moved to Detroit they introduced a group of new superheroes that had an equal number of males and females. However after the new additions proved to be unpopular DC decided to get rid of them by killing off the men (Vibe and Steel) and having the women (Vixen and Gypsy) leave the team. The only reason for having only the men killed appears to be this trope.
In a letter column for Brian Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming's Powers, in response to the the first several story arcs, a female reader wrote in to ask why Bendis felt the need to kill so many women in his Powers stories. Bendis's reply was that, looking back over the stories the reader mentioned, three women had been brutally killed, but so had something like forty men.
A Conan the Barbarian comic has Conan finding out just how many of the men he is presently dealing with (most of whom need killing) have had carnal knowledge of his current concubine. She responds with a quiet dignity, "it's not easy being a woman in a man's world." Conan then bluntly subverts the trope by countering, "You should try being a man in it."
Frozen (not to be confused) features 2 men and a woman trapped on a ski-lift. Guess which one lives? The woman does nothing but cry the entire movie and survives based on luck. The men, who try to make useful contributions, are both killed.
No females died in Push. There were two female villains, and neither died. They were specifically scripted to not have done anything too bad that they can cross the Moral Event Horizon. They at least didn't kill anyone, but merely get in the way of the heroes. One pulled a gun and was about to kill someone but was stopped just in time to avoid facing Karma. Conversely, all the male villains, including mooks died, regardless of whether they killed anyone or not.
Planet Terror kills off nearly every male character of consequence while having all the female character but one survive.
In The Happening, almost all onscreen deaths are male and often gruesome. Women get injured — or pick up guns — but do not die onscreen and not nearly in the same numbers. The one woman who dies gruesomely(off-screen) is established as unlikable prior to her death. Since this is about a neurotoxin released by plants in populated areas, the difference in the film's treatment of male vs. female death is particularly unjustifiable, except explicitly as an instance of this trope.
When Grendel attacks the hall in Beowulf, he targets all men, except for one woman whose death was far less explicit (as it was implied but not seen) then that of her male companions. The hall was filled at the time with revelers of both genders. Possibly justified as the women there would be civilians (and thus likely to run for their lives) while the men were the king's soldiers (who would thus stay and fight and die). Plus, well, he's implied to be kind of a Momma's Boy.
In the original Star Wars trilogy none of the Rebel pilots or grunts are female, at least until Leia insists on going on the mission to Endor. This is particularly striking in the first film when the Rebel pilots flying against the Death Star are all male, even though the idea of women combat pilots is now widely accepted both in real life and the Star Wars Expanded Universe (such as the X-Wing Series).
There were scenes of a female Rebel pilot filmed for the Battle of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi but they were cut out. Here's a photo.
There was at least one female pilot flying for Naboo in Episode I. (All the bad guys were droids).
In 2012 three out of five of the male main characters die. One out of three of the female main characters die. The women are routinely shielded from bad news by the men. During the climactic scene where the stowaways have to fix the mechanical problem they created by stowing away illegally, only the male protagonist and his son attempt to fix it. Despite the fact that the female protagonist is just as responsible and, presumably, as an adult stronger and more competent then her ten year old son.
This is Lampshaded in Death Race. All of Machinegun Joe's navigators somehow keep dying during every race, so he's the only racer with male navigators so as not to unnerve viewers. Also played straight in the movie itself, where we see many explicit deaths of the male racers, while (most of) the deaths of the female navigators are either offscreen or implied.
In the original Death Race 2000, running down women was worth 10 points more than men in all age categories.
The Wolfman (2010) is a big offender; dozens of men are killed and messily dismembered on screen while the very few female deaths are merely implied. Or, in the case of Lawrence's mother played for maximum tragedy and horror as against the Gorn the male victims go through.
A particularly bad example occurs in a deleted scene, in which the werewolf hears a blind woman giving a singing performance and goes to investigate. As he approaches the singer, a man grabs him by the wrist, thinking he's another guest (the performance is also a costume party). It makes sense that the werewolf would freak out and kill the guy for that, given how crazy we see werewolves are. Then we get all of the guests running away, leaving the blind singer alone and confused, not knowing who the growling person in front of her is. She starts touching the werewolf's face and he doesn't do a thing to her! In fact, he doesn't move until Aberline shoots at him through a window! The singer is left entirely untouched.
An early version of the screenplay for The Professional provides a very clear example of this trope. The Big Bad demonstrates his Big Badditude by coldbloodedly massacring Mathilda's family, including her father, mother, teenage sister, and infant brother. The sympathetic Leon and his protégé adhere to a "no women, no children" creed; gunning down random men in a park for target practice is just fine. This got toned down in the production to having Mathilda shoot just one man in the park with a paint pellet, and asking to "use real bullets next time", but the fact that the original idea was even considered is telling. Additionally, countless male mooks are massacred, together with a SWAT team (who were only doing their jobs, albeit for a corrupt boss), and Leon's contracted targets who were never depicted doing anything unsympathetic.
Braveheart spends one scene on William Wallace's grief over the deaths of his father and brother, but the death of his wife is the Emotional Torque that drives the rest of the film.
Also (pertaining to the third point in the introduction), note that when Murron is executed, the camera focuses only on her face and reaction. When Wallace gives her killer the same treatment, we are shown the knife cutting his throat and all the inevitable bloody results.
In Titanic, there are dozens of male corpses floating around in the water, but the lingering shot is on a woman with her young baby. True to the event, many men are shown choosing to give their spots on the lifeboats to women and children. The trope is even invoked by Molly Brown who chides the other women for leaving their men behind to save themselves.
The Clash of the Titans remake almost every secondary character dies over the course of the movie but the death of The Chick is a much bigger deal to Perseus, later Zeus brings her back to life, but everyone else stays dead. This was due to Executive Meddling, since Io was meant to stay dead and Perseus would have ended up with Andromeda with Io and Perseus's relationship being more brother/sister. The studio disagreed.
This was also inverted with the death of Andromeda's mother, which got swept under the rug as quickly as any faceless mook. Several of the male characters who died in the fight against Medusa were given far more import.
In The Spirit many male characters are killed off with their deaths often played for black comedy. All female characters whether good or bad are allowed to survive the film.
Justified since the male characters who do die consist of two immortals and one set of identical clones. Except for that one boyfriend/husband of the main characters past love interest who died uneventfully off screen.
The first death in the film Eaten Alive is female. It is also the only female death in the film out of 5. Of the 4 characters who meet the villain and survive, all are female.
The Hills Have Eyes 2, the sequel to the remake, has some unnamed woman die at the beginning, and both the female characters in the movie survive while only one out of the males does.
Splice is a very blatant perpetrator of this trope. every major character except the females dies. Dren is only killed after her Gender Bender.
The film Burke and Hare (based on the real life Burke and Hare murders) tries to make its main characters sympathetic. Consequently, they almost exclusively murder (young) men (some of whom are asshole victims). In contrast, the real life murders were almost exclusively women (the exceptions being an elderly man, a mentally disabled man, and a blind child).
In Batman Begins, it's suggested that on some level Bruce Wayne feels angry at his father for not defeating the murderer, protecting himself and Bruce's mother, and saving Bruce from emotional trauma and orphanhood. The possibility that Bruce's mother could have done anything whatsoever to protect herself, her husband and her child, let alone that she should have, is never even suggested. This despite the fact that the murderer had a gun and none of the Waynes were armed, so Martha probably stood about as much of a chance of defeating him as her larger and presumably stronger husband did.
Also subverted, as all of Bruce's memories about his parents are about his father, while Martha Wayne only appears right before her death. He might have bigger issues with his mother, after all.
Somewhat averted in Alexander Nevsky. Although most of the women stay home while the men go out to fight, there is at least one female soldier who not only is allowed to fight (without anyone trying to stop her), but who also gets declared as the bravest soldier on the battlefield at the end of the film.
There's only one female victim in Uncle Sam, and her death is completely offscreen. She's also never named and has about one minute of screen time.
Used in the movie of I Am Legend. Will Smith's only living companion throughout the movie is a German Shepherd named Sam, and near the end of the movie, the dog gets infected by the vampire-things he's been studying, and Smith is forced to kill it before it can infect him. Having to kill his beloved dog is bad enough, but just to try to throw in an extra cheap wrench, just before the dog succumbs to the infection, Smith addresses it as "Samantha".
Mother's Day (the 2010 film, not the 1980 flick it is loosely based on) has seven male characters and nine female ones. six of the seven men die while only three of the women do - and all three women who die are presented as someway 'unsympathetic' (one is an adulteress who has been sleeping with the heroine's husband and the other two are spoilt and obnoxious rich girls and very minor characters to boot). The men who die regardless of whether they are presented as sympathetic or not..
