1. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    Male Deaths vs. Female Deaths

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Marthix2016, Jan 27, 2018.

    I've realized quite frequently in today's media...whether it's books, TV, movies, video games, etc...seems like there are very few female character deaths as opposed to male character deaths. Seems like authors and showrunners are scared or worried of killing off their own female characters...far too many times seems like the male characters are the ones to die in stories. Perhaps it's a cultural or stereotypical thing...I don't know...but I've always felt its strange. Rarely do female characters ever die in the stories I've read. Feels too good to be true. Seems like they are rarely touched. And when it comes to the deaths in general...seems like the males get all the 'cool' death scenes and females are given ones that are very quick and not really noteworthy. Anyone else share the same thoughts? Does anyone have any 'cool' death scenes for a particular male or female character...could be hero or villain...?

    Just something I'd like to bring up and thought about as I was writing my own story. In my writing, I treat males and females in my stories the same. No one is given an invincibility bubble, they are all vulnerable to death the same. No one is safe. I feel too many writers these days are doing things so that certain characters are safe and it feels forced.
     
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  2. Mink

    Mink Contributor Contributor

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    Snow White: A Tale of Terror has an interesting death scene with the queen, but the primary characters are also female. I think a lot of deaths are related to who the viewer/reader is supposed to see as the protagonist/antagonist of the story. I also think it has a lot to do with genre. I've seen some remarkable deaths in sci-fi and horror while I've also seen some tragic scenes regarding women in other genres. I also (also) think that some of the deaths of women have to do with how societies have a tendency to view women as more tender so they want to give them a more tender death (or avoid killing them at all). There also seems to be a desire to use the woman's death as a way to hurt the man.

    I can't comment with my own writings because the majority of my characters are male and females aren't the focus of the story so they're likely to not die.
     
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  3. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    It's the save the princess thing. It's a trope that goes back a ways, but basically comes down to the men are heroes that do saving and women are the ones that need to be saved. The offside of this is, if you've read any fairy tales, that a long line of heroes has already come and failed to slay the dragon, their charred skeletons litter the grounds, before our final hero finally succeeds. Men, heroes, are disposable, while women, child bearers, are valuable, but completely lacking in autonomy. While the lacking in autonomy thing has improved some recently, the whole idea that men are disposable and therefore less offensive to kill, while women are still valuable child bearers and therefore more offensive to kill still lingers.
     
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  4. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    I totally agree with what you say about the trope. Seems like in stories these days still it's less offensive to kill off female characters over male characters. And it seems like men's deaths are way more 'glorified' than women's deaths in stories. I'm writing a story right now and the main antagonist is a female...given that she is a very powerful villain and responsible for many deaths in the story by her own hands and her own henchmen...I think she deserves a glorified death scene (assuming she does die in the book...which I'm still unsure of...). It will take much more than sticking a sword through her to kill her...not that she possesses any superhuman abilities but she will be extremely difficult to kill because she is a very intelligent fighter. I feel a big bad in a book, show, movie, etc. deserves a good death scene no matter whether they are male or female. Oh, and another thing I've noticed...seems like heroes give female villains too many chances to switch back to the good side...or give them a 2nd chance...I'm not sure about that. If I was a character in my story and I was facing my powerful villainess, I would never think of giving her a second chance. Show no mercy for all the pain and damage and hurt she has caused. Whether a villain is male or female, I think the mentality should be the same if I were the hero. Go for the kill if the opportunity arises.

    Hope I don't rub my readers the wrong way with how I view things on this when I write my own story but if I were a male hero and facing a female antagonist I wouldn't view her any differently than a male antagonist.

    Not that it's something I'll consider or think about to change the story...this trope thing...but would you be less likely to read/watch a book or TV show or movie because of female characters being killed off versus male characters?
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
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  5. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    Never noticed.

    In crime novels it feels like women are more likely to get killed than men.

    Kill the characters that needs to be killed and do it in a manner that fits the story. Seems quite simple to me.
     
  6. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If not more likely, at least as likely, judging by the ones I've read. However, I have noticed that women tend to get terrorized a lot more than men (Lisa Gardner, especially, seems to do this), and that definitely is the "save the princess" thing that @The Dapper Hooligan mentioned above.
     
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  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    In real life women are more likely to be targeted by serial killers than men (according to the FBI) ... men are more likely to die by criminal violence overall, but that is because the vast proportion is dog eat dog gang stuff which is significantly male dominated.
     
  8. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    Nah, so long as it's for sensible story reasons, it doesn't really matter.

    What does bug me is when a female villain in an action film can apparently only be defeated by a heroine and is almost completely ignored by male characters.

    Dude, who cares if she's a girl? She's a baddie; punch her lights out already.
     
  9. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    Before we get into this, I just want to point out one very important fact.

    In the majority of books and movies, there are more male characters than female characters.

