"... people can call it typecasting, but I pigeonholed myself... Saying no to the girlfriend, saying no to the girl that gets captured, and eventually I just got left with the strong chick who's always being killed."
When two Action Girls
are featured in the same film, frequently the tougher, more aggressive and less feminine character will die, despite being better equipped for the situation at hand.
One of the reasons is the belief that the femininity and sex appeal of a female character determines their usefulness as Love Interest
or, in the most insulting cases, their reason to be in the story at all. It often suggests that this tough girl is actually a lesbian, which means she's not an option for a girlfriend. And you can't have two girls surviving when they're in the minority anyway, so the one who lives is the one who pleases the Shippers.
So ladies, if you pass aside your responsibilities as a maternal stereotype, or you're strong enough to get yourself involved in combat situations, even if you survive for a while you're not just violating the stereotypes of your gender... you're going to DIE!
The moral? Stay at home.
A more charitable explanation would be that there's much more shock value in killing the tough, competent warrior; leaving the less warrior like
one around thus increases suspense, since her survival isn't as assured, especially if Anyone Can Die
. It's easier for an audience to feel fear if the Final Girl
is less battle savvy and thus more vulnerable - a hardened Vasquez left alone wouldn't be as terrifying. The death of the Vasquez character is thus a form of The Worf Effect
or Sacrificial Lion
Writers will sometimes compensate by making the more attractive woman some sort of mysterious secret agent, thus relegating the Vasquez character to a Mook
or Red Shirt
by comparison. This may also be a byproduct of filmmakers' insistence that the female lead (who is likely to outlive her supporting cast in an action movie) be significantly more attractive than anyone else.
Compare Bury Your Gays
, Faux Action Girl
, Final Girl
(the weakest and most innocent girl is the only one to live), Black Dude Dies First
, The Worf Effect
, Death by Pragmatism
and Girly Bruiser
(the most feminine female survives because she can kick ass in addition to being feminine) Overlaps with The World's Expert on Getting Killed
, where the most qualified person in the whole cast, male or female, is killed early on and often with humiliating ease. Read more: Cracked.com: 5 Old-Timey Prejudices That Still Show Up in Every Movie
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime & Manga
- Played with in Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!, where the rather tomboyish action girl Shadow is almost killed by The Virus, BECAUSE she's not feminine.
- Jane Proudfoot (Peri Gilpin), the tough female Space Marine in Final Fantasy The Spirits Within dies; the scientist wearing the skintight jumpsuit lives.
- Vexille has two Action Girl leads and the more badass one is the one invoking Diabolus Ex Machina in the end.
- Many times the Gundam protagonists fell in love with female Ace Pilots only to invoke the Love Hurts trope to Earth-shattering levels. However, this is not always the case. For example Shinn's first love is dress wearing, dance loving, sweet tempered Stella. She dies and his second love is his fellow soldier Lunamaria.
- Invoked in the second season of Vandread, where Gascogne (seriously, even BC is hotter than her, what with being a guy in woman's body) rams the enemy mothership, allowing the rest of the crew to escape. She survives and returns for the Grand Finale. Another example would be how many chances the writers missed to kill off Meia.
- Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still: out of the two female members of Experts of Justice, Yoshi, the blue-skinned, muscular one dies halfway through the series, while the very feminine Ginrei survives to the last episode - and dies too.
- In the Halo Legends mini movies, the survival rate of female Spartans is 0%.
- Death Note has the death of Naomi Misora, the cool Biker Babe FBI agent and the most Badass female character on the show who was literally killed off for being too competent. The author said in an interview that if she hadn't been written out she would have solved the case and the manga would have ended after only three volumes.
- In Martian Successor Nadesico, a bright female pilot is introduced as an replacement for Akito after he's unjustly blamed for a failed mission and removed from military service. Despite her having a spotless record as an experienced ace pilot, she quickly dies within the same episode during her first mission on the Nadesico.
- In the original anime adaptation of Sailor Moon, the most tomboyish amongst the Inner Senshi, Sailor Jupiter, is the first to kick the bucket when they storm the Dark Kingdom towards the end of the first season.
