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Sorting Algorithm of Mortality

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Panik: Why aren't you dead?!
Yami: As I explained earlier, I'm the main character. You, however, can just go right ahead and die.

So you're watching a horror show, slasher flick, or maybe an action show that promises a high body count. In order to prove just how high the stakes are and how willing the show is to be Darker and Edgier and scarier, it bravely advertises that Tonight, Someone Dies! Not just anyone though, but someone on the poster!

So who dies? That's a tricky question. Kill the wrong person, or too early, and you risk angering the viewer. Execs and writers have, through time, trial, and (mostly) error, discovered that killing off "unpopular" minorities is safer than popular ones or majorities.

This has led many to notice patterns, a kind of Sorting Algorithm of Mortality, whereby a character's odds of gruesome, violent death are established relative to the rest of cast. The following is a rough generalization; some movies or shows might mix it up depending on which roles and traits a given character has, but few outright subvert or avert it, and when they do, it's painful.

Compare Acceptable Targets. Once killed, see Sorting Algorithm of Deadness to see how likely they are to come back. See also Rule of Empathy.

When Anyone Can Die is in effect, of course, these scores go out the window and anyone can die.

To use the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality, simply add the Scream Score for each applicable row, then divide by the number of applicable rows (at this point, 13 or fewer). Remember: this is a relative score, so you need at least 3 characters from the same movie or series to establish a baseline. To keep this page clean, please put speculation on the mortality of a cast in the Wild Mass Guessing Sorting Algorithm of Mortality page.

Likelihood of death So dead   Average life expectancy   Die? Me? Ha!
Scream Score! 5 4 3 2 1
Age Older and Wiser Parent, clueless and/or vicious teens Single adult Protagonist teens Child
Sexual Orientation Slut, Bisexual,note  Innocent Virgin Gaynote  Straight Reluctant, Asexual Celibate
Love Interests by Genre Rich Bitch, Horror Genre Hooker with a Heart of Gold, Temporary Shallow, Romance show Shrinking Violet Damsel in Distress, Action Series
Role Villains, Faceless Goons, Mooks, Red Shirt, The Mentor, The Big Guy, Decoy Protagonist Loners, Plucky Comic Relief, Mauve Shirt, Long-lost Friend, The Smart Guy, Mr. Exposition (often has some overlap with another role such as mentor) The Lancer, Hero of Another Story, The Sidekick, The Scrappy Ignored Expert,
Those Two Guys, Supporting Protagonist
Hero, Creator's Pet,
Race Black, Twofers Mexican, Arab Asian Indian/Native American White
Gender Masculine Girl, Ambiguous Gender Feminine Man Male Token Girl Action Girl, Final Girlnote 
Aesthetics Ugly Fat "Average" Fashionably Scarred The Cutienote 
  5 4 3 2 1
Personality Straw Nihilist, Crazy Survivalist, Innocent Jerk Jock, The Ditz, Insufferable Genius nerd, Jerk with a Heart of Gold The Captain, The Watson All-Loving Hero, Friend to All Living Things
Flaws Too Dumb to Live, Skeptical, Genre Blind, Dirty Coward, Greedy Fell astray, The Stoner, Butt-Monkey (gritty), Smartass Wears Glasses Crippling Phobia Mentally Handicapped
"Virtues" Holier Than Thou, Curious, Pragmatic, Ambitious Quiet Girls and Quiet Guys Smart, Genre Savvynote  Determinator The Pollyanna, The Fool
Species Robots (non-living), Undead, Snakes, Arthropods Cats, Clones, Mechanical Lifeforms Human, Human Aliens Pretty Aliens Dogsnote 
Occupation Retiring Law Officer, Villain by Default, Happy Family Man, Competent secondary female Military Commander, Redshirt Army, Vehicle Drivers, Hero's Best Friend, Mentor Scientist with Questionable Ethics, Innocent Bystander Adventurer Archaeologist, Teacher Superhero, Nun
Prognosis You Are Already Dead, Take a Moment to Catch Your Death, Post-Mortem One-Liner, Last Stand Your Days Are Numbered, Pre-Mortem One-Liner, You Shall Not Pass! Prepare to Die, He Didn't Make It, Time Bomb, Pre Ass Kicking One Liner, Jump Scare You Have No Chance to Survive, If My Calculations Are Correct Badass Boast, Million to One Chance, Ineffectual Death Threat
Health Chunky Salsa Rule, Incurable Cough of Death Overdrawn at the Blood Bank, Soap Opera Disease I Can Still Fight!, Made of Plasticine, Littlest Cancer Patient Made of Iron, Only a Flesh Wound, Delicate and Sickly Nigh-Invulnerable, Healing Factor, Consumption
  5 4 3 2 1
Pool predictions Killed Mid-Sentence Dropped a Bridge on Him (or Her) Sacrificial Lion, Stuffed into the Fridge Sacrificial Lamb, Dead Star Walking Plot Armor, The Worf Effect


Video Example(s):


War Story deaths

A guideline for war story deaths, mentioning how sympathetic characters always die off.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

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Main / SortingAlgorithmOfMortality

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