Death by Genre Savviness

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Horror movies frequently have Genre Savvy characters. Sometimes the black guy takes the role, sometimes the Nerd. Regardless, the Genre Savvy character is nearly always blind to the most relevant death trope: the Genre Savvy character always dies.

Extra irony points if the character gets dispatched through some death trope immediately after talking about it—or better yet in the midst of talking about it. In the rare event that they're actually Genre Savvy enough to realize that their knowledge places them in danger ... well, let's not consider that.

This can become irritating or implausible, especially if it comes across as just a cheap shot to prove how "unstoppable" the killer is supposed to be. Compare Death By Pragmatism, where simply being sensible gets you killed. See also Wrong Genre Savvy.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Death by Genre Savviness include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Played for laughs when Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple hovers over his food when eating at Ryozanpaku, expecting his masters to pull the "eating is training" exercise seen in martial arts fiction. The masters actually had no intention of doing any such thing until Kenichi mentioned it and turned them on to the idea.
  • Michel Blanc in Macross Frontier, though it's really his own fault. When Ozma nearly dies (in a way that was a blatantly obvious Shout-Out to the original Macross), Michel lampshades how dramatic it would have been if he really died. Three episodes later, he gets Impaled with Extreme Prejudice and makes a Dying Declaration of Love before being Thrown Out the Airlock. Do not taunt the fourth wall, kiddies.
  • In Blood C, when the Elder Bain are massacring Saya's classmates, one of them manages to react faster than them and get out. He then gets killed when hit by glass shards; Saya has just jumped off a window.

Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in Evolution, Trope Namer for The Black Dude Dies First. After stating that very line, the black character is attacked by a mosquito-creature—and survives.
  • Subverted in Galaxy Quest. A low-ranking cast member of the show is extremely Genre Savvy and constantly worries because he is the red shirt. In the end, he survives the real life drama and is promoted to an actual cast member when the show is restarted.
  • In the play and movie Arsenic and Old Lace, Mortimer (played by Cary Grant in the movie) is a theater critic with a maniacal, murderous brother and two aunts who like to poison elderly guests. The brother's henchman tries to warn Mortimer that his brother wants to kill him, but Mortimer ignores him. The henchman wails, "Tell me, don't those plays you see all the time teach you anything? At least people in plays act like they've got sense!" Mortimer, laughing at the notion that people act intelligently in plays, proceeds to describe a really bad play with a character who "knows he's in a house with murderers -- he ought to know he's in danger. He's even been warned to get out of the house, and does he go? No, he stays there." He describes how the character sits down with his back to the murderer as the killer cuts down the curtain cord he's going to use to tie him up with. All the while, the evil brother is in the background, cutting down the curtain cord and preparing to tie him up with it. Just when Mortimer has reached the climax of his tirade against playwrights who make a supposedly intelligent guy act oblivious and just keep sitting where they are, "waiting to be tied up and gagged," his brother drops the curtain cord over his shoulders, and the henchman gags him with a handkerchief, commenting, "You were right about that fellow -- he wasn't very bright."
    • For bonus points, in some adaptations, it didn't occur to the brother to tie him up with a curtain cord until Mortimer describes the act.
  • M. Night Shyamalan uses this in a Take That against film critics in the movie Lady in the Water. The critic is very Genre Savvy, to the point that (while tipsy from a party) he starts a one-sided conversation/lecture on his chances of surviving the movie's monster... while it's slowly advancing on him!

"Hello? Is the bathroom on this level working? A dog inside the building! Go! Shoo! Why you're not a dog at all. My god, this is like a moment from a horror movie. This is precisely the moment where the mutation or beast will attempt to kill an unlikable side character. But, in stories where there has been no prior cursing, violence, nudity or death, such as in a family film, the unlikable character will escape his encounter, and be referenced later in the story, having learned valuable lessons. He may even be given a humorous moment to allow the audience to feel good about him. This is where I turn to run. You will leap for me, I will shut the door, and you will land a fraction of a second too late."
[turns to run, and is promptly killed by the monster]

