The Damsel in Distress is a dime a dozen in media since the beginning of time, but now that females are starting to take on a more active role, there's no one left for them to save!
Meet the maleequivalent of the Damsel in Distress. He's usually the sidekick to a butt-kicking Action Girl, always getting himself captured for the female lead to save. This may also occur in shows featuring a male protagonist. Even when the male protagonist is a total Badass, they tend to get captured quite a bit... usually to demonstrate their awesome escape skills.
Sometimes this trope is regarded as a product of twentieth-century feminism. In fact, it is Older Than They Think. When classifying fairy tales according to the Aarne-Thompson system, one distinguishing mark of several types of tales is that a man (or men) is rescued — generally by the heroine. (He is generally her Love Interest; they are generally her brothers.)
Compared to the Damsel in Distress, the Distressed Dude is somewhat more likely to save himself in the end, to be saved by someone of the same sex, or, if saved by a woman, to be saved by one using her traditional, feminine strengths, rather than by someone using a more direct approach. When the Distressed Dude is rescued by an Action Girl, it's not uncommon for him (or for another character) to describe this as an injury to his masculinity. This may be Played for Laughs, though sometimes the Distressed Dude will learn An Aesop, instead.
The dude may have picked up the Distress Ball. If he was a Badass before getting kidnapped, he may suffer Badass Decay. If he continues to kick ass after being freed, he's Badass in Distress. Compare Non-Action Guy.
In Akame ga Kiru! Tatsumi finds himself captured and imprisoned by one of the most powerful, cruel and sadistic human beings in existance, Esdese, a woman with extremely deadly powers who has slaughtered hundreds of thousands without mercy. That's not the problem though. The problem is Esdese is hopelessly in love with Tatsumi and fully intends to make him hers. Hilarity Ensues.
Naoyoshi from Gamaran. And rescuing him is actually one of the main plot motive of the series.
Mamoru Chiba, a.k.a. Tuxedo Kamen from Sailor Moon, is probably the best example of this in anime fandom. He started off as helpful and slightly badass, but after he and Usagi entered into a relationship, the poor guy descended rapidly into Distressed Dude territory. This also had some Worf Effect crossover just because the most common method of the villains to demonstrate their evil was to chuck the powerless guy in the tuxedo across the room and make off with him... or, in at least two cases, reprogram him. The evil version of him seems much more powerful.
The manga tried to reduce this effect by giving him actual, useful powers, and he took care of a few villains by himself, but he'd still get kidnapped/killed/brainwashed whenever the plot needed to kick up the drama a few notches. The Stars manga storyline even started off with Galaxia effortlessly killing the poor kid in front of Usagi.
Mikagami Tokiya in Flame of Recca, despite being a competent fighter and a ruthlessly efficient The Smart Guy, actually doubles as this. He gets tied up TWICE in the series, both probably as an effect of picking up the Distress Ball, or maybe because Good Is Dumb, since this happens once he lets go of his Revenge tendencies and lessened his ruthlessness. In his defense though, after all that, he goes to beat down the most feared member amongst the enemy ranks.
Slightly justified in that Natsume isn't necessarily weak - he's actually pretty strong for a non-exorcist human, and the fact that nearly everyone wants him (no, not like that!) leads to him getting kidnapped quite often. That he can scatter ayakashi just by punching them is considered quite impressive. Still doesn't save him from this trope, though.
Slayers: Gourry gets slapped around enough and used almost to the point of a Plot Coupon due to being both the Team Normal and the wielder of a powerful sword, but it comes to a head when Monster lord Hellmaster Fibrizo kidnaps him in the second season of the anime/eigth light novel in order to be used to provoke Lina. It takes the summoning of the Guardian of the Multiverse to save him (and her other friends, who also get taken).
Kaito Doumoto of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch should really stop going overseas for surfing tournaments. The first time, he was kidnapped by his long-lost brother Gackto, had his power almost stolen and got used to blackmail Lucia. The second time, he had his memory wiped by Michel and was used to draw Lucia out of hiding and blackmail her again. Thankfully, though she may be The Ditz, she's smarter than that.
Genjyo Sanzo of Saiyuki gets abducted and restrained by baddies quite often in the anime. Doesn't stop him from being a badass, though. Then again, his original counterpart from Journey to the West got this treatment way more than Saiyuki Sanzo, without being badass the rest of the time to make up for it.
Not that that's hard given his original counterpart was pretty much a complete wuss compared to Saiyuki's loud, violent, arrogant, chain smoking, gambling, foul mouthed, violent version who on average threatens to kill his companions at least twice a chapter. Oh and did I mention foul mouthed and violent?
Negi Springfield of Mahou Sensei Negima! once got held captive by his fellow mages who wanted to turn him into an ermine and deport him to the Magic World for failing to maintain The Masquerade. He managed to get out of his cell, but his True Companions (mostly Action Girls) had to bust into the enemy base to get him out.
In one arc of the Soul Eater manga, Death the Kidd seems to be playing this role after a Collector of the Strange decides to add him to his collection. He manages to break out by himself, but only after a fight with Black Star which snaps him out of insanity.
Parodied with North Italy of Axis Powers Hetalia, who often gets in trouble and derails his partners' plans.
This reaches a new level of absurdity when Italy needs rescuing from falling into a pit dug by "that jackass Britain". It wasn't an elaborate or hidden trap, it was just an ordinary hole dug in the ground.
His brother South Italy plays it a bit straighter as a child, when Turkey kidnaps him. His boss/caretaker Spain goes Papa Wolf on Turkey. In return, Spain falls gravely sick in another strip and the adult South Italy searches for a "cure", even having recourse to The Mafia to try help him.
As a child, North Italy's Team Dad Austria played it straight and had to be bailed out by Switzerland. Ironically, the one who "bullied" Austria the most was Hungary... who would become his Ninja Maid, and later his wife.
Two recent strips feature England as a parody of this trope, trying to escape from Germany and the Italies and hilariously failing.
In Paint It, White! most of the heroes find themselves immobilized after they are turned into Pictonians. Ironically, it's Italy who saves them at that time.
In the third Hetalia Fantasia CD Canada is captured and starts to get Brainwashed by "the Black and White Knight of the Dark Night" AKA Prussia. It is a computer game though, so it can be debated how much distress he actually is in.
Used in a Omake to Ichigo and Uryuu when Orihime and Rangiku want them to test a boiling purple thing. Ichigo also seemed to get restrained a lot in the beginning of the series.
In the Filler Bount arc, Ishida was whacked with the Distress Ball due to his temporary power drain and ended up this way.
In the filler Zanpakutou arc, the shinigami and Ichigo have to come up with a plan to locate and save Captain-Commander Yamamoto who has been captured by the Arc Villain and sealed behind a very powerful kidou barrier from which he cannot escape. Subverted; Yamamoto sealed himself away to escape Muramasa's power. Muramasa led the shinigami to believe he had captured Yamamoto so that Ichigo would use his full power to break the barrier. Muramasa's plan succeeds, allowing him to steal Yamamoto's zanpakutou power.
LittleKuriboh even saw fit to put together a montage of a few scenes in which he was kidnapped.
Kaiba [thinking]: Hmm. Perhaps I should consider keeping him on a leash.
Astonishingly averted in Yu-Gi-Oh! R, where nobody even considers grabbing the kid.
Portgas D. Ace from One Piece is definitely this trope. Except that his younger brother Luffy is the one rescuing him, not a girl. Luffy succeeded in freeing him. Unfortunately, it was in vain as soon Ace took a lava punch from Admiral Akainu to save Luffy and actually died.
