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Anime & Manga
- Black Butler deconstructs this trope with Elizabeth "Lizzie" Middleford. The attitudes of Victorian society and her fears that No Guy Wants an Amazon coming from an incident she witnessed in her early years result in her hiding her talent as a Master Swordsman and Little Miss Badass Adorable and living in constant fear that her fiancé Ciel Phantomhive would reject and hate her if he knew the truth. In the process of hiding her talents and pretending to be clueless, the poor girl's self-esteem suffers and she even places herself at great risk, out of the terror she feels upon probably being seen as "uncute" and "undesirable" by the guy she loves since childhood. Once the truth comes out and she learns he doesn't mind marrying a Lady of War, she's noticeably more confident.
- Rukia Kuchiki in the Soul Society arc. In this case, however, it's because she's suicidal, and wants to die to atone for killing her sub-captain and first love in self-defense after he was possessed by a Hollow. The fact circumstances have prevented her from regaining the power she lost in the first episode don't help.
- Orihime later tries to pull this in the Hueco Mundo arc. She's first taken as a hostage after a cruel Sadistic Choice, and later she tries to act like she has joined the Arrancar to both keep herself alive while surrounded by enemies and get an opportunity to reject the Hogyoku with her powers. She has even less luck than Rukia does, and boy does that break her.
- Both Kamanosuke and Anastasia have used this trick in Brave10.
- In the first episode of Busou Renkin, Tokiko leaves herself wide open, leading Kazuki to think she is just an Innocent Bystander. Nope. she's an Alchemist Warrior, and she was leading the Monster of the Week into a trap.
- It's strongly implied in the Fatal Fury anime that Mai Shiranui's apparent Chickification is this, since she wants to invoke The Dulcinea Effect on her crush Andy because he's either too shy/reserved to openly show his feelings for her or too focused on training to pay attention to her. Confirmed at the almost end of The Movie: when the normally VERY badass Terry and Joe are disabled by the enemy in a Hostage Situation, Mai immediately decides to fight back alongside Andy and she very easily defeats her rival Panni, a powerful Dark Action Girl who had just as easily defeated the same guy that held Mai hostage in the second TV special.
- Eiko from Hajimete No Aku tries this trope out to gain fame and fortune. She just ends up scaring off the people who put her in distress on accident.
- In Mai-Otome, Shizuru intentionally gives herself up to the invading Schwarz forces to buy Natsuki enough time to escape and get enough help to take back Garderobe.
- Happened in Mobile Fighter G Gundam, with Tomboy Princess Maria Louise of France playing this role. It backfires spectacularly.
- Used twice by Shampoo in Ranma ˝.
- Maomolin tried to force Shampoo to become his wife a couple of times. Shampoo could have easily dealt with him on her own, but preferred to play the Damsel in Distress role to make Ranma protect her.
- During the Pink and Link arc, she easily frees herself from their kidnapping, beats them up, and forces them to stick to the role of kidnappers so she can still be rescued by Ranma.
Films — Live-Action
- In Alien Avengers, George Went's character's wife does this. The pair make it seem like the wife is unconscious, and ask an implied gang member if he will help. He said that since it is George's wife, after he's done with her, he can have a turn. She gets up from her feigned incapacitation and the two kill the guy. She fit this trope in that moment, because she is really a homicidal alien with a strong sense of justice instead of a weakling.
- The Avengers reveals that this is a favorite tactic of Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow. Her introductory scene opens with her tied to a chair and surrounded by thugs, who are ready to torture her at behest of a rogue Russian general...then a call from her fellow Agent Coulson confirms this is just another day of work for her and she breaks out and beats them all up the minute he needs her on a different mission.
- The short film that DEBS was based on had a team member who keeps getting kidnapped by the Big Bad to cover for their Dating Catwoman relationship.
- In Murder on the Leviathan, Renata Kleber gets into trouble on purpose in hopes of starting a Rescue Romance with the handsome protagonist, who seems to uphold chivalric values.
- In Twilight, Bella thinks that she can psychically connect with her ex-boyfriend Edward if she gets an adrenaline rush, and purposefully puts herself in near-death situations to bring them on.
