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. Extra points if she then helps the hero escape the danger he's putting himself into.
Almost Always Female
, and usually a Plucky Girl
Compare with Badass Princess
, Play-Along Prisoner
, Lady of War
for a skillful and graceful fighter, Silk Hiding Steel
is this trope's prim 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
- As of chapter 57 of Black Butler, Elizabeth Middleford proved how much she deserves the Middleford title by initially trying to hide her badass side because she didn't want Ciel to see her "uncute" side, but when he is injured and unable to save her, Elizabeth leaps into the air and stabs down the zombies with swords in both hands. "This time, I will protect you!" Indeed.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Relena Peacecraft. Sure, she can't fight as well as other girls, but she can talk her way out wonderfully and pulls more than one Go Through Me to defend her friends, her Kingdom, or her beliefs. Again in The Movie where she steals the villain's communications in order to encourage the Muggles to stop Holding Out for a Hero and do something themselves.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Kisara, the girl that Kaiba's preincarnation has evident feelings for, is a good example of this trope. Seto may have saved her first, but she repays the favor in spades; her soul is the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. note
- 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 business, 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 cyberspace 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.
- Dance in the Vampire Bund: Mina Tepes' default setting when imprisoned is that of a Defiant Captive, but when an unexpected explosion occurs in Duke Rozenmann's New York base, her two (probably superhuman and definitely armed adult male) guards are distracted for three seconds... and she (a sleep-deprived and at least somewhat underfed Undead Child) for two. After dropping themnote and unshackling herself in that order, she makes her way to a breach and leaps into the Manhattan night sky, only surrendering about a week later when she, the woman that took her in, and her child were held at gunpoint.
- Near the beginning of the Lupin III episode "Albatross: Wings of Death", Prof. Lumbach kidnaps Fujiko and holds her hostage. Lupin and the others to attempt to rescue her, but she saves them the trouble by freeing herself and winds up saving them when she single-handedly takes over the plane (at 7:21-8:47)!
- In Detective Conan, there are several instances where criminals think it'll be easy to make an attempt on Ran's life or kidnap her. Since Ran is a karate champion, this rarely works out. In one notable instance, when Kogoro and Conan uncover the two criminals, one of them grabs Ran and points a gun to her head to try to secure a clear escape. There's a brief instance as Kogoro and Conan both shout warnings to the criminal, before Ran knocks the guy out.
- Sapphire, of Princess Knight, is constantly pursued, locked up, and nearly killed at several points in her series, but never gives up on fighting back. When Nylon comes after her during a siege, she single-handedly takes him down in a swordfight. Later, when she's escaping prison with the help of Friebe, she helps Friebe fight off that castle's entire guard. In Twin Knight, we see Sapphire passed this on to her daughter, Violetta, telling her when the two are being held hostage, "You can't give in to bad people, no matter how tough things get". In keeping with this trope, she then proceeds to give Violetta extra swordfighting lessons, so her daughter would be better able to handle the upcoming dangers. For the rest of the series, Violetta and her friend Emerald find themselves in various dangers and always set about rescuing each other and themselves.
- 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.
- 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.
- After spending so much time playing the part of the Damsel in Distress, Roxanne shows exactly how much her experience has left her prepared for kidnappings in the Megamind fanfiction, Rain On The Just. She tries to pry out details of her kidnapper's plan, manages to have the presence of mind to activate a tracking device, attempts to escape on her own by smashing open a window, warns Megamind that Owen has a gun as soon as her boyfriend arrives, nearly wrestles a weapon out of Owen's hands when he gets too close, and spends her entire captivity trying to keep things under control.
- A Far Green Country:
- In his backstory, Elden was a prisoner in Edoras, Rohan (from The Lord of the Rings), but he escaped.
- After villains capture the whole party of Elden, Nellas, Surad and Durus, they attempt to escape.
Films — Animation
- In Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Chun-Li is attacked by Vega as she walks out of the shower, and though he has the upper hand at first, she eventually turns the tide and utterly dominates him. However, this trope is downplayed to an extent. While Chun-Li defeated Vega, she sustained serious injuries during the fight and might have died had she not been immediately discovered by Guile (who burst into the room right after the fight ended) and hospitalized.
The scene, and by extent this trope, is quite well described in the comments' section in this YouTube
video of their fight:
: "Think you're just gonna sneak in there and find some weak, terrified college girl to kill? Not with the Queen of Fighting Games
. Sofa to the FACE!!!"
- 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 & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero 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. Shrek Forever After gives us an Alternate Timeline where Shrek never came. Fiona saved herself and became a resistance fighter.
- 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.
