->''While I went through this basement looking for loose dollars, I ran into a beautiful princess. She looked pretty happy where she was, but even so, I figured she'd give me the $105 I needed after a daring Bubble Rescue. I had no idea it was all an elaborate trap. That "helpless princess" turned into some kind of coneheaded bird/starfish thing hell-bent on destroying me. I knew from high school, college, and summer Adventure Camp that you couldn't trust women, but [[EtTuBrute Nintendo had always been a place where they made sense]].''
-->-- '''{{Seanbaby}}''' plays ''VideoGame/MilonsSecretCastle''

Bob the adventuring hero is approached by Alice, who is in some kind of trouble. Her village is being ravaged by a monster, or she's being [[ArrangedMarriage forced into marriage]] [[IHaveYouNowMyPretty against her will]]. Bob, like a good hero, goes to help her... except, whoops! It was all a lie. Alice isn't in trouble; she's the mastermind, and Bob just walked straight into her EvilPlan.

This is when a seeming DamselInDistress is luring the hero in for her own ends, usually by [[TheDulcineaEffect playing on his heroism (and sometimes his lust for her).]] Just about AlwaysFemale. Compare FemmeFatale, FalseInnocenceTrick, HoneyTrap, WoundedGazelleGambit. A subtrope of UsingYouAllAlong.

Due to the nature of the trope, spoilers ahead.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* An episode of ''Anime/DigimonAdventure02'' had Daisuke against a SadisticChoice to save one of the other four Digidestined/Digimon pairs (in an UnwillingSuspension, no less). As it turns out, Daisuke said he couldn't do it and offered to be captured instead... and then he stalled and revealed a mind-controlled {{Shapeshifter}} Digimon was trying to lure him into a trap.
* In one episode of ''Anime/SailorMoon'', Zoicite seeks to lure out Tuxedo Mask by pretending to be Sailor Moon and "rescue" people, and then he makes it look like he's captured. He then attacks Tuxedo Mask when Tux tries to save him, thinking he's Sailor Moon. When Tuxedo Mask releases him, he stabs him InTheBack.
* In ''Lightnovel/FullMetalPanic: The Second Raid'', Yu Lan does this to one of Mithril's agents when he "rescues" her. Turns out that she was with Amalgam, and had been disguising herself as one of the ambassadors who were kidnapped in a hostage situation. It's obvious before the poor sap [[SlashedThroat got his throat slit open]] that he was ''very'' satisfied with having rescued such a beautiful DamselInDistress. She even gives him a flirty, appreciative look after he unties her.
* ''Anime/YuGiOh5Ds'': [[spoiler: Barbara]] from the Crashtown Arc.
* [[spoiler: Tsubaki]] from ''Manga/MiraiNikki''. Looks and acts like a {{Nice G|uy}}irl, but is really a {{Manipulative B|astard}}itch.
* There's an entire village of these in ''TengenToppaGurrenLagann'', all under Guame's control. They fool every single male on the Dai-Gurren (except for [[CampGay Leeron]]).
* In an early episode of ''Anime/SamuraiFlamenco'', the title character stumbles across a young woman being mugged. After he rescues him, the woman promptly turns on him and reveals that the "mugging" was just a ruse to lure him there so the thugs could capture him. The woman ends up BoundAndGagged while her goons are given a NoHoldsBarredBeatdown by Flamenco Girl for their troubles.
* In ''{{Ratman}}'', main character Shuto is tricked into joining the "evil" organization Jackal when his classmate, Mirea Mizushima, is abducted by them. Not only is she the little sister of Jackal's leader, but was the one who suggested that they recruit Shuto to be inducted as the titular Ratman. It's ultimately a SubvertedTrope, however, as she's a genuine {{Nice G|uy}}irl and Jackal's members are more [[AntiVillain Anti-Villains]] than anything. Plus, by becoming Ratman, Shuto is able to (sort of) live his childhood dream of being a superhero.
* Minatsuki "Hummingbird" Takami from ''DeadmanWonderland''. She plays up her ShrinkingViolet and InnocentFlowerGirl role for all it's worth when she's matched to fight Ganta; she acts like she's horrified by the violence, and adds in some clumsiness and sexual tension to really throw him off. Not only was it a complete act, she's [[CuteAndPsycho crazy as hell]] and in prison for a very good reason.
