An even older case would be King Arthur's wife Guinevere. While in most arthurian stories from the 13th century onwards she's not action-oriented at all, in the oldest welsh tales she was a badass warrior and magic-user. Only very recently have we seen a swing of the pendulum back in favor of more Action Girl-esque portrayals.
Anime and Manga
Quoted above is actually... an aversion. In Dragon Ball Zeveryone who isn't a Saiyan takes a second seat to Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Trunks and later Goten, no matter their gender. And in Chichi's case it's mentioned that she always wanted to live a peaceful life away from war and fighting, despite her being a rather skilled Cute Bruiser.
In the anime ofBlue Dragon, Kluke is changed from a self-confident, mature girl who's virtually raised herself since the deaths of her parents to your stereotypical damsel in distress with no explanation. She doesn't even get her powers until near the half-way point of the series.
Hikaru Hazama of Beyblade Metal Fusion goes from Action Girl to Secretary in the second series. She made the mistake to pick a fight with Ryuga, who was packing L-Drago, a centuries-old primeval Beyblade that demolished every opponent it met thus far. She had no clue what kind of nightmare she was in for until he thrashed her to bits like all the others. Traumatized, she resigned herself to this role to help forget what happened and recover, then resumed her action girl status late in the series as the climax began.
Sakura, in Naruto, zigzags in and out of this. On one hand she starts out as a Faux Action Girl because she's a graduate like Naruto and Sasuke and the show talks up her great ninja intelligence but doesn't bring as much to table as her teammates. She takes Takes A Level In Badass during the Time Skip and defeats a member of Akatsuki but then is quickly overshadowed by Naruto and Sasuke, and soon after falls back into the role of a background character who can only pin her hopes on Naruto. The few times she does shake this off, the results are genuinely impressive: like how before the Time Skip she managed to hold off the Sound Genin when she barely had any skills at all and resorted to biting to protect Lee, Naruto and Sasuke, how during the Shinobi War she discovered the Zetsu clone spies and captured one alive — and in 632 when after perfecting one of Tsunade's best techniques she wrecks havoc among the Ten-Tails's bodyguards.
Rurouni Kenshin Kaoru Kamiya is accused of this but technically speaking her case is Overshadowed by Awesome or at mostFaux Action Girl: with few exceptions, she still joins the guys in fights no matter what the results for her are. The only case in this anime/manga where this trope is played straight is Misanagi from the Black Knights arc.
Snow from MÄR gets hit with this hard in the anime, mostly due to fillers. She was never the strongest fighter on The Team or anything, but she held her own quite nicely. Her first loss comes not from being weak, but having a MAJOR disadvantage. Filler arcs tend to exaggerate this: she captured by the Zonnens in that filler arc, (though admittedly through a trap any one of them could have fallen for) Combine this with fact she's absent for over 20 episodes due to being captured and it's no wonder some fans dislike her. (It should be noted she wasn't held captive for nearly as long in the manga; the anime added tons of filler to prolong her rescue). She have one impressive moment where she snipes an ÄRM from a mile away.
Sword Art Online: Played around with Asuna Yuuki. In the Aincrad arc, she's shown to be one of the top players and vice commander of the top guild in the game. In the latter part of the arc, there was a lot more focus on other sides of hers like her relationship with Kirito, her Supreme Chef skills and being Yui's Parental Substitute alongside Kirito, but she still kept her fighting skills and spirit. However, at the beginning of the second story arc, Kirito enters the second MMO, Alfheim Online, on the whim that Asuna might be imprisoned. Asuna loses her action girl status and spends most of the second arc as the Big Bad's prisoner, trying to be a Defiant Captive, but she ultimately has to rely on Kirito to get rescued. The reason this is played around with and not a perfect case was that the aforementioned Big Bad was also a Game Master, meaning all the skills she had in Aincrad were either useless or gone, and even Kirito himself couldn't actually beat him until he got a lucky plot token.
Black Lagoon subverted this with a vengeance. While Rock and Revy wait together in a submarine full of corpses and relics, Rock tries to get Revy to open up and show there's a person who cares underneath her tough exterior. She reveals some of her past, and after she notices Rock's sympathy over it, she threatens him with death if he even hints at what he's seen, then goes on a Kill 'em All rampage on the ship above.
In Eureka Seven, Eureka went from coldblooded participant of a genocide (pre-series) to odd and somewhat aloof and finally being emotional and somewhat vulnerable. This is mostly because shes learning about empathy and love as the series progresses.
Most of the female X-Men were temporarily hit hard by this when Chris Claremont left for the first time.
Storm was relegated to background scenery and occasional artillery when the romantic/heartbreak subplot got dumped.
Psylocke was mostly just Worfed, but it's worth noting that the villain who eventually gutted her was someone she'd previously defeated even before she'd learned martial arts.
Rogue, despite being strong enough to bench-press tanks and capable of outflying almost any weapons she cannot laugh off, was repeatedly pummeled by far less formidable foes, and at least once screamed for help from a boyfriend that was barely a step above Badass Normal. Her psychological fortitude went down the tubes to boot.
Prince Valiant stories: Parodied a couple of times, and Lampshaded at other times (but by no means averted) where competent, resourceful girls deliberately make themselves out to be less so in order to be more appealing to the men.
Lois Lane: After being depicted as a reckless and fiery reporter throughout the 1940s she was chickified into a useless Damsel in Distress who constantly needed saving and couldn't handle anything on her own in the Silver Age. Even attempts at improving her character during the Bronze Age fell flat, with her Earth-2 counterpart Lois Kent far outstripping her in badassery. Fortunately, the Post-Crisis reboot of the Superman mythos restored her Golden Age persona, with an added side order of army brat and combat training.
A lot of the females in Sonic the Hedgehog was hit with this, especially the love interests for the various heroes. Princess Sally and Bunnie Rabbot were hit pretty hard post-time skip, Sally more than Bunnienote Thanks to Executive Meddling, Sonic couldn't have a steady love interest, so Sally ended up breaking up with him. Bunnie, however, had Antoine replaced with an Evil Twin, didn't know about it, and spent most of her time moping or trying to win back his heart.. It wasn't until the previous writing team left and Ian Flynn took their place that both of them were returned to their Action Girl roots (and Bunnie got Demoted to Extra, sadly).