  • Randy Meeks from the Scream films, who was nearly killed in the first movie by a killer who was sneaking up behind him while he was watching Halloween, berating Laurie Strode to look behind her. He wasn't so lucky in the second movie, but was Genre Savvy enough to leave a videotaped message to the survivors just in case they were living in a trilogy.
    • Randy is played by Jamie Kennedy. The movie character he's shouting at is the character played by Jamie Lee Curtis. What's he shouting? "Look behind you Jamie! Jamie! Look behind you!"
    • In the second movie, the two girls who survive the crash where the killer is driving both run to the end of the block. One then turns around to check and see if the killer was dead. The second girl insists that they don't go. "This is stupid! Stupid people go back! We're not stupid people, are we!?" The killer then appears behind her and stabs her while the girl who went to check gets away.
    • If Tatum in the first film stopped her rant about how obviously contrived her situation was (trapped with the masked killer) even a few seconds earlier to think, she might have been able to get the upper hand and escape.
  • Parodied in the first Scary Movie, where a Genre Savvy character describes the way she will break her ankle and be killed to the masked killer himself. In fact, she keeps talking even after the killer beheads her.
    • She also thought this was an elaborate prank, so she said it with a tone that indicated she believed these events to all be ridiculously impossible. In fact, she breaks her own leg (and the bone shows, yeck!); the killer winces at that point. The irony was palpable.
  • For how oddly genre savvy Narissa is in Enchanted, she uses it in a way that ends up with her dead. By the time she has Robert in her clutches, scaling the building, it's blatantly obvious Edward and Giselle aren't joined at the hip any longer, and Giselle is not your average fairy tale princess. Now, had Narissa taken, say, Edward up the building, she might have survived. Assuming Pip didn't go after her anyway, or Nathaniel didn't go after him, being his lackey and all...
  • In House on Haunted Hill (1999 version), Chris Kattan's character, who knows the lethal history of the house, spends most of the movie sitting in the most central, well-lit room possible and drinking heavily. However, this doesn't do him much good.
    • Interestingly, in the original version of the script, he was the one who survived, while the black guy died.
  • In Dead Snow, horror film geek Erlend lampshades the students' "group of friends alone on a trip with no cell reception" situation as a horror trope, correctly identifies the zombies when they appear... and is one of the first to die.
  • In the slasher movie Halloween Night, the lesbian couple who just had sex are damn near an inversion of this trope since they made it to 3/4 of the way through the movie despite breaking pretty much every horror movie rule in the book. Still, at that point, the killer drops down in their room from....somewhere and goes up to their bed to attack them. The taller girl specifically never assumes that it's their friend, something damn near groundbreaking in horror movies and instead instructs her girlfriend to run while she successfully holds him off beats the shit out of him. He likely would have lost this fight had it not been for the inexplicable clothes hanger that he put through her eye. Also her girlfriend escaped and was the one who called the police that showed up at the end.
  • Subverted in Jurassic Park, where Ian Malcolm, who has been predicting disaster from the start, is attacked by the T-Rex but survives. Played straight with Muldoon, who knows exactly how dangerous the dinosaurs are, and is killed by a velociraptor.
  • Happens in The Cabin in the Woods Turns out later to have been subverted, then double subverted.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the novel Jurassic Park, Ian Malcolm from the very beginning states that the animals will escape and the park is dangerous, just because his calculations say it must. At every opportunity that arises, he repeats that the park is doomed. Naturally, according to this trope, he agreed to go to the park and thus dies there. Although it is later Ret Conned that he survives so he can be in the sequel.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In season 6 of Smallville, two characters (one played by a well-known rap artist, the other by a relatively unknown actor) are playing basketball when they see and hear something fall from the sky and land not too far away behind a warehouse. The character played by the rap artist immediately goes back to check it out, while the other tells him not to go there, yelling "Don't you ever watch movies?" Of course, the guy who goes to check it out ends up getting possessed by the alien that had just landed, while the other is reduced to ash a few moments later. In a way, this overlaps with Death By Pragmatism.
  • In the episode "Exit Wounds" of Criminal Minds, the Victim of the Week heard a noise and called out "Who's there?" She immediately lampshades this by adding "Right, because the homicidal maniac hiding in the shadows is totally going to answer you." He doesn't.


Video Games[edit | hide]

First Stormtrooper: You want to bet we get killed in the next ten seconds?
Second Stormtrooper: That's a sucker bet.
First Stormtrooper: We'd probably have a chance if we weren't standing with our backs to the desert.