* Lily is introduced as such in the ''VideoGame/FatalFury'' first OVA. In a subversion, [[spoiler: it's not really by choice because not only she's a little girl, but Geese is forcing her to play the role to get his rival Jeff Bogard killed. [[BrokenBird And poor Lily]] [[FailureKnight never forgives herself]] [[BreakTheCutie for that]].]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* [[spoiler: Ava Lord]] from the ''SinCity'' story "A Dame to Kill For".
* During her "field test" (i.e. kill everyone at a presidential candidate's party), pre-teen ComicBook/{{X 23}} disguised herself as the wounded SoleSurvivor of the attack. She fooled ''ComicBook/CaptainAmerica''. After learning the truth, Steve spent ''years'' tracking her down hoping to bring her to justice.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Meg in Disney's ''{{Disney/Hercules}}'' is genuinely in trouble the first time Hercules helps her out, but she later plays a Decoy Damsel to lure Hercules to a rock slide and a hydra, with help from Pain and Panic as Decoy Kids. She's not happy about having to do it, and it isn't her idea, but she did make a DealWithTheDevil and cannot go against her employer, [[EverybodyHatesHades Hades.]]
* Inverted by ''Disney/{{Tangled}}'': Mother Gothel sets up a situation where Rapunzel is the damsel, and she the rescuer, to lure her back.
* Harley Quinn did this in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyondReturnOfTheJoker'', pretending to be a mugging victim so Robin could come to her rescue. When his back was turned, she knocked him out with an oversized mallet.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Elsa in ''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheLastCrusade''. Albeit she's not the BigBad. And she explains that she isn't really a Nazi, but just wants recognition for finding the Holy Grail and believes that the Nazis are the best equipped to help her do that. Later, however, she actually becomes a true DamselInDistress when she takes the grail past the seal. This causes the temple to collapse and she nearly falls into a chasm, but Indy grabs her in time. Despite the danger of falling, she insists on reaching for the grail below her. Indy can’t keep her gloved hand from slipping and she plunges to her DeathByMaterialism.
* Elektra King in the James Bond film ''Film/TheWorldIsNotEnough'', an oil heiress who conspires with the terrorist and her one-time captor (and current lover), Renard, to cause an oil shortage by blowing up a Russian pipeline with a nuclear detonation and thereby substantially increase her own oil holdings. She manipulates Bond, but he ultimately sees beyond her deception and manages to confront her.
* Brigid O'Shaughnessy in ''Film/TheMalteseFalcon''.
* A variant is done by Selina Kyle in ''Film/TheDarkKnightRises''. While she never actually traps anyone, she has no problem pretending to be a scared, helpless victim, if it means the police will overlook her long enough to make her getaway.
** Played straighter by [[spoiler: love interest Miranda Tate who is really Talia al Ghul, and conspiring with Bane.]]
* Black Widow's introduction scene in ''Film/TheAvengers''. As JossWhedon commented, "This is [[SignatureStyle my entire career]] in one scene: ''Look, she's helpless! No, she's kicking their asses!''"
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* In the book ''The Last Knight'', the hero rescues a woman from captivity in a tower, only to discover that she was being held there as a murder suspect. The rest of the book is about him trying to recapture her and bring her to justice.
* ''Dilvish, the Damned'' is a collection of fantasy stories written by Creator/RogerZelazny. In one of the stories, Dilvish hears a DamselInDistress. His GenreSavvy sidekick, Black, a demon horse, warns him about this, stating that it is the oldest trick in the book.
* OlderThanRadio: Milady De Winter in ''Literature/TheThreeMusketeers''.
* The Literature/JackReacher story ''Echo Burning'' plays with this - there's an on-again, off-again question about the leading lady's actual motives for recruiting Reacher.
* [[MagnificentBastard Senna]] from ''{{Everworld}}.'' PlayedWith because she really ''is'' in trouble, but she has full intentions of becoming the BigBad herself, and is manipulating [[TrappedInAnotherWorld the heroes]] to achieve that goal. Made worse because they ''know'' this but really have no choice but help her, since letting [[GodOfEvil Loki]] or [[EldritchAbomination Ka Anor]] get her is [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt potentially even worse]].
* In ''Literature/{{Replica}}'', the evil Annie Perraut was able to fool Andy just by ClarkKenting (as all characters are clones, she ''looks'' like the prisoners). Basically, he wanted a helpless Amy who would see him as her savior, rather than the proud one who was his girlfriend once.
