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"... people can call it typecast, but I pigeonholed myself ... Saying no to the girlfriend, saying no to the girl that gets captured, and eventually I just got left with the strong chick who's always being killed."

When two Action Girls are featured in the same film, invariably the tougher, more competent, more aggressive and less feminine character will die, despite being better equipped for the situation at hand. This can range from appearance (if one woman is wearing sensible shoes, and the other is wearing high heels), personality, or other traits. As with the Trope Namer, the Vasquez has a tendency to be a Twofer Token Minority.

One of the reasons is the belief that the femininity and sex appeal of a female character determines their usefulness as Love Interest or Fan Service or, in the most insulting cases, their reason to be in the story at all. Which often means uncompromisingly Badass females are more disposable. Thus, the Vasquez character may be depicted as a Butch, regardless of the actual attractiveness of the two women. No Guy Wants an Amazon is often the cause of this.

A more charitable explanation would be that there's much more shock value in killing the tough, competent warrior; leaving the less competent one around thus increases suspense, since her survival isn't as assured, especially if Anyone Can Die. It's easier for an audience to feel fear if the Final Girl is less battle savvy and thus more vulnerable -- a hardened Vasquez left alone wouldn't be as terrifying. The death of the Vasquez character is thus a form of Worf Effect or Sacrificial Lion. Alternatively, the Vasquez may have been made an honorary man. Alternately, or conjunctively with any of the above charitable explanations, the trope may be justified in that Vasquez is simply much more likely to be doing something that gets her killed, whether or not she's an honorary man as part of the story.

A third option would be: The Vasquez acts like the female equivalent of a gung-ho action guy, who's all brawn and no brain.

Writers will sometimes compensate by making the more attractive woman some sort of mysterious secret agent, thus relegating the Vasquez character to a Mook or Red Shirt by comparison. This may also be a byproduct of filmmakers' insistence that the female lead (who is likely to outlive her supporting cast in an action movie) be significantly more attractive than anyone else.

Compare Bury Your Gays, Faux Action Girl, Final Girl (the weakest and most innocent girl is the only one to live), The Worf Effect, Death By Pragmatism. Overlaps with The World's Expert on Getting Killed, where the most qualified person in the whole cast, male or female, is killed by the Big Bad, often with humiliating ease. Read more: Cracked.com: 5 Old-Timey Prejudices That Still Show Up in Every Movie

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

Examples of Vasquez Always Dies include:


Anime & Manga

  • Played with in Shinkon Gattai Godannar, where the rather tomboyish action girl Shadow is almost killed by The Virus, BECAUSE she's not feminine.
  • Jane Proudfoot (Peri Gilpin), the tough female Space Marine in Final Fantasy the Spirits Within dies; the scientist wearing the skintight jumpsuit lives.
    • Then again, Jane's entire character is a blatant Shout-Out to Vasquez - even some of her lines are paraphrases from Aliens.
  • Vexille has two Action Girl leads and the more badass one is the one invoking Diabolus Ex Machina in the end.
  • Let's not count the times when the Gundam protagonists fell in love with female Ace Pilots only to invoke the Love Hurts trope to Earth-shattering levels. This is not always the case, of course.
    • In Gundam Seed we have the maternal, long-haired, Murrue Ramius and her stern and short-haired XO Natarle Badguriel. Later on, when Natarle gets her own ship, she and her former commander face off. Guess which one didn't make it to the sequel.
  • Invoked in the second season of Vandread, where Gascogne (seriously, even BC is hotter than her, what with being a guy in woman's body) rams the enemy mothership, allowing the rest of the crew to escape. She survives and returns for the Grand Finale.
    • Another example would be how many chances the writers missed to kill off Meia.
  • Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still - out of the two female members of Experts of Justice, Yoshi, the blue-skinned, muscular one dies halfway through the series, while the very feminine Ginrei survives to the last episode Only to die as well, subverting this trope.
  • In the Halo Legends mini movies, the survival rate of female Spartans is...0%.

Comic Books

  • In the Punisher: MAX arc "Man of Stone," the ex-CIA killer O'Brien. She's hot, smart, and highly skilled at violence and mayhem, and her panties get wet whenever Frank is murdering the fuck out of people who deserve it. They have a brutal, joyless whirlwind romance. So of course she steps on a mine at the end of the story. Then again, if you don't want dying to be on the agenda, you shouldn't be in a Punisher: MAX arc.


