A character, usually female and nubile, is portrayed as helpless
and in danger in order to put the cast in motion. In particular, the cast is unified, putting aside differences
in pursuit of the rescue.
This works if the damsel in distress is a beloved character, but can be very annoying if the audience wouldn't mind her dead
, or sees the helplessness as Character Derailment
. An Action Girl
who becomes a damsel in distress
is likely a Faux Action Girl
, though not always; if they can reclaim their Action Girl
credentials after being freed, they were just experiencing Badass in Distress
after being thrown a Distress Ball
Don't expect people to cut her some slack, even if she logically would not have the power or abilities necessary to help
. In more recent works the damsel is more likely to rebel one way or another
, which can either help or make things worse. The screaming associated with this trope has largely been replaced with getting angry and telling her captors to put her down, but she will still scream when they throw her off a building.
Sometimes the character gets kidnapped for the sake of her good looks
or royal blood
, but in recent works she's more likely doing something that is a threat to the party that kidnaps her (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 Heroic Sacrifice
; realizing that there is only enough room to get all the children on the transport, or attempting to free other prisoners (which may or may not succeed before her capture) are popular.
Generally expected to give The Hero
a Smooch of Victory
when he rescues her. Unless he doesn't.
Chained to a Rock
is an ancient form; Girl in the Tower
and Hypnotize the Princess
are slightly more recent. A non-endangered form exists in the Living MacGuffin
, who is safe but out of the hero's reach, be it with distance or conditioning love/marriage. Damsels in distress are often Bound and Gagged
, especially where Author Appeal
If the kidnapper in question is particularly nasty, expect an I Have You Now, My Pretty
situation to occur. If the character does not become a Damsel Scrappy
but still is constantly captured, they are a Designated Victim
. A more sexist version is the Disposable Woman
For the Gender Flip
, see Distressed Dude
. See also Distress Ball
, Standard Female Grab Area
, Determined Widow
, I Have Your Wife
, The President's Daughter
and Save the Princess
. 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
. If she's got a strong spirit despite her fighting disadvantages, she's a Badass Damsel
Not to be confused with the 2012 comedy film Damsels In Distress
This item is available in the Trope Co catalog.
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- 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.)
- In the Child Ballad Sir Aldingar, the queen.
- The Shadow's companion Margot Lane served the function of designated hostage more often than not...especially if a Mad Scientist needed a "test subject."
- Margot Lane is also an example of Flanderization. In the early episodes with Orson Welles, she was fairly competent and saved The Shadow almost as much as he saved her.