I...really just don't understand this trope. Or whatever it's trying to articulate. The name itself seems rife with Double Standards and could easily be taken out of context. Like say if the "Neutral Female" in question was a baby or a small child. Or if she's just an average person with no combat skills, superpowers, or experience like a good deal of people on this site. I guess I get the gist of it in the sense that she "could" help, as in having ability to kick some ass but just deciding not to for whatever reason. But, from the examples listed, it really sounds more like its just any female character incapable of helping because well...she just doesn't have the capacity to do so. As for why she's involved in the conflict at hand? A little thing called context, folks. You could hardly blame The Load for being around if he literarily had to be dragged there in the first place. You also couldn't hold it against them if they are not too eager to risk their lives just to fail just so that they can fulfill their obligation to womankind. It seems more people here are fixated on the ever so horrible sin of having a female character not being up to her ears in weapons and turning into a killing machine. Because the only way a woman can be useful, realistic, or likeable is if she's sword-wielding/gun-toting/ super-poweredBadass. Everything about the trope, from its name to its description just feels abitrary at best, outright sexist at worst. Because basically it's just The Load but with two X chromosomes.
UPDATE: I recently took it upon myself to edit the trope description. Sorry, but the old description just felt way too vague and open-ended for comfort. It came off as an invitation to debase "any" inactive female character under the abitrary pretense of "The author hates strong women." Or the excuse that she could help by throwing something regardless of the actual context and environmnet she's in. I'd figured that it should at least be firmly established that she may have had it within her ability to do something (such as run away, call for help, trying to distract the villain), but, only seems capable of just standing around, passively waiting for an outcome.
This trope itself kind of bugs me. People are always complaining about The Load, the Reckless Sidekick, and others that foolishly put themselves in the line of fire when they only get in the heroes' way and otherwise hinder their efforts. With this trope, it seems like the Neutral Female is criticized no matter what she does. If she actively tries to help the hero and simply screws up (which is more likely than not if she doesn't have any actual skills or training), she's accused of being The Load, the Faux Action Girl or whatever else. If she does the sensible thing and stays out of the hero's way, particularly when she'd only be putting them both in danger if she tried to intervene, then this trope applies. I mean, if I'm the Neutral Male, and the hero is fighting for his or her life to rescue me, my instinct would be to stay the hell out of the way, particularly since anything I do would simply put us both in danger. It's why in Real Life I don't try and fight fires, or catch criminals-I don't have the skills to do it, and if I try I'll more than likely just make things worse. So why criticize people who quite sensibly want to leave these types of dangerous things up to heroes who have actual competence and skill at whatever it is they're doing?
I think the trope applies more to heroines who are supposed to be on the same level as the hero, but don't show it once they've been captured. Sure, a civilian hostage really shouldn't be trying to help the SWAT team that's rescuing her, but, and this comes up a lot in console RPGs, a heroine who was a powerful, magic-flinging goddess of destruction just a few minutes before she got captured suddenly becomes a passive, useless lump during her rescue. Final Fantasy heroines have a bad habit of doing that, but the worst example I can think of is MOMO from Xenosaga, who, despite being a perfectly good party member most of the time, not only won't help the heroes fight Albedo while they're rescuing her, but actively interferes with their efforts, to the point that it starts to look like she's got some kind of weird Stockholm Syndrome crush on the guy. In short, it all depends on how capable a fighter the heroine was portrayed as before she got captured.
No, that's Faux Action Girl. But you've got the right idea. This trope is about the Fridge Logic that occurs when there's something the damsel could do (say, throwing something at the villain), but she doesn't. How is it dumb to try to throw a vase at a villain who is too distracted fighting The Hero to turn on you? It's something even an ordinary person could reasonably do, that would turn the odds in her favor.
Nooooo, it's this trope. Faux Action Girl is someone who consistently fails to live up to her reputation. What I'm describing is someone who IS a good and useful fighter most of the time, until she's captured and suddenly turns into a bystander for the duration of her rescue.