Kyrie from World Destruction, so many times it's not funny. It's to be noted that he has the potential to defend himself but he never does.
Tragic from Mythic Quest is threatened in exchange for Aramusha's good behavior so often that the one time someone claims to have kidnapped her, he knows they're bluffing, because that's not how things work. Usually this is just an excuse to have Tragic and Aramusha agree not to use their Game Breaker powers for the duration of a fight, but once John is actually kidnapped and Anaya has to go rescue him.
While he doesn't get caught every single episode... well, if there's a Wing Boy liable to get captured, that's Duo Maxwell. Flanderized to death by fandom via Wimpification.
Mamoru Amami from GaoGaiGar. specifically in it's epilogue OVA, FINAL. When trying to make the preperations that would allow 3G to win against the 11 Planetary Lords of Sol, Mamoru created a replicant of himself to use as a decoy so he could get to the G-Crystal without being caught by the Sol Lords, said replicant is...very gut-wrenchingly chained and given mind-altering drugs by Palparepa.◊ It's pretty scary, honestly, and adds more to Mamoru's woobie factor.
Lawrence sometimes takes this part in Spice and Wolf. In both arcs of the first season, Holo has to save his butt (or the business deal at hand) by returning to her true form, a giant wolf, and kicking around lots of thugs. The situations in the second season are a bit more complicated, however.
Shokupanman, frequently, in Anpanman. And by frequently, I mean all the time, by everyone. Even though he's also a superhero and one of the Power Trio.
Yuuen from Wild Rock is small, weak, and looks like a girl, and basically helpless against most giant prehistoric animals. Luckily for him Emba's the opposite.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Yeah, Shinji's a pretty easy target who cries and whines compared to his two female companions (a Stoic Woobie and Fiery Redhead). Yet he deserves mention for one episode where he takes charge, gets in trouble, and screams for help from the main female characters.
Subverted in episode 88 of Ranma ˝. The Amazon sisters say that they're holding Ranma captive, but it turns out that they simply gave him a meal to keep him busy.
Oz from Pandora Hearts was being one twice. First when he was captured by the Baskervilles in the Lutwidge Academy, and then he was saved by Elliot. Second was in Yura’s Mansion, and Gil goes to rescue him (Elliot happened to be in the rescue team too). Oh, and he didn’t show much of a resistance in both incident, especially the first one.
In the Child Ballad "Geordie" (Child #209), a woman pleads for her husband Geordie who is condemned to hang, convincing the King to commute the sentence to a fine. In the Scottish version sung by Maddy Prior and June Tabor (as the Silly Sisters), she doesn't merely plead— she brings all the fighting men of Clan Gordon ready for action, to make sure the King listens. In Joan Baez's version, presumably related to others called "The Death of Geordie", her plea fails. See also http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/ballads/C209.html
There are versions of Child Ballad #95, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows", where the condemned is male, ransomed by his female lover.
Lampshaded in (IIRC) The Dark Night Returns comic, when Joker refers to "Robin, the Boy Hostage".
Hey, Dick isn't the only one who gets tied up. Even Batman◊ gets it sometimes.
Pick an issue of Will Eisner's The Spirit. Any issue.
Y: The Last Man: Yorick Brown frequently needs to be rescued by 355. And in the "Safeword" arc, the bondage gets... rather literal. He's also a trained Escape Artist, so he can free himself at least some of the time.
Getafix the druid is sometimes captured by the Romans or Goths, because they want his Super Serum potion.
Cacofonix gets captured by the Romans a few times and gets Bound and Gagged at the end of most stories. In most cases, the kidnappers want to give him back.
Rictor's first appearance in comics consisted of his being saved from the Right, who'd kidnapped him in order to use his powers to wreak havoc on San Francisco. Since then, in his two stints in X-Factor and his time in X-Force, he's often the go-to guy to be kidnapped.
In the climax of one issue of Runaways, Chase is captured and held at knifepoint by Geoffrey Wilder, while trying to see if Nico and Xavin escaped from the burning planetarium. He's rescued by Gertrude. Unfortunately, Geoffrey decides to just kill Gert instead, making it a Heroic Sacrifice on her part.
Green Lantern has been full of this since the dawn of time, but special mention goes to the New 52 run that, thus far, has been chock full of our two leads getting captured (by the Sinestro Corps, Indigo Tribe...).
"The Girl Helps the Hero Flee": a hero falls under the villain's power. The heroine, often the villain's daughter, tells him how to escape the impossible tasks, or performs the magic to allow his escape, and usually both. Afterward, he often loses his memory of her and she must disenchant him.
In "The True Sweetheart", the heroine must find the prince, who has been enchanted into forgetting her, and break the spell.
"The Brothers As Birds": the heroine's brothers have been turned into birds, and she must rescue them. This can range from a quest to making magical shirts to disenchant them, remaining silent the whole time.
In "The Death of Koshchei the Deathless", Koshchei chops Prince Ivan into little pieces, throws them into a barrel, and throws the barrel into the sea. His brothers-in-law must retrieve the barrel and fetch the Water of Death to put him back together and the Water of Life to revive him.
Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen": Kay is rescued by Gerda, who, before she finds him, obtains some features of an Action Girl. Princess Eliza does the same (though in the non-action way) to her brothers, transformed into wild swans by their stepmother. Christopher Booker goes into great detail on the symbolism behind his bondage, and the symbolism inherent in the heroine coming to free him.
The TGWTG fandom has been making the Critic the Distressed Dude long before he got captured canonically. Mostly justified, seeing as how the fics usually also have Ask That Guy in power and that usually means no happy fun times for the Critic. But other times it's just because he's so very pretty when suffering.
This crops up quote a lot in Axis Powers Hetalia fanfiction. They tend to fall into one of two camps:
The nations are discovered by the public at large or some shady organization, and are abducted and imprisoned. This usually leads to some sort of experimentation on them.
One or more of the nations kidnaps another or several nations and holds them hostage, usually for some dark and disturbing purposes. This can be used to represent historic events, like an occupation or invasion. Beatrice The Golden (NSFW) has written some of the more graphic ones, including Debt and 'My Little Chicken''.
In the original Sonic CD, Sonic rescued Amy from Metal Sonic. In Always Having Juice, though, Rosy is the one who rescues Sonic from his doppelganger.
Joey Wheeler in Ultimate Re Imaginings, though he manages to get himself out of the immediate danger only, any outside forces he's still gotta get saved from. Like dying from smoke inhalation, being beaten up, beaing beaten up again, being trapped in a dream world, etc...
Socrates tends to get kidnapped a lot - he's held for ransom by Dr. Brainstorm twice (though Calvin shows little concern) and the Super Smoke being in "Nocturnals" says that a returning character is after him, to his surprise.
In Crowns of the Kingdom, the Disney Villains capture all of the princes except for Charming at one point.
In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Mega Man is captured for the latter half of Episode 13, and Roll, ProtoMan, and Kalinka set out to rescue him. Tron Bonne also tags along, unbeknownst to the other characters.
Fire Emblem Rekka No Ken: A Story Retold: On two occasions, Michaelnote the Tactician is captured by the group's enemies and has to be saved by Lyn. After the second incident, he starts taking fighting lessons from Lyn to avoid any future hostage situations.
In Tangled, it's always Flynn who has to be rescued by Rapunzel, not the other way round! Even when Rapunzel gets Bound and Gagged toward the end of the film, she's able to save Flynn from his mortal knife wound by working off her gag and begging Mother Gothel to let her heal him, which gives Flynn a chance to pull off his would-be Heroic Sacrifice.
