Lois Lane: Rescuing herself before Superman
arrives since 1938.
" Harkye, miscreant, you have secured me, and I am your poor prisoner; but if you think I cannot take care of myself, you are very much mistaken. Now then, it's one to one, and let the best man win!"
Rejecting the traditional Damsel in Distress
routine, this damsel doesn't wait for a hero to rescue her. She can take care of herself, thank you very much. This trope occurs when the damsel escapes on her own, or at least makes significant progress towards it before the hero can find her.
Almost Always Female
, and usually a Plucky Girl
Compare with Badass Princess
, Lady of War
for a skillful and graceful fighter, Silk Hiding Steel
this trope prime and proper relative, Xenafication
for inexplicable badass leveling up
, Deliberately Distressed Damsel
who enjoys the damsel aspect, and Decoy Damsel
for an Action Girl
who pretends to be a Damsel in Distress
for her own benefit.
Contrast Damsel Scrappy
and Too Dumb to Live
. Should not be confused with Badass in Distress
, but can overlap with it. Compare Defiant Captive
, which is about a defiant mindset while captured.
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Anime & Manga
- After the horrors she suffered from the Eclipse that robbed her of her sanity poor Casca's mind was regressed to that of a small child, making her vulnerable to predation from monsters and humans alike and is in constant need of care and supervision. However, sometimes she finds herself on her own and in such dire moments we see that Casca's former self isn't completely gone. The most prominent example to date was when she ran away from Guts out of fear and ran into some bandits, who then tried to gang rape her... but by the time Guts found her, Casca was naked and covered in her would-be rapists' blood after she slashed all of their throats. She also shows glimpses of her pre-Eclipse agility and acrobatics.
- Charlotte pulverizes her father's face with her feet after he tries to rape her. Pretty impressive for someone who's a distressed damsel most of the time.
- At the climax of Tiger & Bunny's second cour, the Big Bad decides it's a good idea to take Kotetsu's daughter, Kaede, hostage. She doesn't just rescue herself — she rescues every other hero. Superpowerful Genetics come in handy.
- Baccano!'s Eve Genoard. A sweet and polite young lady living in America, who escapes her kidnappers and doesn't hesitate to grab someone else's gun to avenge her father. She may not know about the family bussiness, but she has the same iron will.
- Sonohara Anri of Durarara!! seems very distressed all the time, what with perverts hitting on her, ganguro girls bullying her, and the Slasher coming after her. Then she stops a knife with her arm, tells Niekawa Haruna that her knife is nothing but a child, pulls out the real Saika, and takes over the army of Slashers.
- Ranma ½
- Ranma, the resident Gender Bender of the series, is kidnapped a lot in the manga by men who want to marry his girl side. This guy punched out a man with the power of a demigod and has destroyed mountains. Damn straight he'll kick your weakling ass if he's unhappy about you kidnapping him.
- Akane tends to play the damsel note until she either sees her advantage or someone (usually Ranma) pisses her off. Then it's clobberin' time, and often even her would-be rescuers don't survive unscathed.
- One Piece Film: Strong World: When Nami is kidnapped by Shiki, she defiantly turns down Shiki's offers to join him and when his guard was down, she escaped.
- Outlaw Star:Melfina is assaulted in cyber space by Harry's hacking and she force-feedbacks the attempt so damn hard that it blows his arm, then escapes him when he tries to kidnap her.
- Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest: Akiko Aoshika. When Aoshika is holding an unconscious Inugami when Haguro's men come in to find him dead, demanding an explanation. Aoshika tries to persuade her way through and they threaten to rape her to death in front of Inugami. Instead of being frightened, Aoshika gets pissed. Wow lady.
- Yukari Sahashi, from Sekirei. While most Ashikabi are Non-Action Guys, she regularly kicks guys in the balls and beats them up so badly they end up in the hospital. She spends a few chapters holding the Distress Ball after Higa kidnaps her as part of a And Now You Must Marry Me plot and forces Shiina to work for him. However, she eventually realizes that she's been holding the Distress Ball and decides to drop it. With a Slasher Smile, she sets fire to his penthouse, tells his secretary to pass on a very insulting message, and then jumps out a 50 story window because she knows Shiina will catch her. This proves to be the cherry on top of his Humiliation Conga.
- The unnamed "maiden fair" in the ballad The Outlandish Knight, as well as the title character in the alternative version May Colvin. The knight convinces her to run away with him, then tells her he's going to drown her in the ocean, as he's done to six other maidens. Then, she convinces him to turn his back on her. "Six pretty maidens have you drowned here/And the seventh has drowned thee."