- The Trope Namer is actually from Aliens, in which the chinup-pulling, smartgun-wielding Colonial Marine Vasquez dies, as opposed to the maternal civilian, Ripley. Now you could excuse Ripley surviving since she's the star, but the film gives the impression that Vasquez is simply too badass to live. James Cameron likes his Action Girls, but they apparently need to be acting on maternal instincts.
- To be fair, pretty much everyone dies in that film.
- Averted in Alien, in which Ripley is significantly more determined, brave, & masculine than the terrified, waifish Lambert, who dies.
- Also averted in Alien: Resurrection, with the tough Action Girls Ripley & Call both living, while the most feminine character, Hillard, receives a foot massage, complains about some water, then dies.
- Shows up again in Prometheus, with Noomi Rapace's Shaw outliving Charlize Theron's Vickers.
- Inverted in Terminator 2: Judgment Day : the somewhat more feminine foster mom, Janelle, played by Jenette Goldstein (the actress who played Vasquez), dies while the ripped and gun-toting Sarah Connor does not.
- Michelle Rodriguez has made a career out of the trope.
- In Resident Evil the SWAT team member Rain Ocampo (Rodriguez) becomes a Zombie Infectee a third of the way through, survives almost all the way through the rest of the film, and then dies on a tram a few minutes away from a cure. Blonde, minidress-wearing Alice (Milla Jovovich) becomes the Final Girl. The franchise lasted long enough that they brought her back via cloning for the fifth film, only to die again...twice!
- Subverted in Machete: we're meant to think her character dies when she's shot through the eye, but she reappears at the climax of the movie with an Eyepatch of Power.
- Subverted again and played for laughs in Machete Kills, where her character is shot through the other eye, blinding her, but she still survives.
- In Avatar, she is a gruff gunship pilot who dons warpaint and dies in the final battle (interestingly, she managed to live longer than the Sigourney Weaver character—who also dies). The Blue-Skinned Space Babe Nubile Savage love interest lives.
- The Matrix:
- In The Matrix, the gruff, spikey-headed Switch is killed, but Trinity, the love-interest, lives.
- In The Matrix Revolutions, a female character named Charra with a crew-cut, a tanktop, and big ol' biceps is introduced right before the battle against the machines to help out Zee, who is trying to hold the line until her husband Link shows up. Guess what happens.
- Starship Troopers:
- Dizzy Flores, the QB of the football team and tough marine, dies while the feminine starship pilot survives.
- Applies to the Roughnecks' original Corporal, who gets fried by the gigantic lava-spewing bug before Rico grenades it.
- Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation: The only person to get off the planet alive is a pregnant woman. Must be all those maternal instincts keeping the bugs away.
- Starship Troopers 3: Marauder: Unlike the previous movies, this one ultimately subverts it: of the entire squad crash-landed on OM-1, only the two female members survive to the final scene, and when it looks like the badass Captain Beck is about to be devoured by a giant bug, both she and Holly are rescued by the Big Damn Heroes in the film's eponymous mechs.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors has Taryn, whose dream powers are having a large mohawk and a gang outfit. She doesn't fare as well as the notably more feminine Kristen.
- Holly from The Descent is a curious example. While she fits the "least feminine" part of the description, she was an impulsive and reckless amateur who obviously saw herself as an Action Girl but ended up getting herself injured through her carelessness. It was this that led to her getting killed off first. In the sequel, which has four Action Girls, the trained cave diver Cath is killed first, the average outdoor enthusiasts Juno and Sarah die last, and the cop Rios is left alive.
- Carnosaur 2 features a tough female clearly modeled on Vasquez who is killed pretty gruesomely during the finale.
- Justified in Lake Placid 3, where Yancy Butler's character takes down two giant crocodiles with a hunting knife after being both bitten and shot. Naturally, the injuries catch up with her.
- In 28 Weeks Later, Scarlet is killed by Dom, and that leaves Tammy to take Doyle's rifle and become the new Action Girl.
