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A female character is put into immediate danger in order to put the cast in motion. Her plight unites the cast, causing them to put aside their differences and work together to save her or provide the premise for The Quest and is considered Older Than Dirt.
The nature of the distress varies. The classic damsel has been kidnapped or captured and is locked away, awaiting rescue and afraid for her life and virtue. She may also be lost or stranded in a hostile area, trapped, or suffering any of terrible fates where she needs help to survive.
In other cases, the damsel's distress is due to someone in her own familysuch as her husbandher Archnemesis Dador a Wicked Stepmother. If the abuser is her husband, she may be rescued by a Wife-Basher Basher. This set-up is plausible if the damsel in distress is a beloved character, but can be very jarring if the audience fails to see what's so valuable about the damsel and why the rest of the cast should drop everything to go to her rescue. Some Looking for my damsel in distress are so annoying that the audience wouldn't mind seeing them dead ; others end up in trouble in a way that just screams Character Derailment.
On the other hand, anyone can have a bad day; perhaps she just had a moment of Badass in Distress after being thrown a Distress Ball. A possible way to shake things up a bit is to give the damsel something to do besides stand around uselessly. The Damsel out of Distress will put up a fight, which can either help or make things worse. The Defiant Captive damsel will snarl and rage where her meeker sister would scream.
There are even subversions in the line of Play-Along Prisoner : the Decoy Damsel puts on all the appearance of this trope, but her helplessness is all for show. Sometimes the character gets kidnapped for the sake of her good looks or royal bloodbut in other works she's more likely doing something that is a threat to the party that kidnaps her reporters are commonwhich allows her to look smart and independent before she needs to be saved. Alternatively, she can end up prisoner as a Heroic Sacrifice ; situations where she puts herself in peril so that others can get away are popular, even if her plan ultimately fails.
Generally expected to give The Hero a Smooch of Victory when he rescues her. Assuming he doesof course This is a type of Living MacGuffin. If the character does not become a Damsel Scrappy but still is constantly captured, they are a Deated Victim. Compare with Disposable Womanwhere a barely-developed character is killed off for Emotional Torquebut forgotten not long afterwards. Common for a Caged Bird Metaphor to be used. For obvious reasons this trope is Always Femaleunless a Crossdresser plays the role; if such a damsel is still the Love Interest for the protagonist, as the female version often is, "she" is probably Camp Gay and the whole thing becomes more likely to be Played for Laughs.
For the straight Spear Counterpartsee Distressed Dude. If the girl is actually faking this for her own benefits, depending on her purposes she's either a Deliberately Distressed Damsel or a Decoy Damsel. A damsel who rescues herself is a Damsel out of Distress who probably used an Improvised Weapon.
If the hero leaves the damsel in distress for the momentthat's Delaying the Rescue. If the hero tries to rescue them even though they don't need rescuing, then The Victim Must Be Confused. See also The Captivity Narrative for a plot based on this. Not to be confused with the comedy film Damsels in Distress or the P. Wodehouse novel A Damsel in Distress. This item is available in the Trope Co. Willy Fog, Rigodon and co. She's about to be burned alive with her deceased husband as a human sacrifice to the goddess Kali.
Community Showcase More. Follow TV Tropes. You need to to do this. Get Known if you don't have an. Just another Wednesday for Princess Peach. I'm the princess! Child Ballad King Estmere. The king goes wooing on the recommendation of his brother, and arrives to find the lady is being forced to marry.
He rescues her. Child Ballad The Maid Freed from the Gallows has the heroine about to be hanged if she is not ransomed. Various relatives arrive and declare they are there to see her hanged. Finally, her true love arrives and ransoms her. Most American versions of this ballad feature a Gender Flip version, of a man about to be hanged, but this is the older variant. Comic Books. Comic book heroes seem to spend about half their time rescuing some girl they've been dating on-and-off for about seventy years from something each issue, from Olive Oyl to Lois Lane. Unsurprisingly, people who Love someone's alter ego often suffer from this trope.
Batman sometimes has a Distressed Damsel love interest. Cloud in the Seventies, and Jezebel Jet in the modern age. No, wait, scratch that last one Marvel Mystery Comicswhich started inoperates approximately half on this trope. The damsels are more likely women of the week than romantic interests, and sometimes don't even have names.
The Angel is a world-wandering costumed vigilante with no specific purpose, so seeing a random woman in danger is always a good way to get him involved in a plot. The woman in the second story was in danger because she had something someone wanted. The one in the third was kidnapped off the street to be a Human Sacrifice. The woman in the third Human Torch story is literally Chained to a Railway. In the second Namor story, it isn't the hero being spurred to action, but the police, as Namor kidnapped and almost killed a woman because he didn't realize humans couldn't breathe water.
Also subverted, in a different way, by Mary Jane Watson after her marriage to Peter. Whenever she's confronted by obsessive stalkers, she almost always manages to escape on her own, without any help from her super-powered husband. Even more subverted by the fact that, more often than not, Mary Jane is the one who bails out Spider-Man whenever one of his opponents has the upper hand in a fight. Even before their marriage, when Mary Jane was witness to a Spidey fight going poorly, she'd often brazenly distract or sabotage the bad guy, relying on her charm and wit to Looking for my damsel in distress her from the dangerous consequences.
