Faux Action Girl
aka: Faux Action Guy
"I'm a shinobi, too, but I'm always crying and relying too much on Naruto. I came here thinking that I was past all that... but still, I hesitate. I haven't really prepared myself at all. I can't do anything, I can't say anything... All I can do... is to trust them!"An Action Girl whose "action" aspect is more of an Informed Attribute than anything else. She's established from the very beginning as a powerful, capable heroine, but never gets to actually do anything heroic. She has a well-grounded reputation as a strong fighter in her field, but always fails miserably in the line of battle. Her talents and skills are well-known to fellow characters, but for some strange reason they're never seen by the viewers outside of perhaps A Day in the Limelight episode. Her status only exists as an established reputation and depends heavily on Genre Blindness; she never acts like the modern heroine she's supposed to be. Sometimes, the only way she qualifies as anything more than the Damsel in Distress is if you Take Our Word for It. If the writers are feeling merciful, however, the Faux Action Girl can be relied on to actually defeat her share of Mooks - or, in rarer cases, a female enemy. The key to identifying a Faux Action Girl is the disproportionate hype - whether she's overrated or under-performing. Also note that context does play a role; for example, in a show full of incompetents who think they're tough fighters, it doesn't matter if a female character behaves the same way. It is also possible to have a female character who doesn't fight or isn't as capable as some others for perfectly justified reasons. A Faux Action Girl is much less powerful or competent than comparable male characters and true Action Girls for no logical reason. Strangely, villainesses are rarely Faux Action Girls. The Worf Effect used too many times on a legitimate Action Girl may turn her into a Faux Action Girl. Please note that a Faux Action Girl is someone who already has a reputation as a fighter. If she is just a captured girl then she's a Damsel in Distress. If she gets rid of the Distress Ball, she's just a Badass in Distress. If she has just started fighting and doesn't have the experience/fame handy still, she's likely Skilled, but Naďve or a Naďve Newcomer, and there's still room to see if she can grow into a real Action Girl or not. Merely because an Action Girl is captured does not automatically entail her transformation into a Faux Action Girl; generally it is down to the nature of her kidnap/capture and how she deals with this circumstance in contrast to her other informed feats. The characterization usually involves a form of Informed Ability: Most of these girls have big reputations and great past exploits. More or less the Distaff Counterpart to Miles Gloriosus and Fake Ultimate Hero. If much of the show's screentime is dedicated to showing the girl in question training and practicing only to lose when it counts, that's not this trope. That's Hard Work Hardly Works, and it can hit anyone who is not The Hero. Also contrast with Chickification, in which the producers take a character who is shown to be a legitimate Action Girl and make her incompetent. See also Standard Female Grab Area, the standard weakness of a Faux Action Girl, even though showing her drugged while her back is turned would make more sense. Like the Standard Female Grab Area and White Magician Girl, this trope is often caused by writers who want females in their action show, but are unwilling (or not allowed) to show a woman being hit by a man. In many cases, the Faux Action Girl will suddenly develop into an actual Action Girl when faced with a female opponent (because a Cat Fight is just fine), only to return to Faux status as soon as that fight is over.
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Anime and Manga
- An in-universe example from Berserk. Farnese leads the Holy Iron Chain Knights, but they never expect her to actually fight. The Knights are traditionally led by a maiden, so she is entirely there for looks and because she comes from a noble family. Not that the men she commands are any better (the order only exists to give young scions of important noble families prestigious but cushy knightly duties), with a few notable exceptions.
- Burst Angel: Meg is supposedly highly skilled at combat, even though she's usually the dame in distress. Of course, since her partner Jo is a big badass Action Girl, Meg has nothing to worry about.
- Curse of the Undead Yoma has a Shrinking Violet ninja girl, Aya, whose claim to fame is the big reveal as to how she got her scar during the climactic end battle. It's a paradox. She vanishes at one point and reappears without it. She regains the scar from Maruo's horse tapdancing on her face while she tries to hold it in place with her garroting ninja wires. Not the brightest attack she could have mustered considering it's about 3 times the size of a normal horse.
- Zoe from Digimon Frontier only succeeded at beating one opponent on her own over the course of the entire series, and was defeated in every other battle she participated in, even losing to the Monster of the Week in the episode where she got her first Spirit; she had to be saved by Koji, who, along with the rest of her all-male teammates, easily beat the MotW the first time he Spirit Evolved.
- Fatal Fury:
- In the games Mai Shiranui's always been Ms. Fanservice and Andy Bogard's Clingy Jealous Girl, but still remains a proud Action Girl and gets the job well-done when needed. In the anime, however, she's all too often used as a hostage to lure Andy out to fight and as an even more blatant Ms. Fanservice; apart of her friendship with Sulia and defeating Panni (another girl) on her own, poor Mai doesn't get to show even a bit of her strength.
- In The King of Fighters games themselves, we have Chizuru Kagura. Shinto priestess, biker girl, businesswoman, one of the three members of the Shingi Troica along with Kyo and Iori... but the poor woman's seriously injured by Goenitz in the 96 game (though frankly speaking, she does beat the shit out of you, as a Trick Boss), and in the 2003 one she ends up Brainwashed and Crazy by the Big Bad. For worse, if you finish the game with the Chizuru/Kyo/Iori team, the poor girl is completely depowered after Ash Crimson steals her Yata mirror after the last fight, so in the XI game Shingo Yabuki has to replace her. However, Iori Yagami also is depowered in the XI game, when Ash takes his Magatama away and leaves Kyo as the only one standing but still... Poor Chizuru.
- Final Fantasy: Unlimited. Lisa is supposed to be a martial artist and a magic user, but most fights have her using a totally ineffective attack, then cowering with the children she's "protecting" until Kaze shows up and saves everyone with one summon.
- Fire Emblem: Princess Sheeda, in the anime is depicted as a warrior fighting for the heroes' noble cause despite the fact that she consistently fails to so much as swing (or sometimes even hold) her lance when the fighting starts. She is, however, placed in positions where the heroes need to rescue her, given to helping the manly men around her by returning their weapons to them, and bandaging wounded soldiers despite the fact that she is not a healer, but a Pegasus knight. The most heroic thing she does is step in the middle of a fight between two good guys and convince them to stop fighting with The Power of Love. In the games she's a genuine Action Girl, never gets kidnapped and has a good spot on the Character Tiers.
- Fist of the North Star: Mamiya, who is supposed to be the leader of her village's defense force, spends more time getting captured or getting cornered by the bad guys, only to be saved by Kenshiro or Rei at the last minute. Reina, from the first Raoh Den movie is supposed to an elite general in Raoh's army, but all she does is get wounded fighting Souther's army. Twice.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: We have Bianchi who defeats one opponent in an early arc, but is helpless against the later enemies. She later retreats to the sidelines as a mentor/home tutor. As well, there's Chrome, the only female member of Tsuna's guardians, who starts off strong but quickly requires Mukuro to do everything for her. Subverted in Chrome's case: she's weak because she wants to rely on Mukuro. When she decides that she'd rather fight as an equal and protect him, she turns out to be much stronger than when she first appeared.
- Mai-HiME: The very Badass Natsuki Kuga tended to serve as the Butt Monkey whenever the tone of the show turned comedic. In its Elseworld spin-off, Mai-Otome, that trait was exaggerated into complete Faux Action Girl-ness. Despite supposedly being both The Ace and a Supporting Leader, she never once managed to achieve anything without blundering and spent a good chunk of the series depowered. Lampshaded in the manga, where in Natsuki's first (and only) fight, there is a panel of her crying tears of joy that she finally gets to do something.