* C.L. Moore's 1934 story "Shambleau" - generally acknowledged as epoch-making in the history of Science Fiction - begins in what seems a classical Damsel in Distress situation: The protagonist, space adventurer Literature/NorthwestSmith, sees a "sweetly-made girl" pursued by a lynch mob intent on killing her and intervenes to save her, but finds her not a girl nor a human being at all, but a disguised alien creature, predatory and highly dangerous. Soon, Smith himself needs rescuing and barely escapes with his life.
* In a ''[[Literature/TheDresdenFiles Dresden Files]]'' short story ''Backup'', Harry runs into this. Unfortunately, the person who knows she is a DecoyDamsel (Thomas) cannot tell him she's playing him, for a variety of reasons. This leads to Thomas having to frantically run around behind the scenes making everything work out, including [[ItMakesSenseInContext letting Harry throw him into a wall.]]
** Gets a CallBack in ''Cold Days'', where Harry tells a companion he still has no idea what the hell happened on that case.
* In ''Literature/TheEnchantedForestChronicles'', Daystar meets a picture-perfect damsel-in-distress who attempts to trick him into giving her the Sword of the Sleeping King. While she is in fact distressed, she's also being manipulated by his pursuers.
* In the short story "The Stymphalian Birds" by Creator/AgathaChristie, a [[ConMan Con Woman]] claims that her husband is abusing her and arranges for the mark save her from him in a way that involves giving her a lot of money. This works so well that she then claims that someone is blackmailing her over the way they dealt with her husband. Unfortunately for her, the mark feels out of his depth and decides to involve HerculePoirot.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'':
** The show famously pulled this off in its first scene, playing on a horror movie stereotype--a blonde, timid Catholic school girl sneaks into a scary place with a bad boy. The twist? ''She's'' a vampire ([[TheBaroness Darla]], specifically), and the boy doesn't live long enough to see the opening credits.
** In the Pilot, Xander's best friend Jesse is nabbed by the Master's goons. By the time they free him in the sewers, he's already been vamped.
** The Anointed One tries this on Buffy in "Prophecy Girl", standing on the school lawn and wahing for help. Buffy sees right through him.
** A whimpering brunette vampire who impersonates Cordelia in "When She Was Bad."
** Inverted with Faith's introductory scene, when the Scoobies rush in to 'rescue' her from a disco vampire.
** And Buffy herself does this to lure out vampires; there's a reason the Slayer is always an attractive and vulnerable-looking female, after all.
* In ''Buffy'''s spinoff series, ''Series/{{Angel}}'', this trope is pretty much played straight by Jasmine-possessed-Cordelia, who seduces Connor so they can [[spoiler: conceive a baby powerful enough for Jasmine to fully incarnate herself in.]]
* In the ''Series/AliasSmithAndJones'' episode "How to Rob a Bank in One Hard Lesson", Heyes and Curry are hired for protection by two women, who are actually luring them to an isolated spot so that they can hold Curry hostage while Heyes helps them rob a bank.
* In one episode of ''Series/{{Psych}}'', Shawn and Gus are hired by a woman who wants them to contact her dead husband from beyond the grave and find out where he hid the money from a robbery because she thinks his old partners are after her. It turns out the widow was the mastermind of the robbery.
* In the ''LegendOfTheSeeker'' episode "Bounty", Richard helps a young woman who claims her brother was captured by monsters, who actually wants to turn Richard in for the reward.
* [[ExtremeDoormat Saffron]] from ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' is like this, tricking the heroes into thinking the town they just helped is giving her to them [[AccidentalMarriage as a gift]]. The crew isn't sure what to do with her, but decide to take her with them, since the town is essentially treating her like property. It eventually turns out she's a FemmeFatale who wanted to hijack their ship.
* Fiona of ''BurnNotice'' has been known to pull a heroic version; also, Michael fell for one in the episode [[spoiler:"False Flag". Atypically, it wasn't ''her'' he wanted to protect but the supposed son her supposed abusive husband (actually a mob witness she was out to kill) had supposedly kidnapped--[[FriendToAllChildren a bit of a sore spot with him]].]]
** Michael ended up the victim of one again in the season 5 episode [[spoiler: "Dead To Rights". Larry's "hostage" Anson turned out to be the one behind everything that had happened to Michael in the entire series]].
* This kinda, sorta happens in ''Series/RobinHood'' in which Guy of Gisborne is threatening Robin and Marian whilst they're hiding in a tree. The two of them play on Guy's UnrequitedLove for Marian and pretend that Robin is holding her hostage, allowing Guy to play the hero and "rescue" Marian whilst Robin makes his escape. It's not a totally straight version of this trope considering that they're not trying to "trap" Guy, but they do successfully trick him by using Marian as a decoy DamselInDistress, and it ''is'' all her idea.