- The Dutch ballad of 'Heer Halewijn' is about a girl that asks her whole family to go to Heer (Sir) Halewijn, a man who lures women (and men probably as well) by singing. Her whole family refuses; no one returns from Halewijn. Untill she asks her brother who says something akin to 'as long as you are virtuous, you can go'. So she goes, ends up killing Halewijn, rides back with his (still bleeding!) head in her lap, which is coloured red by his blood and puts his head on the table when her father organises a feast because she has returned.
- The title character of "Eppie Morrie" spends an entire night fighting off her would-be rapist before being rescued in the morning.
- Superman. Lois Lane has quite the nerve. This is a woman who is caught by villains all the time, but only because she's Genre Savvy enough to know that if she does so she'll not only get the scoop on the front page story, but also survive to write it. Not just by getting rescued either; if Superman doesn't know/is depowered/is busy, she'll pretend to fall in love with the drug lord who captured her, then blast herself out of their wedding, veil, gown, and all, with a Mook's stolen machine gun.
- Spider-Man: Mary Jane Watson. She has beaten villains and would be rapists with baseball bats, took fighting lessons from Captain America, and became the most Badass of any Spidey love interest. There's a reason so many people hate Joe Quesada for One More Day.
- DC Nation: Fauna was captured by some thugs employed by Lex Luthor (the guy who experimented on her in the first place). Once she is able to undo the collar, she's in mid-escape when Black Canary (her boss) shows up to spring her. Thinking Canary is in trouble, Fauna's bestial side kicks in....
- In Worlds Apart, some orcs kidnap Nymeria, but they make some stupid mistakes, like not tying her hands. Nymeria finds her chance and makes her own escape.
- In the Rise Of The Guardians fic Guardian of Light the main character, Helen, is kidnapped by Pitch, her biological father. When she wakes up she tries to attack him, and when he tries to attack her she defends herself with ease. She sings to annoy him, gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for his trouble, and is later able to escape by making him think she's crying.
Films — Animation
- Disney's Aladdin had Badass Princess Jasmine. She and Aladdin save each other's skins more than once throughout the course of the movie, making them a Battle Couple.
- Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero Barbara Gordon talks back to Mr. Freeze when he kidnaps her, attacks him with the same chains she's shackled with, tries to reason with him once she learns about his Ill Girl wife Nora (so she'll be able to help him save her without losing her organs and later it turns out her blood is enough), saves his Kid Sidekick, tries to save him too...
- Shrek has Princess Fiona. She seems to be every cliché about a Princess in need of rescue, until she meets somebody REALLY ANNOYING. She goes downright Trinity when she's in a situation that's at all reasonable to handle herself. She didn't stay because she was an unarmoured woman; she stayed because she wanted to. She could only find true love by being rescued.
- Fire and Ice:Princess Teegra. Don't let the thong bikini fool you... With her getting captured isn't a matter of waiting for the hero, but a matter of seeing what clever scheme she concocts to escape this time.
Films — Live-Action
- Batman Forever gave audiences Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), who could be seen as an Author's Saving Throw for the female leads in the two previous Batman films: a straight-up Distressed Damsel (Vicki Vale) and an Action Girl who was nonetheless psychotic, emotionally weak, and pitiable (Selina Kyle/Catwoman). This becomes clear when Bruce Wayne pays her a visit and becomes concerned when he hears feminine gasps and grunts coming from her office. Thinking she's being attacked and finding the door locked, he kicks it in - only to find that Dr. Meridian was just practicing her boxing skills with a punching bag. (To compound Bruce's embarrassment, Chase then makes a sarcastic comment about how he'll now have to buy her a new door.) Later on, when she and Bruce are being attacked by Two-Face's gang, Chase punches out one of the Mooks when he tries to grab her - although she is taken hostage moments later.
- In The Movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), we have Oliver Pike (Luke Perry) as a Spear Counterpart. Pike isn't a fighter or very athletic, so he has to be rescued more often than not. He eventually becomes competent enough to take care of himself when Buffy's not around to protect him, kills two vampires along the way (one of them is In the Back), and even saves Buffy's life at one point (albeit unintentionally). He's given his due when Buffy has been shirking her duties as the Slayer due to the death of her mentor on the night of Buffy's final confrontation with the Big Bad; he uses his knife to whittle an entire sackful of stakes for her so she'll be ready to take on the vampires - and she grudgingly remarks that she's glad somebody has come prepared.