In fact, out of the victims, not a single man lives, while four women do. The only male to survive is one of the killers.
Not a numerical situation but this happens twice in The Dark Knight. First Batman chooses to save love interest Rachel Dawes instead of Harvey Dent and Dent yells at his rescuers that they should rescue her (then again, he is in love with Rachel). Rachel ends up dying and Harvey continues to live, though he dies at the end of the film anyways. Then, later in the film Dent kills corrupt male cop Wurtz but leaves equally corrupt female cop Ramirez alive.
The 2005 remake of King Kong has this trope in spades. Ann Darrow, the beauty to the beast, is the only major female character and survives the film relatively unscathed. On the other hand, numerous male crew members (seventeen by the film's count) die in the attempt to save her - including the only two non-white cast members. Of the natives killed in the initial clash, only a man is shown shot to death. Kong does accost several women in New York trying to find Ann, but none of them are explicitly shown to have been killed or even seriously injured. Though the male deaths are treated sympathetically, the comparatively brutal and gory nature of them makes this trope seem especially egregious.
The 2007 film Hitman plays this straight with no women being killed throughout the entire film. There are sequences that deliberately spare female characters including several deleted scenes, one of which where after killing all the male henchmen and executing his target, Agent 47 leaves the room but as he does it is revealed that all the women in the room safely survived the carnage.
This might also be a theme for the movie, since the game had only male targets and it is frowned upon to kill innocent civilians.
In the French film Baise-Moi, two women abandon their morals after a savage sexual assault (where a group of men rape them). In an act of revenge the women go on a wild lark littered with sexual escapades and murder. Although a few women do get murdered in the film, the movie has an excessive amount of violence towards men with little to no regard as the men are written off as pigs. In a sequence at a bar/brothel the women choose to kill many of the patrons participating in sexual acts in the back. After the massacre the camera pans around the room only slowing down on two of the female victims while clearly passing over the dead male victims with no consideration. Even during the attack all the men are killed in graphic detail on screen while the few women get discretion shots.
This may be a sort of "homage" to this trope but due to the subject matter of the film, it may be trying to justify the implications of this trope.
In the 1972 made-for-tv disaster movie, Short Walk To Daylight, nine characters, five men and four women are introduced in a subway car before a big earthquake hits, leaving them trapped underground. The unnamed train conductor dies from injuries after being buried in rubble. Later on, as the remaining eight try finding a way out, a junkie acts irrational while going through withdrawal after he and his girlfriend have separated from the others to go their own way, and throws himself on the subway's third rail, electrocuting himself. Afterwards, the tunnels are being flooded and the survivors must cross the huge leak, where the train's motor man (the only character who didn't know how to swim) falls in the water and is swept away. After one more obstacle, the rest of the survivors finally find an exit, with three out of five men dying, and all four women surviving.
In all forms of propaganda, those depicted as victims of the enemy are women and children. Men are allowed to suffer injuries from the enemy only if they are in the armed forces; civilian men seldom appear.
A little girl is looking at her dad's sword, hung over the fireplace. She asks her mum what it's for, and Mum replies "That's what makes men strong and powerful, so they fight wars." The daughter says "They believe that?" Mum says "Yes. That's why they're expendable."
In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Chessmen of Mars, Ghek uses mind control to stop the Kangaroo Court, but must maintain eye contact; he tells Turan that they will kill Tara, and Turan overcomes his reluctance to leave Ghek to carry Tara off. Afterward, he apologizes and says if they had been three men, they could have all stayed and fought, but he could not leave her in danger.
The original novelization of the Star Wars movie has a mention of men and women pilots kissing goodbye to each other before the attack on the Death Star.
There are no female Imperials ever seen, although the Expanded Universe retconned this, saying the Empire was sexist. All of Jabba's thugs in Return of the Jedi are also men. In the prequel trilogy, all of the pod racers (most of whom seem to die in the race) and Naboo soldiers and guards in the first movie are male, plus all of the clone troopers in the second and third are male. In the case of the clone troopers, this is because they are all cloned from the same man. Revenge of the Sith subverts this trope, though, and shows both male and female Jedi being massacred when the clone troopers carry out Order 66. The fact that there are only male villains, but male and female Jedi plays to the trope however.
By the time he starts reciting the list of women in his head, he's pretty much started the long, treacherous spiral to batshit craziness. It's apparently a fairly widespread attitude, though, since Mat suffers the same qualms (Perrin seems to escape it, though).
It's implied in later books that Rand was trying to create a self-enforced Even Evil Has Standards to blunt the effects of the taint-madness. By choosing one line that he absolutely would not cross, he hoped to protect some scrap of his humanity from the pressure of being the Dragon Reborn.
The trope also plays out in the city of Ebou Dar, where men give women a knife on their wedding day. To quote the other wiki, "By custom, the wife is to stab the husband with this knife if he should ever displease her."
The book Starship Troopers plays this straight. There are female pilots, but all of the infantry are male. The movie and its first direct-to-video sequel, however, subvert this and include female infantry, many of whom are killed in battle. However, the second direct-to-video sequel surprisingly played this straight. Seven people are stranded on a planet — five men and two women — and only the women survive. Also, pretty much everyone else killed in the movie was male.
Not sure if this applies. The CAP troops may not have women in them, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're not willing to put the women in the naval service in harms way. How many thousands of female crew members do you think died when the first Klendathu attack went south? The absence of women in the Mobile Infantry probably has to do with the fact that a special forces style training regime with a 99% drop off rate for men wouldn't be graduating that many women even if you let them in.
Although inverted (once) near the end of book three, most of The Black Jewels Trilogy lives and dies (pun intended) by this trope.
Scott Adams lampshades this in his blog turned book "Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain", saying that the reason that the military is composed mainly of men is because their deaths aren't as much of a tragedy; if it were children, people with special needs, or other groups of people, there would be no war because it would be too tragic.
In Redwall, the villain hordes, while not exclusively male, have many more males than females. The hordes are usually wiped out. The male heroes/goodbeasts also have a higher rate of death or injury than the females do.
All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can — and must — be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a "perfect society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly — and no doubt will keep on trying.
Reversed in the world of A Brother's Price, simply due to the sheer paucity of men. Someone who kills a man is therefore instantly seen as a monster; meanwhile the deaths of criminal women and female marines alike are only remarked on in passing. There is a single case of a family where only the fifteen-year-old brother survived, and that was because spies for the enemy abducted him before the enemy killed every single other family member.
An iPad app breaks down the A Song of Ice and Fire series and tracks the deaths throughout the books. Overall there have been 1,528 male deaths, 26 female deaths and 207 children killed. The male deaths take up 85% of the deaths in the series where as the females only take up 2% (children take up 13%). The series has many battles in it, but it takes full advantage of killing as many men as possible while keeping the females very clearly out of harms way.
Early on in the first book one instance introduces the recurring character Osha, a wildling who is found running through the woods with a gang of other wildlings when they come across a young Stark. They try and steal his horse but are interrupted by the young Stark's brother. Him and his partner kill all the wildlings except Osha, but in an aversion three was another woman with them who is killed (unceremoniously) by Grey Wind the direwolf along with the three men (one of whom has more focus and is the only one besides Osha named). Played straighter in the TV-Series adaptation, where Osha is the only woman and there are two men who die.
It is, mind, a highly traditionalist society where most deaths would be men. It's quite clear that most female deaths are offscreen casualties, and the named women that die are often given equivocal significance to many of the men.
In The First Law, Inquisitor Glokta ruthlessly interrogates, tortures, exiles, and/or orders the death of numerous people throughout the books. The first time he shows mercy is also the first time they show him interrogating a woman. Even he can't explain why he spares her.
A movie or TV show is much more likely to get it's rating pegged up a notch for violence if it is directed against women. For example the content advisory for The Sopranos warns: "Very strong brutal violence, sometimes even directed at women."
In the Supernatural episode "Exile on Main St.", Dean is attacked by three Djinn, two male one female. He beats one to death, his grandfather stabs another and a third they trap in a sack. Guess which one was female.
There's also the season 1 episode "Nightmare", wherein a young psychic kills his father and uncle, and would have killed the stepmother if not for Sam.
There is also the hunter Gordon, who it seems every time he pops up tells a tale of how he killed/tortured a monstrous or possessed woman, just to show how terrible a person he is. Even though, as noted below, the brothers do the same thing.