  • Metroid Prime 3, in the Metroid Xenostorage. Oh look, Metroids! I was wondering when I'd see them. Well, I'll just shoot them with Ice Missiles and be on my way. Ice attacks have always worked in the past, what could possibly go wroJESUS H. CHRIST THEY PHASE RIGHT THROUGH THE MISSILES. THEY'RE EATING MY FACE!! THEY'RE EATING MY FACE!!
    • From the original Prime: you're locked in a room, with a single Metroid in a stasis tank, you scan the Metroid and it breaks out. Genre Savvy players will assume you need the ice beam to kill it. The problem is at this point you will not have the ice beam. Cue screams of fear.
  • In Metal Saga, the player can once again be subjected to this. At one point, you get several messages warning you that the West is too dangerous and you'll die if you go there. A genre-savvy RPG player will take this to mean that should be their next destination. Turns out the advice is actually perfectly accurate, and if you do much more there than take the train over and pick up your choice of Soldier, you will be wiped out.
  • One question in The Impossible Quiz 2 warns, "PRESS THIS BUTTON TO KILL YOURSELF WITH DEATH BEFORE THE BOMB DOES!" If you click the button itself, you go to the next question. If you click "THIS BUTTON", you die.
  • The insanely difficult game Syobon Action (also known as Cat Mario) works around this concept and the game it emulates: Super Mario Bros, and is does it with sadistic glee. Here, the coins are absolutely worthless, some coin blocks will kill you, the usual Mario powerups (Mushroom, Fire Flower, Starman) equal death in this world, the Warp Pipes (which in SMB were good news) will toss you to the air, and even ending a level the wrong way will destroy you.
    • The sequel is gentler when it comes to coins—collect 50 (compare SMB's 100) and you get an extra life. You need it. You begin off with 99 lives and...well...they're nowhere near enough, because the difficulty definitely compensates for the 99 lives. To put it simply, remember how the last game was just mean and cruel? This one is downright casting Crucio on you.
  • In Mass Effect, the Quarians create a race of machine slaves called the Geth who they accidentally let achieve artificial intelligence. Having seen plenty of movies about this sort of thing, they decide to preemptively strike against the Geth to soundly defeat them before the inevitable occurs. They vastly underestimate the Geth, however, and bring the near total genocide of their species upon themselves and are permanently exiled from their homeworld and all other colonies. Then the player finds out that the Geth didn't have any real beef with the Quarians and were just confusedly defending themselves. 300 years later.
  • In Alan Wake, Nightingale becomes Genre Savvy due to his reading the manuscript pages. While gloating to a jailed Wake and Barry, he remembers that this very scene occurred in the manuscript and ended with him getting grabbed by the Dark Presence. He becomes terrified and starts looking for an exit, but... well, you know.
  • A Touhou example: as a Bullet Hell Shoot'Em Up, Touhou players know that getting trapped in a box of bullets is a bad idea. Anything that limits momements is dangerous enough in a game where everything (and there's a lot of everything) kills you in one shot, let alone a box which is obviously going to collapse on the character, killing them. So, when Yuuka fires off box around the player which slowly shrinks, the first time anyone fights her, they'll jump out of the box as soon as possible...to be met by an undodgeable wall of One-Hit Kill bullets and lasers that hits everywhere except inside the box, which stops shrinking just before it would have killed. Have fun being "a mist of atoms."


Webcomics[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In an Episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks, in an episode parody of Indiana Jones, the villain forces Alvin(Indiana) to choose one of three mystic orbs on a pedestal. One of them is real, the other two are booby trapped. One of them has already been picked, leaving two. When Alvin reaches for the middle one, the villain immediately reasons that this is some sort of trick, and grabs the left one instead. It was the wrong choice.
    • "You really should learn to trust people!"
  • Henchman #24 in the Season 3 finale of The Venture Brothers. Despite being genre savvy (As was his close friend, #21), buckling in a non-moving vehicle turned out to be his undoing.
    • In typical Venture fashion, it's lampshaded hysterically.

#21: Why would you DO THAT!?
#24: I DON'T KNOOOWWW!

  • Inverted somewhat in Teen Titans. In an episode where the Titans find themselves stalked by monsters, Beast Boy uses his knowledge of horror movies to correctly predict that, as the Genre Savvy Plucky Comic Relief, he'll be the first victim, and isn't exactly surprised when he's proven right.
    • Played straight a few minutes later, where Robin is taken when he's about to explain why everything's happening.
  • In King of the Hill, the Hills visit a Renaissance fair, where the "king" has fairgoers throw tomatoes at Peggy. She tells them that potatoes would be more historically accurate, at which point the fairgoers readily switch their ammo. Not a death per se, but Peggy didn't exactly do herself any favors.
    • She's wrong about the potatoes anyway. Neither they, nor tomatoes, were known of in Europe during the Medieval period.
  • Subverted during the serial killer challenge on Total Drama Island—Gwen continually warns the others about typical horror movie clichés, but one by one they don't listen and, of course, get caught by Chef. Duncan, the second most Genre Savvy character, manages to defeat Chef when he purposefully goes to fight him, while Gwen winds up fighting a real serial killer who shows up, winning the challenge.
  • While he doesn't die (being a spirit, he probably can't) Discord from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is ultimately undone in part by his own Dangerously Genre Savvy. After effectively depowering the Elements of Harmony by breaking and Mind Raping the mane cast into being disharmonic, he lets them "take their best shot" at him, and it fails, which was his plan to crush Twilight Sparkle's spirit. However, in the end, they try this again, Discord safe in the knowledge that with the Circle of Friendship broken, the Elements are useless...only to find out too late that they've reforged their friendship without his knowledge and he gets stuffed back in his can.