- Lois Lane makes a return to this trope in Man of Steel, given her Action Survivor status. She gets into danger a lot, but usually she tries to fight her way out of it, and does rather well considering the people she's up against are nigh-invulnerable superpowered aliens. She's even able to fight her way out of Zod's spacecraft using a Kryptonian gun, with some help from the AI Jor-El.
- Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean is like this in the first movie where she uses the Pirate Code to get out of her ffirst instance of distress and later arranging for her own rescue by smoke signal. In the second and third, she graduates to Action Girl.
- Indiana Jones
- Raiders of the Lost Ark: If you look closely as they disembark from the submarine you'll notice that the Nazi soldier guarding Marian is heavily bandaged and he has an arm in a sling.
- Temple of Doom. While on the mine cart chase, a mook manages to down Indiana for a few seconds. Sick to death of being chased, Willie slugs him so hard he goes flying off the cart.
- In the Live-Action version of Scooby-Doo, Daphne has a moment where she's being held and fights her way out by beating up the one guard that's supposed to keep her distressed.
Who's the damsel in distress now? Guard: (whimper)
Me. Daphne: Straight up. (knocks guard through a vent)
- Spaceballs: What happens when Princess Vespa's hair is caught in enemy crossfire? She grabs a laser gun and mows those suckers down!
Not bad...for a girl
Hey, that was pretty good for Rambo
- Star Wars
- Princess Leia in A New Hope. Luke and Han come to rescue her but the rescue doesn't quite work out, so she blasts a hole in the wall, proclaiming "Somebody has to save our skins!"
- In Return of the Jedi, Jabba the Hutt takes Leia as a slave. Goodbye, Jabba.
- This trope is in full force in any of Barbara Hambly's expanded universe novels. Two things you can absolutely be sure of: 1. Leia will be kidnapped by the Villains of the Book, and 2. She will make their lives pure hell before skewering them with a lightsaber near the climax.
- Attack of the Clones: Padme, she faces execution alongside Anakin and Obi-Wan, she gets out of her handcuffs before the two Jedi and begins fighting back!
- Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough escapes her kidnapper by shooting three men and then proceeds to manipulate her kidnapper into suffering Lima Syndrome and going so far as to die for her Evil Plan.
- Modern versions of Cinderella often turn the heroine into this and thus inverting her original Princess Classic / Purity Sue characterization.
- Calynn, and possibly Aurora in Gathering the Enchanted. Sure, they look and act like damsels. But they both nearly kill someone in both of their first appearances.
- In Even Hand, Justine Took a Level in Badass when she freed the prisoners, including a young child, from a powerful Fomor Wizard then swam to safety with the child, all on her own.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs's heroines often have their moments, being brave and able to endure hardship, and sometimes even wading into the fray.
- Tara in The Chessmen of Mars fights off a rapist.
- Virginia in The Monster Men turns the machine on the attacking pirates; she and the elderly Chinese cook fight them off alone.
- From Tolkien's The Silmarillion, Lúthien Tinúviel, an Elven princess who falls in love with the mortal Beren. When her father finds out, he sends Beren on an impossible quest and imprisons her. Time for her lover to rescue her? Not quite! She escapes by her own means (twice), then rescues Beren, who has also been imprisoned in the meantime... by none other than Sauron, whom Lúthien defeats almost single-handedly. Then she helps Beren fulfill his quest (and does most of the work, really). It's interesting to note that Lúthien was a homage to Tolkien's wife, Edith Tolkien, while Beren was basically an Author Avatar.
- Ekaterin Vorsoisson of the Vorkosigan Saga. She's a demure, ladylike young mom kidnapped by terrorists, who hijacks a crane and smashes their superweapon to bits with it.
- In Poul Anderson's "Time Lag", Elva's position as prisoner does not prevent her weaseling concessions out of Bors, and at the end, she casually orders them to take Bors into the corridors and shoot him.
- The Vampire Diaries:Elena started off as a Damsel in Distress most of the time, but became highly competent, tough and capable of defending herself against the supernatural beings around her.
- White Collar: Elizabeth Burke, as of the season three midseason premiere. She concocts a brilliant escape plan with nothing but a dog bite, thermostat, diamond ring, and some crazy chair swinging skills.