- The Action Girl is the first contestant killed in Slashers and just after she had killed one the eponymous psychos.
- In Rambo: First Blood Part II this trope is averted. Co-Bau the machine gun Asian girl is shot dead by Captain Vinh, just after she rescues Rambo. Ironically, she was wearing a lovely red dress as part of the rescue (it was a Dirty Harriet) and looking very much like a Girly Girl.
- Inverted in Leviathan which has two women on the team. Ditzy and more feminine Bowman dies (she kills herself when she finds out she has the parasite inside her) while the no-nonsense Olympic runner Williams is one of two survivors.
- Sue Shiomi has fallen victim to this no less than five times:
- In The Streetfighter, she portrays Nachi Shikenbaru, brother of Anti-Villain Junjo. She puts up some resistance against Terry Tsurugi when he attacks her brother Gijun for welching on him, as well as the pimps who swarm her after Terry prostitutes her through Mutaguchi. Also, in the end, she winds up coming closer to killing Terry than her brother (or Miss Yang) ever did... and she dies trying!
- In The Streetfighter's Last Revenge, she portrays Kaho Huo Feng, a defector from Owada's gang and one of three women set up as potential love interests for Terry, the other two being Femme Fatale Aya Owada and her light feminine counterpart, telephone operator Kimiko Nakayama. Guess which two die.
- In Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment, she portrays an undercover policewoman who comes close to busting a drug operation before being killed in a shootout.
- In Shogun's Ninja, she's a Chinese martial artist who's killed in a confrontation against Shogun's forces.
- In Legend Of Eight Samurai, she's one of the eight dog brothers (who in this film is biologically female) who made a living as an assassin before she was discovered to be one of the eight. During the climactic final showdown, she's pitted against snake demon Yonosuke; they kill each other in combat.
- Characteristic of vintage movies which often featured two female love interests; one passive and conventional and the other an action girl. The feisty girl usually ended up giving her life to save the hero's. One rare inversion of the rule was The Buccaneer in which Yul Brynner played Jean Lafitte. The passive blond wimped out and the tough girl got Yul.
- In Smokin' Aces, there's Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson) the mentionably more badass and aggressive partner of Georgia Sykes (Alicia Keys), is gunned down by the FBI from behind while her more feminine counterpart is literally carried away to safety by a handsome "prince."
- Cybil in Silent Hill suffers this fate, which is the opposite of the game's outcome (if you save her from being possessed).
- Averted in You're Next. Erin, the Awesome Aussie daughter of a survivalist, is by far the most badass character in the film, male or female, and it's precisely this that makes her the Final Girl and turns the last third of the film into the most violent remake of Home Alone ever made.
- Zig-zagged in Sharknado, in which tough barmaid Nova is swallowed by a shark while Fin's non-action ex-wife April escapes ingestion, only to have Fin cut open a shark and pull Nova out alive.
- In The Cave we have demure British scientist Catherine contrasted with brash rock climber Charlie. Three guesses which one dies.
- Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby - There are two female leads representing Hansel and Gretel. Gretel is a Caucasian heterosexual common criminal. Hansel is a Mexican psycho killer lesbian. Guess who lives.
- Averted in Clear and Present Danger when Chavez (played by Raymond Cruz) actually does survive the massacre, due to his previously displayed stealth skills. Funnily enough, the same actor's character in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine also survives, beating the odds.
- The two main Action Girl characters in the South Seas Treasure Game (Dream Park) are the sexy Acacia and the indefatigable Mary-Martha. Both acquit themselves well, but only one of them makes it to the end of the Game, and it's not the middle-aged, 4'1" veteran with the battleax. Inverted in the second sequel, The California Voodoo Game. Mary-Em makes it out alive and with a massive experience boost, while Acacia's character suffers Character Death, causing her to go through a Heroic BSOD.
- Dayna Jurgens in The Stand is Vasquez. Never send this character alone into a high risk infiltration; they're guaranteed to go out in a blaze of glory.