    If there's twice as many male characters as female characters, then male characters are going to die twice as often.
    • Only 29% of protagonists are female.
    • "Globally, there are 2.24 male characters for every 1 female character. [...] Despite decades of research, it is apparent that we are, as a culture, so used to women being marginal that we don’t even notice."
    • This is the largest-ever analysis of dialogue in film (link). In 78% of films, men speak more than women. So in other words-- in 78% of films, men are over-represented and women are under-represented. It's normal to have more male characters than female, and it's normal for male characters to have more screentime or importance-- by a wide margin.
    It's not every book or movie, obviously. It's just a general trend. If male characters die more often, it's probably because male characters exist more often.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2018
  10. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    No. I don't really care. If a character dies, they die. Doesn't matter to me what gender they are.
    I think perhaps male characters get killed off more because males are typically seen as "dominant." Meaning, they're the ones who go out into the fight, gotta save the day, etc. Women aren't typically expected to do this stuff. Sure, there's plenty who do, but it's just typically expected of men.
    Me, personally, I don't spare female characters, nor do I spare males. If they have to die, they have to die. That's all there is to it, at least for me. All my characters are fair game for death.
     
  11. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    This was my initial thought, with the added suggestion that we consider the genre of films/stories in which deaths are most likely and look at the gender ratios in those.

    If I read a gory war (used to be "wore"!) story with 7/8 of the cast male and read a thoughtful family drama with 7/8 of the cast female, they're going to balance out in terms of actual overall character numbers, but not likely going to balance out in terms of character deaths.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2018
  12. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    A trend I've noticed is that the deaths of women are likely to be major dramatic events meant to make us really hate a villain, drive the motivations of other characters, etc (the "women in refrigrators" thing that's often complained about). Whereas if a bunch of anonymous redshirts get killed to establish a disaster as serious or a character as a badass, they're more likely to be male. I've noticed some reversals recently--for example, Justice League had anonymous Amazons getting bumped off by the villain in a way that you see much more often with male mooks.

    This TVTropes article has some interesting things to say on the subject: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MenAreTheExpendableGender Essentially, the argument is that female characters are more sympathetic by default, and must do something to lose audience sympathy (so even if we know nothing about them, we'll still feel uncomfortable seeing bad things happen to them). Men lack audience sympathy until they do something to earn it, and are expendable until that point. Hence why female villains will so often be physically fought by heroines--it's hard to show a man physically attacking a woman (no matter how deserving / threatening she is) and retaining audience sympathy, because attacking women is very much the province of villains, abusers, rapists, etc.

    It doesn't just apply in terms of violence or death--I remember reading an article a while back that noted that with fictional adultery, the women were much more likely to be portrayed sympathetically, have good reasons for cheating, etc.
     
  13. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I have a feeling that the idea of men being expendable, while childbearing women are valuable, goes deeper than culture. What ancient army ever fought with women to take men prisoner? What group kidnapped boys and killed girls?

    It doesn’t make sense from a survival standpoint to flip the script, and we’re all descended from people who saw it the traditional way. If your tribe lost too many women, you’d die out. You only actually need a couple of men to stay in the game as long as you have a defense.

    I’m all for every person having an equal shot at whatever, but when you butcher women to save men, it’s going to bother people at the gut level. Bothering people at the gut level is a bad way to make a buck with entertainment.

    I feel like to flip that script, you’d need a really good reason. There has been a lot of progressive entertainment that changed society's view of different groups in the name of civil liberty - largely by changing our feelings about who is in the in group.

    So, how is killing women to save men in fiction, valuable to society? I feel like if you can state the goal of the theme or moral, you can shoot for it directly.

    I do think that given enough time, this might change on its own. Despite enormous prejudice, women contributed bigly to the space race and the development of nuclear weapons. It’s going to turn out that the societies that value female contributions in traditional male roles are going to be the ones to develop technology faster - and the others might not make it.

    If any of that naval gazing is offensive or wrong, please correct me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
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  14. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Active Member

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    Exactly. Too many times it seems the hero fights the bad dude and the heroine fights the bad girl. Male fights male, female fights female. Why not mix it up? Male hero fights female baddie. Why should the male hero hold anything back against the female baddie? If she is causing pain and destruction to the hero or his allies/family, she deserves to be roughed up too. She can't go untouched.
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    As someone said higher up its because its difficult to retain reader sympathy for a man who his women because that's an action usually associated with the bad guys
     
  16. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Again, I think it's because women very often aren't seen as physically threatening. If you follow the news, you'll see violence against women by men happening & being reported on much more often (domestic violence, murder, sexual assault & coercion, war crimes, etc) than women against women, or women against men. And most of the time, that violence isn't "fair" or "deserved" in any sense of the words, it's a sadistic power trip or fit of rage against a vulnerable person who couldn't defend themselves. Which isn't to say that women can't perpetrate that sort of violence or men can't suffer it, but the perception (and very often, reality) is that men are aggressors and women victims.

