Men Are the Expendable Gender

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"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."

A sub-trope of the Double Standard. In media, female characters start with automatic audience sympathy because women are seen as moral, innocent, beautiful or simply because they have sexual value. Male characters are less likely to be seen that way and must earn audience sympathy by acting appropriately manly and heroic, which, more often then not, involves saving the Damsel in Distress.

Conversely, if a man is unable to take care of himself or others he forfeits audience sympathy. Women, on the other hand, do not lose audience sympathy—or at least not as much—for being helpless, incompetent or abandoning men to their fates in order to save themselves. Strangely, this can still hold true if the woman in question has already been established as a Badass. See Chickification.

This trope has its origins as a real life survival strategy.[1] Here is are some videos that go over it real life manifestation [1][2].

The consequences of this are complicated, but in summary:

It should be noted that sometimes this is due to the Smurfette Principle. If there's only one woman in a cast with dozens of men, chances are the men will die first.

Male Death is More Numerous

When it's time for a character to hit the big one, either by a freak accident or by nobly sacrificing himself, writers go about the situation as if it were a pickle jar: get a man to do it. If the entire cast has to die, men will go first. However, this phenomenon is much more noticeable with extras; if large amounts of anonymous people have to die to demonstrate the severity of a threat, they will be men. Armies of Mooks are almost always populated solely by males.

Children of both sexes are even more sympathetic by default than adult women, and their deaths are almost invariably treated as deeply tragic. However, girls are still considered more dependent, and therefore more sympathetic, than boys of the same age. Typically, a girl stands a better chance of surviving a horror movie than a boy does. If the plot requires adults to be motivated by the need to protect or avenge a child, the child is much more likely to be female.

Women do get killed in pointless ways that serve only as a plot device, usually simply to provide a conveniently sympathetic motivation for a male character. Killing a man does not work as well precisely because the audience does not view the death of anonymous men as tragic or horrifying. Which leads into:

Death as Emotional Torque

Because the victimization of female characters has more emotional impact with audiences, their deaths are often used to drive plots, motivate protagonists and present touching denouements. Male characters may also serve this purpose—after they've earned audience sympathy—but expect a far higher proportion of anonymous and meaningless male death for every one inspirational male death. In general, if a female character dies, it emphasizes the tragedy or horror of a situation. If a male character dies, it emphasizes the danger or functions as Gorn.

When the nameless masses die off, a character will often comment that the villain killed innocent women and children. Male deaths seem to be considered regrettable but not nearly as tragic, as though men are automatically considered to be combatants who died in battle - even if they were actually innocent bystanders who had absolutely no chance to defend themselves. Sometimes villains will defend themselves by saying that they only target men, as if actions that result in the death of men are morally neutral. (Note that being wounded, disabled or very elderly trumps being a man, as it takes one out of the "combatant" category.) Wouldn't Hit a Girl, Wouldn't Hurt a Child and Would Not Shoot a Civilian are closely related tropes.

A male character can elevate himself to the status of a female extra through sympathetic characterization—thus earning himself a noteworthy death—but female characters always start with audience sympathy. Conversely, a female character can lose audience sympathy through actively unsympathetic characterization. Even so, villainous female characters are often treated as less genuinely evil than male villains, scoring more Get Of Jail Free cards and convenient redemptions. Female characters also have to act far worse to lose this kind of sympathy, and are more often given an excuse for their bad behavior. Namely, a female character only crosses the line if she targets children for death, especially if she does the killing herself, or if she openly admits to have had an abortion and isn't constantly angsting about it.

Death as Gorn

Media in which death is unrealistically sanitary—any death that involves no wounding, little blood or is offscreen and only alluded to—may approach a 50-50 gender split for deaths as these deaths don't involve Gorn. Female death in these series will be often be long, tragic, noble, meaningful and/or beautiful - sometimes in sexualized ways - but always unblemished. Male death will often be atmospheric and mostly unremarked upon.

The more realistically brutal a work's portrayal of death is, the more the death toll will skew toward adult men. Part of the dramatic impact of these deaths is in watching a human body being dismembered, brutalized, hacked apart or otherwise treated like a piece of meat. However, mainstream audiences generally do not want to see this happen to sympathetic characters, which excludes women and children by default.