Far more men (or about double) are killed quickly to set the scene for any given episode, but Supernatural subverts this hard with recurring female characters. Mary, Ellen and Jo all sacrifice themselves (rather pointlessly) to support Sam and Dean's endeavors, Pamela is killed while helping them, and Ruby is obviously set to defend them with her life, whatever her reasons may be. None of these really fit the Women in Refrigerators trope either, because with the exception of Mary Sam and Dean feel bad for like two minutes and then move on.
There is an in-universe example of this trope with the ghost of Meg, who despite likely knowing that many people, both men and women can have their deaths blamed on the brothers, only tries to guilt trip them by bringing up the latter. A typical line from her is pretty much: "Do you have any idea how many innocent girls died because of you? Shame... SHAAAAAAMMME on you for letting random girls you didn't even know die, they're girls, you're supposed to protect them, and you FAILED!"
Actually, Meg's ghost was pointing out that they failed to recognize that she was possessed by a demon and save her (which led to her death and her dead little sister's suicide), which is a valid reason to be pissed. When she was talking about "how many innocent girls", she was angry that Sam was working with the demon Ruby, and asking him how many hosts like Meg Ruby has gotten killed. Which, again, she had a point.
In the Merlin episode Excalibur the Big Bad is extorting food from the peasants and punches a woman who tries to stop him. A man runs out to save her and is shot with a crossbow. The camera lingers on the woman, and another man is shown coming to her aid and holding her, the man shot with the crossbow is apparently irrelevant as he isn't seen again nor is it shown that anyone comes to his aid. It's obvious that the audience is expected to worry more about a woman getting punched then a man being shot in the chest with a crossbow.
Well, he's probably dead. Not much aid you can give to him at that point.
If it was a woman shot to death there would at least have been a lingering camera shot of her face and a few mourning relatives. This guy just dropped into a narrative void.
In the Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw", the only victims of the alien werewolf were male.
In the Doctor Who episode "Journey's End", when the Doctor's soul is revealed, he flashbacks through all the secondary characters whose deaths he was indirectly responsible for. Although a good number of men have died throughout the series, apparently only the women are noteworthy as they comprise a vast majority of the deaths he regrets.
In the Doctor Who episode "Dalek", large numbers of male redshirts are electrocuted on screen. By contrast, a female officer gets a discretion shot.
The only characters to survive "The Caves of Androzani" are female.
Inverted in the Doctor Who episode "Human Nature". The two male victims are shown in a state of terror in their last moments before their bodies are possessed. The two female victims are summarily taken.
Also inverted in "42". Only the male crewmembers survive — the only female to survive is Martha.
Inverted once again in "Voyage of the Damned". All of the survivors were male.
In the 2010 and 2011 series Rory is used for this. Repeatedly.
Although Rory's hardly expendable, and the only actual, lasting effect of his many deaths is that he's become a massive Memetic Badass.
Generation Kill: The main characters are passing a series of corpses lining the road. One of the characters points out a particularly mutilated corpse and says, with glee, "Dude, look at that guy!" Another character says "That's not a guy," and a horrified silence descends as they realize it's a young woman.
In an episode of Babylon 5, Ivanova futilely tries to prevent one ship from firing on another by crying out, "There are women and children on board!" This is an especially weird example since Ivanova herself is a woman and never hesitates to put herself in danger even if it's something a male character could take care of. Either she was trying to play on the shooters' sexism, or she somehow forgot that "women and children" is not a synonym for "civilians" despite being a woman and a soldier herself.
In the Mayday episode 'Behind Closed Doors' McDonnald Douglas's DC-10s have a faulty door latch that causes Turkish Airlines Flight 981 to crash. Everyone aboard is killed, including men. You'd never know that from the show's final montage however because it only includes shots of female passengers.
Star Trek generally plays this straight, despite the fact that men and women are supposed to be equal.
In the episode "By Any Other Name," an alien turns two of Kirk's crew members, a man and a woman, into identical little stones. It crushes one of them and turns the other safely back into a human, just to show that it can kill or spare at its whim. The fact that it's the man who was spared is turned into a shocking reveal, and Kirk does a little Heroic BSOD.
In "The Maquis," a Deep Space Nine two-parter, the Maquis are shown to be about equally male and female in the first part, but in the second part, when Captain Sisko and crew raid a Maquis base and shoot several Maquis in a firefight, there are no female Maquis.
In the 2009 Star Trek film, almost all of the Romulans, the villains, were male. Starfleet, the heroes, were somewhat more equal (though the vast majority of Starfleet characters actually shown doing dangerous, action-y things were male as well).
On LOST several male members of the others are killed by the survivors but are quickly forgotten about, however after a minor female other named Colleen Pickett is killed by Sun we see the others give her a big funeral. Of course Col death would have some lasting consequences considering that her husband Danny Pickett was the Jailer of Kate and Sawyer.
In Day 6 of 24 CTU is attacked (again) by a group of Chinese mercenaries who take everyone hostage and ask for the person in charge to step forward. This is a woman, but her love interest steps up and claims to be the boss, and is promptly shot. When the lead captor finds out that the woman is charge, he tells her to stand up, asks her about it....and then tells her to sit back down.
Likewise, out of the numerous characters Jack has killed from mooks to major characters, only 4 have been female.
Primeval was an egregious user of this trope. All deaths in the first series were male; while this is understandable in the case of special ops all the civilians killed were also male. Later the show became marginally more egalitarian in terms of victims.
It started averting it later on. True the first female to get killed was treated as a tragedy despite the fact that she'd been keeping a dangerous animaland covered up for it when it killed her boyfriend. In season 3 a bitchy museum curator is killed off with no fanfare and the same happens to a wedding planner in Season 4. A very dark episode in season 4 also had a group of wild dogs loose in a school and they ate one of the children before the heroes can get to her. Jess is shocked by this but everyone pretty much shakes it off.
In the beginning scenes of the pilot episode of Caprica, a man is shot dead by a woman who fires multiple bullets into his chest while laughing. There is a later scene of a woman being stabbed complete with a Gory Discretion Shot; this scene causes the protagonist's double to suffer traumatic stress, fail her mission, is later discussed in detail and becomes an emotional pivot point for the plot and characterization of the society.
One scene in The Walking Dead has most of the female cast sitting by a lake doing the laundry, complaining about the "division of labour" in the survivor's camp. With the exception of Andrea, however, they are all willing to allow the men to do the far more dangerous job of protecting the camp from the Walkers. When Rick suggests traveling back to Atlanta to retrieve a bag full of guns, the group that goes is all male, to use one of many examples from the show.
How many times has Dexter had a woman under his knife in six seasons? Women who die on the show are usually the target of the villains, to show they are more evil than Dexter.
Once Upon a Time: Name me a female character who dies during the show. I dare you.
So far, Cinderella's fairy godmother and Maleficent. Although the show plays this trope straight in that far more men die, and all the mooks cut down are male, there's an emotional subversion in that neither of the female deaths are counted as particularly heinous, whereas some male deaths are hugely emotional and serve as Start of Darkness or other important moments for the female mains.
Charmed has had literally disposable men. As in, they used magic to create a man whose sole purpose is their enjoyment, and who disappears (essentially dies) after a day. This is seen as being absolutely OK. This is only the nadir of the main characters' occasional blatant disregard for men as living beings, but far from the only example. In fact this can be traced back to their grandmother, who literally openly says at one point that she has repeatedly instructed Piper to look at men as tools to be used, washed, put away and brought back out whenever needed. That's right. The main characters look up to someone who espouses the viewpoint that men are worth no more than silverware.
This trope is the subject of the song "Men" by Loudon Wainwright III:
Have pity on the general, the king and the captain
They know they're expendable; after all, they're men
Discussed extensively by Honey Badger Karen Straughan (Girl Writes What) in her videos and on her blog.
In the 1930s Flash Gordon radio serial, Flash is forced to chose one of the people he loves to be sacrificed. The men draw lots to decide which of them will be sacrificed, but Flash immediately exempts Dale Arden from the choice because "as a woman she must live".
In Dino Attack RPG, the overwhelming majority of anonymous Red Shirts are male, and the only known female Red Shirt was merely wounded, not explicitly killed like her male peers. The only women who are killed, such as Amanda Claw, are major characters whose deaths bring great emotional impact and serve to motivate the survivors to fight even harder to defeat the enemy.
Lampshaded by Jason Manford in his 2011 stand-up show. He references the trope by name without quite decrying it.