Legends Of Oz Dorothys Return has no less than three men who are in need of rescuing by a woman. Who are they? The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, to be saved by Dorothy Gale.
Films — Live-Action
James Bond seems to get himself captured almost every movie. Hence the title that this trope used to have: James Bondage.
The Scaled Up antagonist of Enchanted intends to grab the female lead as a Damsel in Distress, but the male lead makes the mistake of proclaiming that this will happen "over my dead body." The resultant Gender Flip does not go without lampshading.
This happens to a wounded Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity when he gets captured by vampires.
Indy: Oh, Marion. You had to go and get yourself kidnapped. Marion: Well, you didn't do any better yourself.
In the first Matrix movie, Agent Smith and a few other agents ambushed Morpheus's crew in an old building. The rest of the crew (except for the dearly departed Mouse) escape, but Morpheus was abducted. With him in his custody, Agent Smith attempted to interrogate him into giving them the codes to get into Zion's mainframe. Luckely, Neo and Trinity were on their way to rescue him.
Happens at the end of Mission Impossible III, after Tom Cruise's character electrocutes himself to short out the bomb in his head (yes, really), the Love Interest he just rescued has to revive him, but before doing so has to take out the Big Bad and his mooks all by her lonesome while the hero lies prone and unconscious.
The A-Team: In what's probably a nod to the original show (see below), Face is captured by bad guys and tied up in tires while wearing nothing but an open bathrobe.
Also Hannibal at the very beginning of the movie, getting punched by two corrupt Mexican cops while handcuffed. Unfortunately for their boss, they're dumb enough to leave him alive. This ends badly for them.
The first three Pirates of the Caribbean films share the In Distress role around a bit between the original 3 leads- Elizabeth gets more time in it than anyone else, true, but the other two get it sometimes, and as they're both male...
Bucky from the Captain America movie spends a lot of time captured and being rescued by Cap.
In Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Valerie rescues her brother Eagle first from being chained in the town square, and then from being handcuffed in the middle of a river.
Steve in the opening to the first Scream is an extreme example.
Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie gives double trouble with a damsel & a dude in distress(Kimberly & Jason). Not to mention Bulk & Skull.
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away: After falling into the Cirque world, the Aerialist is captured by the Archers and Spearmen from Ka and taken to the Counselor.
In one of the less known fragments of Le Morte Darthur, Elaine of Astolat practically saves Lancelot's life by finding him and healing his injuries.
Jace in The Mortal Instruments series. A recurring plot in almost every book is Jace being held in some form of captivity. This despite the fact that he is one of the most skilled Shadowhunters of his generation. Most of it is that he is a bit of a Death Seeker, and a large amount of effort on the part of his family and friends goes into getting him out of whatever trouble he has gotten into. In the first book his best friend Alec had initially never slain a demon, primarily because his main focus was on keeping Jace alive instead.
Nancy Drew's boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, gets kidnapped a lot. Nancy and Ned took turns getting kidnapped and coming to the other one's rescue.
Lee in the Smoke and Shadows trilogy by Tanya Huff. In this case, he's Tony's Mary Jane. Lee gets very tired of being the damsel by book 3. Also in the fourth book of the Blood Books, Henry, the vampire is captured and held prisoner by mad scientists and it is up to Vicky and Mike to rescue him. In the fifth book it is Mike who is captured and bound, but since he is rescued by two vampires, I do not know if that would count.
In The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden seems to end up manacled, bound or otherwise restrained once a book at least.
The Heroes of Olympus: Percy in The Lost Hero. Nico takes up the position from him by the end of Son of Neptune. Flips back to Percy and adds Annabeth by the end of The Mark of Athena.
After the young Barrett de Laney surrenders himself in exchange for twenty-three Deryni children, he's rescued by another Deryni (one of the teachers at a forbidden Deryni scola) who dies of arrow wounds he sustained in the rescue. The short story "Bethane" gives one version of these events, and Barrett himself recounts the story to Jehana in King Kelson's Bride.
In In the King's Service, rebellious Mearans try to assassinate Prince Richard Haldane, the King Donal's younger half-brother. The plot is unsuccessful, but Earl Keryell is slain and his eldest son and heir, Lord Ahern de Corwyn, is seriously wounded in the attack. Three years later (but also in the same book), assassins strike at King Donal directly, and Sir Kenneth Morgan (future father of Duke Alaric Morgan) is wounded defending him.
Late in Childe Morgan, a young King Brion Haldane is the target of an assassination plot led by rogue Deryni Zachris Pomeroy (a friend and foster brother to the Festillic Pretender Hogan Furstán-Festil mac Tadhg a.k.a. "the Marluk"). Pomeroy and his minions are defeated and killed by the combined efforts of Sir Kenneth Morgan, Master Jamyl Arilan (a squire to Brion and elder brother of future bishop Denis Arilan), Lord Rhydon of Eastmarch (who is wounded in the face), and Sir Sé Trelawney.
Alaric Morgan is abducted by Warin de Grey's men and has to be rescued by Duncan McLain in Deryni Checkmate.
Derry is retrieved from Wencit during a tense parley in High Deryni (though Wencit seems to have permitted this knowing he had control of Derry's mind.
Dhugal is taken captive by allies of the Mearan Pretender (who happens to be his great aunt by marriage); he contrives his own escape and takes the Pretender's daughter Sidana hostage, and one her brothers is taken by Kelson's forces while he's riding to the rescue.
Nigel (and possibly young Liam as well) is the target of Torenthi assassins in The King's Justice. He gets warnings from a couple of sources (one of them Jehana), and is able to fight off the assassins with the help of Conall and the Haldane household archers.
Duncan is rescued from Loris' clutches by Kelson, Morgan, Dhugal and their army in The King's Justice.
Dhugal keeps Kelson alive after they both get caught in a landslide and are washed over a waterfall (Kelson has a head injury) in The Quest for Saint Camber. In the same mudslide, Conall is saved from going over the side by his maternal uncle Saer de Traherne.
Later in The Quest, N Igel is attacked by his son Conall and is left in a psychic lock (a magic-induced coma state0 for a fortnight until Morgan, Duncam and Dhugsl learn what to look for and how to fix it.
Kelson and Liam are attacked by assassins disguised as servants en route to the Hort of Orsal's palace in King Kelson's Bride. First, Morgan's stepson Brendan Coris tackles one of the assassins, giving them some breathing space, then Morgan saves Liam from falling off a nearby precipice.
Later in King Kelson's Bride, Liam is attacked by Mahael and Braynyng during a vulnerable moment in his killijálay, whereupon Mátyás and Kelson attack them, giving Liam enough time to finish the ritual and assume the power of Furstán.
In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000Brothers of the Snake, a Space Marine killed another and claimed that the dead one had been touched with Chaos. There being no evidence of this, he asks to be exposed to the sea serpents of their world: if they ate him, he would be proven innocent. However, evidence turns up of his innocence, first, and a squad of Marines come to save him, killing one of the great serpents.
Also, when a Marine vanishes on a town they are investigating for Chaos cults, they search for him, find him beingsacrificed to the daemon, and rescue him.
In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, the Ghosts' Revenge raid on the Jantine Patricians is partly to see if they can find Rawne alive. They do, and he is being tortured, so the raid quickly turns to a rescue. Similarly, at the end of Only In Death, Mkoll and Eszarah rescue Gaunt as soon as they find him alive.