- In Maranosuke, Momoi, a ninja, realizes she's this despite/because being the Big Bad's favorite/a member of the Elite Mooks when facing fellow member, Zegenshi. Her Endaban is stated/proven to be Awesome but Impractical (a mechanical ambush/assassination weapon that she never effectively uses and can't even hunt game with), a flashback shows that her promotion invoked the trope just because she was her clan's idol (as in supermodel) and spared her from the fate of the other girls that were being harvested for the immortality potion. However, she proves to at least be Weak, but Skilled in her knowledge of ninjutsu and the "training" with her master proved to be a Chekhov's Skill in making her capable of withstanding the title character's libido without passing out like legit Action Girl Mina.
- Your average Mobile Suit Gundam series is bound to have a least one of these. From Sayla Mass of the original Mobile Suit Gundam to Fa Yuiri of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam to Sochie Heim of Turn A Gundam to Arisa Gunhale of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, Gundam in general has a rather dubious record regarding female mobile suit pilots. Of course, this is a franchise that has had only one "main" female pilotnote over its thirty five plus years of running, so it's safe to say Gundam isn't meant for women (despite what some would claim about certain series).
- Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny: Lunamaria Hawke is set up to be an Ace Pilot like her teammates Rey and Shinn. While she's certainly competent at taking out Mooks, she suffers from a bad case of Overshadowed by Awesome and is largely there to provide emotional support to the near Ax-Crazy Shinn.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 actually has a ''dark'' version of this trope in Nena Trinity. While appearing to be imposing in her Throne Drei, the unit itself is very weak as it was designed for stealth, and the only things Nena ever succeeded in killing were a bunch of people at a wedding, an intensely loyal Hong Long, and Wang Liu Mei. During three battles in the first season, the Throne Drei got easily knocked around, and poor Nena saw it get brutally dismembered by a revenge-driven Louise with her Regnant before being cut in half after saying "This isn't how I want to die!", not to mention in physical combat, Nena was easily stopped by Ali al-Saachez and got punched in the face for her troubles. Of course, her fans in Japan and those on the Ensemble Dark Horse side of the Broken Base in the West like her more for her personality.
- Gundam Build Fighters Try actually uses this with Fumina Hoshino as part of her Character Development. At the beginning, she's shown to be a competent Gunpla Builder and Fighter, but ends up requiring the help of Rookie Red Ranger Sekai Kamiki (a virtual nobody to the world of Gunpla) to win the day. When the two and Yuuma Kousaka form Team Try Fighters, she relegates herself as support with the Winning Gundam, keeping her in a competent zone, but never actively fighting. However, after getting curbstomped by Saga Adou's Gundam The End and having her inspiration Lady Kawaguchi force her into fighting with the Winning Gundam solo and making her realize she has no idea what her weapons do and how to use them correctly, Fumina quickly realizes she can't just hang back and hope the boys can bring home the bacon and reworks the Winning Gundam into the Star Winning Gundam, a powerful suit that goes head to head with G-Portent, a Gunpla built by Shia Kijima, a member of the prestigious Gunpla Academy.
- Naruto: Sadly, the majority of the kunoichi tend to be overshadowed by the male ninja in this series and have never truly won a fight against a male. Kishimoto has admitted he's not good at writing for girls, which makes you wonder why he put so many of them in the series.
- Sakura Haruno zigs-zags out. In the beginning of the series she is constantly described as being book-smart, as well as a prodigy at chakra control and talented at Genjutsu, however her Genjutsu talent was never explored further, and she contributes in less than a half dozen fights in the first part of the show. Her affection for Sasuke seems to contribute to this, as she frequently stands around watching him play the Ineffectual Loner. Following the timeskip and the strengthening of both her character and abilities, her infatuation for Sasuke levels off and she is finally able to get off the sidelines for the Sasori and Sai arcs.
- When she realized that she could not change Sasuke, and only Naruto with similar burdened background can move him, she states all that she can do is watch Naruto and Sasuke's backs and have faith in them.
- She's accused by many fans of being back on the sidelines in chapter 641 by solely cheering on Naruto and Sasuke, although she is fulfilling her role as a medic to heal the whole platoon as well, which seem less impressive than Naruto's and Sasuke's offensive feats.
- Sakura also admits that she would get owned by the Sexy Jutsu during a battle to save the world. So she can't even control her hormones when hot naked guys are involved, even if her life and everyone else's depended on it.
- Generation Xerox being what it is, Sakura's teacher Tsunade plays with this. While she is quite powerful by the standards of normal ninjas, her abilities appear to pale in comparison to her fellow Kage, the people who are supposed to be her contemporaries and equals. However, this is mostly be attributed in part to her Boring Yet Practical melee style: while her move set is very boring, she backs it all up with Super Strength strong enough to break Madara Uchiha's Susanoo and is one of the few characters capable of doing so.
- Even Kaguya fell prey to this. She is meant to be a physical god said to be one of the most powerful character to have ever lived. But is a huge joke. She gets owned by the Sexy Jutsu (Reverse Harem edition) in battle and Sakura actually does damage to her, leading to her defeat. Even Haku and Zabuza lasted longer than her.
- Sakura Haruno zigs-zags out. In the beginning of the series she is constantly described as being book-smart, as well as a prodigy at chakra control and talented at Genjutsu, however her Genjutsu talent was never explored further, and she contributes in less than a half dozen fights in the first part of the show. Her affection for Sasuke seems to contribute to this, as she frequently stands around watching him play the Ineffectual Loner. Following the timeskip and the strengthening of both her character and abilities, her infatuation for Sasuke levels off and she is finally able to get off the sidelines for the Sasori and Sai arcs.
- Ninja Scroll: Kagero, introduced as a supposedly deadly ninja who then proceeds to be repeatedly kidnapped and molested. Kagero actually shows herself as being mostly competent in the movie: she holds off Mushizo's swarm of bees, and even in the scene where she was being molested, if Jubei hadn't alerted Tessai, triggering his ability to turn his skin to stone, she might have successfully killed him with the needle she was hiding.
- Pokemon Reburst: Eight volumes worth of material, and Miruto never actually let her Pokémon out of its Pokéball and has never actually participated in a battle, allowing the male lead all the action even if he really could've used the help. This despite the fact she is supposedly part of an organization meant for investigating crimes. It gets really kind of ridiculous when she and her group have to take on someone in an area where Burst is neutralized...and she still doesn't take her perfectly working Pokeball out.
- Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit. Her claim to fame? Getting injured in a fight against a mere mook (enough to need Etoh's healing), a few defensive spells here and there, and being held hostage for the whole final third to set up an incredibly elaborate Rescue Romance. Oh, and being clingy to Parn. The producers did fix this in Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. There, Deedlit nearly single handedly defeats Shooting Star, the baddest of dragons in Lodoss, among other great feats of shamanistic magic. Instant Action Girl!
- Rurouni Kenshin: Kaoru Kamiya is a national level champ at kendo, but she gets severely beaten in the first chapter and is then kidnapped several times. The only time she ever beats a non-mook villain is when she teams up with another girl to fight a crossdresser. The writers Hand Wave it with the idea that all the major characters are underworld fighters who are so absurdly powerful that regular civilians Can't Catch Up. However, Kaoru's 10-year-old male student Yahiko is encouraged to fight underworld assassins on his own after less than a year of swordsmanship training, so we know that's no excuse. It's especially egregious in RK's setting, where the presence of an Instant Expert doesn't make much sense in a time period where the strongest characters honed their fighting skills through years of hellish war. Then, in Ruroni Kenshin: Restoration Kaoru is is introduced as having won eight straight battles against other sword fighters before the story begins, then defeats Kenshin because he didn't realize he was in a match. After that, Kenshin rescues her from an ambush, and she never fights again.