Media with Gorn will still kill off female characters, except in far more sanitary ways. Men may be being hacked apart by the Big Bad, but women will simply scream and slump over. Or scream and the scene cuts away. Or if men are being brutally beaten to death, women will be strangled instead. Female characters will die, on screen, in a way that will not result in a closed casket funeral. If there is female Gorn death, expect it to be described or implied rather than shown.

A subset of this trope relates to the treatment of male vs. female bodies. It is more acceptable to show all aspects of male death, from brutal mutilation to the corpse itself. It's also more acceptable to manhandle or disrespect a male corpse. Lighthearted jokes from morticians, detectives and coroners are more common with male rather than female corpses.

On the other hand, and related to the above "Death As Emotional Torque" point; a woman's gorny death will usually be considered worse than if a man were killed in the exact same manner (even if it is only the audience that considers the scene more harrowing).

Death, Violence and Characterization

Villains who target female characters for death, even anonymous female characters, will be viewed with far less sympathy than villains who target male characters, even important and likable ones. Sympathetic male characters will lose audience sympathy if they target women. Women lose no sympathy for targeting men, and only a little if they are targeting men out of misandry. Men will be cast into the role of irredeemable evil if they target women just for being female.

Females who target other females have to be unusually brutal in their violence to lose sympathy since the audience often considers female-on-female violence (and sometimes even rape) as sexy and enticing or as a cute Cat Fight, thus not worthy fretting over. On the other hand, a woman who is unable to defend herself unaided against another woman will often lose audience sympathy for being that weak. Only if she targets young children may a woman be considered irredeemable.

Protagonists and antagonists can thus be easily determined from any scene of violence, without any context, if the actors are of different genders - women fighting men are usually the good guys, men fighting women are usually the bad guys. After all, if he was really a good guy, he Wouldn't Hit a Girl. Also (occasionally) a cunning and cruel Dangerously Genre Savvy villain, especially a female one, can take advantage of this trope and mindset, threatening, hurting and even killing women and children to emotionally destroy males, thus losing their ability to fight.

Female characters are also expected to treat themselves as less expendable than male characters. Female characters do not lose sympathy for preserving their own lives or safety at the cost of adult male characters' lives and safety. (They are sometimes expected to do so to protect children, however, if there are no male characters available to take care of it.) Male characters lose considerable sympathy if they don't at least try to bend over backwards and help save female characters' lives, even if the cost is their own. (Imagine the climactic death scene in Titanic with the genders reversed.) If the woman is or might be pregnant - or if she even has older children - this can be brought forward as an excuse, softening the trope: she must save herself to protect the child. Fathers much more rarely bring up parenthood as a reason to avoid putting themselves in danger when they would otherwise be morally obligated to, although a childless male character might invoke it as a reason why the father should allow him to sacrifice himself instead.

This can also extend to male characters protecting female characters not just from actual physical danger, but also from unpleasant knowledge, as they would children. Note that this completely ignores the possibility that, as an adult with experience, the female character might have valuable insight into solving the problem if she only knew about it. This fact is rarely brought up, even if the female character later learns that the male character was hiding information to protect her and becomes angry about it.

Unfortunate Implications

Being viewed as less sympathetic than women by default has obvious Unfortunate Implications for men: in general, it is more socially acceptable for women to seek help or support from others, and they're more likely to actually get it. More than that, though, this trope contributes to systematic social problems that disproportionately affect men. Men are more likely than women to be homeless, to be victims of violent crime, and to be injured or killed in workplace accidents. Many countries, though no longer all, refuse to officially assign female troops to combat units (although non-combat troops frequently do end up in combat anyway); not only is every army in the world willing to put men on the front lines, men are often considered to have an obligation to defend their country in combat and may be pressured to join up, or even conscripted. Outside of war, men are often viewed as cowards if they shrink from fistfights, and if a man and woman are attacked by a criminal, he tends to be viewed as responsible for protecting her, regardless of whether she's actually more capable. A man who faces a problem like Domestic Abuse is often either actively disbelieved if he goes to the authorities, or told that he ought to be able to handle it on his own; if he does get help, he's likely to feel ashamed of it. This leads to the Fridge Logic of an abused man being expected to take care of himself, but if he does, and he defends himself, then he's a total bastard for raising a hand against a female, and if he doesn't, then he's a coward and doesn't deserve sympathy. And good luck drawing attention to these problems; advertising a social issue by pointing out how it affects women is more likely to draw public sympathy and inspire action.