In The Gods of Mars, John Carter and Tars Tarkas are trapped in a Mobile Maze with banths that could kill them; Thuvia saves them. Later, John Carter and his (male) companions must escape captivity among the black pirates. Later still, John Carter must rescue Tars Tarkas from the Warhoon.
In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Carthoris and Kar Komak are captured first by green men and then by great apes.
In The Chessman of Mars, Turan is captured by the city of Matador. Tara tries to shield him by denying knowledge of him.
"You did not guess," she asked, "that it was my lips alone and not my heart that denied you? O-Tar had ordered that I die, more because I was a companion of Ghek than because of any evidence against me, and so I knew that if I acknowledged you as one of us, you would be slain, too." "It was to save me, then?" he cried, his face suddenly lighting. "It was to save my brave panthan," she said in a low voice.
In The Master Mind of Mars, Ulysses Paxton rescues some men from Faux Death, and they all escape the Mad Scientist. Later, one of them is captured in the city where he had been betrayed and threatened with Human Sacrifice; Ulysses rescues him.
In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, Paige finds Turk bound by spider web on the civ raft. He pleads with her to kill him if she can't free him; she has to leave him for a time in hopes of getting what she's after, plunging him in despair, but returns to rescue him.
In almost every single adventure, at least one of The Hardy Boys (including their friends and father) would wind up captured, bound and gagged, and need rescuing. The original author, who reportedly hated writing "juvenile fiction", may have been putting this in on purpose, as a dig at his editors. Whatever works. Many, many bondage fans grew up reading those books.
Ian Fleming's Moonraker has James Bond and Gala Brand (not Holly Goodhead) tied up at a missile silo to be left and fried at (London-bound) takeoff. Bond gets villain Hugo Drax distracted by dredging up ugly memories of Drax's sorry past (and getting himself thrashed brutally), to where Drax leaves them with a running blowtorch available to undo their bonds.
In the first Kingdom Keepers book, there's a subplot about Maybeck getting kidnapped and needing to be rescued.
In John C. Wright's The Phoenix Exultant, Daphne Tercius goes into exile herself to bring Phaethon what he needs to escape exile. Later, when faced with a problem, he asks her what to do: she came to rescue him, and he needs rescue.
Ruggiero, a heroic knight in many medieval French Chivalric Romances, was once held prisoner by a wizard until rescued by his future wife, the knight Bradamante.
In The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Tanis is trapped in the Lost Woods. Where a woman reveals that the omninous Hunter is her consort, trapped in a dire spell.
In The Riddle Master Trilogy, when Morgon disappears, both his sister (who is far too young) and Raederle, the second most beautiful woman in the three portions of An, set out on a quest to find and rescue him.
In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Lucian is a captive at the opening. Father Matthew has to give him a way to escape and rouse him from despondency to get him to take it.
In the climatic scene of Stieg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", first part of The Millennium Trilogy, the male protagonist Mikael Blomquist is captured by a mass murderer, locked in an underground torture room, chained, stripped naked, humiliated and explicitly threatened with rape, when his female partner, the Action GirlLisbeth Salander, come in to save him, chase and destroy the villain.
Michael in the Knight and Rogue Series. Even though he's the stronger of the two main characters, he's also the one with almost no sense of self presvation or legal rights.
Rand in The Wheel of Time got kidnapped and stuffed doubled into a box for a week. He got rescued by his friends and allies only after a big chase and probably the series' bloodiest and goriest battle ever. The captivity was one of the major catalysts of his descent into madness.
In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, Nilas Imfray is arrested for crimes while the crown mindcontrols the new queen.
In Andre Norton's Catseye, Troy is captured by Zul and brought to the head of the spying ring to be persuaded to help.
In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, Shann has to break Thorvald out of the dream the Wyverns hold him in. Later, he is captured by the Throgs. When he defies them by warning off the incoming ship, albeit cryptically, they take him to be tortured to death.
In Ordeal In Otherwhere, the Wyverns attack Shann and imprison him in his own mind; Charis has to break him free. Later, he's captured by Company men, and retreats back there to escape questioning. Charis, posing as a Damsel in Distress, manages to pull him back
The 1960s Batman TV series. In a number of cases, Robin was the sidekick in distress needing to be rescued by Batman, but Bats himself was usually in equal danger.
The title character in the show Chuck, featuring a hapless electronics-store worker who gets thrown into the world of spies and danger. He tends to get thrown into car trunks quite a bit, forcing him to await rescue from his Action Girl partner.
Casey and Sarah also get captured a lot and need to be rescued. More than one would expect, given that they are the trained professional elite spies and Chuck is the schmuck they're supposed to be guarding, but he is the title character... And he never stays in the car when they tell him to...
Chuck: "It's never safer in the car!"
24's Jack Bauer gets captured and tied up several times a season. Of course, as mentioned above, it's usually to prove how much of a Badass he is when he gets free.
MacGyver is legendary for this, with escape skills surpassing even those of Jack Bauer — and sometimes Houdini.
And again (but quite a bit rougher) in the season 5 episode "Intervention," where he is captured and tortured by the Big Bad. He halfway escapes (by goading the Big Bad into literally kicking him out of his chains) and then is rescued the rest of the way when Buffy and the Scoobies arrive. Ironically, they were actually intending to kill him to keep him from talking.
Oh, Spike does this all the damn time. In particular; a good chunk of season 7 features him chained to a wall, at least 10 episodes on-again-off-again chained.
This trope was also lampshaded in the Musical Episode "Once More, With Feeling". In the opening number, Buffy rescues a tied-up young man with a distinct resemblance to Fabio, then brushes him off:
Similarly, in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (the series that Xena was the spin-off of), Hercules' sidekick Iolaus, while a warrior in his own right, is regularly put into the role of the Distressed Dude, beaten, killed (a couple of times) and in need to be rescued by his big buddy Herc. When you're up against enemies who can present a semi-credible threat to Hercules, after all, merely being a competent warrior doesn't quite cut it.
John Watson from Sherlock has a tendency to fall into this. Let's see, he's knocked out and tied up in the second episode, knocked out again and strapped to explosives in the third episode, held at gunpoint and almost killed by CIA agents in the fourth episode, and locked in a lab with what he thinks is a demon hound in the fifth (although that one was orchestrated by Sherlock, so...). There are six episodes in the show. That means that he's a Distressed Dude in 67% of the episodes!
Like Supernatural, Smallville also had this in its early years to the point of being female Fanservice. Ads for the premiere showed Clark tied to a cross with his shirt ripped off and a big "S" painted on his chest in what seemed to be blood. Not to mention during the first 4 seasons or so, Lex needed Clark to save him as many times, or perhaps even more, than Clark's official love interest, Lana!
In Doctor Who, the Doctor gets tied up all the freaking time.
The Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors were tied up and tortured far more than their modern counterparts:
There was only one Third Doctor serial in which he wasn't tortured, strangled, or held in bondage. Plus, the Third Doctor is the only Doctor to have been tied up and gagged too. (The Fifth Doctor came close with being blindfolded and chained in "The Caves of Androzani"). This may have been due to his companion Jo Grant. Originally written as an Emma Peel-type character, she became The Ditz in a miniskirt instead, but one aspect of her backstory — her training in escapology — was kept. The Third Doctor also holds the current record for "number of times entrapped/bound to a wall by alien tentacles". (Twice, incidentally.)
The Fourth Doctor managed to get tied to a pole in two consecutive serials (and partially stripped in the latter one). He also gets tied up with his own outfit quite often, on account of it including a ridiculously long scarf.
Five definitely spent more time sprawled on the floor (or on his knees, or strapped to something, or being manhandled) than he did, well, standing upright.