- Saiyuki: Yaone is a really good example of this as well as the White Magician Girl. Constantly running around trying to fight off her opponents, she perpetually loses or forgets that's she's supposed to fight against them all together. These days she's just mostly left at home when the boys go out to play.
- Samurai Deeper Kyo: Yuya is said to be the bounty hunter with 100% success rate. Too bad we only see her in action a few times. Later in the story, she acts nothing more than a "damsel in distress".
- Sengoku Basara: Kasuga shows very little skill for a supposedly skilled ninja. Aside from killing a Mook, her biggest action during season one was trying to protect Kenshin from Nouhime. She failed. And then promptly gets kidnapped by Nouhime a few episodes later. She cut herself loose, completely on her own, but instead of duking it out with Nouhime, she just... ran away. Keep in mind, Nouhime has little hand to hand skill, and usually fights with a gun. The fact that she could easily take a supposed ninja like Kasuga says a lot about her ninja skill.
- Shakugan no Shana: Pheles is a rare antagonist version of this trope. The way Wilhelmina talks about her before she shows up, you would think she was a Physical God. When she does show up, she descends from the heavens (surrounded by a tornado) to Ominous Latin Chanting, and the main character's expression is a very clear Oh Crap!. Cue the heroes taking her down in about 5 minutes. And about an episode later, she subverts Defeat Means Friendship by revealing that she was actually a significantly less powerful doll created by the real Pheles, who is not at all interested in the talk the heroes have just been having with the doll. Of course, this would completely explain why she was taken down so easily by the heroes before. The real Pheles shows up in person very shortly, once again with Ominous Latin Chanting. Cue the Big Bad taking her down in about 5 minutes.
- Tiger & Bunny: Karina Lyle aka Blue Rose is an in-series case, and treated rather realistically — she's a conflicted teen trying to live up to her public image as a domineering badass despite poor combat abilities that put a serious damper on powers that are actually rather decent, a ridiculously impractical costume for the sake of the sponsors (and one she did NOT choose), and serious misgivings about her job. She still gets stuff done because she genuinely wants to save people, but it's telling that one of her named, publicized special moves, the 'Cutie Escape', involves ducking and running from whatever criminal menace is trying to reduce her to a smear on the pavement this week. She gets better by the end of the series, gaining more confidence and skills to match.
- Yihwa Yeon from Tower of God. The strength test clearly indicated that she was second strongest of the group and she never is too ashamed to boast of her strength and skill, but fact is that she got herself disqualified for burning up her team when she lost control of her flames, had to make herself monetarily dependent from Prince, screwed up the strength test by tripping and got taken over by some no-name antagonists and had to be freed by Viole. It's noteworthy that the author intended her to be that way to begin with.
- Vampire Hunter D: Doris is an extreme example. In the first scene of the movie, she's shooting down supernatural creatures with her gun; but after the eponymous D arrives, she's relegated to Damsel in Distress status and never takes up her gun again, instead getting kidnapped by the Big Bad several times.
- Yuuki Cross from Vampire Knight is initially presented as a relatively competent heroine, and she does try, but it becomes apparent from the very first episode that much of the plot revolves around protecting and rescuing the poor girl. She gets a little better after Kaname re-turns her into a vampire, but that's only for a little while.
- Virtua Fighter the Animation: Pai Chan has this problem in-universe. She's not that bad of a fighter, technically speaking… but her ex-boyfriend aka the Big Bad is Genre Savvy enough to know know how to deal with her kicking-based martial art style, and so he trains his mooks specifically to neutralise her and so the poor kid spends most of her time getting beat down by non-mooks and getting abducted. Pai finally ends up being much more competent in the second season, being able to take on and beat even tougher opponents.
- GoLion/Voltron: When Princess Fala/Allura isn't piloting one of the lions, she can barely do anything useful. Allura averts/defies this trope in Voltron Force, set seven years after the events of the original series.
- In Sailor Moon Crystal the Inner get incapacitated in the majority of their fights due to plot alterations. This is despite the fact that they are cosmic warriors meant to protect the solar system. Most notable in episodes 10 and 24. Especially with Venus, Jupiter and Mars.
- DC Comics:
- As a rule, Black Canary is always a Faux Action Girl under the pens of Judd Winick and Andrew Kreisberg. The Green Arrow comic is particularly bad about having her lose to villains she really ought to be able to beat. She tends to fare much better under Gail Simone and Chuck Dixon, however.
- Thorn became this in the Harley Quinn solo series, where she was essentially served as a tough-talking superheroine who would be easily dispatched by Harley and Ivy. There was even a multi-issue subplot where the girls got sick of her meddling and just kept her bound and gagged in their apartment so they could torture her for fun. Years later, she was made into a more competent vigilante when she reappeared in her own mini-series and a tie-in storyline in Birds of Prey.
- In the early days of Marvel, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did a lot towards fleshing out comic book characters so they were more than just guys in tights punching things. In order to keep an option for romance and appeal for female audiences, they often included a token girl on the team. Unfortunately, while they tried, they could never think of interesting powers or personalities for female heroes, so most of Stan and Jack's work tended to include these types. Fortunately, these improved significantly over the years. Examples:
- The Fantastic Four: Susan Richards had been a Damsel in Distress in most of the early stories, until rewritten as a far more powerful and effective heroine by John Byrne; however, under later writers, she didn't always live up to this standard, and occasionally degenerated into this trope, mostly by giving her powers some kind of time or concentration limit despite no such obstacle for the others.
- X-Men: Jean Grey, in many of the early books. While later writers greatly expanded her personality, abilities, and role on the team, here she is mostly a damsel in distress whose identity is based on her longing for Scott Summers more than anything else. Men often have to direct her in the most basic use of her powers. When the team trains in the Danger Room, the males are shown battling or facing danger, while Jean threads a string though board with holes in it. Things improved in the later books.
- On the other side of things, X-Men villain team The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants had Scarlet Witch, who had the ability to give people bad luck. Unfortunately, the potential for this power wasn't truly realized until she was expanded upon after doing a Heel-Face Turn and joining the Avengers.
- The Avengers: Janet Van Dyne/The Wasp, in many of the early comics. In one issue, after she has been absent for the entire fight, she reappears on the last page. When asked where she was she responds that she had to go powder her nose. Like the above, she improved later down the line.
- Captain America's long time love interest Sharon Carter was a high ranking agent who led large squads of fighters into the battle field. She was, as a rule, the first to be knocked down, in order to give Cap a reason to protect her. She's now a much better fighter.
- Spoofed in Adam Warren's graphic novel Empowered. The eponymous heroine is considerably more insecure than most of the other examples here, halfway between a Faux Action Girl and a pure Damsel in Distress. However, at one point her boyfriend reassures her by saying he admires her guts in continuing to try and fight despite knowing that she'll probably end up getting her butt kicked and captured, as opposed to all the other heroes who have it relatively easy. It's also eventually revealed that when she does maintain her confidence, her powers actually work, such as when she effortlessly rescues said boyfriend early in the story. Also a bit of a deconstruction of this trope, as her poor track record is a major source of misery for her; her self-esteem's pretty much nonexistent and her reputation as a crime-fighter is the exact opposite of what this trope usually calls for: She routinely gets called things like "Useless Lass" and "Captain Kidnapped". As the story progresses she gets much better at using her powers and more generally competent, but most of the other characters don't notice (then again, most of them are jerks).
- The comic book prequel to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Jarael started out as a pretty Badass Action Girl in the first story arc of the series, to the point of saving protagonist Zayne Carrick from the villains in the climactic scene. Since then, while she's kept the fiery temper and violent disposition, she becomes incompetent in dealing with anything other than Mooks, and continuously has to be rescued from Mandalorians, Corrupt Corporate Executives, and rampaging HK assassin droids, among other things.