However, the trope also has subtler Unfortunate Implications for women. Women get automatic audience sympathy for the same reason children do: they're viewed as fundamentally helpless, passive and innocent as well as incompetent and ineffectual in any given situation, not as adults who can take care of themselves. Crimes against women are considered especially horrific because it's assumed that female victims could not possibly have been capable of defending themselves. Similarly, female villains are viewed as redeemable because they often aren't really taken seriously as villains in the first place – a woman can't possibly pose a real threat, or be truly accountable for her actions. And since male characters must get the chance to earn audience sympathy by proving how capable they are, female characters are rarely given the same narrative opportunities to be heroic. This is one reason why male protagonists are much more common in many genres: male characters are more likely to have agency, personal conflict and capacity for growth, whereas female characters are often two-dimensionally perfect, static and passive. Thus, the female characters are reduced to plot devices that inspire male characters to action – they get killed off, giving men a reason to prove their manhood by avenging them; or they provide sage advice about being in touch with one's emotions; or they serve as trophies to reward male characters who've proven themselves worthy. In Real Life, this trope can also be outright nasty and demeaning to females in the same fashion as males, as it can prevent women from getting jobs and being taken seriously in risky ones, leaving them, essentially, in "feminine" jobs.

Related Tropes

There are a lot of related tropes:

You can also see a somewhat similar dynamic playing out with portrayals of racial and other minorities, who, like women, are often portrayed as perfect politically correct saints and victims, and are therefore reduced to passive props in stories about more dynamic white/able-bodied/middle-class/heterosexual/etc. protagonists: compare Token Minority, Magical Negro, Magical Queer, Black Best Friend, Gay Best Friend, Going Native, Inspirationally Disadvantaged, Positive Discrimination, Disposable Woman and Mighty Whitey. However there is a subtle distinction with the portrayal of minority characters: if they are male they still aren't afforded the same physical protections as female characters. See Black Dude Dies First.

Apparent aversions of the trope often aren't. Remember, a real aversion requires not just showing lots of female deaths - that's actually fairly common - but treating those deaths as no more tragic than those of male characters. In older works (especially films and TV shows) that do avert it, it's often because the plot required meaningless deaths, but the director wanted to portray those deaths in sexualized ways to appeal to Perverse Sexual Lust without making straight male audience members feel uncomfortable. See Monster Misogyny and Male Gaze.

However, since the feminist movement took off, there has been a gradual but genuine shift in attitudes. Audiences today are more likely to deride female characters who don't put themselves at risk for their allies as The Load or a Damsel Scrappy. Modern works are therefore slowly becoming more likely to depict female characters who go into dangerous situations alongside their male partners, or even who are physically protective of their male partners, without portraying this as making the male partner in question less manly and sympathetic. They are also becoming more likely to portray male characters who aren't traditionally manly as sympathetic characters.

Fun questions to think about:

  1. Is the dead female character an anonymous extra?
  2. If so, was her death considered no more noteworthy than the deaths of other anonymous male extras?
  3. Was the female character's death classifiable as Gorn? Was it on screen?
  4. Was her killer a male protagonist and did he retain audience sympathy?

Answer 'yes' to all four, and, congrats, you've got a complete aversion.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Men Are the Expendable Gender include:

Played Straight

Anime and Manga

  • 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.
  • Noir: The two main characters are female assassins who mow down the male Mooks.
  • 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.
  • 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 Disposable Women. 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 during World War II), 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 not elaborated upon. If there's any reason women aren't being hired as cannon fodder, it's because the brass doesn't think non-Witch women are competent enough.
  • 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.
  • In Freezing, the idea of turning civilian girls in Pandoras was initially met with much opposition, the argument being only those naturally burdened with the task should not rely on those whom they should be protecting. Bringing boys in, however, turned out to be a-okay. There is the point that the boys as their role as a Barrier Warrior is a major advantage for the side of humanity, but the fact is that the main fighting force is quickly being mowed down.