Jason Manford: In the house, when there's a noise downstairs, who's checking that noise out? That's dad, isn't it? A hundred percent of the time, that's dad. You could be married to a ninja, you're still the first one down the stairs. Why is this, is it because you're stronger or braver or better at fighting than your wife? No. It's because out the two of you, you're more expendable. It's not nice to hear, dads, I understand. The family will be upset but they'll crack on.
Tabletop RPG sourcebook: GURPS Lensman includes an interesting analysis of the phenomenon in the section "Women and Lenses", pp. 9-10.
Warhammer 40,000: While the background material hints that there are just as many females as there are males in the Imperial Guard Army, most of the Imperial Guard Models are all male, with little to no female variants throughout the years. Other races tend to have one set of "female" traits for every 3 "male" traits (breastplates mostly). One whole regiment of Imperial Guard is made up solely of males as well, the aptly named Vostroyan Firstborne (made of firstborn sons). Space Marines may be this at a glance, due to genetics basically making female space marines in fluff impossible, but are largely balanced because each new initiate marine is still infinitely more valuable than 10k imperial guard women and that their Distaff Counterpart, the Sisters of Battle, are all female (and in-game are actually easier to kill and tend to rely on semi-horde tactics).
Executive Meddling is behind this as Games-Workshop doesn't belief women models sell well. The few they have put out are highly-sought collectors items.
Also averted What with the Eldar and the Dark Eldar. Where females are quite common, just wearing battle armor so it's less noticeable.
Played with a bit, but generally averted, in the Ace Attorney series, where all victims (even Asshole Victims) are treated with at least a degree of sympathy and their murderers (even sympathetic ones) are not pardoned for their crimes, regardless of gender.
The first five games contain twenty-three cases and only five female murder victims: Cindy Stone, Mia Fey, Valerie Hawthorne, Elise Deuxnim AKA Misty Fey, and Cece Yew (who only was a murder victim in the backstory of the case). Three of these women are treated to far more grief than the typical murder victim. However, of the three who are given more compassion, two of them were genuinely sympathetic and plot-important characters, and the other was an innocent who was killed because she happened to possess evidence that would have brought down an international smuggling ring. Cece's role as the tragic "innocent victim" is by no means unique, nor limited to her gender; in case 3-1, for example, Doug Swallow was murdered by Dahlia Hawthorne because he tried to warn Phoenix Wright that she was stealing poison from the science lab. He is treated just as sympathetically by the game as Cece. Additionally, the discrepancy between the numbers of male and female deaths can be attributed to Truth in Television, where men are three times more likely to be the victims of murder than women.
It is also important to note that all male victims who are not Asshole Victims are treated to the same amount of sympathy as female non-Asshole Victims, and female murderers whose victims were male (i.e. Dahlia Hawthorne to Doug Swallow and Terry Fawles, with attempts on Diego Armando and Phoenix Wright) are not given any leniency because of their sex (the aforementioned character is arguably the most evil and unforgivable villain in the series). Male victims are also never shamed or made out to look incompetent.
In regards to the gruesomeness of the victims' deaths, gender doesn't seem to factor in, and females are murdered just as ruthlessly as males: Cindy and Mia are bashed on their heads by statues onscreen, Valerie and Elise are stabbed in the back, Cece is stabbed, Candice Arme is hit in the head with a heavy bomb, Constance Courte is stabbed with an awl, and Metis Cykes is impaled by a katana; the sheer gruesomeness of the latter's death scene may have been a contributing factor to the game's M rating.
In one case in particular, a male character is blamed by another for not protecting one of the women who died, despite the fact that he's a Non-Action Guy, was a young rookie at the time, and she was his far more capable and experienced Mentor. However, the character blaming him (Godot/Diego Armando) is revealed to be the boyfriend of the deceased who is projecting his own self-loathing for being unable to protect his girlfriend (despite the fact that he had been in a coma during her death and was thus physically unable to do anything to prevent it) onto Phoenix Wright, who was technically, by Godot's reasoning (i.e. he was alive and conscious), in a position to have stopped it. It is neither of their faults that the victim died, and the game makes it quite clear that Godot is sorely misguided — by having the victim herself, a channeled Mia Fey point it out to him, thus saving him from himself. It's also worth noting that Godot is a character with established sexist tendencies, hence his belief that men need to protect women at all costs.
Investigations 2 gives us two female attempted murderers (Katherine Hall and Jill Crane) who, while incredibly sympathetic characters whose would-be victims are themselves unrepentant murderers, are not pardoned for their crimes. Once she's found out, Katherine acknowledges that her actions were inexcusable and gracefully accepts her punishment. Furthermore, while there is only one female murder victim (Crane), the male non-Asshole VictimsRooke and Cameron are treated very sympathetically.
Dual Destinies evens out the playing field. Including the DLC case, there are three male victims (Rex Kyubi, Clay Terran, and Jack Shipley) and three female victims (Candice Arme, Constance Courte, and Metis Cykes), and all are treated sympathetically. Debatably, the real Bobby Fulbright, murdered a year prior to the events of the game, might also count as one of the victims, adding another to the male side; however, his case is not tried in court within the game and is only mentioned briefly, never explored.
In the Assassin's Creed series, the protagonists only ever kills male guards and Templars, with the exception of Desmond Miles killing Lucy Stillman through the apple; through Juno's command. Her death is treated with much concern and grief on Desmond's part.
Gears of War The first two games and the novelizations play this straight with the military. Only men do the fighting. All fertile women are used for reproductive purposes, while non-fertile women serve in support roles. The third game, however, subverts this. The women fight alongside the men. This is because humanity is down to its last throes and needs every available body to fight.
The prequel also averts this - presumably this is before the women's groups campaigned to save their own hides.
In Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, we meet the Aeropans in the beginning and see both men and women (no kids, though) wandering around the city. Once it's revealed that the Aeropans are bad guys, not only do they all become identical Mooks, but they all become male.
Although, under all that heavy armor, it is very hard to be sure.
Most of the zombies you encounter in half the games in the Resident Evil series are male. This is averted in the second and third games, as well as the Outbreak spin-offs, since the T-Virus escaped in a midwestern city. In the original game and Code: Veronica, the virus infected an isolated laboratory without any listed female personnel and an isolated South American prison complex that either had no female prisoners at all, or stored them on a part of the island that you never visit during gameplay.
In Half-Life 2 the Combine Overwatch and Civil Protection units who make up the majority of the enemies the player will kill in the game, are humans who are either voluntarily collaborating with the Combine or are being forced to do so and are exclusively male. This can be understood, up to a point, but no explanation is given as to why Headcrab Zombies are also exclusively male.
One of the enemies that didn't make it into the game was the obviously female Combine Assassin, the reason for this being that female combine soldiers would be so heavily armored/augmented that they would resemble male combine soldiers anyway. Also, The Citizen in question in question was referring to the Civil Protection, who are seperate to the the Combine Overwatch and were never planned to have any female specific units.
This behavior is encouraged in one of the missions in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, called Ravages of the Plague. There you pass through a village that is about to be sacked by bandits. Only one female villager appears there, and she is also the only named villager there — her name is Splendora. It doesn't matter how many male villagers get killed by bandits, but if Splendora survives, she gives you a potion.
Near the end of the first episode of Telltale Games game The Walking Dead, the player has to choose between two characters to save from the zombies. They also track player choices. 75% of players chose to save Carly over Doug. Something of a cheat by the developers though: she's the only one with a gun, and the scene is laid out to look like she could save Doug better than the player character can if you toss her a fresh clip, but if you try to save him she will definitely be overrun while you're fighting in close quarters. One of the dialog choices immediately after even lets you state this was your intent.
Inverted in Episode 4: the player has to make a choice between helping Christa or Omid on to the moving train. Omid obviously needs your help more than Christa due to his injured leg, and even though he manages to get on board even if you help Christa she chews you out for helping her instead of him.
In Dragon Age: Origins, there is a main quest in which the player can choose to help defend Redcliffe Village from an undead attack. The young adult women remain in the church with the elderly and children and do not help defend the village, while the men (labeled "militia" in-game) fight, despite the fact that the villagers expect this attack to overwhelm them, in which case all the noncombatants will die anyway. While helping the villagers prepare for the attack, the player can persuade (or intimidate) a few more men into joining the militia, but no one mentions arming any of the women, and even the player character (who might be a female warrior who is planning to fight alongside that very militia) doesn't get a single dialogue option to suggest it. What makes this so strange is that there are female warriors throughout the game — not only female party members but also random anonymous female soldiers in battle scenes, and even female enemies — yet the all women of Redcliffe were portrayed as defenseless in a way that civilian men weren't. Apparently the women of Ferelden will travel to the frontier to do battle and waylay travelers, but they won't fight to defend their own village from certain destruction.