- One Biggles comic book set in modern times had the all-British hero declaring there's a place for skirts. At the end he recants this sexist statement as his female sidekick has proved her worth. By pushing a single button. Admittedly it was the Big Red Button of the Self-Destruct Mechanism, but still...
- The old Nintendo Power comics of the early '90s gave us a comic based off of the original Star Fox game for the SNES; there the team gained a fifth member, the female fennec Fara Phoenix. She is the leading test pilot in the Cornerian Army and can fly an Arwing well; however when we first meet her, she's hopelessly taken hostage and runs off after being rescued. Later on, she and Fox playfully show off their flying skills, only for her to be instantly shot down by an enemy cruiser (which she charged head-on), and doesn't fully participate in battle or much else when officially on the team.
- The Baroness is depicted as this in IDW's G.I. Joe comics, crossing over with Big Bad Wannabe. She's an egotist who's deluded herself into thinking that she's a brilliant manipulator and combatant. In reality, she tends to fold like wet paper in straight fights if she doesn't sneak up on her enemy or bring back-up. Notably her first appearance ends with her getting knocked out by a single hit from Destro, who at that point had zero prior combat experience. It's strongly implied throughout the comics that her whole motivation is a desperate desire to be taken seriously by others.
- Jinx from the James Bond movie Die Another Day is supposed to be a top NSA agent, and in an early scene she does manage to complete an assassination, but thereafter she only manages to get strapped to a laser Death Trap and almost drown in an ice hotel. In the end, she's given a Designated Girl Fight with Miranda Frost by way of consolation prize.
- Van Helsing: Anna Valerious is another lovely example, whose laughable losing record is referenced in this blog post. Most of this is due to The Worf Effect, but she repays the favor in the end.
- A Kid in King Arthur's Court provides a very ridiculous example of this trope with Princess Katie. In the training sequence she is shown to be an excellent swordswoman, archer and horse rider, thus she should be "of course, able to take care of herself". Except, then she gets kidnapped by some mooks, in broad daylight and needs to be rescued by Calvin and King Arthur. A fight begins. Now on the good guys' side we have Arthur (a very old man), Calvin (a nerd who fails at baseball and has only trained in swordfighting for a couple of days) and Katie (who is young, fast and has trained in swordfighting all her life). Arthur and Calvin fight and kill the mooks while Katie gets kidnapped again. The same film also subverts the trope, however, with Katie's older sister Princess Sarah. The viewer spends the entire movie believing that tomboyish Katie is the tough one of the pair, only to find out that Sarah is the secret identity of the Black Knight, who has been fighting the enemy all along.
- In Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian, Amelia Earhart continually insists she is able to take care of herself, but isn't seen doing anything remotely Badass except for flying a plane for about two seconds before handing it to Larry.
- Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: Rhona Mitra's Sonja is the leader of the elite vampire "death dealers," but unlike Kate Beckinsdale's Selene, she's almost completely helpless through the entire film. She's introduced while fleeing from werewolves, forcing her werewolf lover Lucian to save her. Later, he has to save her again from being overrun by werewolves. Later still, Viktor imprisons her and uses her as bait to catch Lucian. After Lucian busts her out, she actually manages to best Viktor in a swordfight, but he immediately uses her Standard Female Grab Area to trap her in a classic hostage pose, forcing Lucian to surrender to save her. After all that, she gets executed, while Lucian breaks free and successfully slaughters the castle.
- Sheena. Roger Ebert noted the incongruity of "a jungle woman who has ruled the savage beasts since infancy [being] pulled along by a television anchorman fresh off the plane." This is out of Sheena's character, considering that in the comics she's a Badass who takes down many savage animals and corrupt poachers.
- The Arcee triplets in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, who failed to do any major damage while chasing down Sideways in Shanghai, and end up getting destroyed in the film's final battle. Even their screentime in the film was under a minute.
- Audrey in Daybreakers, she gets captured no less than three times, and the men are called upon to save her every time.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Ramona Flowers. Arguably it makes sense, because it can be interpreted as Scott having to get over her past and not Ramona having to get over her own, but we still only see her engage female opponents and eventually has to be rescued because she just can't stand up to Gideon. Being Brainwashed and Crazy may have had something to do with it. In any case, it is explicitly stated that Scott has to be the one fight and defeat the evil exes.
- Maria Posada from The Book of Life. Despite being introduced as a badass, learning sword fighting and kung-fu, and giving a rousing speech to the townsfolk, she ultimately does not have much effect on the plot as a character; she gets a couple of good kicks in during the big fight but is also grabbed by Chakal right after her most badass moment and is dragged up a tower so Manolo can come to her rescue and do most of the fighting.
- Elven ranger Shulana of Mark Acres' Land Between the Rivers Chronicles, who for no explained reason can only kick ass when boytoy thief Bagsby tells her it's okay to go all out, otherwise she'll get trounced by mooks left and right. Really, she's actually more useless than ROLW Deedlit as she HAS shown exceptional skill, it's just that for no reason that ever comes up, she must remain a Faux Action Girl until Bagsby gives the word to whoop ass. Traumatic accidental death maybe? Due to this weird and unexplained character dynamic, the rotund middle-aged farmer woman, Marta, winds up kicking about twice as much ass despite the fact she was never trained for such combat and doesn't know any magic. Welp, someone has to be the Damsel in Distress so it may as well be the pretty one.
- Tallia, from Ian Irvine's first tale in The Three Worlds Cycle, is supposedly a master of armed and unarmed combat. Odd, then, that she so often is knocked out, overpowered, or otherwise comes up short.
- Alistair MacLean's (actually John Denis) Air Force One Is Down goes to great detail describing master thief (now secret agent) Sabrina and how good she is, then portrays her as a classic Damsel in Distress throughout the rest of the book. Most notably in a scene where Sabrina can't lie to the Big Bad because she can't keep her thoughts off her face (and she's supposed to be a former criminal???)
- Alice from Twilight beat her combat veteran boyfriend Jasper in a practice fight in Eclipse. He beat Emmett and tied with Edward, indicating that Alice is the best fighter of the four. However, in a hostile situation Emmett and Jasper are the ones who step up, and Alice's fighting prowess was never even mentioned outside that scene. It should also be noted that she can see the future. This would be a rather useful advantage in battle, though that doesn't explain why she wasn't important in the battle itself.
- More specifically, Alice is often the character who is trotted out by Twilight defenders against accusations that the series is anti-feminist. It's usually countered by pointing out that Alice only seems like a "strong female character" in comparison to Bella, but by the standards of just about any other series she clearly qualifies.
- Vampirized-Bella from Breaking Dawn also counts. She gets all sorts of training in combat from Emmett and is trained by Kate as to how to protect others with her shield against offensive attacks...and spends the climax just sitting there with everyone else. Her shield halts an attack from Jane and Alec each, but it's nowhere near any of the badassery she was hyped for. The movie does fix this by showing that during the climactic fight Bella and Edward serve as a Battle Couple and take down Aro, but... it turns out that the whole thing was All Just a Dream.
- Wanderer/Wanda from The Host was apparently quite the badass in some of her previous lives. This is somewhat at odds with how she acts once on Earth.
- Lampshaded by the definite Action Girl of the episodic morality story What Is This Black Magic You Call Science?
Unlike most heroines in this situation (where the dashing, rich, and studly hero saves her, has them fall in love over the span of five seconds, and they get married or something), Chryseis was not going to be rescued, and she knew this.
- Jaheira in the Baldur's Gate novelisations, to a painful extent. Gee, Mister Abdel Adrian, you think you caught a glimpse of her softer, more feminine side under "her usual tough warrior exterior"? If a fighter/druid can't deal with a spider getting inside her shirt any other way than by having you tear her top off (forced by the circumstances and by no means intentionally, as her husband just died a while ago, after all), then you can be pretty confident something is wrong.