Comic Books

  • 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.
      • Male corpses are still dealt with in a much less humanized manner by the story itself. They're generally used for horror value or as just another way to show the trials and tribulations of the post-genderpocalypse... characters are more often grossed out than saddened to see them. It's also noteworthy that Yorick has had every single male member of his family and every male he ever knew die... even discovering the corpse of his best friend in a state of advanced decomposition... but apparently the thing that really traumatized him was having to shoot a woman that was trying to kill him.
  • 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 of the men and having the women leave the team. The only reason for having only the men killed appears to be this trope.
  • In a letter column for Brian Michael 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, 3 women had been brutally killed, but so had something like 40 men.
    • This viewpoint (and the trope) essentially define the original Women in Refrigerators complaint. The fact that male characters die just as or more often than female characters, and for the same reasons, is ignored because some people automatically get upset when a female character (no matter how minor) is killed, but not necessarily when a male character is killed. This has led to such ridiculous statements as saying that Batman's mother was "stuffed in the fridge"... but apparently not his father, who died near-simultaneously with her.
  • 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."


  • In Michael Bay 's Armageddon, at the climax scene in the space shuttle, the protagonists stand around and draw straws to decide who will make the Heroic Sacrifice. The one female member of the team, the co-pilot of the shuttle, is absent, as she is conveniently needed to fly the ship.
  • 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).
  • 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 it was cut out. Here's a photo.
  • Adam Green's Frozen has two male leads and one female lead. One of them survives the movie while deserving it the least. Guess who?
  • 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 Kelly'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 2010 remake of The Wolf Man gleefully shows dozens of men being messily dismembered by werewolf but the couple of female fatalities are merely implied or played for maximum tragedy and horror with Lawrence's mother.
  • In The Two Towers, Saruman demonstrates his utter badness by ordering an attack on the Rohirrim refugees, after Wormtongue pointed out that women and children would be among them.
  • An early version of the screenplay for Leon 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.
  • 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 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. Consequentially, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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" (several watchers in the theater when this troper saw it gasped, just at the revelation that it was a female dog. So, uh...apparently it worked).
  • 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..
  • Every human death in Jurassic Park was male - at least, in the film.

Ellie: "Dinosaur eats Man; Woman inherits the Earth."

  • 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. 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.


  • 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.
  • In The Wheel of Time Rand goes to considerable effort to remember every woman who died for him (including the one who died because he wouldn't fight back against the evil sorceress trying to kill them all). The considerably more numerous men can apparently go hang. It's not really clear where this attitude comes from, seeing as the women of Two Rivers aren't exactly delicate flowers.
    • 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).
    • The trope also plays out in the city of Ebou Dari, 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."
  • In the Trickster books, the entire male population of the Balitang family is killed off by the end, where the women either survive or elope and leave the story. Among the rebel fighters, significantly fewer important female characters are killed off.
    • However, the male deaths in the Balitang family are all necessary for plot reasons, given that men are given preference for inheriting the throne. And several of the male deaths are treated quite sympathetically.
  • 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.
    • The first movie is extremely explicit in the fact that the military is essentially gender-blind, to the point of having coed shower rooms. However, it's arguably still an example of this trope, since the director hates both the book and the military... it's extremely likely he intended the fact that the military would treat women equally to men as far as risking them in combat to show how evil they are.
  • 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.
  • Dr. Warren Farrell examined this trope (which he calls "male disposability") in The Myth of Male Power, which is about the ways the system that feminists often call "patriarchy" actually serves to harm men as well as women. Adam Jones wrote Effacing the Male: Gender, Misrepresentation and Exclusion in the Kosovo War, which examines the way this trope applies to discussions about victims of war.
  • Robert A. Heinlein has Lazarus Long defend it full bore:

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.