Fan Fiction

  • Averted with a vengeance in the Battle Royale story 72 Hours, in which Ashley Vasquez (a clear homage to the trope namer in both name and character) is actually the sole survivor of the Program. The more traditional Final Girl, Katherine, comes in fourth place.


Film

  • The Trope Namer is from Aliens, in which the chinup-pulling, smartgun-wielding Colonial Marine Vasquez dies, while the maternal, civilian Ripley lives. Several other female marines also die, but are given less characterization and attention. James Cameron likes his Action Girls, but they apparently need to be acting on maternal instincts.
  • That is actually the only film in the series to play the trope straight since in the first film, the less competent Lambert gets killed by the Alien while Ripley survives (since she simply doesn't get paralyzed with fear like Lambert does) and of course there are no other women in the third film.
    • Alien is a special case, and viewing the film in 1979 is impossible to duplicate for viewers, now that Sigourney Weaver is both more famous than anyone else in the film, and known for kicking ass[1].
    • Also, Alien is a horror film with science fiction trappings, rather than an action film with science fiction trappings like its sequel. Viewed that way, Ripley's survival makes more sense - she is the most moral member of the crew.
    • Alien Resurrection deconstructs it by having three Action Girls with varying degrees of femininity and the two more likely to fill the Vasquez role survive. Hillard on the other hand, while shown to be competent in a fight, starts to lose it once her boyfriend is killed and ultimately panics when up against the Aliens, leading to her death.
  • May Day in the James Bond movie A View to a Kill.
  • In Resident Evil the fatigue-wearing, aggressive Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez) becomes a Zombie Infectee; while blonde, minidress-wearing Alice (Milla Jovovich) becomes the Final Girl.
  • In The Matrix, the gruff, spikey-headed Switch is killed, but Trinity, the love-interest, lives.
    • In The Matrix Revolutions, a female character named Charra with a crew-cut, a tanktop, and big ol' biceps is introduced right before the battle against the machines to help out Zee, who is just trying to hold the line until her husband Link shows up. Guess what happens.
    • Trinity dies
  • In the first Starship Troopers, Dizzy Flores, the QB of the football team and tough marine dies while the feminine starship pilot survives. Interestingly, Dizzy was a man in the novel, but died in the first chapter, so at least she lasted longer than her book counterpart.
    • Does the fact that Dina Meyer is immeasurably more attractive than Denise Richards (although YMMV) make this a subversion?
    • "Fleet do the flying, MI do the dying"
    • Also applies to the Roughnecks' original Corporal, who gets fried by the gigantic lava-spewing bug before Rico grenades it.
    • The only person in Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation to get off the planet alive is a pregnant woman. Must be all those maternal instincts keeping the bugs away.
    • Averted in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, where The Squad (more like a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, actually, but play along with us for a moment) is marooned on a bug planet. Out of four guys, one tough female trooper, and one idealistic young flight attendant, only the latter AND the Vasquez survive until the end of the film.
  • A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors has Taryn, whose dream powers are having a ridiculously large mohawk and a gang outfit. She doesn't fare as well as the notably more feminine Kristen.
  • Holly from The Descent is a curious example. While she fits the "least feminine" part of the description, she was an impulsive and reckless amateur who obviously saw herself as an Action Girl but ended up getting herself injured through her carelessness which led to her getting killed off first. In the sequel, which has four Action Girls, Cath the trained cave diver is killed first while Juno and Sarah being average outdoor enthusiasts die last and the cop Rios is left alive.
  • Carnosaur 2, admittedly a film that blatantly rips off Aliens, features a tough female clearly modeled on Vasquez who is killed pretty gruesomely during the finale.
  • In Avatar, Michelle Rodriguez is the gruff pilot who doesn't make it to the end. The Blue-Skinned Space Babe Nubile Savage love interest lives. There is a middle-ground female character, an older, maternal but no-nonsense scientist (played by Sigourney Weaver, a.k.a. Ripley). Yet strangely enough, she also dies.
    • This trope could just as easily be called "Michelle Rodriguez", since she frequently plays characters like this who usually get killed off at some point.
      • Rodriguez admitted that she deliberately chooses Action Girl roles of the non-Waif Fu variety, knowing perfectly well that her character will most likely die. A price to pay for refusing to go along with a Hollywood-accepted female character.
  • Subverted in Machete: we're meant to think Michelle Rodriguez's character dies when she's shot through the eye, but she reappears at the climax of the movie with an Eyepatch of Power (yes, we all know there's a brain directly behind your eyeballs, but just roll with it).
  • Another example of Michelle Rodriguez, this time in Battle: Los Angeles. Averted in that she survives, for once.
  • Played straight in Lake Placid 3, where Yancy Butler's character takes down two giant crocodiles with a hunting knife after being both bitten and shot, and then just... lies down and dies.
  • In Twenty Eight Weeks Later, Scarlet is killed by Dom, and that leaves Tammy to take Doyle's rifle and become the new Action Girl.
  • The Hot Amazon is the first contestant killed in Slashers, just after she had killed one the eponymous psychos.
  • Costello in Leprechaun 4: In Space.
  • Averted in the film Battleship. Rihanna plays the only strong, tough, female soldier - but she ends up surviving.