- In Dai Sentai Goggle Five: The enemy loves targeting Miki Momozono/Goggle Pink to be attacked or sorts, causing her allies to knock the attacker for her but on the other hand, she can take care of herself and proves her smarts in outwitting the enemies culminating in a Crowning Moment Of Awesome where she got off from a Death Trap of a burning book... alone.
- Merlin: Guinevere has the highest amount of kidnappings and captures on the show, but (as actress Angel Coulby has said in interviews) is also the strongest emotionally. The writers admitted that she's got the most common sense. Her ability to keep her wits around her, whether by bluffing her captors or keeping track of what's happening on a battlefield, has kept her and others alive more than once.
- Robin Hood:Djaq and Marian. Everyone on this show is captured at least once; in their case they are rescued by friends and/or love interests, but not before making several nearly-successful attempts to escape on their own.
- Firefly: River Tam spends a significant amount of time in serious danger, between the villagers threatening to burn her alive, Feds putting guns to her head, and the Hands of Blue. Then she remembers she can fight back.
- In Doctor Who, several companions fit this to varying degrees due to the fact that juggling the Distress Ball is in the job description. Jo Grant, for instence, is in the middle between Damsel-in-Distress and Action Girl.
- Hell on Wheels: Lily Bell kills the Cheyenne warrior who killed her husband by stabbing him with the arrow that was stuck in her shoulder, then is able to trek over several mile and sew up her wound before getting rescued by Joseph Black Moon and Cullen Bohannon .
- If you are a villain in Fringe, do not kidnap Olivia Dunham. The best case scenario is that she'll escape. Worst-case, she'll kill everyone involved on her way out the door. Specifically, do not attempt to use:
- Restraints. They don't work. Ever. Even her Alternate Universe version was able to escape while tied to a gurney. Also while having her pregnancy accelerated.
- Captured family and friends. That will only activate her superpowers. Then people die.
- Locking her in an alternate universe and rewrite her brain to believe that she's her alternate universe self. No, she'll just reconstruct her true mind, then teleport herself back to her universe, thus leaving herself with both Olivia's abilities.
- Arrow: Laurel Lance would've avoided being kidnapped - she fought off two goons - if Cyrus Vance hadn't had a taser. Later in the series she pulls a shotgun on the assassin who comes after her and little boy she's protecting.
- Elaine Marley of the Monkey Island series. She frequently needs rescuing from LeChuck, but most other times, she can perfectly take care of herself. In the first game, Guybrush inadvertently messes up her plan to destroy LeChuck by attempting to rescue her.
- Final Fantasy
- Yuna from Final Fantasy X, the sweet, shy, innocent summor is kidnapped a couple of times and both times lead to a Crowning Moment Of Awesome on her part. Escaping on her own before just as her rescuers arrive and then attempting to send Seymour at their forced marriage; when that fails she jumps off a roof and escapes on an aeon.
- Final Fantasy VII
- Tifa Lockhart is thought to be in distress early in the game but is instead uncover and investigating. Later in the game she's shackled to a chair in a gas chamber and escapes on her own.
- Aeris/Aerith Gainsborough is separated from Cloud at one point in the game and pursued by SHINRA soldiers. The player has the option to fight them with only her.
- Fire Emblem
- Princess Lilina of Ostia from Fire Emblem 6 starts as this, as you find her locked in a room of her own castle. As soon as Roy meets up with her, he hands Lilina a Thunder tome and tells her to fight with him... and she does so without any hesitation. It gets even better when she's promoted into Sage, then she can potentially become the most powerful magic user of the whole game.
- Princess Tana of Frelia in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (although she only starts out captured in Ephraim's route), and like Lilina, she's the best in her class (in this case, Falconknight/Wyvern Knight, although on the latter she might have competition from Cormag for that title).
- Nanna of Nodion from Fire Emblem Jugdral keeps her cool when she and her friend Mareeta are kidnapped and openly telling Leaf to not give himself up to the Empire when in a Hostage Situation. When freed, she joins the group to be their mounted White Magician Girl, and can upgrade to a Lady of War.
- Mass Effect: Liara's introduction in the third game sets her up for needing another rescue, scrambling through air vents being persued by two Cerberus troopers. Then she exits the vents, traps the troopers with a Singularity, and double-taps both of them.
- Knights of the Old Republic: There's Bastila, who takes a while to lose the Distress Ball, but when she does? Overrides a neural disruptor, kills her guard, uses telekenesis to break her way out of the cage and helps mop up whatever Vulkars are dumb enough to hang around after that using the dead mook's double-bladed sword.