Mina Mongoose, on the other hand, wasn't hit with this until after the writers changed. Since her introduction around the Sonic Adventure era, she had been played up as a budding Freedom Fighter and a perfectly competent Action Girl in her own right. Once Karl Bollers (her creator) left and Ian Flynn stepped in, she was hit with Deus Angst Machina over a failed missionnote Back in the early #100s, she had failed to save a group of civilians during an attack and had almost gotten them killed. However, she had long since gotten over this thanks to some peer support from the others, and one of the last issues before Flynn took over had made her an official full-time Freedom Fighter. and retired to a life as a pop singer where she contributed nothing of value (save for turning the citizens of New Mobotropolis against Nicole after the whole Iron Dominion debacle).
Luna, too, gets very little dialogue and even less action, to the extent that one reviewer suggested she could be replaced with a desk lamp (a reference to this article on female characters in comics) and nobody would have noticed.
Cori Fallsloves doing this to poor Jessie in her fics. Sure, the girl's still allowed to kick some ass, but more often than not, she's crying or swooning in James's arms or needing to be rescued from perverts.
The fanfic writer Of Broken Love does this to Hilda in her fics. Hilda is transformed into a perpetual rape victim, whether it be by Grimsley, N, or someone else. Hilda also constantly cries and angsts. (In fact, she also does this to characters from other franchises, such as Sakura Haruno.)
There's a disturbing Fanfic community dedicated to doing this to Lenneth so that Lezard can be the dominant one of the "relationship". Odlly, it leaves Hrist and Silmeria alone.
That's barely the only one. In many, many Prussia/Hungary works, the sweet and gentle meido who managed to avert this trope in canon is portrayed as a weepy mess who secretly pines for Prussia after being forced to marry Austria via the Austro-Hungarian Compromise and/or is abused in many ways by Austria so Prussia must hop in to rescue her and show her what true love is. Yes, Hungary has been constantly shown to be physically more powerful than both Prussia and Austria, but in these fanfics she wails and wangsts endlessly before even trying to do something to defend herself. For worse, considering the main couple in these fics, it's mixed with Die for Our Ship since Austria is portrayed as a Domestic Abuser and Jerk Ass to make Prussia look better.
Ukraine. Sure, in canon she's a passive crybaby who often puts others above herself. But some fans exaggerate her submissive traits to even greater extremes and use her only as a prize girlfriend to make a male character look more strong, masculine or heterosexual. Also, it's made abundantly clear in notes that she has a fearsome side. And though she's the Naïve Everygirl, she's not exactly The Ingenue. And for all of her crybaby tendences, out of her siblings she's the one with better social skills: she easily handles Poland (something even Lithuania has difficulty with), and can make Russia bend to her if she feels like it... but in these fanworks, she will just cry, and cry, and cry.
In Digimon fanfiction, you'll be hard-pressed to find a fic that has Rika/Ruki acting anything like herself, preferring instead to make her a weak, weeping wallflower who can't handle any aspect of life without being rescued by Takato/Jenrya/Ryo. Even people who don't like Yuri or Interspecies Romance wind up preferring stories pairing her with Renamon because they're the fics in which she's more likely to be capable of being in a romance and acting something like herself at the same time.
While it's safe to say that the entire casts of both Mass Effect games experience varying degrees of chickification in fanfiction at some point or another; Garrus Vakarian (in a rare male example of this trope seen near exclusively in het fic where he's paired with Female Shepard), Commander Shepard (usually Female Shepard, though Male Shepard is not immune either), Tali'Zorah and Liara T'Soni experience the heaviest levels of this trope more often than the others.
The infamous Avatar: The Last Airbender fan-comic How I Became Yours does this to both Azula and Toph. Azula? The Magnificent Bitch with a Jerk Ass Woobie streak becomes a sort of Yue copycat who does almost nothing but whine and cry after getting amnesia and has a super Sue-fied love story with Sokka. Toph? She goes from a devil-may-care Badass Adorable who didn't mind a makeover once, to a soft-spoken and nervous flower of a girl who willingly bottoms to a guy she calls "twinkle-toes" and is a borderline maidservant to Katara.
Pulled on Katara too. She goes from an Action GirlTeam Mom with mood swings and Hidden Depths into a whiny, weepy, selfish Jerk Ass whom everyone mollycoddles, who cares more about being Zuko's pasted-on love interest and babymama than anything, and only shows her Action Girl skills when she bloodily and horribly kills Mai in revenge.
All characters in Touhou are prone to this due to their Moe qualities, but Remilia Scarlet and her sister Flandre are particularly common targets due to fanartists' tendency to exaggerate their childishness.
Was very, very common in the Card Captor Sakura fandom. Sakura, one of the most powerful magic users in that canon and possibly in the CLAMP universe, would inevitably be a big victim of Domestic Abuse at the hands of her canon (and male) Love Interest Syaoran (who in canon would NEVER even think of harming her, and is seen incresingly distressed at the prospect of Sakura being in risk as the series advances), to make excuses as to why she should break away from him and search for comfort in the arms of her Unlucky Childhood Friend Tomoyo. Darkest Before the Dawn is a prime example of this.
Fan interpretations of Terezi during her kismesissitude with Gamzee often veer into this. He canonically did cross the line into outright abuse, given that he bullied her into making an unwanted and irreversible change to her body, and towards the end she does seem to have given up resisting, but some would have you believe she was a wet dishrag from the beginning. It's also not unknown for her repeated stabbing of him to be ignored.
TheWitchsCat tends to do this to Elphaba in her fanfics. While otherwise well-written, Elphaba is constantly being pushed around and beat up, and she CRIES in about every single chapter! It Makes Sense in Context.
In a Yuri example, generally either Yoruichi or Soi Fon will suffer from this in femslash fiction featuring the pairing. This is a case that can go either way, since canon indicates that Soi Fon is the "submissive" one in their relationship as it exists, and anime omakes have done such things as portraying her fantasizing about being a princess who is rescued by Prince!Yoruichi, but at the same time Soi Fon is regarded as the more "butch" of the two, mostly based on her appearance and upbringing, so those who run by personality tend to chickify Soi Fon, while those going by appearance tend to chickify Yoruichi.