The Sixth Doctor didn't do any better. Out of his 11 stories, he was tied up or locked up (and held hostage once) in six of his stories. In fact, he was tied up three times alone in "The Mysterious Planet".
Even Eight gets in on the action in the Made-for-TV Movie, what with the Master chaining him up to steal his regenerations, and putting this weird spikey crown-thing on his head that looks like a cross between something out of The Passion of the Christ and A Clockwork Orange. Fridge Logic kicks in when you have to wonder why the hell he had all that stuff on the TARDIS in the first place.
The Ninth Doctor seemed to get cornered by enemies much more often than the other Doctors of the 2005 revival. And he seems to be the only Doctor who has been chained and shirtless (concurrently) in an episode ("Dalek"). You'd think one of the writers had a Fetish for Christopher Eccleston or something.
The Tenth Doctor was chained to a chair designed for use as a restraint and very thoroughly gagged by the Master at the same time in the "The End of Time" Part 2. Bonus points for fleeing the scene (down a flight of stairs!) with the Doctor still tied to the wheeled chair, finally un-gagged and screaming bloody murder the whole way to stop and untie him first. More bondage happened in "The Sound of Drums"/"Last of the Time Lords", "Voyage of the Damned", "Midnight" and of course, "Planet of the Ood", much to the delight of fangirls. Ten got his fair share of it in the comics as well. Here◊ and here◊ are just two such examples. He also got handcuffed by River Song at the end of "Forest of the Dead". Why did she have handcuffs? "Spoilers!" No really, spoilers: either the Doctor told her to, or she learned they were used before by her mother. Although as a much more simple explanation, Brains and Bondage just seems to be River's favourite trope.
Let us not limit the discussion to the Doctor's incarnations. Many a male companion or innocent bystander got this.
Steven is taken captive, tied up, or otherwise incapacitated at least once per serial, on average.
Ian fared slightly better, but not by much. He also once got tied up in the desert, stripped to a see-through shirt and smeared with honey as a means of torture in some footage that is sadly lost.
In "The War Machines", Ben is captured by the enemy and saved only because Polly, under mind-control, insists that he be used to work; he escapes only because Polly, despite the mind control lets him. (Later she, still mind controlled, is baffled as to why, barely managing to remember they were friends.) More subtly, most of the mind control victims are male.
In "The Macra Terror", Ben gets mind-controlled by the Macra and Polly has to snap him out of it.
Harry Sullivan's tendency towards this was virtually lampshaded in his first story, "Robot", in which the Doctor proposed he spy on UNIT's behalf on the Scientific Reform Society. Sarah Jane teases him by asking him if he's going to be James Bond. He accomplishes absolutely nothing, gets tied up to the captured Sarah Jane, and she disdainfully tells him, "James Bond."
Jack managed to get himself captured by Torchwood and killed repeatedly for a while as a science experiment in the 19th century, which is how he joined the organisation in the first place.
At the end of season 2, Jack agrees to let himself be buried underneath Cardiff as punishment for a mistake he once made. For close to 2000 years. Leading up to that, his ex-boyfriend John has him nicely tied up and tortured for a bit.
In Torchwood: Miracle Day, Jack makes the mistake of revealing his immortality to a deeply Catholic boyfriend. His boyfriend thinks he's the devil, kills him, tells the rest of Little Italy, and Jack spends a few very uncomfortable days strung up and murdered continuously. Involving a lot of Camera Abuse.
Their archivist Ianto Jones spends a fair bit of time getting caught unawares, threatened and tied up in the first series, but after Jack leaves between series 1 and 2 he gets more field experience and avoids this trope more frequently.
At least one of protagonists of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. would usually be tied up by the the villain(s) in just about every episode, often while confined in a Death Trap.
Star Trek: Enterprise. Captain Archer got thrown into a cell and/or beaten up by interrogators so many times it became a series cliché.
For being a former Marine and the head CSI of the series, Mac Taylor from CSI: New York has a nasty habit of being duped and/or captured by the very criminals he's trying to capture.
Danny and Adam both got this is the season three finale ("Snow Day").
Nigel Bailey of Relic Hunter epitomizes this trope. Sydney rides to his rescue at least every other episode.
NCIS has a designated "damsel" named Tony DiNozzo, though he usually rescues himself.
The boys of Stargate SG-1 invoke this trope fairly often. Daniel winds up kidnapped disproportionately often in the first season or two. He's also the Woobie, so...
After turning into a Prior, Daniel gets put in a bondage chair by his own side.
Mitchell also gets to carry the distress ball a lot. Although he's tied up now and then (and once to a bed), his forte seems to be getting beaten up rather that tied up. Since anyone replacing O'Neill was staring Replacement Scrappy status in the face, having him get hurt a lot may have been a ploy to mitigate or even acknowledge the situation.
Criminal Minds. Poor Spencer Reid. He ends up separated from the rest of the team and in danger very frequently, especially in early seasons. Let's count, shall we?
In "Derailed", back from season one, he didn't start out in danger, but ended up in it during an attempt to rescue Elle who was being held hostage on a train with an unstable man.
Shortly prior in "LDSK" he got bashed in the face with a sniper rifle and taken hostage alongside Hotch and the population of a hospital emergency room.
In the two parter "The Big Game"/"Revelations" from season two, he was actually held kidnapped for several days and ended up addicted to Dilaudid.
In the season three episode "Minimal Loss", he and Prentiss were held in a cult compound while investigating child abuse.
In another season three episode ("Damaged"), he and Hotch were trapped in a cell with a serial killer during the guard's shift change.
And all that's not even mentioning all the times he gets held at knife-point, held at gun-point, actually shot, trapped alone with an unsub, nearly blown up, infected with anthrax...
This has gotten so bad, Matthew Gray Gubler (Reid's actor) has commented on it:
Gubler: I'm always getting held hostage by teen idols — first James Van Der Beek was a guest star and held Reid hostage, and this time it's Luke Perry. I actually saw Scott Baio out front, and I swear he looked at me. I want George Michael to hold me hostage in season eight.
Intrepid reporter Mike Axford in the The Green Hornet is kidnapped and held as some kind of leverage tool on the Hornet on pretty much every third episode. Lampshaded lightly in "Eat, Drink, and Be Dead" at the closer when Mike insisted on a raise after being kidnapped yet again.
How many other times did the Power Rangers have a dude in distress?
The Prisoner episode "The Girl Who Was Death" plays inexplicably like a loopy spy-adventure movie. Number Six is eventually caught in the villain's lair and is bound to a chair.
The Girl: Mountaineering rope — it'll hold an elephant! No. 6: I must remember that next time I go climbing with one.
Will Zimmerman from Sanctuary constantly gets kidnapped or stuck in a situation where Helen Magnus (and sometimes her team as well) generally has to come to his rescue. So much so that some fans have even dubbed him the "Dude in Distress".
Will Tippin in Alias. The first real incident was in "Rendezvous". Will, a Muggle who is gradually losing his status via investigating SD-6, and Sydney saves him in France. He doesn't know about her high-kicking spy job and screams when he sees her. He is then kidnapped by JulianSark. Will ends up in China being tortured by a Depraved Dentist, and then gets rescued by Jack. Jack later needs to be rescued by Sydney from Sloane's replacement John Ryder. Marshal is up next when he is tortured by the same Depraved Dentist, who threatens to fill Marshal's guts with a gel that will expand and crush his internal organs, and then threatens Marshal's mother. Vaughn and Dixon are also rescued by Sydney to a lesser extent a couple of times.