Live Action TV

  • 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.
    • On the whole, though, Supernatural averts the hell out of this trope. Women and men usually die in fairly equal numbers, and there are a number of instances in which more women will be more expendible than men. First, the Cartwright Curse is in full effect (and the fanbase - particularly the female fanbase- tends to dislike most female characters) , so any girl who gets in the way of the vaguely homoerotic relationships between Dean and either Sam or Cas is likely to be killed off quickly. This is particularly true if their death cause anguish for the main characters. Secondly, the demons seem to have a particular preference for possessing attractive young women. Once a female has been infected or possessed by something evil ( even if they themselves are completely innocent) , the boys don't hesitate to kill or torture them any more than if it were a male character. This is one of the reasons the show has such a high Holy Shit Quotient; you randomly see the muscular, male "good guys" brutalize and kill tiny women. It makes sense in the context of the show, and it's a lot more believable than if the women were given special treatment, but it's a major source of values dissonance.
  • 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.
  • 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 "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 Star Trek: The Original Series, dozens of male redshirts were killed, but only three female redshirts were.
    • 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 again. 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).
      • The comic book that expanded Nero's backstory indicated that the Nerada did indeed have female crewmembers. Apparently it was the filmmakers' decision to only depict males onscreen (possibly because the MPAA is a big believer in this trope and might have bumped the rating up if Captain Kirk shot a woman).
  • 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.
  • 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 animal and 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 travelling 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.
    • Could be Truth in Television, the majority of serial killers are male.
    • Dexter targets any type of killer, not just serial killers.
      • Indeed, and Dexter kills a couple that had been murdering illegal immigrants they'd taken money from to ferry into the country. They're treated as interesting only because they're a couple in love, not because one of them's a woman. While Dexter kills women more rarely than he kills men, he generally treats them exactly the same as he does his male victims. To a certain extent, this trope is in evidence with the audience reaction rather than the show... Dexter often goes to elaborate lengths to set the stage for all his victims, but because most of them are men this treatment is considered "normal" and instead the fact that only a few of them are women stands out.
  • 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.
      • Which would, in fact, be a basis for a Women in Refrigerators complaint if the genders were reversed, as "killed off just for the emotional reaction of those who knew them" is a primary aspect of that trope.
  • In The Expanse, Holden is perfectly fine with passing up the distress call from another ship so that he can get back to Ceres Station faster... until he messes with the call and discovers there's a woman calling for help. Then he "just can't shake it", and winds up logging the call so that the Canterbury has to go to the rescue.


  • 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


  • 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".

Stand-Up Comedy

  • 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 Games

  • 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.

Video Games

  • The Ace Attorney series has over five games and 23 cases only 5 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.
  • 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.
    • Note that at least one of the men you can press-gang is middle-aged and overweight... meaning he's probably far less suited for battle than any of the young women, even if the setting didn't have an egalitarian warrior culture.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Most of the zombies you encounter in-game 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.
    • This trope may not apply to the game's human/transhuman enemies, considering that both CP and Overwatch units utilize fully-concealing body armor, face masks, and voice scramblers, all of which hide any traces of gender. There's also a woman in the opening sequence complaining about the Combine-supplied rations who states that she's "ready to join Civil Protection just to get a decent meal," so it's likely that the Combine doesn't discriminate. There's absolutely no excuse for the Headcrab Zombie issue, though.
      • That dialogue may be a holdover from the fact that the Overwatch Snipers were originally going to be female. As it stands, in the final release of the game there were no visibly female human or transhuman enemies of any variety in the game. Even Fast Zombies appear to have a male hip/pelvic structure. It's possible that women may have been recruited as support personnel - the Overwatch announcer has a female voice, but even that seems to be artificial - but you will never kill a woman in the entire game.
      • 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.
    • Female rebels and civilians die just as much as males.
  • 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.