In a non-yuri example, Rukia Kuchiki is sometimes subjected to this by rabid Ichigo/Rukia shippers who then reduce her brother Byakuya and/or her best male friend Renji to Domestic Abusers that Ichigo must rescue her from. This completely ignores how both Byakuya and Renji are actually insanely protective of her.
This is disturbingly common in Fire Emblem fanfiction, particularly with characters like Lyndis (especially in a lot of fics pairing her with Kent) and Eirika. It's particularly bad in the case of Eirika, since as a result ends up suffering from the fandom in a similar manner to the Hetalia girls — people accuse her of being weak and stupid, when in reality she's written as having the human reactions that an until-recently very sheltered and inexpert noblewoman would have upon laying eyes for the first time on the consequences that the evil around her lays on the people.
In Fire Emblem Awakening, girl!Avatar is a Plucky Girl who's strong physically note (she's a Magic Knight able to use both swords and magic tomes), mentally note (she's quite booksmart and good at reading emotions)and emotionally note (she's very supportive, sweet and kind to her friends and possible love interests). But you'd never know it if you read like, half the fanwork featuring her, where she either: endlessly whines and weeps over her being the Apocalypse Maiden of the plot and needs Chrom's "tender loving" to be whole again, just passively lays down and thinks of Ylisse while she's undressed/fondled/sexed-up/straight up raped/etc. by either Chrom or her other prospect boyfriends/husbands, or is portrayed as some sort-of ~saintly~ Purity Sue who is given few *actual* personality aside of being Chrom's Perfect Love Interest and Lucina/Morgan's Beloved Mother as well as The Center Of Chrom/Lucina/Morgan's Universes". note Not that the other half is much better, since they tend to subject her to massive Xenafication because "SHE IS A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER (tm)". It becomes hilariously hypocritical when you remember that many culprits are Chrom/girl!Avatar fangirls, who tend to hate on his other Implied Love Interest Sumia for "not being strong and badass enough to deserve his affections"... and then they portray poor girl!Avatar as more Chrom-centered, submissive and spineless than Sumia would ever be!
There's a popular tumblr fanartist who not only makes girl!Avatar a poster girl for the above Character Derailment, but also uses the youngest and cutest of the three customizable Avatar modelsnote (Both Avatars can be given the body builds and looks of older teenagers, younger teenagers/pre-teens, and/or young adults)... and then moe-fies girl!Avatar further via giving her super cutified looks that go beyond the "younger model"'s already present canon cuteness, in a measure to make her look more appealing as Chrom's "Perfect Wife/Babymama".
Some fans apply similar stereotypes to Lucina, the blue-haired Badass Adorable and Iron Woobie who is also Chrom's Kid from the Future. Apparently, having witnessed stuff as horrible as the death of her father at the hands of his brainwashed best friend (and maybe his wife/her mother, if he married girl!Avatar), the deaths of all the parent characters and the effects on her friends and Grima taking over the world means that she's some poor and helpless woobie who needs to be healed by the cock of either boy!Avatar or Gerome, ignoring that bothguys have DEEP issues of their own and that Lucina's biggest goal is to change the Bad Future that she comes from.
Poor Lissa was morphed into a permanently crying mess over the deaths of her husband Lon'qu and her brother Chrom, mainly because the artist loved "drawing grieving Lissa" - as opposed to in canon, where after Emmeryn died she only wept for a chapter before getting tired of it and vowing to press on and defeat Gangrel. In the comic, there was barely a panel/post/reblog where Lissa wasn't shown weeping her heart out... even the one where the author mentioned how Lissa was supposed to become The High Queen for Lucina and go the Silk Hiding Steel way. Said author had promised, however, to return her to her original Plucky Girl roots... and then she couldn't keep with the comic itself.
The one hit the worst with this in the comic was Panne. Her "role" in the story went straight into Disposable Woman and Women in Refrigerators as she was accidentally killed by two hunters who mistook her as a wild beast due to her trying to give birth to her canon kid Yarne in the woods in her Taguel form... and this was strongly hinted to have become a VERY convenient "excuse" for her husband Henry to go the Crusading Widower way. It was even worse when you saw that there was literallyNOreason for it, even when the author attempted to handwave it via mentioning that, in their headcanon, Taguel have "strong animal instincts which they can't really override", including "Taguel mothers's need to give birth in the woods". Since this was "expressed" via Panne literally running away from a mostly safe castle to have her baby in a much more dangerous place like the forest, it seemed to mean that Panne's "Taguel instincts" made her completely irrational and stupid when she needed to keep her cool the most. The Chickification was even more blatant later, since both Panne's spotlight and her and Henry's actual relationship were barely relegated to one short fanart post and one page of author's notes (not including the fanart post and the strip where she was fridged), while Henry's own spotlight was much larger and chock-full of OOC mangst. note (For the record, Henry has a hugeDark and Troubled Past but is a Stepford Smiler about it tops, and in canon he is never shown wangsting no matter what he thinks/feels. Even if Henry admits that he's not super happy about it in the Japanese version, he does not whine and dwell in self-pity.) This also included his Parental Neglect of the "beloved" son Panne bore him, and a "Heroic Sacrifice" that was much more "impressive" than his wife's stupidity-induced death.
While not as explicit as the others, girl!Avatar was yet another case. The mini-comics and/or fanfiction reblogged by the site owner, alongside two/three sketches by her, tended to portray her as few more than a poorly-disguised self-insert whose main "role" in-story is being Chrom's saintly, flawless and beloved wife with few more personality traits than being "his perfect love interest", since according to the author herself "the family drama is too delicious".
Some Superjail! fanfiction pulls this on the Mistress, in order to make her more "suitable" as a love interest for the Warden and not be any threat. Suddenly, the Mistress is all about angstily pining for her true love, portrayed as a submissive wife who will do anything and everything to please him, having her earlier cruelty explained away as her father sexually abusing her from childhood or having been otherwise physically abused by lovers and the Warden being the only one who can heal her. Oddly, some of these writers decry the "Hippie Mistress" twist in season 3 for making her "less strong", as well as her overall canon case of personality change in "Stingstress" beforehand, but don't seem to mind their own alterations. There's a reason why the canon change wasn't looked so fondly upon by these writers, though, considering what lead to Mistress going hippie: The Warden didn't know how to have sex with the Mistress, so Alice slept with her instead and Mistress decided she didn't need ANY men. Which kind of put a hold on the thought of pairing those two..
