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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.

A possible way to shake things up a bit 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 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. Compare with DisposableWoman.

For the GenderFlip, see DistressedDude. See also DistressBall, StandardFemaleGrabArea, DeterminedWidow, IHaveYourWife, SaveThePrincess, HostageMacGuffin. 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 then 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.

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.
* Tasha in LLCoolJ's "I'm Bad" video.

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
* Wrestling/RandySavage has twice seen his valet, Wrestling/MissElizabeth, kidnapped by [[Wrestling/GeorgeSteele George "The Animal" Steele]] and Wrestling/KingKongBundy. Wrestling/HulkHogan in the Wrestling/{{n|ewWorldorder}}Wo even forced her to say she no longer loved Savage on camera.
* Mountain Fiji was practically {{invincible|hero}}, so her enemies in Wrestling/{{GLOW}} frequently resorted to attacking and or kidnapping her little sister, often resulting in Mt Fiji losing matches by forfeit or count out as she left the arena to go save her.
* Later in Wrestling/{{WCW}}, the nWo would try to send a message to David Flair by kidnapping his LoonyFan Wrestling/DaffneyUnger. Wrestling/ScottSteiner actually acknowledged [[YouCanKeepHer that it might not have been the best idea]].
* [[Wrestling/WWESmackdown Smackdown]] did an angle revolving around Wrestling/KurtAngle admitting that he wanted to have sex with Wrestling/BookerT's wife Sharmell, leading to many scenes of her failing to fight off or out run Angle before Booker came to the rescue, although he usually got beaten up too, until the very end.
* Wrestling/TrishStratus was once abducted by MNM on an episode of [[Wrestling/WWERaw Monday Night Raw]], causing Wrestling/JerryLawler to abandon his commentary duties to go find her.
* Wrestling/{{TNA}} would later revisit the assault someone else's wife I want to have sex with angle with Wrestling/ScottSteiner going after Kristal Lashley until her husband Wrestling/{{Bobby|Lashley}} made the save.
* At SHINE 15, Valkyrie used a beaten up Solo Darling to lure Wrestling/AmazingKong away from their leader, The Radiant Rain.[[/folder]]

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