Web Comics

  • 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.
  • Played straight in Everyday Heroes—Wrecking Paul, at first portrayed as Dumb Muscle, was revealed to be a Serial Killer that targeted women.
  • 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.
  • Seemingly averted but actually played pretty straight during the Battle for Azure City arc of The Order of the Stick. While the Azurite army has surprisingly good gender balance and dozens of female soldiers are killed on-screen, the hobgoblin army is exclusively male (and die by the truckload). Since the Azurites are the explicit Good Guys in the battle, the death of their soldiers (male or female) is therefore "worse" than the death of the unsympathetic all-male hobgoblins.

Western Animation

  • Superjail on Teletoon's 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.
    • However, Zuko pointed out that he noticed something was deeply wrong with her before the fight, believing she wouldn't be as competent as she usually was (which was true, but it unfortunately didn't mean she was any less dangerous....)
      • Zuko's decision to have an Agni Kai with Azula is definitely not an example of this trope, starting with the fact that he was explicitly challenging her to the Fire Nation's ritual combat to end her reign; when he's saying "no one else has to get hurt", he's probably mostly talking about the Fire Nation soldiers (almost exclusively male) who will not have to go to war if he wins the Agni Kai. An Agni Kai is ritual combat between firebenders, and Katara's not a firebender, and wouldn't be eligible to take the throne even if she did win against Azula. Also, Zuko had been specifically training to fight his sister and/or father. Also, waterbending versus firebending is generally shown to have the waterbender at a disadvantage and eventually on the defensive, unless you're fighting on top of an ice floe or something (which they weren't).
  • 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?!"

Real Life

  • See Women and children first (saying) in the Other Wiki to see this trope in Real life.
    • 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%.
    • From a logical point of view, women and children first is on odd choice in emergency protocol. All gender equality politics aside, during the chaos of a sinking ship, do dozens or more tearful farewells between men and families (right in front of the life boats mind you) make the process, in any way, better or more efficient?
      • On the other hand, from a biological point of view, it's the only logical choice. It only takes one man to impregnate a hundred women, but a woman can only get pregnant by one (in some exceptions two) men at a time. It also makes more sense economically; women and children dying takes out a good portion of the future work force, so preserving the men just means less people doing the job twenty years down the road.
      • Of course from a purely 'logical biological' point of view this makes post-menopausal women even more expendable than men.
  • 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.
  • 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, and only because the women were taking their shirts off in the high heat in the presence of men.
  • 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 were exempt until 2016.
    • This has applied to most militaries throughout history, usually averted only when the nation in question is facing a serious manpower crunch.
  • 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.

Numerical Aversions

Anime and Manga

  • Code Geass R2 has female Knightmare pilots dying, including an entire all-female unit.
  • 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's infamous 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 Red Shirts 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 Destiny when 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
  • 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'.
  • 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.


  • The Evil Dead trilogy. Of the seven people killed in the first two movies, five of them are women. The Sole Survivor of the party is a man. Admittedly, a man who Took a Level in Badass, but still.
    • Army of Darkness zig-zags a little on the spirit of the trope, besides the first movie's numerical aversion. While Ash is more upset with Sheila being kidnapped than he is by any male deaths, it's because he knows Sheila and she's his nominal girlfriend at the time. However, when she turns up corrupted into a Deadite, he doesn't treat her particularly differently than any of the male Deadites.
  • 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 Comedy Killers 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.
  • The 1997 adaptation of Starship Troopers featured both men and women being ripped apart by giant space bugs. One womand 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.
    • However, one of Verhoeven's aims with the film was to demonize the military... the fact that the future military of Earth considers women just as expendable as men was almost certainly intended to show how evil they were, while the male deaths were just business as usual, notable only for the sheer number of them.


  • 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.
  • 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.

Live Action TV

  • 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.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer was far more willing to kill off its major female characters than its male ones; Jenny, Kendra, Joyce, Tara and Anya all die before the end of the final episode, whereas the only significant male good guy to die (and stay dead) was Jonathan. That said, the vast majority of the mostly-all-killed-off villains were male.
    • Not to mention Buffy herself, who dies more often than any character of any gender.
    • But not always averted: it is 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. As far as this troper remembers, there are no female mooks. All female villains are given plot significance and lines of dialogue.
      • There are actually plenty of female mooks. Usually less than the males, but it's generally around 2:5 ratio.
  • 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.
  • Heroes. Sylar has no problem killing people of all genders.
  • Supernatural, anyone? As of the Season 5 Finale, the only recurring female character alive is Lisa Braeden.
    • 2. Meg is still alive. (or whatever you call demons)


  • Red vs. Blue: Season 9 had female mooks mixed in among the dozens of male mooks getting mowed down.