- Non-death example: the short story Assumption (scroll down) by Desmond Warzel. Belasco proves to be more effective in combat than the men or the unnamed female narrator, and is the only one seriously injured.
- In the Shane Schofield series of novels by Matthew Reilly, there are two women who fit the Vasquez model, one moreso than the other. First, there's Mother (short for motherfucker), who is over six feet tall, shaven-headed, gets a bionic leg following an incident with a killer whale, and can kill several men with her bare hands. Then there's Elizabeth 'Fox' Gant, who is slightly more ladylike, but has the short hair and the ass-kicking ability. This trope is averted — but not for lack of the universe trying, as Mother apparently dying only to turn up alive is a Running Gag — up until Scarecrow, where Gant (by then Schofield's girlfriend) is beheaded by the asshole of the novel.
- In The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, tomboyish older sister Meryl is the one who becomes ill with the Gray Death, while delicate younger sister Addie survives and must carry on Meryl's mission.
- Spy High. While the heroines are all Action Girls, it's Jennifer who is killed off in the third book, with Lori (the most stereotypically feminine) and Cally (the least focused and devoted to her training) who survive. Despite this, Jen's replacement Bex survives.
- In the penultimate Animorphs book, pretty-yet-Rachel agrees to go on a suicide mission against the Yeerks and is ultimately killed. Fashion-challenged-Cassie not only survives that battle, but in the last book she stays on Earth while her male teammates are implied to die battling a Diabolus Ex Nihilo.
- Inverted in the Venus Prime series. Despite being the lone Ambiguously Brown Action Girl on a team otherwise populated by white people, Jo Walsh survives through the end of the series. Meanwhile, the pretty white heroine, Sparta, disappears, and may actually have died to save all of reality from Nemo's meddling.
- In The Southern Reach Trilogy, the surveyor is the toughest and most aggressive member of the twelfth expedition, being ex-military; however, she ends up being shot to death in a gunfight against the less intimidating, more feminine biologist.
Live Action TV
- 24: If any female character shows signs of being an Action Girl, then you'd better not get too attached to her. The only recurring female characters to survive to the end of the series were the Voice with an Internet Connection, the president and The Scrappy.
- Choudenshi Bioman: In this case Real Life Writes the Plot. Mika dies in episode 10 because her actress quit. She is, however, eventually replaced by another Action Girl
- LOST: Ana Lucia (played by Michelle Rodriguez) and Juliet, Kate's only true competition for Alpha Female of the island or the affections of Jack and Sawyer.
- Merlin: In the fourth series finale, Arthur has two women on his team: Guinevere and Isolde. Though their skill in combat varied wildly from episode to episode, Gwen was definitely the more passive and feminine of the two, whilst Isolde was tougher and had a more difficult lifestyle. Gwen makes it through the battle, Isolde is killed.
- Power Rangers: Generally averts this trope; The Team will typically have a tomboy and a Girly Bruiser working together.
- Primeval: Inverted Trope, where tomboy Abby survived the series while the more feminine Claudia Brown and Sarah Page die.
- Revolution: By the first season finale, there were two women connected to Miles Matheson named Nora Clayton and Rachel Matheson. Nora is is the tough, aggressive woman, while Rachel is the softer, more feminine woman. By the end of the episode, Nora dies and Rachel lives.
- Robin Hood: had two action girls, one Dark Action Girl and one Faux Action Girl. One Action Girl is murdered, the second is Put on a Bus (after undergoing Chickification), the Dark Action Girl is blown up, and the Faux Action Girl is the only one who makes it to the end of the series thanks to the fact that the male cast has all but carried her through on their backs.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Played straight with Natasha Yar. Notably, the character was originally designed as a Vasquez Expy. In this case it wasn't the writer's idea to kill off the character, but the actor's.
