Gender Equality, Part 2 (Tifa Rule): If any female character, in a burst of anger or enthusiasm, decides to go off and accomplish something on her own without the hero, she will fail miserably and again have to be rescued.
When a writer needs to have a character put in trouble so she (and it's almost always
) can be rescued, they will sometimes have characters act in ways that serve the needs of the plot rather than their own characterization or common sense, up to and including the character acting Too Dumb to Live
. This is generally considered sloppy or outright bad writing, although there are exceptions
or other Love Interest
is the most common target of this trope, but Sidekicks
, Tagalong Kids
, other non-combatants
, and even very stubborn Lancers
are not immune.
Such acts may include wandering into a dark alley at night while alone, Going for the Big Scoop
, trying to take on the Big Bad
one on one, or not listening (or listening, for that matter) to The Hero
suggesting she Wait Here
. It also includes not having the sense
to kick the villain in the nuts
when he tries to grab her upper arm
If the Ball is handed once too often to an otherwise competent and talented
female character, it can lead to her Chickification
and possibly becoming a Faux Action Girl
if she never returns to her pre-Ball Badass
self. On the other hand, tossing the distress ball back and forth between both sides of a Battle Couple
allows for all the cuteness of a Rescue Romance
without the weakness.
This trope is frequently coupled with Rescue Romance
. More rarely, you might find it suddenly reversed with the character rescuing herself
Compare Damsel Scrappy
. See also The President's Daughter
. Deliberately Distressed Damsel
is a more justified
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Anime and Manga
- The title character of Cardcaptor Sakura, though equipped with an amazingly large array of powers to evade all sorts of threats, got into helpless situations more than a few times, if only for Syaoran to get an intimate moment with her. This was somewhat more justified in later episodes, since most of the threats were deliberately designed by The Chessmaster Eriol to be defeated solely by Sakura's cards, and were immune to the magic of others, thus protecting her as she fought through was the most plausible use most other characters could have.
- Faye in Cowboy Bebop's Episode 5 tries to find out who murdered Mao Yenrai on her own, but winds up captured by his murderer, Vicious, and his Red Dragon goons. Spike heads to the church to take Vicious on, but does take the time to save Faye when a Red Dragon mook tries a Put Down Your Gun and Step Away.
- Butt Monkey Matsuda from Death Note picks it up, but he handles it with almost uncharacteristic competence after he's in over his head.
- Digimon Adventure: WarGreymon participates in every fight with the Dark Masters. He spends most of each fight firmly clenched between teeth, manipulated by an opponent, paralyzed by hunger or transmogrified into a key-chain. His allies often have to rush to his rescue due to his rushing into fights.
- Though he did beat Mugendramon/Machinedramon in a Curb-Stomp Battle... who turned out to actually be alive and became Milleniumon and is later defeated in Ken's backstory.
- Digimon Adventure 02: Sora Takenouchi got hit upside the head with one of these during the Christmas episodes, by panicking when debris started falling around her and having to be pulled away by Matt; the other characters (including Sora's Bond Creature) ran away. "Chickification!" fans screamed. Sora did recover and joined Miyako/Yolei in the World Tour arc, leading the Russian Digidestined. Unfortunately, that mission didn't go too well either; the girls nearly froze to death and had to be rescued there as well.
- Fairy Tail: Erza Scarlet, usually the most competent of the main cast, is quite happy to paint a target over herself whenever Jellal in any way becomes involved with the current action.
- Flame of Recca Mikagami Tokiya picked this up, twice, despite his status as "the most cruel" of Hokage and one of the more efficient and intelligent fighters. First, in Sealed Lands arc. After completely ousting Mokuren and Mikoto in a 2-on-1 fight, without chance of recovery, he's pitted against Aoi, who completely overwhelm him stats-wise, even if he has recovered. The result is very obvious, he completely lost it and was later crucifixed and used as a hostage. And then in SODOM arc, he was forced to pick up another ball for comic relief, where he fails to notice a drugged teacup and then was in turn... strapped into a mechanism, whereas people with less intelligence like Domon slips out of it (in his defense though, his perverted tendencies saved him), and after being pulled out of it, Mikagami was rained with taunts like "So much being the genius!"
It's later shown in the PlayStation 2 game Final Burning that instead of getting suspicious and trying to drink with the teacup, Mikagami can opt to say "Sorry, I'm not thirsty" and just avoid all that embarrassment. But apparently, in the manga, he was holding the Distress Ball, so obviously (and gratingly), he did not pick that option.
- Haou Airen: Kurumi and Huo Long in Volume 8.
- Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran
- Meow fromhas recurring drops in both fighting skill and common sense just to give Ran an excuse to rescue her.
- Of all people in Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi picks up the distress ball during the Chao arc. After The Masquerade fails, he lets the other mages catch him, forcing his True Companions to bust him out so they can Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
- Asuna also falls into this sometimes, although it's less of "picking up the distress ball" and more "got hit on the head with the distress ball".