Frozen fanfics pairing Elsa and Anna tend to do this to Anna. In the film, she's a strong character who's quick to take action, keeps a clear head whilst being pursued by wolves and giant snowmen, doesn't hesitate to come to the rescue of others, and never cries during the entire film, despite suffering an intensive Trauma Conga Line. Fanfiction tends to morph her into a tortured soul who managed to bottle up her grief during the events of the film, and, once everything is back to normal, quickly breaks down and pours her heart out to whatever soul will listen, usually Elsa. The wimpiness of Anna in fanfiction is usually proportional to the strength of Elsa; the more resilient Elsa is in any particular fic, the more chickified Anna becomes. Generally, Anna's sudden chickification is explained by the shock of having her sister back, and the years of loneliness she endured during the film's prologue.
Elsa herself can also qualify; although she is far more emotionally vulnerable then Anna and breaks down several times during the film, her tendencies tend to be exaggerated in fanfic, making her a wreck incapable of human contact as a result of isolation (despite it being her who first reached out to Anna at the party in the film) and constantly suffering nightmarish flashbacks to the events of the film and its climax.
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo shows Starfire being rescued by Robin much, much more than in the series, and doing less to contribute to the group's success. At the same time, Robin himself contributes the least success, rather, the most damage- his hunt for Brushogun leads to disaster, getting himself thrown in prison for all the wrong reasons. After his escape, he has to parade around as an average Joe to avoid drawing attention, which brings him down from a costumed hero to an unnerved, edgy Badass Normal. Played for Drama- it's to help make her look and feel more vulnerable, draw closer to Robin, make him draw closer to her, and at last, bring them together for The Big Damn Kiss.
Film - Live-Action
Sonja Blade is chickified about half-way through Mortal Kombat. For the first half she's tough, cold, efficient, and mercilessly kills Kano in the ring. Then Shang Tsung sneaks up and grabs her hair and she dissolves into a blubbering Damsel in Distress.
Jane in Johnny Mnemonic isn't exactly weak, but she's not nearly as hard-assed as her counterpart Molly in the original story.
Katara spends most of the film adaptation of The Last Airbender looking like she's about to cry. It's instructive to compare the different versions of her fight with Zuko - in the original, she almost wins, whereas in the movie, he defeats her easily.
Greg Rucka, the author of Whiteout, complained about Carrie Stetko being made weaker in the film adaptation so as to prop up the male characters. "At least they got rid of the scene in the script where she - a U.S. Marshall - hears someone following her and runs away. What's she gonna do, call the cops?"
Jean Grey in the X-Men film series suffers from a special case of this. The Phoenix storyline is major Never Live It Down material for her, so she got some major movements of power-spiking leading up to her Phoenix debut... but the rest of the time, she suffers as mentioned down in Western Animation. So she spends movie one as love interest and gets beaten by the Toad. The. Freaking. Toad (at least he was played by Ray Parks...). Movie two, she uses her powers in ways that would be perfectly unremarkable in the comics when nothing remotely Phoenix-y is going on, and everyone's amazed and a bit scared. note Okay, maybe holding back the full fury of Scott's Eye Beams with her TK was impressive even by her comic self's standards...Movie three, she ascends into full Phoenix mode... and does nothing but be the MacGuffin of the story, sought after by the male leads (Wolverine to save her, and Magneto to make her The Dragon — a role in which she just stands around.) Even the final rampage adds little to the actual plot and only exists so Wolverine can angst about having to Shoot the Dog. (To be fair, the third movie had another problem to contend with.)
An odd variant happens with Mystique in X-Men: First Class. Fans familiar with the character in the original trilogy (which First Class establishes loose continuity with) will probably find it jarring that she goes from being The Dragon to Magneto and a Dark Action Girl to being an awkward if Adorkable girl. Given that the movie is a prequel and that there are certain scenes (for example, Mystique bench pressing an impressive amount of weight), it's likely it's being set up for future badassery.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra featured Courtney "Cover Girl" Krieger, who in comic-continuity is a former high-fashion model who enlisted and became a missile-tank driver. Who is fond of doing all the upkeep and repair work on her own tank. In the movie, she's Hawk's Girl Friday. This is a Justified Trope though, as it's explained in the prequel novel that sometime prior to then, she was critically injured during a mission and is no longer physically capable of serving combat duty.
The Host: Wanderer is a strong, intelligent Soul who has been on more worlds than most and is held in high regard among the Souls. She once defeated a Claw Beast on the planet of the Bears, transplanted a friend into it on the spot, and rode it into the city. At the end of the book, she's implanted in the body of a petite young blonde girl and can't even carry her own sleeping mat without the help of her man.
Melanie gets it as well. She starts out as a strong survivor who opted to jump down an elevator shaft to save herself from being assimilated. Any time her boyfriend appears onscreen though, or comes to her mind, she makes some pretty stupid decisions, including letting Wanderer know where her colony of "wild" humans are hiding (keep in mind that Wanderer's job is to find and assimilate them as well). Her decision is justified. Melanie sends Wanderer her memories and emotions and shows the "wild" human colony's location only when she is sure that Wanderer cares deeply about her boyfriend and brother. Wanderer wouldn't be able to betray them, which Melanie knew, having constant connection with her mind. That said, Melanie is still heavily dependent on Jared, to the extent that she only bothers trying to "talk" when he is around. He even has to pull off a heavily subverted Distressed Damsel rescue when she's not responding in Wanderer's head.
Adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera tend to turn Christine from a stubborn, outspoken girl who's arguably a bit of a jerk into a passive ingenue. The musical version in particular makes her more like the original novel's Decoy Protagonist than like her original self.
At the start of Universums öde by George Johansson, Amalthea is introduced as Len's equal. However, in the third book, she and Len have barely landed on New Earth when she is attacked by a predator bird and develops a phobia of violence that means that she has to Stay In The Hut while Len does the hunting.