* In the Robin of Sherwood episode The Witch of Elsden, the outlaws find a distressed young woman in the forest who claims that she is fleeing Guy of Gisburne. Will is quite taken with her and seriously put out when it turns out that [[spoiler: She is in fact married and has agreed to use her herb magic to help capture the outlaws in return for Gisburne not carrying out his threat to have her burnt as a witch and her husband killed. As she's pretty much a co-erced victim of Gisburne, along with them, the outlaws eventually forgive her deception and she helps them thwart Gisburne's plans in return for them rescuing her husband and getting them both to safety.]]
* This was a regular part of the stunts on ''CandidCamera''. In one instance, a frail blond DamselInDistress would be deposited on some street corner with two large suitcases. The suitcases looked identical, but one was empty and the other would be filled with concrete, weighing at least 200 pounds. When some big strong man approached, she would ask him to help with her suitcases ... then she would pick up the empty suitcase and walk away, while the hidden camera recorded the reaction of the poor schmo as he tried to pick up the other suitcase.
* Camille pulls this off in ''Series/PowerRangersJungleFury'', dressed in civvys and pretending to be attacked by her own {{Mooks}} in order to lure the Rhino Ranger into a trap.
* In the ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' episode [[Recap/SupernaturalS09E02DevilMayCare "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02)]], Tracy Bell pretends to be helpless with her car broken down by the side of the road to get the vampire to give her a lift so she could behead him.
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest'' features a variation. Because The Machine [[ProphecyTwist won't tell]] whether the POI is a victim or perpetrator, this effect occurs even if unintended. Several main adversaries are helped by Team Machine unknowingly based on the assumption that they appear to be a victim. [[spoiler: Root]] is the only straight example in that she hires HR to kill one of her identities [[BatmanGambit knowing]] that it would lead Reese and Finch to save her and in the process expose Finch, the machine's creator.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:NewspaperComics]]
* ''{{Candorville}}'' has an accidental example in a flashback. Artemis Kenchu, self-proclaimed vampire hunter, slays several vampires in New Orleans and rescues the girl they tried to kill. As it turns out, she's a vampire too, but she's [[EvenEvilHasStandards so evil they decided to kill her]], and he's about to be [[TheRenfield her new servant]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:TabletopGames]]
* Detailed in the ''WerewolfTheForsaken'' ''Night Horrors'' book, "Bloody" or "Typhoid" Mary is a wide-eyed ingénue running from the clutches of her beastly (no pun intended) family. Taken in by her innocence, her sad story, and her good looks, the {{Player Character}}s become her new protectors... just as planned. The ''real'' reason for Mary's running away (and the time when the {{Player Character}}s encounter her is by no means the first) is [[IncestSubtext she doesn't get enough attention from Daddy]]... and her idea of having her father prove that he really loves her is having him rip apart an entire pack of unsuspecting Uratha because they're standing in the way of dragging his wayward baby girl home.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The twist at the end of the InteractiveFiction game ''[[http://wurb.com/if/game/917 Yes, Another Game with a Dragon!]]''
* Subverted in ''VideoGame/MaximoGhostsToGlory''. [[spoiler:Princess Sophia turns out to be an evil demon queen controlling the supposed BigBad, an outcome hinted at by her profile in the manual. After slaying her, it's revealed by the authority of none other than Death himself that the ''real'' Sophia is alive]].
* ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigations'' has [[spoiler: Lance Amano, a rare male version. He engineered his own kidnapping to get the money he needed to pay off his debt.]]
* Ironically enough, Elizabeth Greene in ''VideoGame/{{Prototype}}''. Obviously, a catatonic woman being held by a morally ambiguous research corporation in cooperation with the GovernmentConspiracy needs rescuing, right? [[spoiler: As soon as Alex shows up to rescue her, she throws him around like a ragdoll and runs off to start the ZombieApocalypse]].
* ''Franchise/MetalGear Solid Mobile'' has you called into the facility by Victoria Reed, a scientist who's working on Metal Gears. After a while you discover [[spoiler:she was actually a computer program designed to lure you into turning off the building's security so terrorists could take over.]] ''Then'' you find out [[spoiler:the ''entire mission'' is a computer simulation created by the Patriots to study Snake.]]