Even Aunt flippin' May has taken out bad guys. When fairly recently Looking for my damsel in distress Chameleon had assembled a group of Spider-Bad guys to go after Peter Parker this is just before Civil War, natch the Chameleon himself disguised himself as Peter to go and kidnap Aunt May.
Aunt May opens the door, and lets her nephew in, and gives him some tea and biscuits while she has to finish her knitting before revealing that she drugged the fucking tea cause she'd recognize her beloved nephew anywhere and Chameleon obviously was an impostor, holding up "GOTCHA" written across the sweater she just made in a knitted moment of awesome.
Lois Lane is probably the most famous damsel in distress, and in almost all versions comics, cartoon, films needs to be saved frequently by Superman. Zatanna frequently finds herself Bound and Gagged due to the fact that she needs to speak backwards in order to cast her spells. Her rogues gallery seem to be very appear of her Achilles' Heel and often place her in these positions of peril. When Zatanna works with other superheroes, she often plays the role of Damsel in Distress due to her Weaksauce Weaknesstypically fuelled by Author Appeal.
It very rarely happens to Kara, though, and when it does, it is because she has been overpowered by someone like Darkseid or she is playing along, and she hardly ever needs to be saved. In Superman vs. Both women are understandably pissed off about it. Wonder Woman : In her defense, it rarely happens and is usually because of some stronger magic de-powering her or cosmic asshole pulling some tricks. In the early days, Diana is often seen bound and gagged in her comics thanks to her creator being a bondage fetish but this is subverted as she's the one who breaks herself free which, which was incidentally at the time an allegory for the slavery of Africans.
Wonder Woman : Myrna Dearfield gets kidnapped by the Yellow Mask Gang while they're looking to steal her husband's research. She has to be rescued from the gang's queenpin Tirza by Wonder Woman herself after they get the research from her husbands duplicitous assistant, and is saved from death at the amoral gangsters' hands just in the nick of time. One time in Superman: Red Son Russian Batman was able to capture Diana by using her lasso against her but after Russian Superman pleaded with her to save him, Wonder Woman broke her lasso and knocked down Batman easily.
But this was a bad thing as breaking her lasso cut her powers in half and permanently damaged her Fables Snow White, Rose Red, Cinderella, Beauty, Brair Rose sleeping beauty and Red Red Riding Hood all get their fair share of "damseling" mostly when they were in in the Homeland fighting the armies of the Adversary but usually can look after themselves the rest of the time. Brair Rose's curse of falling asleep every time she pricks her finger would seem like a major disadvantage until it's revealed she can make everybody around her sleep as well.
Heather Hudson attempted to invert this trope in Alpha Flighteven referencing it. When she finds out her two-hour wait for her husband Guardian is a set-up, she tries to storm out: "Other wives and girlfriends may be content to play bait for the good guys, but I'm not going to stand around waiting for you to use me to lure Mac into your lair. The woman with her throws her across the room. Her being a pacifist, it kind of makes sense that she'd have trouble fighting with kidnappers. The main character of Empowered almost always ends up captured by villains, as a parody of Faux Action Girls.
Naturally this le to her being the laughingstock of the superhero community. Nonetheless, despite all the ridicule she receives and her general lack of success as a superheroine, she proves to be a Determinator who refuses to quit. Most of the women in Sin City due to its Noir roots. This reaches its paroxysm in Book 14, where after she got temporary depowered and had her friends saving her, but still saves her friends from the new Big Bad Abyss, who none of her friend could even scratch.
And all of this while still depowered. In almost all of the TMNT continuities, she is a good friend of the Turtles, and is a love interest to Donatello in the cartoon. While it varies by incarnation, as the turtles' most prominent human friend she is often in need of rescue, particularly in the cartoon. In ViolineVioline is regularly in need of saving, and occasionally tied up as well. A minor character example in Copperhead when Martineau is kidnapped by Clay to aid his escape from prison. Street Fighter has Ibuki in the comic of her own name.
She is temporarily kidnapped by rival ninjas in the Geki clan. She manages to escape after a slight distraction to the evil ninjas from her master. Shrek : Lampshaded and averted in the first movie, especially in a scene where Robin Hood and his Merry Men try to "rescue" Fiona from the ogre they believe has kidnapped her, only to have her rebuff him and beat up all his men in a combination of styles from Xena: Warrior Princess and The Matrix.
And in Shrek Forever Afterwhere in an alternate universe where Shrek was never born and never came for her, Fiona eventually decided to rescue herself. Played straight at first but later subverted with Fiona in Shrek 4-Dwho at first is helpless after Thelonius kidnaps her, but eventually gains the upper hand and beats him.
Not that she minds Shows up often in Disney Animated Canon : Cinderella : Cinderella is locked in her room by Lady Tremaine in the third act and the mice bring up the key needed to unlock the door. Sleeping Beauty : Aurora falls into an enchanted sleep after pricking her finger on the spinning wheel while hypnotized by Maleficent, and Phillip's final battle with assistance from the Three Good Fairies against Maleficent is to save her.
The Little Mermaid : Ariel is trapped by Ursula at the bottom of a vortex in the climax before Eric plows into Ursula with a ship. Peter Pan : Wendy is almost always attacked by Tinker Bell, who almost murdered her, most notably when Tink made the Lost Boys attempt to bludgeon her to death.Looking for my damsel in distress
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Damsel in distress