Video Games

  • 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.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII wide shots of SEED in combat we see as many women as men.
  • 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.
  • Among the crowds of people that try to kick your ass in Streets of Rage are a surprising amount of women.
  • 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.
    • The new DLC for the third game 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 Girl Fight with no men even being seen. Still not convenced? 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 hookers and strippers. By the end of the mission all of them are dead and many lonely men are left without company for the evening.
    • The third game also allows you to decide exactly which varieties of the various purple-colored mooks will spawn out in the world as gang members or when you call for backup... allowing the player to either enforce this trope by making them all male, or completely invert it by making them all female.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Web Original

  • 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.

Real Life

  • 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...
  • 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.
  • For a while the world only recongnised "International Women's Day" as a woman only holiday without a corresponding day for men. However, in recent years several countries across the world (including major ones like the U.S.) have officially accepted "International Men's Day" (November 19) as a legitimate holiday to honor men. Its main focus is eliminating the harmful stereotypes that lead to discrimination against men and boys. It even a special pro-male theme each year that can be found on its own offical website! (While this covers pretty much every type of adversion to the Men Are the Expendable Gender trope listed on this page it mostly arverts it numeretically as its creation allowed men all over the world to have one day to discuss their problems openly just like women without being ignored or insulted for being weak. Hopefully, this will be the first step in allowing men to no longer be cheated of the help they need by the government simply because they were expected to take care of themself rather than seek assitance like a woman would be expected to do.)
  • The NCFM is an anti-discrimination group founded in 1977 for the sole purpose of helping male victims recieve fair and equal treatment in areas where they would normally be overlooked. They provide help for men who have become victims of domestic violence, rape, or just discrimination in general as well as their familes. Over the years they have helped save and improve the lives of countless innocent and victimized men who were ignored by other organizations.

Gorn Aversions

Anime and Manga


  • Exploitation films are very fond of torturing women, usually in a sexually charged way. 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.
    • Averted by the third movie, which has all the named female characters die. The final female death is also extremely violent: the lady gets her face blown off with shotgun shells.
  • 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.

Video Games

  • 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)
  • Being a woman in Fallout will not save you from exploding into meat chunks after taking a .44 to the face. There is even a perk male characters can get that lets them manipulate women through dialog and deal extra damage to them in combat. Hell, if he wanted to, a male player can put 100 skill points in unarmed and take a few perks that will literally allow him to beat every evil female slaver, raider, and CompleteMonster he comes across to death with his bare hands. And it is absolutely the right thing to do.
  • Dead Space. Men, women, children, babies... these games WILL kill you horribly unless you are the protagonist, and sometimes NOT EVEN THEN.

Western Animation

  • In South Park is common to see women die or get killed in gruesome manners (equal as men) when the masses die in some episodes. Also, one episode shows Britney Spears shooting herself in the face onscreen and she didn´t die.
  • Family Guy doesn´t hesitate to show violent and graphic female deaths onscreen, for example, Peter blew out an indian girl´s head and Stewie´s evil clone sliced a woman in half, among others.

Thematic Aversions

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.

Video Games

  • 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.

Characterization Aversions

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.

Comic Books

  • Sin City (both comic and Movie) contains many double standards. Most of them Fridge Logic. Many more women are dead at the end than men, but the men are anonymous masks.


  • Partial aversion: 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.
  • Walter shoots, Phyllis in Double Indemnity, disgusted at her manipulation of him, shortly before dying himself. Despite the fact that he did all the actual killing and most of the cover up, the film makes sure to depict Phyllis as a shady lady right from the beginning and thus make her look like an evil manipulator and Walter look like a helpless schmuck.
  • RED (film) 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.

Live-Action TV