- Arrow: Season 3's ending scene of the first episode has them kill off Sara Lance, the Canary, who was the show's most prominent Action Girl and one of the most badass of the team (going from her Badass Boast, she's at least tougher than Diggle, but its not clear if she's tougher than Oliver quite yet). What's notable is that, besides the fact its also Bury Your Gays as Sara was bisexual/pansexual, but Sara had spent the previous season believing she was irredeemable that they'd yet to resolve properly, that looked like they were probably building up to a Redemption Equals Death. Instead, Sara is executed by an off-screen villain to kick off the next season without even getting the chance to put up a fight.
- Cafe Nordo's Smoked! has Maddie Withers, a hard-drinking, masculinely dressed Lad-ette, who is gunned down in the final showdown, opposite Clara Still, the prim and proper saloon keeper.
- In Red Faction 2, the team's sexual-innuendo-dropping stealth operative in a Spy Catsuit not only survives the game, but is your main ally for the 2nd half. The tough redhead sniper with an Amazonian build and butch haircut is the first of The Squad to die.
- In Phantasy Star IV, Alys is built up as the best action girl. She is very popular in the game, because of her fighting ability and beauty. However, she dies off early and other action girls later reveal themselves.
- Played straight in the Neverwinter Nights mod The Bastard Of Kosigan, in which (as far as the story has been written, at least) the only female character who doesn't disappear after the Optional Sexual Encounter or die automatically is Ernie, who is much more feminine than Alex, whose Plotline Death was very frustrating.
- Mass Effect: Partially subverted. Ashley Williams, the competent career soldier reminiscent of Vasquez in several ways, may or may not be left to die on Virmire - unless the player saves her and leaves Kaidan instead. According to the developers, the latter option is overwhelmingly more popular.
- Mass Effect 2: During the game's suicide run, it's far more likely for the tough, angry Jack to die than The Baroness Miranda, and in a rather ignominious fashion at that. The time Jack is most likely to die is when she's standing in the least shielded portion of the ship while Miranda is in the most shielded portion.
- Dragon Age:
- In the first Clock Tower game, playable character Jennifer's friends Ann and Laura have a chance of surviving to the end, depending on your actions. Her best friend, the tomboyish Lotte, has no such chance.
- The Orion Conspiracy. Brooks, who is definitely the Vasquez in this game, gets killed off trying to stop Ward after he had gone berserk. LaPaz, who is easily more feminine compared to Brooks, survives.
- In SAS: Zombie Assault 3 players who aren't logged in are given somewhat degrading names, one of which is Anonymous Vaskes.
- Alpha Protocol can play this straight or completely invert it. SIE (think a female Duke Nukem) can be killed same as the rest of your love interests, but you have to do it yourself after you select her as your handler in the penultimate mission in Russia. Otherwise, she will survive the game, whereas for Madison St. James and Mina Tang just don't have to be rescued when they get captured, and Scarlett Lake can be shot in the last decision you make in the game.
- Final Fantasy VII plays with this. Aerith is a sweet, feminine girl who wears pink and sells flowers, whilst Tifa is a tough barmaid who likes to punch things. Tifa is physically stronger, but she's also far more emotionally insecure. Aerith is physically weak, but is also an outgoing, outspoken tomboy with plenty of confidence. The shy, timid and maternal Tifa is the girl who survives.
- Exo Squad almost does this in episode "Martian Luck" where the tough-female-trooper Torres is believed to be KIA while the other two more feminine female members of The Squad survive.
- Starship Troopers: Invasion: The squad has two female members: the cute Friendly Sniper Trig, and the tough One Of The Guys trooper Ice Blonde. One of them ends up as Bug chow during the film. Guess which one? It's Trig.
- Non-death example: in Total Drama Island, super-athletic but tempermental Eva is the second contestant, and the first girl, to be voted off. She is given a second chance at the season's halfway point but, having become even more angry, is voted off again in the same episode.
- In the Young Justice episode "Failsafe", when an alien invasion attacks the earth, tough-as-nails Artemis is the first of the main cast to die. Subverted when it turns out it was only a training simulation. Then, in the next season, Artemis is also the first person to be killed in battle. Again, subverted, when it turns out to be a ploy so she can go undercover.