- Vereesa Windrunner from Richard A. Knaak's Novel Day of the Dragon novel (set in the Warcraft universe). Here we're informed she is just as capable a ranger as her sisters in the first "of the Dragon" book, and in that book and every subsequent one, her grand accomplishments include being kidnapped, marrying Rhonin, and standing around in Dalaran next to her husband leading one of the least active factions in World of Warcraft. In fact, just about every female he's written qualifies.
- Whitley from Wereworld who is supposed to be training as a ranger and who says that she can fight faints at the first sight of Drew in his Wolf form and later is thrown off her horse to fall frozen in fear.
- Mallory of Melissa Marr's Carnival of Souls has been in training all of her life to be able to fight daimons and is sure she can take them. She then loses the only fight she gets in and has to be rescued.
- Bernadette Manuelito, a policewoman in the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee series of the late Tony Hillerman, was criticized for this by Hillerman's own daughter Anne Hillerman. She felt Manuelito came across more as the "love-struck girlfriend of Jim Chee" than as a strong law enforcement officer in her own right. Anne was happy that Manuelito was given a bigger role in Skeleton Man - in which she found the missing jewels and confronted the villain - but disappointed that she ultimately had to be rescued by Chee. As a result, Anne's upcoming novel, Spider Woman's Daughter (2013), a continuation of the series, will be centered on Bernie.
- In the John Carter of Mars books, red Martian women in general are supposed to be strong and have adapted to their harsh, violent world in terms of being ready to fight if necessary, but all they can ever do is play the Damsel in Distress. They have attitude, but apparently they're just physically absolutely inferior to both men and monsters. They also don't go properly armed like the men do, even though that should make sense if they were as advertised.
- Lt. Madonna Philips in The California Voodoo Game is introduced as an Olympic-caliber fencer with enough Genre Savvy to don a Chainmail Bikini in front of the opposition, then switch to practical garb for the actual adventure. However, her inexperience leads to a novice's mistake that gets her "killed out" very early in the Game.
- Glimmer in the first Hunger Games book is definitely an antagonistic example. She's presented as a Career, one of the most dangerous types of Tributes. Unfortunately, she's shown to be incompetent with a bow, she doesn't display any notable skills, and she dies extremely early in the Games before she gets to do anything notable. She gets a little better in the movie, where we can at least see her slaughtering a couple of Tributes during the initial bloodbath and Cato lets her kill one other Tribute who was Too Dumb to Live.
- Sally Broadbent of Tyrannosaur Canyon is described as the quintessential independent Western woman, a skilled rider and crack shot. Then she's captured without much fuss, bungles an escape attempt, and spends the rest of the story being present while Tom and Ford save the day.
Live Action TV
- The Amazing Race:
- Most of the athletic female teams come off as this, save for Kisha & Jen, who are the only ones to make the Top 4, then they ended up winning when they returned for Unfinished Business. Generally, the strong physical female teams tend to get eliminated earlier than the ones who rely more on their intelligence.
- Sam & Renae from the Australian version are another exception, also making the top 4.
- Canadian hockey players Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson were an incredible exception on the Canadian version. They claimed an incredible number of first place finishes (seven) and went to the final leg. They ended second and it was likely only caused by a nagging injury from before the Race.
- Erica in Breakout Kings is supposed to be this badass former bounty hunter who can track anyone and who killed five very dangerous men, but she does not live up to the hype. In "Out of the Mouths of Babes," a middle-aged former school counselor is able to outrun her and give her the slip. When she is useful, it is in roles that seem to have been written for Philomena, the con artist from the pilot whom Erica replaced.
- Cleopatra 2525: Rose, aka "Sarge", completely failed to live up to her supposedly badass nickname. Routinely kidnapped, captured and tied up, she was pretty much useless. Worst example was one episode where, in trying to save her younger sister, she herself was captured.
- Criminal Minds: During season six, Ashley Seaver joined the team for a short while. She was supposedly the best at the academy but did absolutely nothing to prove it. note
- Doctor Who: Sara Kingdom is introduced as the Space Security Service's best and most loyal operative, with a Samus is a Girl sequence, and she shoots her own brother on behalf of Mavic Chen. However, as soon as she does a High Heel-Face Turn and the Doctor takes her on as a companion, all her combat skills disappear and she spends most of her time asking the Doctor to explain things, running down corridors, and experiencing Doctor Who's notorious Big Lipped Alligator Moment Christmas Special ("The Feast of Steven"). While shooting some Daleks would perhaps have been helpful, her personality itself remains intact, particularly her extreme loyalty. In the Dalek TV show that Terry Nation had been trying to make, she was going to be a Damsel in Distress her (other) brother had to rescue, but this got a bit of a Fix Fic when Big Finish adapted the story, as it switched her and her brother's roles around.
- Jericho: Emily Sullivan fell under this for most of the first season. Fixed from the Season One finale onwards.
- Justified: Ava Crowder always talks a big game, but to date her only real achievements are killing her (unarmed) abusive husband, successfully resisting her first kidnapping, and shooting Delroy (who thought she was on his side). She fails to intimidate Bo Crowder, and is easily kidnapped by him, loses a shootout to Dickie Bennett, is brutally beaten by Judith when she tries to fight her, and otherwise gets her ass kicked any time that her opponent can actually hit back.
- Kamen Rider Kiva: Yuri and her daughter Megumi are supposedly some of the best Fangire Hunters, but they seldom get in more than two or three blows before the villain begins shrugging off their attacks, and either captures or starts pounding them, requiring them to be saved by Kiva or Ixa. By episode five, you're rolling your eyes at them for thinking they can do anything, like Mooks Shooting Superman.
- It doesn't help when the Transformation Trinkets for the Ixa suit not only pass by Yuri (whom it was originally developed for) and her daughter too, but are used by male characters. At least Megumi gets a loaner on the second version once in the tv-series and the movie.
- Isolde was presented as a tough, no-nonsense Action Girl. She is injured in her first battle and dies in her second.
- Likewise, Dark Action Girl Morgana is meant to be a dangerous, volatile opponent with her magic and sword-fighting skills, but even before her Face-Heel Turn she consistently failed at almost everything she set out to do.
- Mutant X: Emma DeLauro. Frequently described as one of the strongest New Mutants in the world and deemed a good enough allrounder to be included in the Mutant X team and yet she very rarely does anything useful, especially compared to Shalimar Fox, the resident Action Girl. Granted she was also there for her psionic powers but if Adam was wanting a psionic why did he not just use Vanessa, a minor psionic character who showed she, at least, could kick some GSA butt.
- Revolution: Charlie Matheson starts out as this. She's incompetent, at least early on. On top of that, she usually ends up being saved. However, she managed to not screw up in episode 2 by tricking Nate and succeeded in killing the warden and another man. It may be because she isn't good with close range or unarmed combat, she is a good shot with her crossbow, but since crossbows can't fire as quick as a real bow after a single shot she tends to be helpless. Which may be why her father warned her not to go into the woods. Too many people in the village have gotten hurt or killed trying to save her ass. Not that the village got into trouble over her in the pilot episode.
- Robin Hood: Kate. One of the other outlaws calls her "a good fighter", and she insists that "I can look after myself" even though she gets into trouble and has to be rescued by her male co-stars no less than fifteen times over the course of one season. To get a gist of this percentage, keep in mind that there were only thirteen episodes per season, and Kate only appeared in eleven of them. At one stage she was kidnapped by an evil tax collector three separate times in one episode.