Face got captured more than anyone else on The A-Team. Bad guys loved to tie him up.
Demetri Noh on FlashForward, who was captured and placed in a ridiculously elaborate Death Trap so that the crazy villain could test his timey wimey theories. It took a combination of his FBI partner Mark carrying the Hero Ball and his girlfriend pulling an I Did What I Had to Do in order to save him.
Stephen Colbert chains himself to his desk in an early 2010 episode during a word segment where Obama's advocating bipartisanship - the word was 'siren song' and he was kindly demonstrating.
Sportacus in LazyTown is often a victum of the "Evil Dude". The reason is because sometimes Stephanie is in distress.
Also Bill Thompson a bounty hunter is a dude in distress. Sometimes with the "Evil Dudette", he is mostly for love.
If you're a male on Merlin, chances are you needed to be rescued at some point. Even the title character, who is easily the most dangerous character on the show, has had his turn at this. Arthur, (yes, that Arthur) is easily the most notorious for this, as Merlin has long since lost track of the amount of times he needed to be rescued. Merlin even lampshades this in the Series 3 finale.
Arthur: Maybe just this once we won't have any trouble. *gets tranquilized* Merlin:If past experience is anything to go by.*gets tranquilized* Some time later... Merlin: *wakes up in the middle of a slave market* What was that you were saying again?
White Collar has Neal often ending up as a distressed dude. In the season one episode "Vital Signs" he's tied up and drugged.
Despite Hannibal Lecter's status as the chief villain of Hannibal, he's been held captive several times. In Savoreaux, Will forces Hannibal to drive him to Minnesota at gunpoint, and he's narrowly rescued by Jack. In Mukozuke, Matthew Brown knocks Hannibal unconscious with a tranquilizer dart, then arranges him in a crucifixion pose with a noose around his neck. Jack and Alana shoot Brown and narrowly rescue Hannibal.
Sheena - Matt Cutter is constantly being saved by Sheena- be it from killer hybrids, cannibalistic ants, game hunters, dictators, and terrorists. While also capable of fulfilling sidekick duties, we are aware how physically fit he is, as we see him without a shirt, and often rendered shirtless (i.e. "Children of the La Mistas").
Down, dirty, and sweaty Matt Cutter
Minwoo from Metal Heart gets kidnapped by Nova in order to use him as bait for Sia.
The video of the Brandon Flowers song - Crossfire has the guy repeatedly rescued from ninjas by the female leader.
In all fairness, most guys would probably be willing to be captured over and over if Charlize Theron is the one rescuing them.
Mark Trail - Rusty's designated role, constantly getting kidnapped or trapped.
Myths & Religion
Older Than Dirt: In what may be the first recorded example of this trope, a central point of Ancient Egyptian religion is the rescue of Osiris by Isis, after he's killed by his brother Set.
Stavr Godinovich from Russian Mythology, a wealthy merchant and a bard. He offended the whole Prince Vladimir's court when he boasted that his wife is smarter than Prince and all his nobles combined. Vladimir threw Stavr into dungeon... and guess what, Stavr's wife soon tricked him back to freedom, outwitting Vladimir and all his nobles.
In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, this happens twice. Once when Edgeworth is "arrested" for supposedly murdering another passenger on a first class transcontinental flight and once when Edgeworth goes to deliver some ransom money to some kidnappers and gets taken hostage himself. Both times he ends up with his hands either tied or handcuffed behind his back, and he has to talk other people into setting him free.
Most gamers expecting to see Distressed Damsel Ashley getting the first bondage scene of Resident Evil 4 were surprised to see a bound and gagged Luis Sera pop out of a closet near the end of Chapter 1.
Not to mention at the start of Chapter 2, Leon & Luis are tied to each other as one of the villagers infected with a virus tries to kill them but they escape, that is if the timing is right.
Metal Gear games almost always have a scene where the protagonist is captured, tortured, then given the means to escape by a woman (okay, Otacon or Gray Fox in Metal Gear Solid, but they're Snake's Not Love Interests and probably qualify).
Metal Gear Solid 2 has Olga free Raiden, with Snake on standby to give him his clothes back later.
In Metal Gear Solid 3, means to escape are given by The Boss, but you can flirt it out of Johnny instead if you want.
Not to mention, several scientists get kidnapped in the series, mostly male.
Both of Jade's (male) sidekicks in Beyond Good & Evil have the nasty habit of getting themselves into trouble and needing Jade (female) to rescue them. Torture? Poisoning by an evil alien virus? Kidnapping? Death itself (or not)? Even in ordinary combat, not necessitated by the plot, they seem incapable of getting themselves up if pinned by a certain type of enemy.
Although Jade is freed from tentacles by Pey'J at the start of the game.
Mario and Luigi (along with Wario) in Super Mario 64 DS actually start out trapped by Bowser. The player starts off as Yoshi and has to rescue them first in order to unlock them.
As of late, Luigi seems to have been put in the unenviable position of 'Character everybody would rather play as'. In an effort to make players work for their reward, he's been made unavailable throughout several of therecent games. The easy way to accomplish this is, of course, kidnapping.
Fire Emblem (a.k.a. Fire Emblem: The Sword of Flame) has Nils the Bard and his Distressed Damsel sister Ninian. They do join the fight... but as Spoony Bard types (they're damn useful once you get the hang of it, though).
Let's not forget Raven and Lucius' own brief stunt as Distressed Dudes. When they appear in either Eliwood's or Hector's path, it's in a cell of Lyn's castle. Raven subverts the trope as he forces the guards let him go and check what goes on, becoming an enemy unit that you have to recruit with his sister Priscilla; Lucius, however, stays in the cell until a freshly recruited Raven goes to recruit him.
Path of Radiance featured the Heron Prince Reyson held hostage as a pet by a crazy noble. Ike's mercenaries are hired to rescue him. He would be a Spoony Bard if he wasn't, quite frankly, one of the most powerful utility characters in the game. He also essentially rescues himself before Ike's mercenaries arrive.
Early on in Shadow Dragon, Gordin is bound and gagged in an enemy uniform in hopes that Marth will mistakenly kill him and be branded a murderous tyrant. You can choose to rescue him. Oh, and the villain behind it even calls him "Gaggles", which is now his Fan Nickname.
Subverted in Sacred Stones, where Erika is convinced that her brother Ephraim is being held captive. He got away off-screen and comes back to rescue her when she comes to rescue him. They proceed to team up and kick the ass of the guy whose idea it was to start those rumors.
Prince Mildain of Etruria a.k.a. Elphin the Bard's backstory in Sword of Seals has him catching a HUGE Distress Ball and becoming one of these, after a complot against his life almost works. He's saved by the dancer Lalam and manages to go Faking the Dead, becoming the local Spoony Bard and joining Roy's group.
The plot of Marl Kingdom really kicks off once the handsome prince Ferdinand is kidnapped and turned to stone (unfortunately, not in that order), leaving the heroine to save him.
Similarly, Croix of La Pucelle Tactics spends the last chapter of the game kidnapped and strapped to a sacrificial alter, waiting for the heroine Prier to rescue him.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, as far as Sengoku Basara is concerned. Starting the second installment, this trope practically becomes Ieyasu's gimmick, to the point that the whole purpose of Tadakatsu/Hondam's Story Mode is to have various character race to kidnap Ieyasu, tie him up and get their ass kicked by Tadakatsu, only to have him witness ANOTHER batch of Ninja kidnap Ieyasu in front of him! While in the expansion Ieyasu takes a break from this routine, he goes back to this routine of constantly kidnapped again in the fighting game spinoff Sengoku Basara X, and worse, if you leave him be, it will cause disadvantages for your character (Tadakatsu).