Literature

  • Matthew Stover's Heroes Die features two prominent female characters, both Action Girls. Shanna/Pallas Ril is the protagonist's love interest and The Messiah, and despite her being an Action Girl, the whole plot basically revolves around Caine's attempts to rescue her from the Big Bad. Talaan, on the other hand, is a Badass warrior woman who might even be a better fighter than Caine. You guess which one dies halfway through the book. Go on, guess.
    • Of course, they're both dead by the end of book 2. Matthew Stover's problem isn't that he can't write strong female characters. He just can't let them live.
      • You think they got it bad? Look at what Olga went through in Caine Black Knife. Sure, she survived that book, but the backstory reveals that she ran into Berne shortly before the events of Heroes Die. Daaaaamn.
        • It may be worth noting that all these strong, likable female characters in The Acts of Caine have one thing in common: Berne wastes all of them. Even after he's dead.
    • Any complaints you have about the lifespans of likable female characters in The Acts of Caine series should be addressed to Stover's other, less popular novels, Iron Dawn and Jericho Moon. Baara will fuck you up.
  • Camilla in The Aeneid, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
  • The two main Action Girl characters in the South Seas Treasure Game (Dream Park) are the sexy Acacia and the indefatiguable Mary-Martha. Both acquit themselves well, but only one of them makes it to the end of the Game, and it's not the middle-aged, 4'1" veteran with the battleax.
    • Inverted in the second sequel, The California Voodoo Game. Mary-Em makes it out alive and with a massive experience boost, while Acacia's character is Killed Off for Real, causing her to go through a Heroic BSOD.
  • Dayna Jurgens in The Stand pretty much is Vasquez. Never send this character alone into a high risk infiltration; they're pretty much guaranteed to go out in a blaze of glory.
  • Played with in the short story Assumption (scroll down) by Desmond Warzel. Belasco proves to be more effective in combat than the men or the unnamed female narrator, and, although she isn't killed, she's the only one seriously injured.
  • In the Shane Schofield series of novels by Matthew Reilly, there are arguably two women who fit the Vasquez model. First there's Mother (short for motherfucker) who is over six-feet tall, shaven headed and has a bionic leg. Also the ability to kill several men with her bare hands. Then there's Elizabeth 'Fox' Gant, who is slightly more ladylike, but has the short hair and the ass kicking ability. This trope is mostly averted, up until the book Scarecrow, where Gant is beheaded by the asshole of the novel.
  • In The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, tomboyish older sister Meryl is the one who becomes ill with the Gray Death, while delicate younger sister Addie survives and must carry on Meryl's mission.
  • While the heroines of Spy High are all Action Girls, it's Jennifer who gets killed off in the third book, with Lori (the most stereotypically feminine) and Cally (the least focused and devoted to her training) surviving. Despite this, Jen's replacement Bex is a bigger Action Girl than any of them.