Even Sten, who doesn't think woman can be warriors (as in, you're either a woman or a warrior), thinks this is very stupid, claiming that if it was a village of his people every man, woman and child would take up arms to defend it.
This curious case seems entirely isolated to Redcliffe and becomes somewhat of an elephant in the room that's never brought up. Ironically the only major character who spews outright misogynist statements, Arl Howe, is in charge of a region with the most amount of female guards and soldiers seen in the game.
Arl Howe was likely simply trying to infuriate the Warden with these statements, considering that he only makes them if the Warden is a female of the human noble origin. Meanwhile, Murdock of Redcliffe derisively comments that he "wasn't aware they allowed women in the Grey Wardens." That being said, he also doesn't object to any female character in the party lending her assistance in the town's defense, and is no less grateful upon success.
Origins also demonstrated a strange example in that while the game goes out of its way to inform the player that men and women are roughly equal in Ferelden and have all the same opportunities, and even demonstrates it with a number of female character models among the Mooks players must contend with, (see gorn aversions below) any cutscene where a battle is taking place between the Darkspawn and the various peoples of Thedas are designed so that only male soldiers are ever visibly being slaughtered. While perhaps justified in the finale's siege of Denerim, given that the vast majority of the soldiers there were members of Arl Eamon of Redcliffe's army, this is particularly egregious at Ostagar, where the battle's opening cutscene depicts scores of female soldiers positioned alongside the men, but in the closing scene only men are visible being massacred by the Darkspawn. This seems to have been averted in the sequel, however.
L.A. Noire has it to where you can gun down dozens of men, but a woman that shoots you you simply knock out. There is even a side mission where a woman and her two male accomplices are robbing a vault. You gun down both the males but if you gun down the woman you have to restart the mission.
Averted in Syndicate Wars, the sequel to Syndicate : While the Unguided and the Church of the New Epoch include plenty of female fighters, Eurocorp agents and guards, as well as the Police, are universally male, barring one or two renegade female Eurocorp agents.
Can be completely inverted in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. For reasons known only to the developers, the entire base staff of engineers, technicians, workers and scientists aside from one person (Dr. Vahlen) is male. You can recruit as many female soldiers as you want, however and have an all female squad, creating a situation where all the men essentially Stayinthe Kitchen while the women fight and die to protect them, and this is XCOM so somebody *is* going to die.
Meta example between two games:God Of War Ascension was met with accusations of misogyny by feminist groups after players received the trophy "Bros Before Hos"note Now "Bros before Foes", (which occurs after Kratos seemingly kills a single female enemy), despite the fact that the two events were not directly related.note The trophy is awarded because a male character sided with Kratos("Bro") over the Furies("Hos"). Interestingly, the woman actually survives unharmed by the end of the scene. The Tomb Raider reboot released soon after, gave players the 'Widowmaker' trophy for killing many male enemies, and received no such controversy from feminists, despite the fact that the two were explicitly related.
Every human enemy in Borderlands is male. It isn't until the 4th and final expansion pack that you end up fighting a very small handful of female assassins. Borderlands2 continues with this, with the only female characters you fight in the entire game being the Sheriff of Lynchwood, Laney White, Motor Mamma, and the Sorcerer's Daughter.
Tomb Raider has female villains, but they are quite rare and only appear as boss characters that advance the plot (Natla in Tomb Raider/Anniversary/Underworld, Sophia Leigh in Tomb Raider III, Kristina Boaz in Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, and Amanda in Tomb Raider Legend/Underworld). All other enemies in the series are men that either advance the plot or serve as nothing more than mooks for Lara to shoot. Compared to the female villains in the series that have somewhat complex motives for their goals (reshape the world in their own image, revenge, etc.), the male villains tend to go for more simple goals, such as taking over the world or gaining power.
Grand Theft Auto allows the player to kill men and women at their own leisure as far as pedestrians are concerned. However, there are no female antagonists at all except for Catalina in Grand Theft Auto III, though her motives for betraying the player character is greed and nothing more.
Complete aversion on all points in Dead Winter— a sympathetic male character is seen sniping a female extra, whose death gets just one panel, and you see blood spatter from the exit wound.
Another aversion on all counts is Digger. The hyena Digger comes to name Ed is an exile who killed his wife, because it was the only way to protect his child. Having been driven half-mad by the death of her first child at birth (which, while common to hyenas, she thought she was exempt from, since Ed was a surviving firstborn and therefore a living good luck charm), she began to beat first Ed, and then their daughter, at which point Ed realized his wife was never going to get better; so he killed her, in her sleep, to keep her from doing their daughter lasting harm, and then peaceably accepted exile because he knew that what he had done was technically unforgiveable (technically because most of the tribe knew the circumstances and felt he should be forgiven, but his in-laws, lead by his wife's sister, insisted upon exile if not the death sentence).
It's worth noting that Digger's hyenas are an aversion in a more general sense as well, because, being based on real hyenas, the gender roles as we know them are reversed (males are smaller and physically weaker than females, and tend to be the noncoms while women are hunters and warriors).
In xkcd, one of the characters is playing a game where he gets the life history of the people he's shooting in an FPS. The caption indicates he starts feeling guilty when one of them turns out to be a woman. Then he starts feeling guilty that he didn't feel guilty for the dozens of other guys he just shot.
In The Order of the Stick, when Haley, Belkar, and Celia are under attack by the Greysky City Thieves's Guild, this is played straight in the nameless mooks. There are a few women, and elves, but men dominate by a ratio of more than 5:1 and they are killed without sympathy (although Haley does mention most of the guild are jerks). Most notable when Belkar and the Cleric of Loki fight their way through a massive crowd of thieves, and all of the men are slaughtered while the lone woman gets kissed. It's inverted later after the mooks are dead, because the lone female named character, Crystal, is treated without any sympathy or redeeming features, while the level-headed and male Hank comes up with a plan to end all of the bloodshed.
Superjail! on Adult Swim makes a habit of killing male prisoners in the most graphically disturbing ways possible. One episode it depicted a woman getting shot and slumping over to suggest the chaos had gone too far. Considering this was interspersed between images of men being decapitated and graphically disemboweled, it was a particularly jarring and perhaps intentional invocation of this trope.
Some mild but significant examples in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In the episode "Zuko Alone", we learn that the soldiers lord their power "mostly over women and kids", this small dialogue serving both to damn the soldiers in the audience's eyes as well as gain more sympathy for Zuko and forgive him nearly killing the guy with firebending towards the end. Also, in the Grand Finale, Zuko agrees to an Agni Kai with Azula so "no one else has to get hurt", implying Katara being hurt is worse than him losing and possibly dying (this despite knowing firsthand how competent she is}. Both these examples are particularly interesting as he comes from a surprisingly liberal country.
To an extent — the series' art book notes that the Fire Nation's occupying army is exclusively male; female soldiers are included only as members of the Home Guard, prison guards, and instructors.
Spoofed in an episode of The Simpsons. Homer and Marge find that Lisa went with Marge's reporter friend to a feminism convention and go to find her, only to learn that she and the reporter went to an erupting volcano instead. Homer says "I'll go save Lisa, you stay here!" and the feminists boo at the perceived Stay in the Kitchen. So Homer says "Okay, you go, I'll stay here", and gets more boos. Exasperated, he asks "What do women want?!"
In The Venture Bros., OSI strictly forbids the killing of women among its agents as a way to maintain a moral high ground. Brock really doesn't understand this and asks his mentor Hunter if any loopholes exist. The only one we hear is that a vampire is undead and thus not technically alive in the first place, so he could totally kill a female vampire if he wanted. Years later, Brock is sent to kill a rogue Hunter only to find that he's undergone sexual reassignment surgery and as such is off-limits.
A particularly peculiar example occurs in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic among the Equestrian Guard. Despite the series' subliminal progressive and egalitarian themes, outside of Fanon the nation's armies seem to be exclusively comprised of stallions to the point where even the two participating characters among the guard, Shining Armor and... Flash Sentry... have been male. That being said, the show has come under fire from Moral Guardians on multiple occasions, so it's possible the producers simply don't want to risk another incident, especially considering the fact that every mare and stallion in Appleloosa leapt to its defense during the altercation with the neighboring tribe of buffalo. With pies, that is.
Enemy mooks seem to be all male as well. The Changeling drones and minions of Maneiac and Ahuizotl are all male.
Although it's more of a subversion really. Both stallions and mares engage in fights and seem to get injured evenly. The fact that the Mane 6 are sent to perform most of the dangerous tasks proves this.