- In The Light Fantastic, Cohen the Barbarian, Rincewind, and Twoflower interrupt a druidic sacrifice, in the process rescuing the maiden who was about to be sacrificed. Said maiden is extremely indignant about the rescue, protesting that if it weren't for them rescuing her she would be "having tea with the Moon Goddess by now" and that they'd just caused "eight years of staying in on Sunday nights" to go "down the drain".
- In Everworld, Senna knew that someone like Loki was going to come for her eventually, so she purposefully manipulated people she knew to get sucked into Everworld with her. Particularly early on she tried to play the innocent Living MacGuffin, but April, Jalil and Christopher could see through her. David had a harder time of it, though, for various reasons.
- Urban Dragon: Arkay's main source of income involves pretending to be a ditsy ingenue for would-be sexual predators, beating them within an inch of their lives, and robbing them blind.
Live Action TV
- A common interpretation for Super Mario Bros.'s Princess Peach is that she lets herself get kidnapped out of boredom, or to give the brothers something to do. As shown in her own game, she's more than capable of holding her own if so inclined.
- Alicia Pris pulls this off in Solatorobo. hiring the Sky Pirates to kidnap her, all in the hopes that the good cop Waffle will come rescue her. Unfortunately for her, Red gets there before her intended man and Hilarity Ensues.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- Played with in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Though Zelda herself certainly doesn't choose to be kidnapped, it's later revealed that her plight was part of a plan set in motion by her previous incarnation. In her past life as the goddess Hylia, she predicted that putting her human self in danger would be a surefire way to spur Link into action.
- Played straight in Breath of the Wild. Zelda may have been trapped inside Hyrule Castle for the past 100 years, but that's because she's been busy keeping Calamity Ganon sealed up with her.
- Princess Garnet in Final Fantasy IX tries to invoke this trope by begging Tantalus member Zidane to kidnap her in order to escape the country. Unbeknownst to her, Tantalus was there to kidnap her anyway.
- A mission in Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon involves a request from a Grovyle to rescue a Shiny Celebi. When you finally find that Celebi, she states she pretended to be in trouble in the dungeon so that she can cause Rescue Romance with Grovyle... whose sole response is that she's strong enough to have no trouble in that dungeon.
- Jessica Ushiromiya in Umineko: When They Cry. While she is an asthmatic Ill Girl, she more than once pretends to be more ill than she truly is.
- Akane aka June in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. In reality, she's the Deadly Game's creator, and coldly manipulates everyone to ensure her survival.
- Mentioned in El Goonish Shive to parody the Damsel in Distress:
Grace:"[discussing why a video game princess keeps getting kidnapped] Oh, it's like foreplay to her. She's kind of evil that way."
- Zola's early appearances in Girl Genius, with a generous helping of Obfuscating Stupidity.
- Blindsprings: The plot gets kicked off when a princess gets rescued from The Fair Folk by her Unlucky Childhood Friend. Unfortunately, the princess was there to fulfill an as-yet unclear "contract" with said Fair Folk that required, among other things, that she never leave the forest. The Childhood Friend? Refuses to listen, physically drags her from the forest anyway, and permanently breaks her contract, effectively rendering literally centuries' worth of her work pointless. The result: an even more difficult contract for the Princess, the permanent breach of their friendship, and all kinds of scorn heaped on said Friend. Nice one, fella.
- In episode 17 of RWBY Chibi, Nora repeatedly tries to stage herself being attacked by a Grimm creature in hopes that Ren will save her. It doesn't work: the first two times she's saved by Sun and Yang instead, while the third time has Ren see she has it under control and leave.
- Gender Inverted in the ThunderCats (2011) episode "The Duelist and the Drifter" Adventure Town resident and habitual Distressed Dude the Drifter gets snagged on high fences three times, each time enlisting protagonist Lion-O's help to get down. This would be innocuous but for the fact that the Drifter possesses Not Quite Flight, and readily exploits these encounters to offer Adventure Rebuffs and unsolicited, passive-aggressive advice on Lion-O's own increasing problems while elaborately feigning disinterest.
- A very mild version of this is when a woman will drop her handkerchief in hopes that the man in question will pick it up and return it to her. Played with in Monkey Business, where a woman drops a handkerchief in front of Zeppo, who pockets it and then drops one for her to pick up.