Live Action TV

  • Ana Lucia and Juliet on Lost. Kate's only true competition for Alpha Female of the island or the affections of Jack and Sawyer.
  • In Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena dies in the final episode but Gabrielle lives on.
    • Although Gabrielle was essentially a "Vasquez" type character herself by then.
      • Maybe compared to other women, but definitely not compared to Xena, making this a straight example.
  • Robin Hood had two Action Girls, one Dark Action Girl and one Faux Action Girl. One Action Girl is murdered, the second is Put on a Bus (after undergoing Chickification), the Dark Action Girl is blown up, and the Too Dumb to Live Faux Action Girl is the only one who makes it to the end of the series, mainly thanks to the fact that the male cast has all but carried her through on their backs. Sigh.
  • Power Rangers RPM arguably features this, as the trigger happy Silver Ranger gets "deleted" in the finale, while the girlier Yellow Ranger does not. However, the series also has a character named Vasquez who doesn't appear to die.
  • Played straight in Star Trek: The Next Generation with Natasha Yar. Notably, the character was originally designed as a Vasquez Expy.
    • Although in this case it wasn't the writer's idea to kill off the character, but the actor's.
  • In Choudenshi Bioman, Mika, the more tomboyish and aggressive of the two female Rangers, is killed off in episode 10 (necessary, because her actress had quit) while The Chick, Hikaru, survives. However, Mika's replacement on the team was very much an Action Girl and did many of her own stunts.
  • If any female character shows signs of being an Action Girl on 24, then you'd better not get too attached to her. In fact, the only recurring female characters to survive to the end of the series were the Voice with an Internet Connection, the president and The Scrappy.
  • In the fourth series finale of Merlin, Arthur has two women on his team: Guinevere and Isolde. Though their skill in combat varied wildly from episode to episode, Gwen was definitely the more passive and feminine of the two, whilst Isolde was tougher and had a more difficult lifestyle. Gwen makes it through the battle, Isolde is killed.
  • Inverted in Primeval where tomboy Abby has survived the series while the incredibly more feminine Claudia Brown and Sarah Page get killed off.


Video Games

  • In Red Faction 2, the team's sexual-innuendo-dropping stealth operative in a Spy Catsuit not only survives the game, but is your main ally for the 2nd half. The tough redhead sniper with an Amazonian build and butch haircut dies Because you kill her, after she and the rest of your squad do a Face Heel Turn.
    • Actually, Tangier's survival depends on your behavior throughout the game. If you've been killing or failing to save civilians/allies, she will die.
  • Played straight in the Neverwinter Nights mod "The Bastard of Kosigan", in which (as far as the story has been written, at least) the only female character who doesn't disappear after the Optional Sexual Encounter or die automatically is Ernie, who is much more feminine than Alex, whose Plotline Death was very frustrating.
  • In the first Clock Tower game, playable character Jennifer's friends Ann and Laura have a chance of surviving to the end, depending on your actions. Her best friend, the tomboyish Lotte, has no such chance.
    • Though canonically, all three of them are dead.
  • Played with in the Dragon Age Awakening expansion. Mhairi will always die, and of the two female companions who can make it to the end, both the tough Sigrun and the feminine Velanna can die...but Sigrun is killed in a decisive way, while in Velanna's case, they Never Found the Body.
  • Played straight in The Orion Conspiracy. Brooks, who is definitely the Vasquez in this game, gets killed off trying to stop Ward after he had gone berserk. LaPaz, who is easily more feminine compared to Brooks, survives.
  • Averted in Fallout 3. Reilly's Rangers features two action girls: Reilly, the leader, who is more traditionally feminine, and Brick, who is pretty much an Expy of Vasquez, being quite butch and toting around a Gatling Gun she calls Eugene. While it is possible for them to be killed by enemies, neither one suffers a mandatory Plotline Death.
  • Inverted in Final Fantasy VII, with You Know Who's death.

Web Comics


Western Animation

Notes

  1. in the original film, actors from a variety of backgrounds were cast. John Hurt, the first to die, was probably the most generally familiar, as he was very famous in his native England, and had been for a long time, and was hugely popular in the US at the time, as I, Claudius had recently aired on public television, and been a massive hit in the US. His death early in the film was a shock much like the surprise of Janet Leigh's death in Psycho. Tom Skerritt was also very well known, and probably the most widely regarded as a tough guy, and the one audiences expected to be alive at the end. When he died, audiences pretty much gave up hope that anyone would survive. Veronica Cartwright (Lambert) was not as big a name as Hurt or Skerritt, but she had already had a long career. She had been a child actress, who had been a semi-regular on Leave It to Beaver, and had worked with director Alfred Hitchcock in The Birds, as well as with actresses like Audrey Hepburn. There was a bit of a joke, too, that younger audiences may not get, in that her sister was Angela Cartwright, a regular cast member on Lost in Space. Sigourney Weaver was the only unknown in the film, and should have been the "red shirt." But, essentially, the characters died in the reverse order of how famous the actors playing them were. It gave the film a downward spiraling, and sort of hopeless feeling. It's impossible to recreate that. Someone who has not seen the movie in the present day, and doesn't know the ending, is still unlikely not to know who Sigourney Weaver is, or what kind of character she usually plays. Moreover, a younger person, someone born since the film came out, may not recognize any of the other actors. So, Weaver being alive at the end makes perfect sense from a typical Hollywood "way it's done" perspective, where the star is the last one standing.
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