"There are many things history has forgotten about me. I fought on the battlefields during the demon wars against Erawan - at Gavin's side. That's how we fell in love. But your legends portray me as a damsel who waited in a tower with a magic necklace that would help the heroic prince."
Patience, by the end of her role in Dinoverse. She starts as The Leader, more decisive and certain of herself than the others, proactive, completely willing to plunge into the unknown. But her motivation starts to change and revolve around a pair of boys, and she decides to go along with the Beautiful All Along plan that she'd found utterly insulting before, and being more interested in the advice a classmate gives her to be more feminine - don't swear, don't fight, laugh at everything a boy says, don't disagree with him, don't show him up. In her last appearance she finds that the boy(s) she loves is Trapped in Another World and in need of rescue, and is content to sit back and let two boys she doesn't know go to him.
Live Action TV
In the first season of Dexter Debra Morgan has significantly different defining traits then she does in later seasons. She's ambitious, tough, foul mouthed, good at hiding her emotions, a clever detective and she has a penchant for sleeping around and describing the results in graphic detail. Apparently the writers decided she was a little too masculine so they changed things up. Her promiscuity turned into a steady stream of romantic plot tumors, her ability to hide her emotions disappeared entirely and she instead broke down crying nearly every episode. She remained ambitious and a good detective but those characteristics only shone through on rare occasions. Her cursing was the only character trait to survive the chickification unscathed.
American Gothic. This happened to Gail Emory. At the start of the show, while not exactly an Action Girl, she was certainly a female Determinator who, as an Intrepid Reporter, was determined to find out the truth of her parents' deaths and bring their murderer to justice. But as soon as she learned her parents were not the paragons of virtue she thought them to be, her Belated Backstory was dropped and she seemed to flounder about with nothing to do. By the end of the series, she's morphed almost completely into a Distressed Damsel, having to rely on Buck himself for protection, and in her last scene is left in a hospital bed, crying piteously over the baby she's lost—even though she didn't want it in the first place, seeing as it was the son of Satan (as depicted graphically via ultrasound—or maybe not). At least some of this may be due to Executive Meddling in order to pair up the major male and female leads, or a result of the show being Screwed by the Network so that Shaun Cassidy had to wrap everything up far too quickly and nonsensically. But some surely isn't.
Days of Our Lives Stephanie Johnson is one of the most blatant cases. When the character first returned to the show as an adult she was played by redhead Shayna Rose and appeared as a tough girl race car driver. After Rose was fired, the character was recast with brunette former beauty queen Shelley Hennig as a rather uninteresting fashion plate character with little or no real character.
Lily, of Hannah Montana fame, started off as a cool skater-chick who was good at sports and very much a tomboy, despite the pilot showing her going gaga over Miley's (very girly) clothes. One episode lampshades her lack of girly tendencies after a boy asks her to the school dance. Just sure that the boy will like Lily even more if she dolls up, Miley makes Lily over into a sexy (for a kid's show) glamorous fashion model. This makes the boy dump her, because he liked her as she was. By the final season, the only real difference between Miley and Lily was that Miley was more Deadpan Snarker and Lily more Cloud Cuckoo Lander. Lily's hobbies and fashion sense began to mimic Miley's almost exactly.
Hawaii Five-0 Kono seems to be going this route. In season 1, she kicked ass in almost every episode. Now, she spends much of her time back in Mission Control or off doing grunt work while the new action girl gets screen time.
Merlin's Guinevere in the BBC version. She kicks some serious ass for the first season, teaching Merlin how to put Arthur's armour on properly, going into battle to defend Ealdor, facing her own execution bravely; but the moment Arthur notices in season two that he might just fancy her, she gets kidnapped and can do nothing but trip over her own feet and foul up two attempts to rescue her.
Power Rangers Both of Tommy's girlfriends. Kimberly single-handedly defeated monsters such as the Terror Toad and the Snizard, and Kat(herine) was instrumental in nearly bringing down the Rangers themselves while under Rita's spell. When they started dating Tommy, it seemed that not one episode could go by without one of them screaming "TOMMY!" at the top of their lungs. (On the other hand, given how often Tommy wound upin need of rescue...).
Robin Hood Happened to both Marian and Djaq to some extent. Marian is shown to be a capable fighter throughout most of the show, but towards the end of season two she is hit in the face with the Distress Ball and ends up as the Distressed Damsel on numerous occasions. In her final appearance, just before Gisborne stabs her to death the writers ensure that our intrepid heroine is denied the opportunity to wield a sword in her defense of the king, and she's reduced to simply flailing her arms around. Djaq kicks ass right to the end, but many were put off by her abrupt declarations of love for Will Scarlett, and the fact that she spent the rest of the finale behaving like a gooey-eyed teenager before opting to stay in the Holy Land to raise pigeons with him.
Happens to Rei at the end of Tomica Hero Rescue Fire, when her brash and Lad-ette personality is greatly toned down and she falls for a much older man, with the implication that she will eventually quit to marry him and take care of his son.
The Walking Dead arguably has Andrea. She initially was a Girl Next Door trying desperately to be an Action Girl in season 1. In season 2, she sort of made it by the end, yet was still making bad decisions. However, in season 3, she ends up basically becoming the Governor's personal slut. She slowly lets him take away her gun and her freedom. Lets him. She has plenty of outs, including leaving with Michonne, the girl who SAVED HER FREAKING LIFE on multiple occasions. What's worse, she defends the Governor despite all of the horrible crap he does. She becomes so irritating that some fans call her the NewLori.
The titular character of Bones is a trained marital artist and competent marksman who isn't shy about using either on bad guys when the situation warrants... for the first season or so. Afterwards these skills are rarely seen again and she becomes completely helpless when a killer is within 20 feet of her and has to be rescued. The worse example is the Villain Sue Pelant, who Bones has the opportunity to stop a few times and just stands there until he says his piece and gets away.