* In ''PlanescapeTorment'', you can have a brief encounter with a woman identified by your {{Namedar}} as 'Damsel In Distress'. She will ask you to help rescue her sister, but if you are intelligent enough, you can get her to reveal that it's a trap to lure you into an alley and rob you.
** Done again in the plane of Baator, where the damsel in distress is a demon in disguise.
* You can find and fight a few of these in both ''BaldursGate'' and ''NeverwinterNights''. Interestingly, the second game in the former series has a male version of this in the first dungeon.
* Done in ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphoniaDawnOfTheNewWorld''. Amusingly enough, the psychobitch's name is Alice.
* ''{{Eversion}}''. [[MindScrew Maybe]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkToThePast'', Blind tries to pull this on Link, disguising himself as one of the maidens he's supposed to be rescuing. Somehow Blind overlooks the fact that all the genuine maidens, '''including the one he's keeping from Link''', are ''sealed in crystal'', which kind of gives him away.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaPhantomHourglass'' does it again. This time with four girls in a ghost ship.
* [[spoiler: Sayaka Maizono]] from VisualNovel/{{Danganronpa}}. [[spoiler: At first, she looks like a cute IdolSinger who's being set up as the love interest for Naegi. Then she reveals herself as desperate and unstable enough to try to murder Leon and betray Naegi by framing him for it... and ends up getting killed instead.]]
* [[spoiler: Munna]] in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. [[spoiler: In an interesting twist, she also manages to trick the protagonist into believing the Pokémon trying to help him, Hydreigon, is actually his enemy.]]
* [[spoiler: Luna]] of ''RatchetAndClankSizeMatters'' fakes her own kidnapping to lure the duo into a trap so that she can clone one of them. [[spoiler: Of course, not only does "she" later turn out to be TheDragon to the true BigBad, "she" is soon revealed to be a robotic puppet]].
* In the sequel to ''Videogame/TheSeventhGuest'' ''The Eleventh Hour'', Carl braves the perils of Stauf's mansion to rescue Robin. The twist here is that [[spoiler:Robin has already made a [[DealWithTheDevil deal]] with Stauf by the time Carl finds her. Choosing her at the end leads to Carl's death.]]
* The Little Girl from the "It's War!" chapter of ''VideoGame/ConkersBadFurDay'', who turns out to be [[spoiler: an EnfanteTerrible who's attached to the level boss, the Experiment.]]
* On the fifth table of ''VideoGame/PinballQuest'', you defeat four monsters guarding the Princess, only for her to be revealed as a vampire in disguise.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* Evil Princess Sara, of ''Webcomic/EightBitTheater''. Who's... [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin evil]].
** To be fair with her, she was really kidnapped. Then she noticed [[IneffectualSympatheticVillain how incompetent Garland was]]...
* ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'': [[spoiler: Zola]] Apparently helpless, fluttery, bird-brained, and a trouble magnet. In reality, pragmatic, grounded, a con artist, very capable with her gun and at hand-to-hand, and intelligent enough to out-think several players in Der Kastle.
* ''ThePocalypse'': [[spoiler:the girl "captured" by vampires in scene 26 of chapter 2 "Damsel in Distress" is actually a vampire herself]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* This is how Harley Quinn captures Batman in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' episode "Mad Love".
* In the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' episode "Bold Beginnings," a free-wheeling heiress teams up with the villain Cavalier to pull this off for the ransom money her family would provide.
* A rather silly example in ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeague'' (''Injustice for All''), where the Ultra-Humanite is holding a hostage outside a government building to lure the Justice League there. The hostage turns out to be the Cheetah...which makes one wonder how the authorities who were already there didn't notice that his hostage had fur.
* Done in ''WesternAnimation/SamuraiJack'', with Aku taking an alluring, yet [[PaperThinDisguise unconvincing disguise]]. Jack, to his credit, isn't fooled for a second, and plays along until he has the opportunity to disassemble Aku's plan.
** To Aku's credit, this worked the first time he tried it. Granted, he was posing as an Action Girl, but she was still in distress.
* The Knights of the Square Table in BlazingDragons attempt to capture a RobinHood analogue by dressing Sir Hotbreath (Perhaps the least lady-like knight) as a damsel in distress who has a lot of money to lure the fiend into the trap. It...doesn't work.
* In the animated PunkyBrewster episode "Punky To The Rescue," the kids are trying to catch a supposed swamp monster they think has taken Henry, Punky's foster dad, captive. Margaux is used as bait with her foot caught in a snare (she's wearing a dress, so she's not hanging upside down). They wind up catching Henry.
[[/folder]]

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