"You have a knack for getting in trouble."
The Damsel in Distress
is an age-old classic plot device, which places a character in danger to add tension to the story. Sometimes one character (usually a Love Interest
or a relative
of another character) seems to have no discernible purpose besides serving as the Designated Victim
. If the character is popular with the audience, this can be effective. Other times, well... let's just say that the audience starts wishing that the Big Damn Heroes
would get stuck in traffic, just so they won't have to put up with her
Most of the time, this character's plight is due entirely to her own stupidity
. She doesn't just pick up the Distress Ball
, she runs it into her own endzone and gets tackled for a safety. And she keeps on doing it, again and again and again
. This may be due to being The Ditz
, or a severe case of crippling Genre Blindness
Even if she's just unlucky, she may be disliked for other reasons. Perhaps the audience finds her too bland
, or too bitchy
. Perhaps her presence seems shoehorned into the main plot
(perhaps to attract a Periphery Demographic
or for blatant Fanservice
), and the audience feels she steals time
from the story they're actually interested in. This is especially true when her subplot has nothing to do with the main plot
at all. Or else she seems like useless dead weight
whose only purpose is to pad the plot by getting in trouble. And worst of all, the fans may just dislike her for getting in the way
of their Fan-Preferred Couple
, and actually use this trope as an excuse to hate her without being called out for it.
Faux Action Girl
is what you get when you mix this with an Action Girl
is what happens if an actual Action Girl
gets retooled or derailed
into this. Child characters can fall prey to this just as easily, especially the Tagalong Kid
or a hero's Oblivious Younger Sibling
. Large risk of being Trapped by Mountain Lions
See also Too Dumb to Live
. Compare The Scrappy
and The Load
. Compare The President's Daughter
, Defiant Captive
and Damsel out of Distress
. See also Reckless Sidekick
, Sympathetic Sue
. Deliberately Distressed Damsel
can justify or subvert this trope.
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Anime & Manga
- Meg from Bakuretsu Tenshi. Supposedly an Action Girl, but Jo must rescue her all the time.
- Black Butler: One of the reasons for Elizabeth's scrappy status. In the manga this is eventually subverted, as Elizabeth is actually a Little Miss Badass more than capable of defending herself who only acts this way because she fears Ciel may reject her for being "unfeminine."
- Princess Lurichiyo. A bratty, spoiled rich kid who can't seem to stop getting kidnapped. After Ichigo and crew have the kidnapper cornered and it looks like the filler arc is over, Amagai shows up, reveals he is a villain, and kidnaps her again. Made more irritating for some by the fact that the arc came up in the middle of the Hueco Mundo arc and after Ichigo's battle with Grimmjow.
- During the Arrancar arc, Orihime also got this reputation among parts of the fandom (Neutral Female and Say My Name have all been cited as contributing factors). It's rather unfair, considering the terrible situation she was put in by Aizen and the Arrancar.
- Beauty from Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo serves two purposes: perpetually reminding the viewer at the top of her lungs that the things the other characters are doing are bizarre, and being the Damsel in Distress when the plot calls for it.
- Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi, despite being the series protagonist, has come in for some fan hate for the numerous times she pointlessly rushes headfirst into dangerous situations, in some cases even actively sabotaging her protectors or not telling them important information, then getting in trouble and needing them to come save her anyway.
- Kaede Sakura from Kämpfer. It's all just an act.
- One of the reasons why Akane Tendo from Ranma ½ is considered by some to be a Base Breaker is the fact that, sometimes, she comes off as one of these. It's not that she gets kidnapped a lot (in fact, Ranma Saotome himself is actually kidnapped more frequently than she is), but she does get into trouble frequently, often because of her own issues (temper tantrums, pride and blind distrust of Ranma/trust of her enemies, mainly), and usually ends up contributing nothing positive to the experience. The very earliest examples of this are the Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics and Martial Arts Figure Skating stories.
- Molly from the DiC English dub of Sailor Moon. Her horrible accent, combined with how she gets attacked by the Monster of the Week in almost every episode of the first season, makes her much more annoying than her original character.