Some fans think this happened to Sarah Jane in Doctor Who for Cast Speciation reasons. While the companion of the Third Doctor, she was intended as a tough feminist career girl who saw herself as the Doctor's equal (or even superior) no matter how condescending he was to her, and her relationship with him was quite prickly, serving as The Lancer. The Third Doctor had been nearing the end of his tenure around the time of her introduction, and the original plan was to regenerate him into a physically feeble but mentally formidable old man character; so a male companion, Harry, was introduced to serve as a Nerd Action Hero character and fight for the Doctor when required. However, the decision was instead made to cast a young, strong man as the Fourth Doctor, who was more than capable of doing the action scenes intended for Harry, and so to rebalance the dynamic Harry took over the role of The Lancer and Sarah Jane was relegated to Distressed Damsel. This also coincided with her relationship with the Doctor taking on a romantic tinge - her relationship with the Third Doctor had felt paternal due to the big physical age gap and the power dynamic, but her relationship with the Fourth Doctor, who looked younger and saw himself as equal to her, oozed UST to Implied Love Interest levels. Once Harry left and Sarah Jane was the sole companion, she returned closer to her original characterisation again, finding a kind of middle ground of Badass and added romantic dimension (not to mention respectful treatment from her Doctor) that many fans feel is the most entertaining version of her character.
Another victim of this for reasons of Cast Speciation was the First Doctor companion Barbara. While she spends most of her time being confused and screaming in her first episode, this is Justified by the circumstances of her companionship, and she soon gets some Character Development and becomes The Hero of several stories (notably Part 2 and 3 of "The Keys of Marinus" and "The Aztecs"). In stories where she has a more backseat role, it tends to be a more dynamic one (such as journeying with a Thal war band in "The Daleks", and going on an expedition to defeat the Daleks in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth"). In both "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" and "The Rescue" she is shown to be willing to kill in order to protect younger female characters with her. However, after Susan, the Distressed Damsel in most of her stories, leaves, she's replaced with Suspiciously Similar Substitute surrogate-granddaughter Vicki, a more energetic and optimistic character who tended to be paired off with the Doctor so they could go on Vagabond Buddies-type adventures as a comical B Story. Since Vicki was ineligible to be the Damsel, the role got handed over to Barbara, who then started getting captured, hypnotised, sold into slavery, and threatened with rape a lot more often. A plot point in "The Crusades" even centres around her supposed unwillingness to kill, even to protect a young female character with her.
Mythology and Religion
Classical Mythology: The Romans changed Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war, to Minerva, a considerably more domestic goddess of crafts.
This is referenced in The Heroes of Olympus, when the gods start developing split personalities between their Greek and Roman incarnations, Athena/Minerva is affected worse than most. On the other hand, Dark Action Girl Nemesis is pretty much unaffected - as she says, "revenge never changes".
Once regarded as a high peak for a woman wrestler to climb, perhaps the highest, the reputation of the WWE women's division started to deteriorate around 1999, though the causes behind it went back further. From women's champions not allowed to use any moves men were doing, to women's champions who don't bump, to divas champions who can't run the ropes it became disturbingly common to use the very idea of WWE divas in a serious context as a punchline. Proven talents repeatedly being passed over for unproven counterparts based on presumed sex appeal, efforts to hide aesthetic injuries and reduced match time only make it worse.
To illustrate the WWE problem in a more personable manner, women such as Sara Del Rey, known for her 60 minute time limit draw against PGWA champion Nikki Roxx, Traci Brooks, whose feud with Trinity brought women's wrestling to new venues and April Hunter, whose matches had fans around the world asking for WWE to sign her, were passed up. Body building legend Lenda Murray failed to get a developmental deal. So there was only one title to wrestle for but presumptions that the WWE roster was simply full were disproved when it was cleaned out for the sake of untrained talent who were then pushed as wrestlers. Tori, Jacqueline, Ivory, it happened slowly at first but then in a move that somehow went unnoticed by the NAACP, Nidia, Gail Kim and Jazz were simultaneously released with failed contestants from the 2004 diva search put in their place. While WWE somehow avoided a discrimination lawsuit for replacing all its remaining nonwhite women at once with inferior workers, the division's reputation has yet to recover.
Both Monster Ripper and Jillian Hall went into WWF/E with fearsome reputations that had to be rebuilt upon leaving. The former was given a goofy trailer park gimmick, which still managed to work until she was told not to use her slams and throws. The latter became more girly, then got saddled with many ridiculous gimmicks, which still managed to work until was stuck doing the job for years on end.
Chyna, although hers was more enforced from above. She came in as a bodyguard (not valet, Bodyguard) to Triple H. She then went on to feuding with the male wrestlers, had absolutely no interest in the Women's Championship, and was the first woman to hold a man's wrestling title (not counting the Hardcore Title, but that's another story.) Toward the end, after she ended up the hypotenuse in the Chyna / Triple H / Stephanie McMahon triangle, she was pushed back into the Women's Division before being quietly pushed out the door in May 2001.
She lost a lot of her muscle mass, got a bunch of plastic surgeries and is now doing hardcore porn.
Natalya suffered from this. She debuted as a powerful heel and was put into contention for the new Divas' Championship but was quickly dropped from that and eventually became a manager for the Hart Dynasty where the most she usually did was slap her guys' opponents a little. This got reversed when they brought in The Usos to feud with them who had a woman as their valet. When they split, Natalya became a prominent part of the women's division and won the title.
Sadly this has come true as of late as Natalya has become little more than a joke, paired with The Great Khali and Hornswoggle and she often loses to other girls like The Bella Twins.
Once ranked among the top wrestlers in the USA, USWA boasting that she was the very top woman in the country, Jacqueline debuted in the WWF as Marc Mero's valet and although winning the reinstated Women's Championship, was booked rather weakly and lumped together with the non-wrestler divas such as Terri and Sable. But fast forward a year and she gets to show off the full extent of her wrestling ability, even competing in intergender matches. She defeated Chavo Guerrero Jr. for the WWE Cruiserweight Title in 2004 before losing it back and being pushed out the door to make room for those who did not win the diva search.
Upon leaving WWE for the second time, Gail Kim has claimed, among other things, that WWE wants the division to be more "girly" and have barred the Divas from things like punching and kicking. That obviously cuts out a lot but still leaves pretty of moves to do right? No, even go to stuff like the DDT apparently got divas reprimanded to the point they had to sneak spots past the agents. Possibly as a result, these "rules" would change week to week. Whatever WWE's case may be, the chickification of this once great women's division is painfully obvious.