This is actually justified because in those times Ieyasu gets kidnapped, his men refer him as "Takechiyo", his child name, whereupon he spent his childhood being a hostage of Imagawa. And we all know Sengoku Basara is the king of Flanderizations , so that moment gets flanderized to the extreme.
Throughout the course of the first Warriors Orochi, Liu Bei spends his time being held hostage in Orochi's prison and be the focus of the battle for the rest of the Shu characters, whereas other rulers like Nobunaga, Cao Cao and Sun Jian eventually broke out and join in kicking Orochi's ass. In the sequel, however, Liu Bei is able to return to kick some ass to make up for his Distressed Dude time from the prequel.
The first cutscene of Shu's story mode in the first game is Zhao Yun in prison with his hands tied behind his back; then Xing Cai, Yoshihiro Shimazu, and Zuo Ci show up and break him out.
In fact, Nobunaga did not need any rescue at all, since he's one of the starting characters for the Sengoku story mode. However, you get to rescue BOTH Sun Jian and his son Sun Quan in one of Wu's battles.
Mischief Makers on the N64 had the heroine Marina constantly having to save her perverted mentor. The final time he's kidnapped, he lampshades it when he decides getting kidnapped is his destiny and doesn't even resist.
Super Joe in the NES version of Bionic Commando and its Enhanced Remake and the Game Boy version andBionic Commando: Elite Forces. Pretty much the only games in the series in which he wasn't kidnapped are the original arcade game and the next-gen title.
Subverted in the Destroy All Humans!! series. Crypto, the main protagonist, gets captured once in each game. He often then breaks out of his containment himself. Played straight in Destroy All Humans! 2, where Crypto is rescued by his love interest, Natalya.
The plot of the Mass Effect 2 expansion "Lair of the Shadow Broker" is kicked off by Liara's efforts to rescue her friend Feron from a ruthless information trader.
Dragon Age II: During the "Best Served Cold" quest, a party member is taken hostage. They'll be either one of your siblings or, if they died in the Deep Roads, the party member you're closest to. All in all, there's an equal chance of the hostage being male or female. If it's Anders, he'll quip that he's never thought of himself as a damsel in distress up til now.
During the concluding sequence of Nar Shadda in Knights of the Old Republic 2, the player gets captured and imprisoned by G0-T0 on his orbital yacht, and you get to choose two party members who break in and rescue you.
In the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden, your nameless ninja gets chained on the floor during the Game Over sequence while a buzzsaw is descending from the ceiling.
In Final Fight, your character will be shown chained to a chair with a live dynamite in front of him during the Game Over countdown sequence. Final Fight 2 and 3 on the SNES feature similar Game Over sequences, but it adds the possibility of switching one of the male heroes with the token girl (Maki in 2 and Lucia in 3), turning it into a Damsel in Distress situation.
King's Quest has Edgar...who spends most of his first appearance as a Mook of Lolotte's, and his second appearance transmogrified into a troll.
In Secret of Mana, Purim's reason for joining the party is to rescue Dyluck.
In Battlespire, a fellow trainee and friend who leaves you clues and supplies through the first part of the game but eventually gets captured and has to be saved from Big Bad is of an opposite gender than player character. So if the player character is a female, this trope manifests. Complete with dramatic carrying the rescuee with both hands towards an exit.
Tyrell crashes a borrowed soarwing in the Tanglewood out of his own overconfidence and stupidity. He happens upon a Psynergy Vortex, gets drained, and remains unconscious until the party shows up to save him.
Koltira Deathweaver is showing a disturbing propensity for this in World of Warcraft, despite ostensibly being a Bad Ass. The first time we meet him is in the Death Knight starting zone, where he's been abducted and tortured by a Scarlet inquisitor, and has to be rescued. One expansion later, in Cataclysm: he gets abducted again, this time by Sylvanas Windrunner, who's implied to be "re-educating" him to be more loyal to her after he intentionally let his enemy counterpart go after a battle, because they were friends. Dude can't catch a break.
Tails in the Master System and Game Gear version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is captured by Eggman and Sonic goes out to save him. Beating the game without all the chaos emeralds results in Tails not being rescued and it is implied, although vaguely, that Tails was killed as a result.
Lance in Brain Dead 13, when he is captured by Vivi for use in a painful "makeover".
For the final route of Duel Savior DestinyTaiga, the main character himself is captured about halfway in and has to be rescued by the Savior Class.
Donkey Kong himself is captured in the second and third iterations of Donkey Kong Country, and Diddy Kong is in the third. Dixie Kong is never captured (at least in the Donkey Kong games, she is in Mario Super Sluggers)making her one of Nintendo's straightest examples of an Action Girl.
This happens several times throughout the Sly Cooper games, and has happened to the main trio at least twice. There has been two incidents where Sly himself is captured alongside Carmelita Fox; the first time, they are saved by Bentley; the second by Tennessee Kid Cooper
In the second game, Sly and Murray are captured by the Contessa following Neyla's Face-Heel Turn and are held in a prison on Prague. Chapter 4's main quest is for Bentley to save his friends; Sly is rescued early on, while the final mission involves saving Murray, who's been fed race-inducing spices.
In the fourth game, Sir Galleth finds himself captured by a robotic dragon built by Penelope, and is saved by Carmelita. He finds this embarrassing to be saved by a woman, and they agree to keep it a secret from the others.
In Opoona, Opoona himself, along with his brother Copoona, get captured at the start of the second half of the game, and become trapped in Paradiso, the supposed paradise of the planet. It's up to their sister Poleena, along with her new gal-pal Chaika, to rescue them.
Last Res0rt hits this right on the start of the second chapter (first if you don't read through the Art Evolution) with Slick Giovanni in a fairly intricate "prison harness", and then later on with Slick attempting to seduce Jigsaw while he's chained to the wall. No wonder he also doubles as The Chick (even though at least half the cast is female).
A few arcs in Sluggy Freelance involve this. Either Torg or Riff will end up stuck in Another Dimension, or trapped by some Big Bad. Zoe, Gwynn and Aylee have rescued those inept boys so many times! Though they do pay back the favor.
Happens to Terinu fairly often, so far being capture and strapped half-naked to a Wave Motion Gun, stripped completely and tossed into a cell in a biological testing facility and now basically being being treated as the pampered pet of the Big Bad.
Elan: Awww man, I didn't know *I* was gonna be the girl! Daigo: Yes, it's a big day for gender equality all around. (glancing at his pregnant wife who has just wiped the floor with a whole squad of ninjas)
Atticus Brent from Mokepon, due to being physically unfit and having little understanding of the Pokémon world. In the first four chapters alone he's nearly fallen off a cliff, been tied up by Caterpies, and been held at gunpoint by Team Rocket.
Masuhiro, the Daimyo of the Senshin clan in No Need for Bushido, gets kidnapped by ninjas early on in the story. His status as Distressed Dude isn't for lack of trying on his part, mind you. He's such an incredible badass that he keeps breaking out of captivity time and time again, using increasingly improbable methods, usually killing several mooks in the process or gaining valuable intel. It's just that the party responsible for his captivity is led by female ninjas, and he can't help but be Distracted by the Sexy long enough for them to get the drop on him.
In The Gamers Alliance, the Sirithai capture Refan and tie him into the arena where he is to be sacrificed to the monstrous Plushiebunny. Ax ends up saving him and can't help but keep teasing him about it because usually Refan has been the one doing the rescuing.