Conscription. It is based on the assumption that every able-bodied male owes his life to the state and is a soldier; and every male can be force-levied in the armed forces on pain of death penalty against his will to fight and get killed or maimed for life for the state with little or no compensation. In the USA, only women have the right to vote because of this - men must earn the privilege instead.
A lot of animals species demonstrate variations on this theme:
In some species of animals (especially among invertebrate orders like spiders and insects) the males are basically self mobile sperm-packets with a packed lunch attached.
For other species (especially common among mammals) males are supposed to fight (if not kill) each other for access to females. The losers of such battles are just so much evolutionary chaff.
And in yet other species (particularly common for birds, insects, fish, and ambhibians) it is the males who use bright colors, loud calls, obnoxious dancing and strong odors to attract females; the males thus put themselves at severe risk of predation in order to demonstrate that they are fit enough survive the handicap, while the females tend to be more subtle and well-camouflaged to protect themselves.
During the sinking of the Titanic there was some variation to this trope amongst the officers in charge of the lifeboats; Second Officer Lightoller tended to interpret "women and children first" as "women and children only" while First Officer Murdoch went with "women and children first... then men if there is room." See ''Titanic'' casualties by sex, age and class for a breakdown of the numbers. 20% of the men survived, children 52% and women 74%.
Most of the so-called "Barbarian" law codes in eighth-century western Europe set the wergeld higher for women than for men (meaning that if you murdered a woman, you owed her family more gold than if you had murdered a man). In this case, it was for two reasons — men were more likely to get into quarrels and provoke each other, and women were more important for reproduction. Heck, the Wehrgeld even set different payment amounts for women of different ages. Murdering a pregnant woman by stealth, then disposing of the body fetched the highest price, followed by murdering one of the King's Housecarls, followed by the same crime, with ANY woman of childbearing age.
Interestingly, for a time there was no gender or age restriction for dangerous work: women and children under 10 weren't banned from working in mines in Great Britain until 1842.
US Government manuals for operating fallout shelters emphasize that women of childbearing age & children are to get the best spots from a shielding standpoint. This is to minimize genetic issues from radiation exposure for the next generation. (Sperm are produced on an ongoing basis, while the eggs a woman was born with are all she'll have.)
Until the end of the 20th Century, women were not allowed to serve in Combat roles in any branch of the U.S. military. Additionally, American men are still required to register for the draft while women are exempt.
This has applied to most militaries throughout history, usually averted only when the nation in question is facing a serious manpower crunch, like Germany in WWII.
The majority of men in The Donner Party Expedition died, while the vast majority of women survived. This might not have had as much to do with gender roles as it had with the fact that most of the women belonged to family units. Most of the men were single workers. Family units that banded together to pool their resources and care for each other tended to survive better than those who were unattached.
At the time of writing (Dec 2012), the US has executed 1,317 people since the death penalty was reintroduced 40 years ago. Only 12 of them were women. In fact, only one women was executed in the last 7 years. Japan has a similar situation.
Some paleoanthropologists believe that this sort of thing is actually a result of human evolution. The argument goes like this: the primary "choke point" regarding human population is the number of women, not men. Specifically, if you have one man and many women, you have many babies at a time, leading to large population growth. If you have a bunch of men and only one woman, you only have one baby at a time (except for occasional twins or triplets), leading to low population growth. Thus, when the human race was still at a primitive stage, living in a world where simply leaving the home was equal to taking your life in your own hands, keeping the women and the children safe is simply a good survival strategy for a species. It's only now, when these evolutionary pressures have been relieved somewhat, can society even consider allowing women to enter the more dangerous jobs like combat positions, law enforcement, and * For an example of how this trope can hurt women as well, look at medical trials. Unless the trial specifically has to do with women's reproductive health, women are hardly involved in themnote Male disposability certainly plays a factor here, but there are scientific reasons too: namely, most drug trials take several months or even years, and controlling for menstrual cycles is very complex and often not feasible. Because of this, many scientists believe that many drugs or medical treatments might have different effects on women, though we have almost no information on how female bodies react to them specifically.
Anime and Manga
Attack on Titan averts this in more ways than one. The Titans aren't picky about the gender of those they eat and if they get hold of a woman, she is devoured just as messily as a man would be.
Berserk is a notable aversion and yet a variation. While men are technically more shown dying than women due to most battles happening on a battlefield (it's a Medieval era drama), if the battle takes place anywhere else or if we're talking about executions, evil-aligned astral beings attacking villages or Apostles rampaging, women are just as likely to die and the author makes it a point to show it to us clearly and on-panel.
Code Geass R2 has female Knightmare pilots dying, including an entire all-female unit.
The hostage situation at the beginning of the second season Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex sees both men and women from the Chinese embassy held at gunpoint. Similarly, the availability of gynoids means a lot of artificial women are killed on screen through gunfights or other brutal exchanges.
Additionally, given her status as Section 9's lone female member, Major Kusanagi is the only one who gets her head splattered, though her actual brain was remotely controlling her body at the end of the first season. By the second season, however, she's joined an actual, permanent fatality, with one of the rookies'.
Mobile Suit Gundam, particularly in the Universal Century series, does a good job of keeping significant male and female death rate about the same, contributing to director Yoshiyuki Tomino's Kill 'em All reputation. Of particular note is Victory Gundam'sinfamous all-female Shrike Team, that dies off one by one from the moment they're introduced.
It's important to note that while this trope is frequently averted with regards to the main characters (which often have a relatively decent male-to-female ratio on the front lines, making aversions unavoidable) Gundam usually plays it straight otherwise. The vast majority of anonymous extras killed off, be they redshirts or mooks, are male. Most female deaths are from the main cast, and are thus significant and/or tragic. This is a rather bizarre phenomenon when one thinks about it: with there being women in the main cast as members of the Federation/Zeon/Alliance/ZAFT/etc. it would seem that those organizations have no problem allowing women to serve, but when pretty much all the background mobile suit pilots, grunts, and officers are men.
In the Earth Alliance warships and bases. When GENESIS wipes out the Earth Alliance lunar bases you see women explode alongside men, and female wounded/dead pilots. Also see in Gundam Seed Destinywhen the Earth Alliance smashes rebels in western Eurasia plenty of females are killed. Also, see the CYCLOPS system, destroying JOSH-A. You see females go plop there, and the wounded seen in the aftermath of the attack. Also the massacre at Panama's mass driver
Shakugan no Shana likes to show a typical cross-section of society being frozen in time and eaten by monsters, with no distinction made or fanfare placed on any non-main character regardless of gender, age, or social status. (In other words, men, women, and children all die onscreen, and men and women die at roughly equal frequencies.)
In Freezing, battles with Novas require the involvement of Pandoras and Limiters, who are always female and male respectively. Battles with the Nova always involve insanely high morality rates for both genders and the death of a Limiter is typically as horrific and emotionally scarring as the death of a Pandora.
In The Walking Dead comic, no one is safe from dying. Men die, women die, kids die, everyone dies. In fact, the only characters from the start of the comic still alive are Andrea, Rick (whose missing an arm), and his son Carl (and the left side of Carl's face is disfigured and left eye missing cause he got shot in the face).
In ATM, two men and a woman are trapped in an ATM by a psychotic killer. One of the men lives.
The Blade Trilogy, where female vampires get ashed in the background to no more note than the male vampires, though there are far more male vampires getting killed.
Inglourious Basterds: none of the female characters survive, whereas three important male characters do. However, the women's deaths are far less graphic than some of the men's.
von Hammersmark's strangulation was at least as brutal as any of the male deaths. A lot of the men were just shot and were shown to die immediately. The villains had some gruesome deaths and only one female Nazi was shown, so in that group there could be an imbalance, if one reflected by the gender ratio of the Nazi army.
Death Proof has a significantly higher body count for women.
The Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher Black ComedyKillers is amazingly egalitarian about killing off male and female bad guys. There are equal numbers of male and female bad guys and there is no difference at all in how (un)sympathetically they are depicted and how they are killed.
Death Race averts this numerically, but plays it straight in its use of Gory Discretion Shots for most female deaths. (Also, the rule seems to be applied in-universe to the death race itself — it's just that the race is so risky that female navigators are likely to get killed anyways.)
In Sanctum, the lead female character (Victoria) dies, with her dead body later seen.
1997 Starship Troopers featured both men and women being ripped apart by giant space bugs. One woman gets dragged down a burrow by her crushed legs, another is bisected by a closing emergency door, while another is impaled through the shoulder. The women suffer just as much as the men, and Paul Verhoeven goes into excruciating detail with every kill, making it hard to really find standouts. The only notable female death given any attention is Dizzy, but even then, her death was no cleaner than any other in the film.