Painfully obvious in the segment that had the entire locker room confront COO Triple H for an unsafe working environment. Beth Phoenix spoke for the Divas and what did she say? "We're girls". So forget that she's gone toe-to-toe with the men and any attempt by most of the roster to do anything to her would land them in a full body cast, at the end of the day she's just a girl apparently.
Many of the contestants from the diva search, even the runner ups, had real life credentials that could have logically been transcribed into matches. Maryse was a black belt in karate but she rarely showed it, mostly slapping, running away and hitting the occasional back breaker. Eve Torres, a blue belt in Brazilian jujitsu, was taken somewhat seriously at first but if you heard anything about her background, it was probably her cheer leading and then she was reduced to a panicky mess whenever Kane appeared. So he's akin to a slasher villain she logically shouldn't have a chance against? Fine but she does not have to stand there "Frozen in fear" as Michael Cole describes instead of making an effort to run away during his slow walk to the ring.
In a way, the women's title belt itself has become chickified. Originally, the title belts were somewhat interchangeable in a lot of ways, since they were mostly round-ish gold plates on a black leather belt. In recent years, the titles have all been updated to be larger, more detailed, and more distinct and to possibly read better on camera since the conversion to High Definition. For example, the Tag Team titles now have two Spartan helmets in profile, the United States Championship has a much larger American Flag decal. The Divas Title, on the other hand, is now a very girly silver and pink butterfly.
Total chickification. The Divas championship has superseded the Women's title, with the latter becoming deactivated. So the girlier championship is now the only one for women to compete for.
Nickla Roberts, who was best known as Baby Doll, a valet in WCW's predecessor JCP, started out as a female wrestler in WCCW with a metalhead gimmick who beat both female and male wrestlers in the ring. Once JCP hired her as a valet, though, that was the end of her actually wrestling.
Whatever you want to say about TNA's indy years (crass, dumb, offensive) they had several good points, such as recognizing the tough women on their roster and making use of their talents. Alexis Laree and Trinity in particular were likely to be competitive no matter who they were in the ring with and Traci Brooks was not too far behind them. Then Jim Cornette (Spike TV was the real culprit, but that was off screen) made it illegal for men to fight women and the girls ended up having a much more passive role as a result. At least until they got their own division but see below.
The Knockout Division in TNA has become this ever since Hulk Hogan appeared. Before there were all sorts of girls with different styles for everyone. Ever since Hogan came and the firing of Awesome Kong and other girls being released the division has suffered. It's nowhere as bad as The Divas as you can still expect a decent match but it's a far cry from what it once was.
Like every RPG trope and its dog, the Tales Series plays with this one.
Tales of Phantasia' features the TsundereCute Witch Arche starting off as a moody little firecracker, only to mellow out as the story progresses. However, this is a positive example as she becomes no less competent as a fighter.
Chloe Valens from Tales of Legendia has to be rescued by Senel from drowning (since she can't swim), and struggle with her growing feelings for him throughout the game. At the same time, she defeats Senel in single combat, is a Knight in Shining Armor who subverts Honor Before Reason when it matters most, and doesn't take revenge when she had every reason to do so. Though she may so "female" emotions, Chloe is an example of this trope done well, as she is no less of a Badass at the end of the game than she was at the beginning.
Odin Sphere Likely as a reference to the above example and general Valkyrie lore, the Valkyries fear this trope. Disobedient Valkyries are punished by being placed into slumber and given away to a man who will be their husband upon awakening, whereas Valkyries who are no longer able to fight are forcefully stripped of their status and married to men, where they must be obedient wives for the rest of their lives. An early Valkyrie NPC in Gwendolyn's story is facing this fate and terrified, whereas Gwendolyn herself suffers the slumbering sort as a punishment early in her story. The rest of her story has her struggling against her growing feelings for Oswald and her new role as a non-warrior. The game later reveals that Odin only used magic to make Gwendolyn sleep and not to manipulate her emotions. No one actually tells Gwendolyn this, probably because they looked at how hostile she was to Oswald and figured she must already know she wasn't enthralled. She never seems to realize that her feelings for Oswald were always genuinely her own. Ultimately, she decides it doesn't matter if they're fake or not, because Oswald is the first person in her life to treat her like a human being as opposed to her selfish, cold-hearted father. As for fighting, she seems to have little trouble with that and rescues her husband herself from a dragon, a fire elemental king, and the queen of the dead. Clearly this trope just can't stick to her.
World of Warcraft has done this to Jaina Proudmoore. In Warcraft III and its expansion, she was one of few people who listened to the Prophet's Cassandra Truth and led people across the sea to escape the Burning Legion. She even helped kill her own father when she decided there was no other way to secure a peace between the Alliance and the Horde. In World of Warcraft, her role until Patch 3.3 was limited to cheering up orphans, and in Patch 3.3 she decided to see if her ex-boyfriend the Evil Overlord was redeemable. Good luck with that.
She suffers from this very badly in the Arthas novel, too, where aside from setting a couple of granaries on fire, she mostly wibbles about said ex-boyfriend, when she's not making out with him.
Tyrande Whisperwind has suffered from this as well, not just in World of Warcraft but in most of the Warcraft novels since. Even in Cataclysm, where most faction leaders have gotten at least one badass moment, if not multiple ones, so far all she has done amounts to staying in Darnassus and telling players about how Malfurion, her love, has returned and will fix everything.
While Sylvanas has generally been more at risk of jumping off the slippery slope, there was an especially ridiculous example in the Sunwell Trilogy manga, when she became a Distressed Damsel at the hands of a heretofore unheard-of male Villain Sue in the Ghostlands. The Ghostlands are the southern half of what's left of Eversong Forest, which Sylvanas would have been intimately familiar with as bloody Ranger-General of Quel'thalas.
In Summon Night: Swordcraft Story, a large part of Sanary's character is centered around her desire to avoid this fate due to one of her role models falling deathly ill and requiring her lover to look after her. She does wind up falling into this, needing to be rescued twice 3 times if you count "possessed by a berserk spirit" and is forced into a maid outfit during the first. Her anger over this is what allows her to be possessed in the first place. An odd contrast is found in PrattyXRazzy's path, where Pratty notes to Razzy that a girl doesn't need to look or act feminine to be beautiful.