- During the Wilhelm arc, about a third of the class gets hit with the ball.
- Mazinger Z: Sayaka suffered from this several times in the original series, generally tied up. It also was played straight in Mazinkaiser. Hilarity Ensues. And much Fanservice.
- Akane Tendo in Ranma ½. The girl was first shown beating up fifty-odd armed attackers on a daily basis and was called Champion of her Martial-Arts School. Yet on more than one occasion, she gets kidnapped by opponents, far, far beyond her level, and acts like a complete ingenue (one kidnapper tied her up with pantyhose for pete's sake!) Of course, once the immediate threat is absent, she does her damnedest to try to escape.
- Sands of Destruction: Kyrie picks this up every other episode. Despite the fact that he is a capable fighter in the game and he has the power to destroy the world, Kyrie never arms himself with anything and must rely on his friends Morte and Toppi to bail him out. He manages to subvert this slightly in the manga as the only reason he picked it up was because he froze in place. And despite the fact that he can fight in the video game, he still gets himself captured.
- Jinpei in episode 8 of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. Bothered by his alter ego The Swallow's lack of popularity, he decides to go off on his own to save their new underwater base from Galactor and to show everyone just how heroic The Swallow really is. Naturally, he gets nabbed by Katse and has to call the rest of the team for help.
- Lampshaded in Sekirei, when Yukari ends up briefly being held prisoner. After spending time moping and wondering when her brother will come rescue her, she suddenly jumps to her feet and wonders why the hell she's sitting around waiting to be rescued. She then proceeds to set fire to the penthouse where she's being held, verbally gives the villains the middle finger, and leaps out a high-rise window into Shiina's arms. The villains are......surprised to say the least.
- Carrot Glace in Sorcerer Hunters is shown to be more than capable in a fight, but several times he's become a Distressed Dude and needed the rest of the team to bail him out. Though to be fair, this usually happens due to his Idiot Hero status.
- Asuna Yuuki from Sword Art Online during the Fairy Dance arc (episodes 15-25 in the anime, volumes 3 and 4 in the Light Novel). Although her dis-empowerment is more or less justified in-universe and at least tries to escape on her own (and manages to go pretty far), there are moments where her Action Girl attitude is completely gone.
- Mokuba gets kidnapped roughly once-an-arc, and briefly possessed in an Anime-only arc. Granted, unlike most of the examples, he's just a pre-teen with some improbable skills. One wonders why Seto Kaiba doesn't hire some competent bodyguards, or better yet, chain his brother to him by now!
- In the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Anzu attempts to lure Dark Yugi into the open by riding a Ferris Wheel with bombs underneath each of the cars. Too Dumb to Live, indeed.
- Buffy Summers from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" season 9 comic. She is supposed to be this great Vampire Slayer, yet almost every time we see her, she is defeated, humiliated, kidnapped, or betrayed. She always needs rescue and she can't do anything right. First she got drugged and her body is stolen from her. In issue 2 she lost a fight with a single zompire and she must be rescued by Severin. In issue 4 she was lured into a trap by Severin and must be rescued by detective Dowling. Then, in issue 7, she got her arm torn off by a single zompire. Later, in issue 9, she is kidnapped, and in issue 10 must be saved by Spike, Andrew, and Spike's cockroaches. In issue 11, she fails to stop an assassination attempt; fortunately, this was just a drill. Then in issue 12, she is almost smothered to death by a tentacle monster and must be rescued by Kennedy. In the very next issue, she is defeated by Elder Koh who cut her face. In issue 16, she got owned three times in a row by single zompire. Finally, in issue 18, she had to fight Severin, a guy who almost killed her before. Severin is a human who draws powers from supernatural beings but can be hurt with a gun, and instead of using a gun on him, Buffy decides to fight him with her superpowers.
- This happened a lot to Allan Quatermain in the first volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Usually Mina, Nemo, or Griffin had to save him, in a bit of a gender inversion.
- Lois Lane, oh so very often. She's followed her journalistic instincts into danger so frequently it's a miracle she ever survived before having the personal attentions of a Physical God (aka Superman).
- Given to all of Equestria in My Little Unicorn, when Nightmare Moon and her allies enslave the place without much resistance and take Luna and Celestia hostage. Naturally, the Unicornicopians have to come to the rescue.
- Inspector Chan from Sha Po Lang, after losing three of his four men to the rather psycho assassin played by Wu Jing and his badass kung fu, decides to go after the guy's boss, Wong Po, all by his lonesome. He storms the guy's HQ and does a fair job of blowing away Wong's mooks, but when he finally confronts Wong, being as this is a kung fu movie and not a gun fu movie, he promptly gets owned by Wu Jing and captured by Wong, which means that Donnie Yen has to save his ass in the final showdown.