A few That Guy with the Glasses guys have been this. Linkara has been tied up twice, once by Sage to torture him with an Old Shame fanfic and the other time by Mechakara... just to torture him. Paw was tied up in a recent video and covered in blood while The Nostalgia Critic was kidnapped by the Game Heroes and made to promote their stuff at gunpoint.
Demo Reel wasted no time at all in turning Doug's new character, Donnie, into one. He's taken by the bad guys at the end of episode three, dumped in the woods to die and then kidnapped again by a Loony Fan family who keep him hostage with muscle relaxants.
(Narrating) Now, I’m a pretty forward-thinking guy. By some ways of measuring it, it would not be at all inaccurate to call me the most modern man in the entire kingdom. But even so, there’s just something viscerally humiliating, and maybe even a little bit emasculating, about realizing that you’ve just been rescued from a dungeon… by the Princess.
In particular, the first Batman cartoons, from 1968, which were heavily patterned after the recent live-action series. Again, Robin was often in need of rescue by Batman; but once, when Robin was tied to a table with a saw poised to divide him up the middle, he managed to rescue himself, and then go save Batman!
Optimus Prime gets this with his love interest Elita One in The Transformers. When arriving to save her from the Decepticons, first Optimus gets captured and watches helplessly as Elita tries to save them both, nearly getting killed for it. For one reason or another, the Decepticons decide not to finish them immediately but to hang Optimus over an acid bath where Elita will have a good view of his demise (and her demise-to-be). Elita One then activates her time powers to save Optimus Prime, which leads to him finally being able to do something to rescue her. It's pretty 50/50 with them.
A similar incident occurs with Blurr in "The Face of the Nijika" (minus the whole "save my girlfriend" thing).
Ron Stoppable in Kim Possible gets this quite a bit as Sidekick to the show's hero Kim. She, of course, has her moments of helplessness, but Ron gets himself into trouble even more, occasionally leading to situations when they're both captured and tied up at the same time.
One episode centred on Ron learning an Aesop about "becoming a man," and featured one of his teachers pointing out that he can't be very good at being a "real man" — because he keeps getting saved by a girl.
In So The Drama, Kim's new boyfriend Eric is taken hostage by Dr. Drakken...or so it seems. It turns out that he's actually a synthodrone created by Dr. Drakken to distract her and ultimately lead her into a trap.
And Captain Planet himself got in trouble when dirt and toxins were spilled on him. More often than not, he just was dispelled and his powers returned to the rings, but in the first episode the Planeteers had to bail him out.
As the heroines of a Magical Girl show, the five guardians in W.I.T.C.H. find themselves tied up fairly often, mostly by tentacles. However, the only person in the series to actually be bound and gagged at the same time is Badass Normal Caleb, in the episode "Ghosts of Elyon". This is probably to be expected, since by the end of the series, he's the only main character without some kind of magical powers.
Let's not forget Will's boyfriend Matt, who actually is captured by Nerissa and ends up Brainwashed and Crazy.
Caleb's father, Julian, also was a Distressed Dude for a while.
Two examples from Avatar: The Last Airbender: Sokka, as the shows resident Butt Monkey, suffers from this the most (he got captured by a hole in the ground!), but Aang often receives the more elaborate setups.
Out of the five members of the Sushi Pack, the three male members have been captured more times than the two female members (although only one episode had all three of them captured at the same time). On the other hand, at least one of each has been captured even more often (usually of the "four are captured, one sets them free" variety).
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: Ty Parsec, a fellow ranger and old Academy friend of Buzz Lightyear, has a very unfortunate streak of getting himself into trouble and needing to be rescued by Buzz. In his introduction, we learn that Buzz has saved him at least 50 times. Needless to say, it annoys Ty greatly.
The Winx Club fairies' boyfriends, the Specialists, have been kidnapped on at least two occasions. First at the end of season 3, where Valtor captures four of the specialists, letting Helia go to deliver a message to the Winx girls to tell them to meet him on Andros. And near the end of season 4's episode 18, the Specialists are captured by Diana and her warrior fairies, only Nabu being able to avoid capture since he is the only one who has magical powers.
This happens to Robin from Teen Titans a few times. Once, when his teammates thought he was going crazy, they restrained him to a medical bed.
A few times? Try a lot! A lot of villains' favorite plan seems to be "capture Robin and put him out of commission" so the Titans are faced with having to rescue him. Very often, he ends up shackled or strapped to one thing or another.
Or, if he isn't restrained with those, he's been paralyzed by magic/superpowers/poisons/whatever. Or stuck into a marionette.
Kinda makes sense when you realize that Robin is the leader of the team, so if you take down the leader, the rest of the team is most likely to fall apart. Many villains try to follow this tactic, but usually, it doesn't work that well.
In fact, Cyborg and Beast Boy usually gleefully take the opportunity to shout "Titans! GO!" while Robin is out of commission.
Totally Spies!, known mostly for its heroines getting into distress situations, actually features a couple of scenes where the girls' male spy helpers, Blaine and Dean, get captured by the bad guys.
The spinoff series The Amazing Spiez will have a scene featuring one or more of the three Clark boys from time to time.
Played for laughs in one episode of ReBoot, a male character (Enzo) is literally dressed up as a damsel in distress (complete with princess costume and voice changing gizmo), and the female lead dressed as a knight shows up to rescue him.
"And for the rest of the movie, we pretty much go in circles of capture. He-Man gets captured, He-Man escapes, He-Man gets captured, He-Man escapes, and our new wacky rebel friends have wacky adventures trying to bust him out."
Sadlygrove, the Idiot Hero from Wakfu, thinks of himself as a Knight in Shining Armor and thus is on the lookout for Distressed Damsels to rescue. This is turned on its head in episode 4, where he's lured in a cursed castle by the four "Ugly Princesses". Naturally, he ends up as the Distressed Dude to be rescued by his friends.
Mark Lily from Ugly Americans manages to get himself into all kinds of horrifying and distressful situations.
All the guys in Young Justice have gone through distressing situations, but the the honor has to go to Superboy.
In the Season 2 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Shining Armor is held captivated by an evil sorceress posing as his true love. In a nice inversion of the usual fare, his princess bride-to-be saves him (with the Power of Love, natch).
There's also Spike, who's needed to be rescued a few times. Justified, since he's a baby dragon and all.
Door Mouse in Team Umizoomi experienced how it felt to be in distress when he went into space.
Door Mouse also was in distress in Team Umizoomi:G Force with Jason, Digit, & Neville cause sometimes it was his own fault.
Max from Goof Troop often finds himself in perilous situations (sometimes his own fault, sometimes not). Over the course of the series, he is threatened by kidnappers, hostile burglars, and The Mafia among other things.
Mike Chilton in the two-part season finale of Motorcity. Texas in the episode "Threat Level: Texas!"
In the season 5 Adventure Time episode "Vault Of Bones", Flame Princess rescues a captive Finn, after authoritatively commanding the dungeon's final boss to release him and do the splits.
"DO THE SPLITS! DO THE SPLITS, THOU MILK-LIVERED MAGGOT PIEEEEEEE!"
Happened to Scott aka Cyclops quite a bit across the various X-Men cartoons — he gets it worst on Wolverine and the X-Men, mostly just so Jean Grey and Emma Frost would look better. And in X-Men: Evolution, where Mystique abducts him, steals his Power Limiter and leaves him completely blinded and indefense in the desert, as revenge having been the Spanner Inthe Works for her earlier. Jean saves him that time.