Ariel in the first Kingdom Hearts was an Action Girl able to cast powerful spells and take down The Heartless with a whip of her tail. Come the sequel, however, and she has suddenly lost all of the ability, leaving her almost (unfortunately they excluded her feisty attitude) exactly as she was in her original film, leaving many players to wonder what the point of revisiting Atlantica was to begin with.
Played straight: Chizuru gets his with this after 2003, since she gets Brainwashed and Crazy, had her Yata mirror stolen and the deal badly shakes her self-esteem. (True, her life has had manyBreak the Cutie episodes, but until then she had managed to mostly deal). The ending of XIII implies that she got her Mirror back and that said episode was Ret conned when Ash (the one who stole the Mirror from her) got himsef Ret Gone'd.
Subverted: Leona seemed to have been hit by this in XI, after being broken in 2003 (when her Orochi blood took over her again and she almost beat Ralf and Clark to death), prompting her adoptive father and commander Heidern to repace her with her friend and fellow Action Girl Whip. However, this turned out to be a 10-Minute Retirement only: in XIII Leona was fully back, having decided to live with her condition and not break down again.
Additionally, the Fan Dumb loves to falsely accuse King of this. Technically speaking, she went through a negative Vocal Evolution (her voice got more high-pitched) and a slight Girliness Upgrade (she's still a Bifauxnen and Action Girl, with her sprites becoming slightly more feminine and the XI ending showing her in a cute dress — during a date). Her fighting skills and basic personality remain untouched.
Terra in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. The prequel address this by rewriting her dialog in the text scenes to her less of a Shrinking Violet who needs to be protected, and more of a Reluctant Warrior who's willing and able to fight but doesn't want to if she can help it, which is closer to original characterization.
Kat from DmC: Devil May Cry starts as a girl who has supernatural abilities and is skilled when dealing with authority and demons. However, at one part from the game Kat notices that she will be arrested and is completely helpless turning her into a Damsel in Distress. Near the end, Kat is betrayed by her own leader who simply labels her as "useful." Kat never defends herself and has to be protected by the main character.
The Garnet And Gure short, Super Effective, parodies the chickification of badass video game heroines by featuring Garnet showing up for a zombie battle dressed grudgingly and inexplicably in a tutu.
Megagi la Skunk from Sonichu was original a spike-wearing mohawked skunk who really stood out from the other female characters, all of whom were shallow female stereotypes with no personality (this is likely due to the author not creating her, but stealing her from a friend). She was rapidly chickified over her next couple of appearances until she became a literal cheerleader and indistinguishable from the other females in the cast. This is considered to be evidence that the author isn't just unable to write characters with distinct personalities; he's actively against it.
Æon Flux had this happen once, recoiling in terror from a man threatening to beat her with his wooden leg.
Played with in the episode "A Last Time for Everything". Aeon lets Trevor create a copy of her for his own amusement and then switches places with her so she can seduce Trevor and then let the clone kill her, thereby tormenting Trevor (rationalizing that she and the clone are identical, so she doesn't mind letting the clone take her place, but only the death of the original will really hurt him). But, to her own surprise, the original genuinely falls in love with Trevor. When the clone comes to rendezvous with her, the clone has decided against killing her so that they can both run off together; but she then sees that not only has original Aeon fallen for Trevor, but doing so has Chickified all her badassness away. They both make a run for the border, but original Aeon's heart isn't in it, so she can't dodge the automatic guns any more, and dies. Ironically, the plan works out just as they originally intended, breaking Trevor's heart mercilessly, but neither Aeon nor the clone wanted it that way by then.
Taken together with the wooden leg example above (who was her boyfriend at the time) it's possible that being more vulnerable and "feminine" around men she cares about is just another aspect of her character, and one that she's not particularly proud of at that.
DuckTales: The reason Mrs. Beakley was hired as the triplets' nanny was because she was the only one "tough enough" to handle the little terrors, and for the first few episodes, she lives up to the job: breaking characters out of prison, escaping giant penguin-eating walruses, chariot-racing Vikings... and by DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, she's nothing more than a weeping fainting woman.
The Powerpuff Girls also parodied this. While the girls starts remember stuff in a clip show, they remember that they once aged up to becoming teenagers. In this flashback they stop fighting and instead became shallow, boy-obsessed morons. This was a Take That from Craig McCracken to Executive Meddling which attempted to chickify the girls for feminine merchandise. It was also a Take That towards members of the fandom who would send him fanart (and fanfics) of the girls dating the Rowdyruff Boys (nevermind the fact that they're mortal enemies) forgetting that the show is an action cartoon first and has little (if any) romance in it whatsoever.
In The Real Ghostbusters, Janine Melnitz underwent Chickification in the third season and onward to appease the Moral Guardians: a newvoice actress who toned down her old Bronx accent, a softer appearance, and a less harsh personality. This was actually justified in the 5th season episode "Janine, You've Changed"; she had made a deal with a ghost to be made over to win Egon's affections, and the ghost had hidden the changes from the cast. Ironically, the series had also found excuses to send her into the field more and more often, even as this was going on.
Spider-Man: The Animated Series: Black Cat was awesomely awesome during the arc "Partners in Danger," which introduced her. She leaves near the end, but puts in one more guest appearance in which she's as cool as ever. Unfortunately, when she returns again for "Secret Wars," her role in the story is to fall off of things, scream, and be caught by Captain America while Petey looks on with jealousy. Maybe it was a Skrull impostor...
X-Men: The 90's animated series had a bad habit of doing this to Jean Grey. In the comics, she was one of the original X-Men, who even in The Sixties, could hold her own against formidable opponents. In the cartoon, however, she was the go-to girl if they needed a Distressed Damsel, playing the role of The Empath more than a contributing member.
Parodied with Steve Trevor, love interest of Wonder Woman in his appearance at Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In all other incarnations (comics, animation, live action TV) he is a fairly proactive guy, in the Cold Opening of “Scorn of Star Sapphire” he is a secret agent so confident that Wonder Woman will come to his rescue that he doesn’t move a muscle to get out of a Death Trap, left her do all the work, and gushes in her presence. This immortal line:
Steve Trevor: Have to say, being a secret agent is a cinch when you have a super-powered girlfriend.