- For there to be a plot in Coherence, characters are required not to stay calm and sit out the night in the house where they stranded but rather venture out to solve the problem. Case in point are Hugh who desperately tries to contact his brother and Properly Paranoid Mike.
- Laurana from Dragonlance gets passed this in Dragons of Spring Dawning, when, after having been previously shown to be a brilliant military leader, she suddenly accepts without question a message from her Arch-Enemy, Kitiara Uth Matar, claiming that their mutual love, Tanis Half-Elven, is with Kitiara but has been mortally wounded and wants to see Laurana before he dies. Laurana believes the message even though Kitiara: has an obvious motive to want to harm Laurana; provides no proof Tanis is even with her much less that he is dying; and requires Laurana to come to the meeting site without any guards. Laurana's friends Flint Fireforge and Tasslehoff Burrfoot even try to warn her that the message is obviously Schmuck Bait, but Laurana is absolutely certain she can trust Kitiara, so she goes to the meeting site without taking any precautions and is promptly betrayed and captured and ends up having to be rescued by Tanis.
- In fairness Laurana, while far stronger and smarter than the Brainless Beauty she seemed to be during her first appearance, is still someone who just hasn't had that much experience of the wider world (even in Dragons of Spring Dawning she's only been away from elven society for a year or so). She hasn't completely lost her naïvity and faced with the possibility that Tanis is dying she isn't thinking too clearly. It was stupid yes, but a moment of in-character stupidity.
- In the Annotated Dragonlance edition, the authors acknowledge that Laurana's character development at this point meant that it was stupid and out of character for her to do this. But they had to do it for the plot's sake, making it a perfect example of this trope.
- Happens in Septimus Heap, where Sarah Heap in Darke runs back into the Palace after her duck and is overrun by the Darke Domaine mostly so that Simon can rescue her later.
- Subverted in Wind Rider's Oath. We get the classic setup: the female lead heads off to confront the Big Bad on her own, and gets trapped by a spell cast by the Big Bad, who details what is in store for the female lead. Meanwhile, the male lead hears about what she's planning, and charges off to play Big Damn Hero. At this point, the Big Bad discovers that coercion spells don't work against champions of the Light. Single-handed (well, two-handed) clearing of the villain's lair ensues, and the male lead shows up just in time to be dragooned into cleaning up the mess.
- The Red Vixen Adventures: Lady Sallivera and her bodyguard Alinadar pass the ball among themselves a couple times in Shadow of the Red Vixen and Shadow of Her Sins.
Live Action TV
- Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer falls prey to this a lot. Hey let's go out with people I don't know, at night, in Sunnydale. That's not suicidal.
- The Doctor's companions in Doctor Who tend to carry these around a lot. The Doctor himself points it out in the episode "The Empty Child", muttering about how he always tell them not to wander off alone and how they never listen.
- Lampshaded often, including in The Two Doctors:
Second Doctor: Now Jamie, stay with me, don't wander off.
Jamie: Do I ever?
Second Doctor: It has been known.
- "Doctor, Doctor! We've landed on a new planet! It's time for me to get captur--oh, I've been captured."
- Addressed by Nicola Bryant in an interview, in which she said that eventually all companions do get a story where they have to scream and be rescued because they're companions, rather than ones that involve their personality.
- Cast Speciation sometimes leads to a character picking up the ball - for instance, Barbara didn't have the easiest ride of it early on thanks to her rather more melancholic personality than Ian, but since Susan was the Distressed Damsel she didn't get captured or enslaved more than any of the other characters and she generally wormed her way out of it herself - the one time she did get caught specifically and need to be rescued ("The Reign of Terror") was when the story partnered her up with Susan. As soon as Susan leaves and gets a Suspiciously Similar Substitute in the form of a Plucky Girl who was better as a comical character than a damsel, Barbara gets a whole string of serials where she gets captured specifically for Ian or the Doctor to rescue her.
- Gender inverted in Farscape a couple of times, generally involving John storming off the ship in his module for one reason or another and getting stranded. Parodied and lampshaded in the episode "John Quixote" when John finds Aeryn dressed as a princess on the top of a castle asking for help John then says "Now I know somebody is messing with us".
- There tend to be a number of them every episode of Ghost Whisperer. Although there are plenty of subversions too — Melinda will often do something very stupid and dangerous, but nothing will come of it.
- The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries: Dear GODS, Nancy Drew in second season:
- "Arson & Old Lace" has Nancy held captive for six months. By an old man in his 70s. In a penthouse. With a phone and an intercom to a secretary who's not in on the plot. With an elevator that doesn't require any special code to operate, that leads right down to a very public and open office area. No, she's not tied up. She's not held under lock and key. And somehow the elderly gent is able to force her into an elaborate dress and hairstyle, too. She just passively waits for Frank Hardy to rescue her as the building is burning down.