- Angel from Rock & Rule She is so effectively resistant to Mok's will that she escapes his clutches, has to be forcibly recaptured and dragged back and finally shackled with a shock collar on stage to make her sing at all.
- Elsa of Frozen gets imprisoned and shackled with specially-made manacles meant to serve as Power Limiters near the end of the movie. However, as hinted at several points earlier in the movie, covering her hands only helps her control her powers and doesn't totally stop them, so she proceeds to freeze both her shackles and the entire room until she could shatter them and break out.
- In Titan A.E., Akima gets captured by slavers and threatened by the other prisoners. She beats up all the prisoners by the time the rest of the team comes to get her.
- The Fuma Conspiracy had two captured females, and while Murasaki is your typical Damsel in Distress, Fujiko is a handful for her captors up until she beats up the guards left to keep her trapped and rejoins the heroes.
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 Damsel in Distress (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.
- While they still end these sequences rescued in some way, Mary Jane in Spider-Man 3 and Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man manage to protect themselves from danger during the climax beforehand.
- In 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 first instance of distress and later arranging for her own rescue by smoke signal, as well as helping Will fight off some undead pirates. 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 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!"
- Leia's first appearance may result in her being captured to eventually be rescued, but in-between giving the Death Star plans to some droids, she's a much better shot than the stormtroopers who died trying to capture her.
- 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: When Padme 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.
- While the entire plot of Commando revolves around John Matrix rescuing his kidnapped young daughter, Jenny, as it turns out she must have picked up something from her dad. The second her dad storms the compound and she's not tied up, she's popped a doorknob off the door to her room and rescued herself. She's almost to her dad before the villainous Bennett shows up, but had she not tried to escape earlier, she'd definitely be dead as Bennett had gone looking for her precisely to kill her.
- Maid Jean's capture in The Court Jester ended very poorly for the bad guys when she used her situation to extract the castle key the good guys needed to carry out their plans.
- In The Wolverine, when Mariko is snagged by thugs at her grandfather's funeral, she was well on her way toward escaping from them when Logan reached her and finished them off. Also she saves Logan a few times and helps take down Silver Samurai with her knife-throwing skills.
- Taken to the limit with Anderson in Dredd. When she's captured by the bad guys, Dredd sets out on what looks like a Roaring Rampage of Rescue, only to run out of ammo, get shot in the stomach and, find himself helpless under the gun of a corrupt Judge. Meanwhile, Anderson frees herself, kills her way out of the enemy stronghold, and turns up just in time to save Dredd.
- 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.
- In Frostflower and Thorn Frostflower saves herself and her friends with an awesome display of her rediscovered powers in the book's climactic scene.
- Kindling Ashes: Giselle is captured by raiders and bound hand and foot, yet she rescues herself by spooking them into thinking that Baltair possessed one of them and then sticks her hands against a camp fire to burn away the ropes. By the time she's done, she notes that rescuers have arrived.
- A Mage's Power: Zigzagged this trope with Kasile. She easily handles the mooks that have come to abduct her, but their leader subdues her just as easily. Eric comes to rescue her but by the time he arrives, she's loose and on the verge of escape. In the end, she follows the outlaw force that composes her official rescue party.
- In Poul Anderson's "Time Lag", Elva's position as prisoner does not prevent her weaselling 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.
- One episode has Morgana and Gwen apprehended by bandits. Within seconds, the two manage to fight off their captors and run away. Although Gwen gets recaptured, Morgana makes it to safety.
- 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 instance, is in the middle between Damsel-in-Distress and Action Girl. Vicki has a brilliant moment in "The Chase" when even though the Doctor has abandoned her in a Dalek-infested theme park by accident, she manages to sneak on board the Daleks' time machine, and meet up with the crew with knowledge of the Daleks' plan to boot.
- 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.
- 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.
- Shado is a much more straight example. She's Yao Fei's daughter who was kidnapped to blackmail him. Turns out she was trained in martial arts by her father.
- Virtually a Running Gag on NCIS, in which our heroes realise a female character is Alone with the Psycho, and rush to the rescue only to find she's already knocked him unconscious.
- Belle in Once Upon a Time isn't quite an Action Girl but she does this a few times. Notably when Captain Hook has a gun pointed at her, she's able to distract him long enough to run away. A later episode has her and Ariel tied up on a chair. Belle pulls off the bracelet Ariel was wearing to give herself human legs - and her mermaid tail helps them break out of their bonds.
- Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In Star Trek Deep Space Nine S 05 E 08 Things Past she's captured by Dukat, and uses it as an opportunity to gather intel. In Star Trek Deep Space Nine S 03 E 11 Past Tense Part I, she's mistaken for a mugging victim by a good Samaritan. She goes along with his story so she can find a way to help Bashir and Sisko.