- Smallville: In the second season episode "Precipice" Lana Lang trains intensely in martial arts and by the end of the episode is able to take down a serious jock. But for the rest of her series run, these skills are never used again. Then the creators "listened to fan complaints" about her being this and had her come back in season 8 with Faux Navy SEAL training that she somehow got in eight months or so (this is absolutely impossible to do). That training pretty much gave her Charles Atlas Superpower. Then they made it so she radiates kryptonite so that she could have a reason for leaving the love of her life, Clark. From this to God-Mode Sue, all in one season. There's a reason she's a Creator's Pet.
- Space Sheriff Sharivan: Miyuki and her teammates. In their very first appearance, they prove they're strong enough to beat Sharivan and yet, in every other episode they appear, they're unable to win a single fight and always need Sharivan's help (yes, the same Sharivan they had beaten so easily).
- Star Trek: The Original Series: If you thought there were no Dark Action Girl examples, you'd be wrong. The Romulan commander in the episode "The Enterprise Incident" is easily duped by Kirk and Spock, and, though explicitly stated to be a soldier, the most badass thing she does is slap Spock across the face in a fit of Woman Scorned fury.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Tasha Yar. She's supposed to be the Enterprise's tough-as-nails security chief; her main contributions to episode plots include being kidnapped, breaking down in tears, and hesitating just long enough to allow Klingon fugitives to take hostages. This led to her actress, Denise Crosby, quitting the show before the end of the first season.
- Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger: Marie Gold (movie only). She is DekaGold, and has time-stopping powers. But then, her only on-screen display of power is when she had her transformation sequence INTERRUPTED and then was poisoned by the bad guys, so the Dekarangers had to hurry and save her.
- VR Troopers: Kaitlin Starr is made of this. She was occasionally used in a real Action Girl fashion, but unlike her female Power Rangers counterparts (who at least got the chance to save everyone as much as the rest of the team) she seemed to exist only to beat up mooks and get in trouble. One episode involved her losing her self-confidence because of the Big Bad, and the clips that played to show she wasn't useless were a few examples of fighting Mooks with not even an attempt at showing her against the Monster of the Week. This is mostly a side effect of Troopers' dependence on Metal Heroes Stock Footage. In the series that was adapted, Spielban, Kaitlin's counterpart Diana Lady was a sidekick who would deal with mooks while her partner would fight the monster.
- Game of Thrones:
- Unlike her literary counterpart Asha, Yara Greyjoy is one of these in Game of Thrones by way of Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole. Whatever she did to earn the loyalty and respect of her crew, she certainly didn't do it onscreen. She gives a pretty speech about how the word "Ironborn" means nothing if her enemies can torture her brother Theon with impunity. It must mean nothing, then, because she and the twenty supposed best fighters on the Iron Islands proceed to get scared off by a shirtless boy and some dogs. Seriously.
- The Sand Snakes fell into this very quickly come season five. After a lot of big talk and grandiose claims that went on for several episodes, they bungled their first fight scene completely and ended up in prison. For all their Badass Boasts, their leader failed to defeat a one-handed swordsman who has trouble with mooks at this point, and the other two working in conjunction fail to defeat another (admittedly skilled) swordsman. The poor quality of the choreography only makes their Informed Attribute of being skilled even more glaring than the fight's outcome.
- Andrea from The Walking Dead. She owns a pistol, which she can't use correctly. She tries her hand at sniping, but hits Daryl instead. After the farm is abandoned, she spends a good few months being sick and helpless, whilst Michonne nurses her back to health. Once they reach Woodbury, she becomes the Governor's rebound girl, doing nothing productive other than sleeping with him. When she tries to flee, he chases her through an empty warehouse, before she is finally captured. She's eventually bitten, and gives herself a Mercy Kill, all without really accomplishing anything.
- In Mac Attack, the only female team member is shown doing two things: standing around, and being the Damsel in Distress in a Video Mode.
- The protagonist of "Space Sister" in Super Pinball II: The Amazing Odyssey is one. She's presented as a Captain Ersatz of Samus Aran, but never demonstrates any genuine Action Girl abilities.
- A unique case happens in WWE when they are pushing a woman in a feud who has very little wrestling experience.
- The first one to have this happen to her was Sable who had it written into her contract that she couldn't take bumps. In this case she was feuding with Jacqueline who in Real Life could go toe to toe with the men and barely break a sweat. Since Sable wouldn't take bumps Jacqueline had to rely on attacking from behind and using kicks in their matches. Jacqueline won the newly reinstated Women's Championship... when Marc Mero held Sable's feet down for the pin. Sable would only ever do about four moves in total in her match so one Sable Bomb and the supposedly dominant Jacqueline lay limp on the canvas for the 1-2-3. She would recover from this however and become Women's Champion again as well as Cruiserweight Champion while Sable ended up leaving the company.
- Luna Vachon also suffered from this in her feud with, you guessed it, Sable. They were set to compete in a mixed tag match at Wrestlemania XIV and in their training for it, Sable refused to learn how to bump and Luna was warned that she would be fired if she damaged or hurt Sable in any way at all in the match. So in the match Luna had to rely on her partner Goldust to do all the work while she acted as Sable's punching bag.
- In 2004, WWE planned to give Stacy Keibler a reign as Women's Champion, as she was arguably the most popular woman in the company. However, Stacy had no wrestling skill, no desire to learn and no credibility, so she was put in a series of matches against Molly Holly, a talented wrestler who refused to have the sex appeal WWE wanted their Divas to have. Stacy pinned Molly three weeks in a row, with the plan being that Stacy would win the 2004 Taboo Tuesday Fulfill Your Fantasy Battle Royal and become Women's Champion. Stacy wound up turning down WWE's offer to be champion, feeling she didn't deserve it, but getting beat so many times by one of the worst women in the company is considered the nail in the coffin of Molly's career.
- Maryse is a rare villain case. After her return she was immediately pushed in a Divas' title feud and the announcers constantly talked up how menacing and aggressive she was. Her matches told a different story - she would literally have her opponents beat the crap out of her for 90% of the match while the only offence she would get in would be a few slaps and maybe a backbreaker. If she was winning the match then she'd use her finisher. It was pretty hard to take Maryse seriously as a top heel when she only used one move and was never shown actually kicking any ass like the announcers claimed she was.
- Aida gives us both a Faux Action Girl and a Faux Action Guy in none other than our two leads. Aida is the rebellious, strong-willed leading lady who subdues a guard early on and is said to be "better with a sword than with a sponge." Radames, our leading man, is an Egyptian captain who has won several battles and is supposedly an overall Badass. One could argue that since the story itself is more of a love story than anything, it's more forgivable that we don't see either of these two performing such great feats. However, at the end of the play, a fight breaks out. On the good guys' side, we have Aida, Radames, and Mereb, a physically weaker boy who's "better off cheering from the sidelines." And who's the one who does all the fighting while everyone else stands there watching in horror? Mereb, who dies in the process.
- While Fire Emblem has tons of legitimately badass females, it also has a few Faux Action Girls.
- Midia from the Archaneia games, for one. She's supposedly a powerful knight, but when we first meet her, she and her squad are in captivity. And she didn't get better in the sequel, when she led a resistance against an evil Hardin... and gets caught AGAIN.
- Played for horrible drama with Queen Ismaire from The Sacred Stones, who ends up dead because of this trope.
- Lampshaded in the Dreamcast version of Record of Lodoss War. The hero finds Deedlit captured by some wimpy goblins and just had to ask, "How can a High Elf be captured by mere goblins"?
- In the Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Licensed Game, Padmé says she's been trained in self defence shortly before you are to fight through a gauntlet of Tusken Raiders, and proves to be useless, screaming for help and falling on all fours when struck. Strangely, you get to control Padmé as Queen Amidala later in the game and retake the city of Theed with only a few men by your side. The leap from Damsel in Distress to Action Girl was much needed.