- "Voodoo Doll". Nancy goes off on her own to investigate the Big Bad. Yup, gets caught. Yup, is held captive (again, untied up) with two other women, similarly untied, in an open warehouse with tons of crates. The only door INTO the warehouse area is locked. On Nancy's side of the door. With the hinges on HER side, too. Her one attempt to escape involves her climbing UP crates to go through a window, and is promptly caught. It takes the Hardys breaking into the warehouse through said door before Nancy can escape. *sigh*
- Kate from Robin Hood. Technically she is a full-time Damsel Scrappy, so perhaps doesn't fully belong here, and yet the writers' dependence on using her to kick-start plots by having her acting stupid (to the point where the character served no other purpose) and the fact that she never manages to extract herself from any of the danger she wanders into means she deserves a mention.
- In her first episode she abandons the outlaws in order to try and rescue her brother on her own. Naturally, she's captured in under five seconds and her brother is killed as he tries to rescue her. Two episodes later, a tax collector begins swaggering around Locksley; Kate decides that the best way to handle the situation is by loudly bad-mouthing him in front of everyone. He captures her and the outlaws have to drop everything to go and save her...twice. In the sixth episode she doesn't get out of the way of a dagger being thrown at her, and spends the rest of the episode being tended to by the other outlaws (this includes her getting spoon-fed). One episode later she's captured yet again (off-screen) because apparently she couldn't run away from the guards fast enough, and in the episode after this she is captured by a soldier (by not being stealthy enough) and is then almost raped in a bar tavern. In the second-to-last episode she storms into a peaceful sit-in protest, ranting and raving and hurling abuse at the soldiers for no apparent reason, and is about to be killed when another outlaw intervenes, effectively beginning a fight. In the grand finale, she's - you guessed it - captured yet again, offscreen again, and the outlaws have to save her again (although in context this capture was more justified than the others).
- The Wasp, the only female Avenger during the first season of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, gets captured at least three times during the first 27 episodes, and becomes unconscious in four episodes, including one instance which occurred after she became the first Avenger to succumb to a burst of gamma energy.
- One time, she got captured, and three of the male Avengers became kidnapped after her.
- Code Lyoko: Aelita has a tendency to pick the Distress Ball in Season 1 and 2 by not always waiting for the Lyoko Warriors' help. Worst case is certainly in episode "Uncharted Territory", where her difficulties to adapt to life on Earth spurred her to return alone on Lyoko, right into XANA's trap. Almost as bad is episode "Déjà Vu", but then it was XANA's entire plan to tempt Aelita into going by herself in Sector 5.
- Contrary to popular belief, this concern Yumi much less despite her Designated Victim status. When she puts herself in danger, she knows what she's doing and has a damn good reason for it (like in episode "Hot Shower", to save her little brother).
- Iron Man: Armored Adventures has Pepper Potts hold this most of the time. Occasionally she'll pass it to Rhodey and be competent for an episode, but the next episode we're right back to her being too dense to do anything but sit dumbly in the middle of a room where two factions of the Chinese mafia are duking it out.
- Kim Possible. 90% of the times when either hero (yes, both Kim and Ron) decides to do a mission of their own, they will be captured.
- Lin Bei Fong in The Legend of Korra loses to the Lieutenant after attacking the electricity-wielding villain with her metal cables (when she also has access to master-level Earthbending and has done quite well just throwing mooks at each other. This takes her out of the fight... which allows the Airbending Kids a Big Damn Heroes Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Pearl friggin' Pureheart from the original Mighty Mouse cartoons. In the Bakshi retool, she's usually quite capable of handling things but still requires the hero's assistance in dire situations once in awhile.
- Daphne from Scooby-Doo. The girl's entire purpose was to be "Danger-Prone Daphne", as they called her. (Note that this chiefly references Daphne from the cartoon series. In The Movie, she's more action geared.)
- Princess Sally of Sonic Sat AM despite being The Smart Guy of the team, often got captured rather handily.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987: April O'Neil is basically a modern-day version of Lois Lane as described above.
- Starfire in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. She actually forgets that she can fly and has to be snatched out of the air mid-drop by Robin, who has no super-powers. Ironically, one fan once remarked on a forum that if such a thing ever happened she would be called out on it, as it would be an obvious ploy to attract Robin's attention. Instead it was played painfully straight.
- Well her powers are emotion based and it wouldn't be the first time she lost them due to issues relating to Robin...
- In Transformers Animated, episode 2, Prowl, The Lancer of the team, tells Optimus Prime that there's only one person he trusts. Himself. He promptly gets sucked into a nanite monster and almost killed were it not for his teammates. In fact, despite him being the best fighter of the team, Prowl catches the Distress Ball quite a few times in the series, usually after trying to do something alone. Maybe it's trying to send him a message?