The obscure science fiction movie Gog features a security agent investigating sabotage and murder at a secret underground laboratory. There are a number of brutal onscreen and offscreen killings by robots, lasers, radiation, getting frozen to absolute zero, etc. The ratio of male to female victims is about the same. (Quite unusual for a movie released back in 1954...).
In Carnosaur a woman and her two children, a son Simon and daughter Fiona, get attacked by a dinosaur. Both Fiona and her mother are killed and Simon lives. The villain's henchmen later debate killing the boy because he saw the dinosaur and decide not to, with Simon's gender never entering their decision making process. Males and females still die in essentially equal numbers but this incident of the brother surviving and the sister dying in a sibling pair is noteworthy as usually writers will seemingly choose the girl to spare and not the boy.
David Weber's Honor Harrington series completely subverts this. There is an abundance of female villains, including mooks. There are women serving in the navies, marines, and armies of Haven, Manticore, and every state except Grayson, plus there are female pirates, merchant crewmembers, thugs, and Havenite State Sec personnel. The women die as often as the men-which is very frequently, considering that it is a military sci-fi series. In universe, the conservative Graysons are the only ones who play this straight, but they are gradually moving away from it.
For a long time in their history Graysons had to adopt this strategy as they were teetering on the brink of planetary extinction. They needed babies to survive which required lots of women having lots of babies. Due to a massively unequal sex ration between males and females, they practiced polygyny for the same purpose.
Live Action TV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is far more willing to kill off its major female characters than its male ones; Jenny, Kendra, Joyce, Tara, Buffy and Anya all die before the end of the final episode, whereas the only significant male good guy to die (and stay dead) is Jonathan. That said, the vast majority of the mostly-all-killed-off villains were male.
On the other hand, it's hinted quite often, particularly by Spike in Seasons 2 and 3, that vampire feeding habits are very connected with sexuality. In other words, they kill whatever sort of person they used to be attracted to as humans (male heterosexual vampires would kill women, and so on). As a result, we could expect a relatively mixed vampire population. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the hordes of vampires Buffy kills are male. The female-male mook ratio is generally around 2:5.
Heroes. Sylar has no problem killing people of all genders.
LOST is often criticized by female fans for constantly killing off female characters. 7 of the 9 main female characters have died or are unaccounted for.
NCIS: According to the wikipedia entry, ALL the regular/recurring good guys who have been killed off were female.
Except for Pacci, but he was in about three episodes and was promptly disemboweled... in season 1. That was in 2004. He was the only one.
Changed as of Season Eight as in "Swan Song" recurring character Mike Franks is Killed Off for Real, but that still does not go a long way towards evening the scales.
Supernatural, anyone? Season 8 leaves only about three recurring female characters still alive (Lisa Braeden, Jody Mills (possibly), and Charlie Bradbury, for those curious).
Boardwalk Empire, all of the gangsters who are killed off are necessarily male, but several prominent female characters have also been killed off. One minor recurring character got used as a Human Shield.
Charmed featured its fair share of female villains and yes female Mooks, a few of which are killed off with no fanfare. The sisters themselves may count since they have each died many times, Phoebe taking the honours with nine deaths. Female innocents tended to get killed off a lot as well. Sometimes their deaths would come with emotional impact but so would deaths of some male innocents.
An early episode of Kamen Rider had Shocker kidnapping pet owners. The villainess of the episode made sure to note that the men would be spared for experimentation, implying that the unfortunate female captives would simply be killed and disposed of. And there were a lot of female pet owners shown lined up at Shocker's trap...
Otherwise, though, the show played this trope straight. The Monsters of the Week tended to be overwhelmingly male, and while there were shown to be many female Mooks, they rarely got involved in physical confrontations and were almost never killed.
On an episode of Night Court when their is threat of a hurricane hitting the courthouse Judge Stone tells the galley to evacuate in this order: "First the elderly and infirmed, then women, then able-bodied men!" Instead everyone panics and rushes out at the same time.
Red vs. Blue: Season 9 had female mooks mixed in among the dozens of male mooks getting mowed down.
Deus Ex: Invisible War is one of the few video games that completely averts this trope. The Order, SSC, the WTO military, and the Knights Templar all have an abundance of female troops for the player to gun down. Male cannon fodder enemies still outnumber female ones, but not by a very wide margin. The only human enemy types that don't have female character models are the Arctic Templars and the Illuminati Commandos (the latter may be justified with the possibility of them being cloned). This is likely the result of the developers compensating for the lack of gender equity in the original Deus Ex, where the only female non-boss enemy is the occasional Woman In Black.
Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus shows female soldiers operating on the front-lines for both Deep Ground and the WRO, and while being less in number than their male counterparts, are picked off in cutscenes and gameplay. A sizable number of female Deep Ground troopers will be taken down by Vincent as you play through the game, with no way or attempt to avoid it.
A subversion or something in Left 4 Dead where the opening cinematic of the first game shows Zoey (a female) telling the rest (males) to go on while she holds off the tank (a big freaking zombie) and she almost dies. Yes, a young, attractive, female character almost heroically sacrificed herself. Then played straight by the second game, we see that Bill (a male) actually DID die defending the rest of the group, although he was the Cool Old Guy
The background of the story, however, hints that the females are much more susceptable to being infected than males, as males apparently possess the gene required to be immune to the virus and then become carriers. This is reflected by the fact that both teams of survivors only had one female in the group. However you encounter roughly the same amount of females and male common infected in-game. Special Infected, however, are largely lopsided towards the male end of the spectrum, with 2 dedicated female Special Infected and around 5 male Special Infected, and 1 that has both a male and female version. This may be a subversion, however, as Mass Speculation thinks it may be due to certain hormones and chemicals that causes this, rather than it being lazy on the dev part (or both).
Final Fantasy X features the Crusaders, which is a military organization which has both male and female members. In one memorable sequence, they launch an offensive against Sin the result of which a massive amount of their members are annihilated. Women as well as men are shown being disintegrated, and the death that carries the most emotional weight out of all these for the player characters is that of a man.
In Saints Row all the rival gangs are destroyed completely except for 2 important male characters Benjemin King and Donny while Tanya Winters and Lin, 2 of the only 3 important female gang members (Aisha never actually joined the Saints) both die by the end of the game.
Also averted numerically: enemies (whether gang members or police officers) are just as likely to be female as male (indeed, sometimes it seems most of the cops are female) and the game never makes a big deal out of it.
DLC for Saints Row: The Third allows boss and a female supporting character to kill literally dozens of Space Amazons with laser weapons. The whole thing is just the setting of a movie, but the weapons are all shown to be quite lethal and if boss is a woman herself, then the whole thing is a massive Action GirlFight with no men even being seen. Still not convinced? There are two achivements for killing 35 Amazons with one of the ray guns and another for beating 7 to death with melee attacks! Saints Row may be a lot of things, but it does not descriminate against its characters.
The main game also had a mission called "Trojan Whores" where one of the Saints' cribs is attacked by an army of "hooker assassins" hired by the DeWinter sisters. By the end of the mission all of them are dead and many lonely men are left without company for the evening.
Thief: The Dark Project had only male enemies, but its sequel went out of its way to avert this; nearly half of all guards, police, enemy zealot Mechanists or others were female.
Final Fantasy X-2 had pink-clad female goons fighting alongside green-clad male goons in the Leblanc Syndicate. Since the main characters (all women) have to go undercover in the Syndicate at one point, they would have stood out a bit more if there were no other females in that force.
Mass Effect 2 has large percentage of female Mooks in game, all of whom are able to die in the same brutal, gory fashion as their male counterparts. One mission even has you taking on an all-female mercenary group (from an all-female alien race).
Similar to the Streets of Rage example, God Hand also averts this. The only exception is in the first stage as all the enemies are men. Some of the hostages are women though and can be killed if not saved or "accidentally" killed by the player.
A massive aversion occurs in Dead Ends. Most female characters who are introduced are killed off by the end of the chapter. In fact, by chapter 6 Foxy is the only female main character still alive.
When a plane crashes, healthy adult men are the most likely to survive. This is because everyone on the plane panics, and not only does everyone fend only for themself, but they trample the others in the process.
A remarkable number of stewardesses (and stewards, it must be said) have not survived in 'survivable' fires in aircraft on the ground. It's one of the dangers of being required to help people get off the plane...
This is in fact a justification of the trope: young men are more likely to survive by themselves, so if you have to choose, help a woman.