- Ratchet & Clank:
- Sasha, Ratchet's Love Interest, was hyped by the creators as "a female Han Solo". Her supposed enjoyment of video games is never seen in the series, apart from giving Ratchet a console so he could play Vid Comics, and she ends up being the Damsel in Distress by the end of the game, despite having command of a very powerful starship.
- Angela from the second R&C title. When she's disguised as the Mysterious Thief, she offers up a very tough boss fight midway through the game, but later on she's captured by one of the villains without even putting up a token resistance, forcing you to come to her aid. Though this can be justified in that she is primarily a researcher, and even as the Mysterious Thief, she left most of the fighting to her robots or hired thugs.
- Soldier of Fortune:
- A rare Faux Dark Action Girl example. The series makes a deliberate point of having enemy female soldiers be weaker than enemy male soldiers. In Soldier of Fortune 2, the female Prometheus soldiers are coded to have worse accuracy and a crappier weapon than their identical-in-rank male counterparts. In Soldier of Fortune: Payback, the female boss character (who's apparently the Big Bad's personal bodyguard) is probably the easiest boss in the entire game.
- Madeline Taylor from Soldier of Fortune 2. She's introduced in the finale of the first game as a worthy replacement for Hawk, but in the second game we don't see her in combat and, what's worse, she gets killed halfway through the game.
- Deviant 1 from the same game.
- Meryl Silverburgh from Metal Gear Solid was presented as one from the start, though one who was aware of her limitations and strove to overcome them. And in Guns of the Patriots, she did.
- Ninja Gaiden
- Rachel in the Xbox game is a supposedly skilled fiend hunter who kills an Elite Mook fairly easily, but then gets knocked aside by a (relatively) easy boss, and later gets kidnapped by Doku for most of the rest of the game.
- Momiji in Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword. The manual suggests that she is a strong ninja, and the player controls her for the first level, which seems to indicate that she might play a role in the action as a secondary player character. Unfortunately, at the end of the level, she loses to the first boss and gets kidnapped, where she is held for the rest of the game. She manages to outgrow this one and becomes a competent Action Girl come in Sigma 2 and 3... by fighting like a warrior Shrine Maiden instead of a ninja. Perhaps she chose the wrong class earlier. Gets averted in Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate, where Momiji joins the cast of ninja girls you can select. The difference between her, Kasumi, and Ayane is that her attacks are the slowest, but more powerful.
- In the original trilogy, Irene Lew, highly-trained CIA agent and the Love Interest of Ryu, suffers from this as she's a Damsel in Distress in the first two games. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (which actually is set between the first and second games) plays with this, as Irene seemingly dies while performing a covert operation, but Irene saves herself from this trope when she pulls a Big Damn Heroine moment to save Ryu of all people.
- Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox 360 features Sonia, who is also a highly-trained CIA operative. Her story at first mimics Irene's (capture, then saving Ryu's bacon), but she then gets captured again, causing her to fall right back into this trope. However, it's hard to be of any use in the Underworld if you're not a Badass Ninja named Ryu Hayabusa. Perhaps a sequel will give Sonia a chance to redeem herself in the vein of Rachel and Momiji. As the original games have apparently been retconned to follow the Xbox titles (and by proxy, Dead or Alive), it's eventually revealed in Dead or Alive: Dimensions that Irene and Sonia are one and the same.
- Mei Ying in Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb is supposedly an intelligent and tough sidekick, but proves herself to be borderline-useless during fights and even manages to get incapacitated and possessed by the Big Bad during the final battle.
- Jayne Magdalene in the Bionic Commando remake. In the prequel comic, she's shown as pretty competent. In the game, all she does is get clocked, first clotheslined (literally, with his bionic arm cable) by Spencer and then stomped on by the Big Bad.
- The PK Girl actually makes this into a plot point, albeit a somewhat hamhanded one. Action Girl Saffy gets herself into trouble that you have to save her from, causing her to feel that she owes you her life and obligating her to try to save you from your problems... and that coincidentally puts her into more positions you have to save her from.
- It's easy to peg Ken Marinaris from Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner as one of these after you learn that she cannot pilot the Ardjet without an AI. But remember, at the start of the game Dingo tells ADA that he'd prefer to pilot without one and she shows him all of the stats he would need to keep track of to be able to pilot Jehuty, so as it turns out, not even the Ace Pilot can use an Orbital Frame without it.
- A variation, or possibly an inversion. Amy from Sonic the Hedgehog was supposed to be an Action Girl pre-Adventure. You wouldn't know this though due to her being kidnapped the only times you see her in Sonic CD and her only real action appearance was in Sonic the Fighters. But once Sonic Adventure came, she began to fulfill her Action Girl status, and even more so in games like Sonic Advance, Sonic Heroes, and Sonic Chronicles.
- Terra in the Ys series. Although she's apparently a Little Miss Badass, she is never seen in combat, and you in fact have to escort her at one point in VI, alongside the Damsel in Distress Olha.
- An in-universe example in Cave Story: Sue Sakamoto brags that she's never lost a fight with her brother and is convinced that she's a formidable scrapper, but based on the number of times you have to save her (hint: it's the same number of times as she gets into a fight), even her boast is questionable. Definitely an intentional example, though, as Sue is the only one who even brings up her fighting prowess, let alone tries to convince you she has any.
- The soundtrack to the arcade version of Double Dragon came with liner notes that explained the game's backstory, which revealed that Marian used to be a martial arts instructor in Billy and Jimmy's old school prior to the nuclear war. However, the game itself doesn't do much of a good job of showing Marian's martial arts skills, since she is knocked unconscious by a single blow to the stomach and carried off by a mere mook at the game's own opening sequence. The Neo-Geo fighting game version gave Marian some legitimate fighting skills in order to make her into a playable fighter, although the game barely has anything to do with the original, save for the names of some of the characters.
- Zoe in Bully, by way of game mechanics: her profile info says she likes to fight and makes a formidable opponent, but good luck actually getting to fight her. If the trouble meter maxing out for touching her doesn't get you first, it's more likely that she'll just run away. This is because the programming for the girls is all the same, and the rest are generally nonviolent except sometimes against each other.
- Trish from the Devil May Cry series. Apart from throwing a motorcycle at Dante (an attack which is easily brushed off), slaying some minor demons off screen, and getting into a catfight with Lady, she never does much that would qualify her as a legitimate Action Girl. Her most impressive feat yet is arriving in the nick of time and helping Dante deliver the last blow to Mundus… after Dante beat him into a crumbling mess with the Sparda sword to begin with. However, she was under demonic control for most of the game, so it's forgivable. She becomes much more capable in DMC4 and the animated series.
- Muramasa The Demon Blade.
- Subverted with the real Momohime. The game got a lot of hype for having a male and female lead, but it turns out that she's possessed by the spirit of a man whenever she's fighting. When she's properly herself, she's an ordinary doll-like princess that's treated pretty badly by the game in general and is never considered an Action Girl In-Universe, unlike Torahime.
- Also Torahime. We get told that she's a fearsome warrior, but her main role in Kisuke's story is to be the love interest and get into a lot of trouble that Kisuke needs to save her from. The only time she displays any competence is when YOU fight HER earlier on.
