This is something that has bothered me for a long time: when female characters are involved in life-threatening – whether as a protagonist or a villain – they are far more likely to survive, avoid injury, and/or be protected than male characters are. I don’t say this because it’s unfair to the male characters; I say it because it’s an insult to the female ones.
Take the second episode Log Horizon. Of the six enemies that attacked the protagonists – five of which were male – only two survived: the healer who was completely knocked out of the battle since the beginning, and the woman.
Another example is in the recent The Avengers film. There’s a scene during the final battle where (spoiler alert) Dr. Banner informs the others that he’s always angry, and then turns into the Hulk. I love this scene so much I’ve watched it countless times, but what I’m thinking of happens immediately afterwards; as the Avengers scramble for cover from falling debris, Captain America decides to shield Black Widow while the similarly powerless Hawkeye is forced to fend for himself.
I could list off many more examples, but these are instructive, and in fact the second example is excusable – since Captain America is a character that was trapped in ice for decades, he’s literally a man from a previous era, so him choosing to be chivalrous and protect the lady is understandable. What I don’t understand is why writers who haven’t been frozen in time since WWII persist in doing the same.
Combat is dangerous, so if female characters enter into it I expect them to have roughly the same chance of being injured or killed as a male character does, depending on their skill level, plot importance, and of course, the occasional spot of luck. If Shingeki no Kyojin’s Mikasa goes around escaping injury, I will accept this because she’s a stone cold badass; it’s when similarly skilled female characters are left alive or unscathed while their male fellows are shoved through the meat grinder that I cry foul.
For the record, I’m talking about combat personnel here – I don’t expect your standard damsel in distress to be collecting war scars anymore than I expect a rescued businessman to have his head blown off.
In short, female characters shouldn’t have invisible plot armor that makes them less prone to injury or death than men. If they’re mooks, I expect them to die en masse; if they’re in the war, I expect them to get shot at, shot through, and occasionally die. Letting female characters live or escape injury isn’t doing women in general any good. It’s actually insulting.
Go ahead, put your female characters through the wringer. They can take it.