- Chibiusa/Rini too. Over half of the Monster of the Week plots in the second season are kicked off by her running off and getting herself into trouble. You'd think the girl would catch on after it happens so many times but no. The villains of that season have the easiest job in the world - they don't have to try and find her at all, they just need to wait for her to run off and inevitably reveal herself which happens every time.
- Saint Seiya has Saori Kido who to be saved by the main characters about five times in the original manga, four other times in the movies, twice in the spin-off anime, and once in the manga sequel. Of course this gets her bashed six ways from Sunday by many fans.
- Mokuba Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh!, who gets into trouble precisely seven times in the series. However, he's not all that hated by fans since he's a kid, which makes it a bit more understandable as to why why fully grown people are often managing to kidnap him, and often more amusement than annoyance is found at the fact that he's in trouble so often. And to his credit, in one memorable situation, he actually manages to break himself out, finds Yugi and Kaiba with a helicopter, and takes them to where Yugi's friends were being held captive.
- Also invoked in the early manga somewhat with Anzu. She is first held hostage by a restaurant owner and then nearly assaulted by a classmate. Yami Yugi rescues her both times and she promptly develops a crush on him. Then she herself invokes the trope, trying to put herself in danger in one chapter to make him appear. She isn't usually held hostage any more than anyone else in Yugi's immediate circle of friends, though, and given that she gives friendship speeches much less than she does in the anime, the extent of the scrappy-ness is debateable.
- Empowered has a very sturdy reputation as this in-universe, as a "D-list superchica prone to capture and bondage", despite the fact that when the villains she faces upgrade from obnoxious, but not very harmful pervs to actual threats to the safety of her friends and/or the world, she is one of the most effective and powerful heroes (and a good battlefield leader even), especially in the later stories. She is growing increasingly effective against the pervs too.
- This is the characteristic once strongly associated with Lois Lane. Ironically, it can be argued that Lois' role as a Damsel in Distress was far more important to the Superman plot than her role as a love interest, Depending on the Writer. In the 1940's, she did need to be rescued a lot (usually while pursuing a news story), but was fairly intelligent and could sometimes get herself out of scrapes by kicking ass and taking names. Once the 50's, 60's and early 70's came around though... Yeesh. She was an empty headed twerp who was constantly putting herself in danger for no reason, and whose sole goal in life was to trick Superman into marrying her. She took Too Dumb to Live to uncharted levels. In recent comics and other media she's a much more well rounded and developed character, who is extremely competent and able to take care of herself. She still needs to be rescued sometimes, and the trope may pop up occasionally, but for the most part she's a very independent, intrepid and intelligent reporter who just needs a little help against super powered aggressors from time to time.
- The sixties-era book Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane seemed dedicated to making sure every single reader hated poor Lois. If you Google around, you'll find scans of multiple letters columns where readers asked for Superman to spank Lois (which would in fact occur, though in the context of Super Dickery). A few may have had other motives than scrappyhood, though.
- Even when there's neither any Super Villain's ill will nor a big scoop one jump away from her window, she can be trusted to find something dangerous. Letters on the label are bigger than her eyes, so... they just don't fit in, right?
- Starting late in The Seventies comics, Lois was written to be more assertive to avert this trope, and needed rescuing much less often, including in her solo stories in The Superman Family. This included Lois having mastered a Kryptonian form of martial arts named "klurkor."
- Being associated with this trope is probably what spurred John Byrne, in his Post-Crisis retelling of Superman's origin, to make it very, very obvious that Lois was now a borderline Action Girl. This eventually led to an Inversion immediately after her wedding to Clark when he was kidnapped after temporarily losing his powers. Lois took her Army brat background to extremes, becoming a G. I. Jane in order to come to the rescue.
- Rick Jones has been this from his first appearance, which annoyed even The Hulk during his grey, intelligent phases. This was lampshaded by Rick himself in one issue where he managed to beat his captor and escape on his own.
- The Ultimate Spider-Man version of Mary Jane fits this so well that even Spidey notices in-universe, breaking up with her because he can't trust her to handle herself intelligently when a supervillain is wrecking up the place. Unusually, she takes this as a spur for Character Development and resolves to do better in the future.