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[[quoteright:350:[[VideoGame/SuperMario3DLand http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Mario-DamselInDistress_2325.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:[[SaveThePrincess Just another Wednesday for]] [[Franchise/SuperMarioBros Princess Peach.]]]]

->''"Why is she always the one getting kidnapped?'' I'm ''the princess!"''
-->-- '''Amalia Sheran Sharm''', ''WesternAnimation/{{Wakfu}}''

A character, usually female, is put into immediate danger in order to put the cast in motion. Her plight unites the cast, causing them to put aside [[DividedWeFall their differences]] and work together to save her or provide the premise for TheQuest.

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, desperately ill, or suffering any number of terrible fates where she needs help to survive.

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 damsels are so annoying that the audience [[DamselScrappy wouldn't mind seeing them dead]]; others end up in trouble in a way that just screams CharacterDerailment. This is particularly dangerous for the resident ActionGirl who will seem [[{{Chickification}} suddenly weak and helpless]] if her stint as a damsel isn't properly justified -- if the moment is bad enough, she can be demoted to FauxActionGirl. On the other hand, anyone can have a bad day; perhaps she just had a moment of BadassInDistress after being thrown a DistressBall.

[[RealWomenDontWearDresses Don't expect people to sympathize with the damsel if she doesn't free herself]], even if she really is helpless. The trend of the moment is to give the damsel something to do besides stand around uselessly. The DamselOutOfDistress will put up a fight, which can either help or make things worse. The DefiantCaptive damsel will snarl and rage where her meeker sister would scream. There are even subversions in the line of PlayAlongPrisoner: the DecoyDamsel 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 [[WorldsMostBeautifulWoman good looks]] or [[BlueBlood royal blood]], but in other works she's more likely doing something that is a threat to the party that kidnaps her ([[IntrepidReporter reporters are common]]), which allows her to look smart and independent [[UnfortunateImplications before she needs to be saved]]. Alternatively, she can end up prisoner as a HeroicSacrifice; 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 TheHero a SmoochOfVictory when he rescues her. Assuming [[ILetGwenStacyDie he does]], [[RedundantRescue of course]]...

This is a type of LivingMacGuffin. ChainedToARock is an ancient form; GirlInTheTower and HypnotizeThePrincess came later. Damsels in distress are often BoundAndGagged, especially where AuthorAppeal is concerned.

If the kidnapper in question is particularly nasty, expect an IHaveYouNowMyPretty situation to occur. If the character does not become a DamselScrappy but still is constantly captured, they are a DesignatedVictim. A more sexist version is the DisposableWoman.

For the GenderFlip, see DistressedDude. See also DistressBall, StandardFemaleGrabArea, DeterminedWidow, IHaveYourWife, ThePresidentsDaughter, SaveThePrincess. If the girl is actually ''faking'' this for her own benefits, depending on her purposes she's either a DeliberatelyDistressedDamsel or a DecoyDamsel. A typical damsel that rescues herself is a DamselOutOfDistress. If she has a strong spirit despite captivity than he/she is a DefiantCaptive. If the hero leaves the damsel in distress, that's DelayingTheRescue. See also TheCaptivityNarrative for a plot based on this.

There is much interest in making this a DiscreditedTrope due to the perceived sexism historically associated with it. It is definitely not as widespread in the western world as it used to be and there are many instances in media that are deliberately written as an [[ActionGirl aversion]] to this trope.

Not to be confused with the 2012 comedy film ''Film/DamselsInDistress''.

''[[TropeCo/DistressedDamsel This item]] is available in the TropeCo/TropeCo catalog.''

!!Example subpages

* DamselInDistress/AnimeAndManga
* DamselInDistress/ComicBooks
* DamselInDistress/FairyTales
* DamselInDistress/AnimatedFilms
* DamselInDistress/LiveActionFilms
* DamselInDistress/{{Literature}}
* DamselInDistress/LiveActionTV
* DamselInDistress/{{Music}}
* DamselInDistress/MythsAndReligion
* DamselInDistress/{{Pinball}}
* DamselInDistress/VideoGames
* DamselInDistress/WebComics
* DamselInDistress/WebOriginal
* DamselInDistress/WesternAnimation

!!Other examples


* Lola Bunny at the end of this [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAB-zHpcmag UK advert for Walkers Crisps]].

* Literature/{{Child Ballad|s}} ''[[http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch060.htm 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.
* Literature/{{Child Ballad|s}} ''[[http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch095.htm 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 GenderFlip version, of a man about to be hanged, but this is the older variant.)
* In the Literature/{{Child Ballad|s}} ''Literature/SirAldingar'', the queen.

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* [[MarySue Ariana Black]] of Fanfic/TheArianaBlackSeries gets kidnapped or otherwise endangered by Voldemort at least once per fic.
* Nala is this at times in Fanfic/TheLionKingAdventures, most notably when she's kidnapped by Scar and Hago in ''King's Ransom''.
* ''FanFic/TalesOfTheEmperasque'' has Isha, Eldar fertility and life goddess, kept in prison by Nurgle. Her rescue is the first CrowningMomentOfAwesome of many.

[[folder:Music Videos]]
* Music/MichaelJackson's "Thriller" video had this twice, in the movie the Michael and his date are watching at the start, then again the date's dream. It's implied that it happens a third time once she wakes up.

* Alice Faulkner in ''Theatre/SherlockHolmes''.
* The sister in Creator/JohnMilton's ''Theatre/{{Comus}}'',