In shipping disasters where the "Women and Children first" ethos of the Titanic doesn't apply (ie; very rapid sinkings, and situations where the survivors are adrift in cold water for many hours) men often have a better chance of survival as they are usually larger and retain heat better in frigid water; in the Estonia sinking, most of the survivors rescued from the sea were young men.
Indeed, the Estonia sinking is one of the reasons why "Women and Children first" has made a comeback in this era of "equality", where otherwise such a sentiment would be dismissed as sexist and misogynist.
The 'Birkenhead Drill' ("Women and children first!") has only actually ever been recorded on two ship evacuations — HMS Birkenhead and, of course, RMS Titanic. It was more or less an invention of the late 19th century (where the captain of the Birkenhead held a gun to the men on board to get them to stop trampling the women and children in their rush to the boats) and the Titanic is by far the most famous civilian shipping disaster of the period.
The aversion of this trope in the 2014 sinking of the Sewol in South Korea has drawn harsh ire from all around the world, especially since the deaths of nearly 300 children could have simply been avoided by the captain and crew immediately bringing them above deck and then evacuating them to lifeboats. Instead, they were among the first off the ship, along with many adults who weren't associated with the high school students trapped below deck. The vast majority of the dead were children and female teachers or crewwomen, all of whom experts say should've been the first to be secured and evacuated, not to stay put in their cabins like the captain had ordered while the ship was listing and sinking.
Anime and Manga
In Fullmetal Alchemist, Lust suffers one of the more brutal deaths in the series as she is repeatedly burned alive onscreen by Roy Mustang. Yes, it is a gorn death at the hands of a male character that is played not as horror, but as a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
Compare her role in the 2003 anime version, where she is recast as a sympathetic villain and her death is used to destroy sympathy for Wrath.
The anime Angel Cop features a female communist being shot several times, with the final bullet blowing her skull into pieces in full Gorn-y detail. The death isn't remarked upon as anything particularly noteworthy by the nearby police officer witnessing it other than an impressive display of marksmanship.
That depends on your personal opinion of clawing oneself to death. Also, it should be noted that there are six female protagonists and one male.
In Freezing, deaths are brutal, bloody, horrifying and destructive for both male and females and battles with the Monster of the Week, the Novas, leaves fields and scores of ripped to pieces bodies of both males and females. A recent arc takes this Up to Eleven, showing both genders getting eaten alive slowly and painfully.
The Walking Dead shows no mercy to those who die in the comic, whether those doing the killing are zombies or humans.
Exploitation films are very fond of torturing women, usually in a sexually charged way - people care more. For an example, look at schlock like The Body Shop
The Midnight Meat Train's first onscreen death is a woman whose head is smashed in with a meat tenderizer. Later in the movie it gets hard to tell if it's played straight or averted, because the camera rarely settles on the victims long enough to tell their gender.
Women end up in unpleasant traps all the time in the Saw movies - most memorably, one woman ends up chopping her own arm off to escape a trap in part V.
Except the first one where the only victim to survive the (arguably much easier) puzzle is a woman.
Subverted by the first trap of Saw 3D. Two men have to fight and kill each other to save a girl. Who dies? The girl. They let her die because they realize she was playing them against each other for the umpteenth time.
Piranha 3D may be the ultimate gorn aversion: while the victims make up both genders the many, many, many women who become fish food (or sliced in half by falling cables or get scalped by motor boat engines...) almost certainly make up more of the gorn onscreen than the male victims.
Three female characters are killed by the unstable robots in Chopping Mall the Rich Bitch of the group gets the goriest death, her head explodes after one shoots her in the head with it's laser gun.
Games have often included gorn deaths for both men and women.
While Dragon Age: Origins plays this trope straight in the aforementioned "Defending Redcliffe" quest, it averts it in the rest of the game. There are plenty of nameless female Mooks (granted there are many more male Mooks), and you can and will kill all of them. The game doesn't ease up on the gorn with them either; you can bloodily behead and impale any humanoid enemy regardless of gender.
Averted in Mass Effect 2. Just in the first half hour, members of both gender are blown up by exploding computer consoles or mown down by enormous battle mechs in gruesome detail in roughly even numbers. Even the Random Mooks that you get to fight have a pretty decent male/female split considering some of the violent ways you get to dispose of them.
You can eviscerate, explode, burn... any random female you find in Postal (a really equal game in Gorn)
''Bring Me The Head of Charlie Brown'' is a Peanuts fan film made by animator Jim Reardon when he was an animation student. Vitrually all of the cast, male and female, get brutally gunned down Peckinpah-style, but Lucy gets the worst of it by far...
Anime and Manga
Sonic X tends to avert this trope particularly in series three, where Molly and Cosmo both die. Cosmo's death is long, tragic and beautiful; Molly's not so much, perhaps because she's only in one episode while Cosmo is a character throughout the third series. Of course if you watch the 4Kids English dubs you'll walk away thinking they were just Put On A Bus or something.
The death of Charity Burbage in the Villain Opening Scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The previous three books each featured the death of a sympathetic male character and all these deaths were treated with great weight. In contrast, Charity Burbage's death was essentially just a plot device to explain why the Muggle Studies position is open this year and she's barely mentioned for the rest of the book (and in the film, she's not mentioned again at all). Of course, she had never previously appeared in the series, although she was quickly established as a sympathetic character. It's also notable that Snape managed to not lose any sympathy points for allowing her to die as part of maintaining his cover.
Another subversion in Harry Potter. Snape attempts to get Voldemort to kill James Potter and his son Harry, but spare the mother, Lily, who he loves. However, Lily sacrifices her life for Harry instead. Dumbledore even gets Snape to admit that he acted as if Men Are the Expendable Gender:
Dumbledore: If Lily means so much to you, surely Lord Voldemort will spare her? Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?
Snape: I have - I have asked him -
Dumbledore: You disgust me. (Snape seemed to shrink a little.) You do not care, then, about the deaths of her husband and child? They can die, as long as you have what you want?
Xenophilia presents a version of Equestria where, on average, female ponies outnumber the males by four to one, and in Ponyville, eight to one. Thus, historically, stallions have been more valuable simply because there are barely enough of them to go around. This leads to an inversion of the typical sexism seen in Real Life, such as a social stigma against mares hitting stallions, old-fashioned ideas about stallions staying in the kitchen, and so on.
Saints Row Again. During the final mission of the Vice Kings arc Tanya Winters (female) is confronted by Jhonny, King, and Playa (all male) and brutally shot several times before King sends her plunging out the window onto a parked car below, killing her. The entire death plays out as if she were just another male boss and no one even bothers to comment on it.
Anime and Manga
Variation in Berserk, again. Casca is considered less expendable than the rest of the Hawks during the Eclipse but not because she's female, but because she is in charge in the absence of Griffith.
More literally, during the Conviction's Arc, Nina's cowardly and indecisive behaviour in the face of imminent danger, even though she wasn't a main character or anything. Her failure at being useful to the group she was tagging along with (which included a child, Isidro, and a retarded thus truly helpless woman, Casca) and trying to avoid putting herself on the line for everyone's welfare was met with unanimous disapproval.
In the movie Munich, the Israeli assassins kill a Dutch woman who killed one of their co-workers. Although they retain audience sympathy, or at least remain morally ambivalent, that assassination is also portrayed as more noteworthy than the assassinations of numerous male characters and the only assassination that was questioned in-movie, which is especially interesting as she is an amoral hitwoman working for pay and thus arguably morally worse than the ideologically motivated Black September members that make up the other victims.
In The Sting Hooker begins a relationship with a waitress who (unknown to him and the audience) is actually an assassin contracted by The Irish Mob to kill him. She is killed before she can do it by a bodyguard hired by Gondorff. The moment itself is shocking, but there is no angst or condemnation about it - she might as well have been a male hitman.
While From Paris with Love features a lot more in the way of the heroes killing male mooks, Wax has no trouble shooting and killing a female terrorist and isn't demonised for it. Reese is eventually forced to shoot his fiancee Caroline when she is threatening to trigger a suicide bomb and while he hesitates and it's obviously sad it's presented as absolutely the right thing to do.
Red has two villainous female characters: a rocket launcher carrying hitwoman and Cooper's boss CIA agent Cynthia Wilkes who is eventually revealed to be The Dragon. Both are killed by male good guys without pause or comment regarding their gender.
While many modern action films have a Dark Action Girl (who may or may not be killed) Iron Man 3 is unusual in having plenty of female Mooks in the ranks of the villain's organisation who get killed off with as little fanfare as their male counterparts.