- Kingdom Hearts II: Belle pulls this trope off again when Xaldin kidnaps her and the rose, and forces Beast to choose. She elbows Xaldin in the gut and grabs the rose before running back.
- Kairi sees herself in danger often, but every time she's escaped (or in the process of it) before Sora arrives. For instance, in II she's captured by Axel escapes from him and is captured by Salix and escapes him (with help from Namine) and is confronted by nobodies and about to fight them when help arrives.
- Rise Kujikawa from Persona 4is the one who needs less time to rest and recover after the battle against her Shadow, and immediately takes Teddie's Mission Control spot with her Persona, Himiko.
- In a similar case, Fuuka Yamagishi from Persona 3, pre-getting her Persona, she survives several days stuck in Tartarus avoiding Shadows, and then awakens to her Persona (Lucia) and like Rise, she and Lucia immediately take over as Mission Control.
- Vagrant Story: Callo Merlose is kidnapped just before the first boss, and remains captive for the entire game; since she's there to investigate the antagonists anyway, she takes advantage of this situation to learn as much as she can. On one occasion she almost reverses the power balance between herself and her captor. Heck, when she's first kidnapped, she straight up tells Ashley to stay on task and not bother about rescuing her!
- Cassima from King's Quest VI spends most of the game locked up in the tower, but give her a dagger...
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the player will be one if they choose the female city-elf origin. Seriously, those corpses weren't there last night were they? Any other female character gets a chance to play at the trope if they get captured near the end. Sure, you can get rescued, but it's totally plausible to rescue yourself.
- In World of Warcraft, a dwarf named Fanny Thundermar is captured by ogres during an Alliance-side quest chain in the Twilight Highlands. When you go to rescue her, you find her surrounded by dead ogres who had tried to cop a feel. Her prospective husband is very impressed.
- Jaina Proudmoore has one of these moments in the Fall of Theramore scenario. Your objective is to rescue her in the crater made by the mana bomb dropped by the Horde. When you find her she's surrounded by the dead, frozen corpses of numerous Horde soldiers and attempting to disarm the bomb so it can't be used again.
- Hatoful Boyfriend: Hiyoko Tousaka, who is capable of throwing two Love Interests out of a window at once, becomes the "Plucky Girl catches a Distress Ball" version in the "Bad Boys Love" route. How distressed? The route is triggered by her dying horribly. Does this stop her from saving the day? Nah.
- In Superman: The Animated Series there is one episode where Superman is being beaten by Lobo, Lois Lane shows up, grabs a metal rod and joins in the attack. True this does nothing (the guy even eats the pipe), but it's the thought that counts.
- In the Looney Tunes short The Dover Boys, Dora Standpipe beats up the villainous Dan Backslide as she calls for help. By the end it's Backslide who calls for help.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- Rarity is best shown in the episode "A Dog and Pony Show", where she's captured by a group of dogs who want her to dig up gems for them by hoof. She spends the rest of the episode driving her ponynappers insane in a calculated manner with constant nit-picking, complaining, and the worst whining sound you will ever hear. When our heroes finally reach the ponynappers, they are more than happy to let her go.
- Fluttershy sometimes finds herself in trouble and in need of rescue because performance anxiety makes her lock up. When sufficiently motivated, she can stare down a dragon.
- Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda animated series preceded all the game installments in this department. There were more episodes featuring her battling alongside Link wielding a bow and arrow than there were of Link rescuing her and oftentimes she rescued herself before he showed up.
- One appears in the obscure Disney feature Mars & Beyond as part of an outline of how Mars is depicted in pop culture. After being kidnapped because Mars Needs Women, her reaction upon meeting the martian behind her abduction is to kick him in the mouth. After enduring a series of nightmarish tests, she escapes on her own, hijacks a saucer and flies back home — all without her egghead boss noticing she was missing in the first place!
- Roll from the Mega Man cartoon gets captured a couple times, but usually manages to make trouble for her captors—and she's an Action Girl in combat.
- Batman Beyond has Dana Tan; the few times she's a Damsel in Distress for more than a minute, she fights back. When kidnapped by a Stalker with a Crush, she tricks him into leaving her alone and tries to escape through the sewers. When Batman is overcome by giant rats while rescuing her, she creates a torch out of flotsam lying around and successfully drives the rats off of him. In The Movie, she almost gets away from the Joker who grabs her; unfortunately, she gives him so much trouble that instead of kidnapping her, he tries to kill her by throwing off the balcony.