    If a man beats up a woman in a work of fiction, there's a real risk that it will trigger that same feeling of disgust as a news item about a domestic abuser, even if in the story it was fully justified and she was just as much a physical threat as any male villain. Generally, female villains often suffer less gruesome / sadistic deaths than male ones as well.
     
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  17. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Yes.

    I think there's a Cracked article about how statistically women never get interesting deaths in Movies because showing a woman die is considered a tragedy. Meanwhile, millions of men can get blown away in a military movie and no one cares.

    In one of my finished manuscripts I have a woman soldier get shot in the stomach and start bleeding out while her team mates try to save her by applying gauze and other things. I don't do anything different than if I were writing a man getting the same sort of injury.

    Another death I have is of a woman military officer. She gets shot in the face during a coup, but survives due to military enhancements. Her (traitor) guards hold her between them while she's ordering them to stop, before she's shot again. During the scene, I don't draw any special attention to the fact that she's a woman. She's simply a leader getting "replaced".

    With both of these examples the characters defining traits aren't that they're women, but that they're military personnel. I think if I were writing an innocent bystander or mother getting shot, I'd treat it different.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
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  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I have several cases of women getting killed by the bad guys - one in Rapax gets "all fucked up" during a firefight and dies at the rally point, another also in Rapax is hit in the guts and is shot in the head by her officer (also female) because she can't be carried.

    In Tigris the putative good guys team Tigris commit mass rape and murder on a bunch of unarmed villagers but the protag is the only one who doesn't get involved (Its a little bit 'the first victim of war is innocence' )
     
  19. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    wore is hell

    Anyways, I think a lot of it is based in the "men are the heroes" trope, like others have pointed out, but I also think that more than just males making up a large volume of protagonists, it's also males making up a large number of the classic "heroic sacrifices", too. A lot of time when a character is killed by a heroic sacrifice, it's one of the supporting or side characters and not often an actual main character. I guess a large number of people still imagine a man being the one to jump directly into danger and sacrifice themselves for the other characters, as women sacrificing themselves almost never happens.
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Yes. I was thinking, "Huh? More men die? That isn't my impression." But I tend to consume fiction where women are heavily represented.
     
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  21. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    The "Analysis" page of this link offers a number of important perspectives to consider:
    • Male Death Is More Numerous
      • "If the entire cast has to die, men will go first... if large amounts of anonymous people have to die to demonstrate the severity of a threat, they will be men. Due to the dual influence of this trope and Men Are Generic, Women Are Special, it's especially common for armies of disposable Mooks or Red Shirts to be comprised solely of males."
    • 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"
      • "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."
    • Death As Gorn (gore porn)
      • "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 [sic] long, tragic, noble, meaningful and/or beautiful - sometimes in sexualized ways - but always unblemished. Male death will often be atmospheric and mostly unremarked upon."
    • Death, Violence, and Characterization
      • "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 [sic] 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."
    • Unfortunate Implications
      • "Women get automatic audience sympathy for the same reason children do: they're viewed as fundamentally helpless, passive and innocent as well as ineffectual, incapable and utterly incompetent 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, considered on par with hurting little kids. 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."
     
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  22. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere...

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    Or maybe that's because a vast majority of violent deaths in real life are male? Think about it.

    90% of workplace fatalities are males. Almost all combat deaths are males. Men also include 76% of all homicides. While women will attempt suicide more often, 80% of actual suicides end up being male. It is also believed that males represent at least 40% of sexual assault victims. (So anyone who says that men got some kind of privilege are full of it.)

    So it's not that authors have any fear of killing off their female characters. It's that they pay more attention to real life.
     
  23. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    If they didn't it would be 50-50, but that's not relevant to the post.

    But, yes, I think to offset that privilege, I think it's important to start killing more women. Not like tragedy deaths or victim deaths either, but full fledged glorious,meaningless deaths. We will kill these women, not for ourselves, not for our novels, but for Feminism!
     
  24. Mink

    Mink Contributor Contributor

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    I personally think mixing it up is good. The Seventh Son (and to some extent The Last Apprentice) have villainous females that go hand-to-hand with the protagonist males. While it fits the stereotype of witches, it's still refreshing. The Anita Blake novels had her going up against men (at least until I stopped reading them). I figure that women should be treated the same as men within books -- if they're bad, they should be roughed up. If they're good then they should have the capability of having a male antagonist. Women aren't seen as imposing as men, but they can be and they can even come across as being badass -- I just started to play the campaign mode of Battlefront II and the main character is Iden Versio. She's a total badass and the first female that I'm actually rooting for despite the fact that she works for the Empire (at least at this point in time).

    Anyway, I think that women really should be treated the same as men in movies, books, shows, etc. As others said, there are going to be negative responses because of society's current view on women, but I think that that's why we need to be writing such scenes and characters.
     
  25. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Loved by a Sweet lady. :) Supporter Contributor

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    Men, women, in my WIP they all get killed and the shit beat out of them. Pretty
    indiscriminate I must say. Lesson is don't get caught on the wrong side of someone
    with a gun, knife, or some classic fists and feet. :)
     
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