Part of the problem with the assumption that the damsel should throw a vase at a villain is that she runs the risk of beaning the hero by mistake. An untrained Muggle like your typical hostage or kidnap victim runs the risk of being more of a hindrance than a help. If I'm the Neutral Male, and The Hero is fighting to save my sorry behind, chances are that, with my bad aim and poor reflexes, I'll probably end up shooting him if I get my hands on a stray gun that fell out of the villain's pockt. Nice job breaking it, hostage!
But this is fiction. As in, not real life. In fiction, people tend to be extraordinary — otherwise why would we be reading about them? It's just another instance of the blanket assumption that men take action while women wait by the sidelines, regardless of their ability or inability to do anything to help.
I think it's being this trope is almost Always Female, so a girl who doesn't get involved with the fighting, even, like the original troper noted, it would more likely hurt the hero, is a disgrace to all women.
Trope is supposed to be when the female could obviously do something helpful but doesn't. Quality of the examples is up to you.
The trope Neutral Female seems badly named. Since when did neutral mean inneffective? Example such as the Spiderman 2 one, Mary-Jane whacks Doc Oc on the head, and is owned. That's hardly neutral, that's being on Peter's side, but ineffective. Neutral is not choosing a side, not picking a side but being no good to it.
And let's not forget Aunt May, who pulled off that stunt more successfully earlier in the movie.
Exactly. The trope name would rather suggest a woman who will happily watch on as the two guys duke it out for her favour, and her competence can range freely from "helpless" to "able to easily own both of the men at once". Fights are decided, at the roughest level, by a combination of strength, skill (where the two include weapons) and luck. These are all desirable traits to have in a mate (for the men as well) and fighting is a time-honoured method of settling mating disputes, and works well enough in nature, no matter how much we like to hate on it. The neutral part of the name would also require that the female in question be at least somewhat interested in the fighters, and it has to be roughly equal between them.
Why would you even want to do anything when you're taken by the villian and the hero is getting into an epic with him/her to save you? I mean, especially when you're in a series where the villian has superpowers or is another being altogether, why would a regular female with no powers, and isn't even a BadassNormal want to get involved? Heck, I admit to not liking having to depend on anyone for anything, especially not the other gender, but if I was in a situation were two guys were duking it out with weapons of mass destruction, I'm sane enough to keep out of the way.
You've just summarized the whole point of why this thread bugs me, the Original Poster. Why criticize a hostage who has no fighting skills, no aiming skills, nothing at all that can contribute to the fight, when any attempt on their part to interfere would just as likely result in their injuring the hero by mistake. So why is this trope invoked when the hostages are doing the sensible thing and staying out of the way?
In reality, half of what the heroes do in many action stories is a completely stupid, dangerous, risky thing to do that would be more likely to get themselves or the hostages hurt. But they do it and it works, because this is fiction and they're heroes. The Neutral Female, on the other hand, is decidedly unheroic. In a story that is intended to show realistic behavior, it's silly to criticise a noncombatant for keeping his or her head down. In dramatic fiction the rules are different.
Exactly. What annoys some of the viewers is when guys are allowed to do crazy heroic stuff, even when it wouldn't be reasonable in Real Life, and win anyway, but girls for some reason have to stick to realistic behaviour of a non-badass bystander, or to suffer realistic consequences when they don't.
By trying to fight Doc Oc, Mary Jane stops being a Neutral Female. What's important is not whether or not they succeed in helping, but whether they try to do anything apart from standing there looking at the hero fight. No one reasonable expects the girl to hit the villain if that can harm the hero, but would it help to, you know, show she CONSIDERS helping? Show the girl grabbing something, trying to aim at the villain and stop when she realizes it's too risky! Otherwise it looks like she doesn't care.
But most people don't need to actually grab something and aim it at the villain to realize it's too risky.