- 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 summoner is kidnapped a couple of times and both times lead to a Crowning Moment of Awesome on her part. Escaping on her own just as her rescuers arrive and then attempting to send Seymour at the 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 undercover 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 pursued 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 telekinesis 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, when she's captured by Axel escapes from him but is later captured by Saïx and escapes him (with help from Namine, who, in an ironic doubling of this trope, actually IS her) and is confronted by nobodies and about to fight them when help from Riku arrives. Then she and Riku save Sora from a buttload of Heartless that Saix calls on him.
- Rise Kujikawa from Persona 4 is 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: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow 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.
- 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 the second Ace Attorney game, when Maya is kidnapped by Shelly de Killer, she participates in her own rescue by channeling Mia, who investigates the area for landmarks and clues. Mia then is channeled by Pearl, who relays the information to the police searching for Maya. There's also a part where Maya manages to escape from the cellar she's kept in, though she can't get much farther than that. Maya's channeling of Mia for advice is later used in the final case of the third game, where Maya is chased by a bloodthirsty and dead Dahlia Hawthorne, and is advised by Mia to lock herself up and channel Dahlia herself, thus forcing Dahlia into confinement. Also, in just about every case where Maya's the defendant, she'll channel Mia at least once, so Phoenix can have her help.
- Far Cry 3: Daisy. Not only does she manage to escape pirate custody and survive a friggin' leopard attack while unarmed, she also comes up with the plan to get off the island, she also fixes up the boat (a World War II-vintage torpedo boat) needed to do it. The only time she needs help is when she is poisoned after the leopard attack, by running through a field of plants she didn't know were poisonous.
- In Thistil Mistil Kistil, Hedda is less brash than the usual version. Nevertheless, after being drugged, she overpowers two grown men to escape Human Sacrifice.
- One of the most well-known strips of Super Stupor shows a supervillain trying to stuff a hero's non-powered girlfriend into the fridge. He winds up begging for mercy, and she still stuffs his hand down a garbage disposal.
- In Erstwhile, when Maid Maleen realizes that they will not be let out, she determines that they must get out on their own.
- Girl Genius
- Lampshaded; nobody else was stupid enough to try and kidnap a professional hero's angry sister.
- Agatha earlier in the comics before she Took a Level in Badass. While she wasn't too capable in a fight, given some time and parts to work with, she could cobble together all sorts of contraptions to help herself escape with. Some idiots still try to kidnap her afterward and this results in a lot of pain and misery for anyone stupid enough to try. Case in Point: Tweedle. Poor Tweedle. Oh God, Tweedle. He thought kidnapping and subduing the Heterodyne Girl for his plot would be easy; he thought wrong.
- The Order of the Stick has Celia caught by Hank and other members of the Thieves Guild in Greysky City. She breaks out by using her negotiating skills to reinstate Haley with the Thieves Guild
- In Magience, when Rune is kidnapped by the Plague Hunters, she escapes before the rescue effort gets anywhere.
- White Dark Life: Dark Matt is incredibly ineffective at keeping a hold on Cosmo to the point that she is capable of leaving at will if she so chooses.
- Princess Peach is depicted as one in this Brawl in the Family strip. She even manages to escape Bowser's castle on her own, only going back because she feels Mario is owed some recognition for the efforts to which he went saving her.
Yes, far too many times the inept doormat character that we have to rescue ends up being a woman. But making Samantha into Samuel and having Lara rescue a spineless whiny dude wouldn't fix the problem that the person we're trying to save is the least interesting person in the game. Let's not argue over how sexist this character is. Let's get rid of it and replace it with something better.
To fix Samantha, just give her some strength, skill, and determination. It's okay if our rescue buddy can't liberate themselves. I don't begrudge a character not being able to free himself or herself from an army of cultists. Just show that they're trying. Make them good at something besides fighting. Make them a character with thoughts of their own. If nothing else, give them some witty things to say. We don't need to enact some kind of perverse affirmative action quota where we make sure both genders are properly represented among terrible sidekicks. Let's stop having terrible sidekicks.
- 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. This is foreshadowed from the very first episode, where, despite being the most conventionally feminine of the mane 6, she's also the first to attack a hostile manticorenote . With her bare hooves, no less, despite being a telekinetic unicorn.
- 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.
- Arcee from Transformers Prime is one. Of all the Autobots on Team Prime, she gets captured or trapped the most often. In the majority of cases, she's able to get away on her own and tear a small path of destruction through the enemy forces. She even, a few times, had to rescue someone else in addition to herself.
- In The Book of Life, Maria doesn't take kindly to being taken captive by bandit king Chakal. She ends up breaking free of his clutches and joining the fight alongside her childhood friends Manolo and Joaquin.