- Rebecca Chambers from Resident Evil. Despite being a member of the S.T.A.R.S Bravo Team (a SWAT stand-in, and she was also a rookie), she spends most of the game either hiding or falling into danger - ignoring her for a few minutes during one sequence can actually result in her getting killed by a Hunter. As Chris's partner, she can heal him, whereas Jill's partner Barry provides extra firepower - for example, when Chris gets captured by Plant 42, Rebecca opts to poison it from another room instead of fighting it, whereas in Jill's scenario, Barry runs headfirst into the room and burns the plant with a flamethrower to save her. It is a strange clash when you play Resident Evil 0, which you play as her and she's pretty capable, but then again, Billy Coen winds up saving her frequently too. And in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, which retells the original game's story, NPC and Bravo Team Member Richard Aiken also winds up protecting her frequently, at least until Yawn the snake bites him!
- In the original James Bond game Everything or Nothing, CIA agent Mya Starling is your contact in the New Orleans mission, and it can be reasonably assumed that she can handle herself at least as well as the more actiony Bond Girls. You have to meet up with her in a certain amount of time before her cover is blown. Fair enough, but once you get there, her cover is blown anyway and her entire role in the New Orleans mission is Damsel In Distress.
- In Fallout 3, Reilly, the leader of Reilly's Rangers, is never seen in combat, and when you first find her, she's in a coma from being ambushed by Super Mutants.
- Metro: Last Light introduces Anna, who is portrayed as the best sniper the Rangers have and thoroughly unimpressed by Artyom's heroics in the first game. Though she does help fight off a horde of monsters at one point (from the safety of a fortified church, accompanied by several other Rangers) her actual role in the game consists of getting captured, getting rescued, and having sex with Artyom. Nor does she participate in the final battle, which is literally the Rangers' last stand.
- There is a DLC that allows you to play as her, in which she does at least snipe her fair share of Nazis. she still fails miserably at actually achieving what she set out to do, though.
- Aurora Bladeseeker in DROD: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder. The other teammates refer to her as a hero and won't continue without her, but all she actually does in the game is explore some roach pits so you have to go rescue her.
- Rosechu in Sonichu is a blatant example - while the author constantly insists that she's a true Action Girl and she's allegedly as powerful as the main character, most of the time she doesn't do anything and gets captured as a Damsel in Distress.
- Lita in Jack had dedicated her whole life training to be able to defeat her monstrous father. When she completes her training and goes to Hell to face him, not only is she too weak to win against even nameless male souls and hellspawns, gets captured and nearly raped, but she also gets constantly saved each time by males like Cliff and Jack. And yet she's described as among the strongest female characters in the series.
- Deconstructed in Sidekick Girl. Superhero Illumina does practically nothing to fight crime and takes all the credit while her sidekicks do all the work. She has gone through several of them before the comic started. One of her former sidekicks got fed up with her and left, turning to a life of crime, one wound up in a mental hospital, and another died trying to save her. She has been labeled as a sidekick deathtrap due to her track record.
- Zenith from Commander Kitty is often played up by other characters as being exceedingly dangerous to take on alone. In truth, though, she wields an exceedingly impractical weapon that isn't even lethal, displays fairly weak stamina, and is never shown fighting without her army of goons to do all the work for her.
- Lei'ella of Inverloch is introduced as a tough thief-catcher who prides herself on being the fastest knife around. But Varden quickly bests her when she confronts him, she comes off worse in a later fight with Berard (admittedly while in a Heroic BSOD), and Varden later has to train her to fight better. This also gets an explanation around that time—Lei'ella was better than the thieves she fought, but that wasn't saying much because most thieves are piss-poor fighters themselves.
- Talia in The Other Side is said to be an unparalleled combatant powered by Super Serum. The one and only time we see her fight, she is knocked out in less than ten seconds. In the large battle at the end of the second season, which would have been a perfect time to show off her skills, she doesn't participate, and when she does step in she's shot in the chest and killed.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold
- This version of Batwoman qualifies. She's a cocky, snarky Anti Heroine who thinks she is all that, but ends up screwing up and nearly killing a group of civilians in her only on-screen case, and then gets kidnapped during her subsequent mission to kill the Riddler. She ultimately ends up as a Damsel in Distress who needs to be saved by Batman and his allies, and is then sent to prison for kidnapping and attempted murder.
- Alanna in "Mystery in Space!" The men (Batman, Aquaman and her husband Adam Strange) get in trouble early in the episode, but get out of it without her help. Nevertheless she insists on coming along on their next mission, since they obviously can't stay out of trouble without her...and she gets kidnapped by the villain and needs them to save her.
- In "The Mask of Matches Malone," the Birds of Prey (in this universe, Black Canary, Huntress and Catwoman) have a song where they brag about being better than all the recurring male superheroes. As soon as it's over, they're captured.
- The Batman: Detective Ellen Yin spends most of her time being saved by Batman, one step behind Batman, or getting her hand held through mysteries by Batman. A borderline case, as she is competent when the writers realize they have no other choice other than solidifying her slide into full-on Damsel in Distress. However, she is promptly Put on a Bus at the end of the second season in favour of Commissioner Gordon (thanks to the Law of Conservation of Detail) and replaced by Gordon's daughter as the only female protagonist on the series. (She did get a Shout-Out in a season 4 episode, though she didn't actually appear; apparently twenty years down the road she becomes police commissioner of Gotham.)
- Lucy of Despicable Me 2, whose only successful combat encounters are against an order of cupcakes and a lady's butt, despite her introduction as a tough, wacky thrill junkie. She gets points for outwitting Gru with her gadgets when they first meet, but once captured by El Macho at the end, she's a standard-issue Damsel in Distress.
- Kitt Wonn in Dragon Booster, for the most part.
- Pepper Potts in Iron Man: Armored Adventures thinks she's cut out to be an agent for SHIELD. The same Pepper Potts whose usual role is to be a Damsel Scrappy 24/7. Somewhere Whitney Stane must be laughing up a storm.
- Roll started out as this in the Mega Man cartoon, but by the time season 2 rolled around she'd developed into a proper Action Girl.
- Gender-flipped with Shining Armor from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. He's a powerful Barrier Warrior and talented enough of a fighter and leader to be the captain of the guards, but during the three major threats he plays a part in he's brainwashed into helping Queen Chrysalis, placed under a curse that seals his magic by King Sombra, and left drained by Tirek respectively.
- Princess Sally of Sonic Satam plays with this. She is The Leader and useful on many levels of intellect and strategy to the rest of the team, but physically is useless and dependent on Sonic most of the time. Bunnie Rabbot started off a straight up Action Girl (if prone to The Worf Effect) but devolved into such after being Demoted to Extra; even during the missions she does take part in she has little involvement.
- April O'Neil from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) is kidnapped and in distress almost as often as her 1987 counterpart despite being trained as a kunoichi by Master Splinter. It might have been justified since she's just a beginner, but then Casey Jones came along and started kicking more ass than April ever did despite having no formal training at all!
- It is enormously satisfying to see her getting to show her chops more in the third season.
- Amberley was this in early points of The Dreamstone, being outshone by most of the heroes and the most liable to be captured by the Urpneys (she usually put up a hell of a fight, but it rarely did much good). During the later half of the series, Amberley became more intelligent and able to get out of scrapes on her own.
- In Transformers G1, Arcee is pretty much a faux action robot chick. She fires her gun a few times, but spends much more time running away or getting cornered by male robots. Female robots got tougher after Beast Wars, getting into trouble only about as much as a single male robot is expected to, with Arcee herself varying depending on the series she's in.
- The version of Blackarachnia that appeared in Transformers Animated sadly counts. Needing to be rescued or protected from danger by her mech counterparts in pretty much every appearance, which was in direct contrast to her much more capable and badass predecessor. If she wasn't a full on Damsel in Distress, she came close to it.
- A villainous example would be Shimmer from Young Justice. She's first introduced as Kobra's supposedly badass bodyguard, only to end up incapacitated by Robin before throwing a single punch. The exact same thing happens near the end of season one, and in season two, she's ambushed and dismissively knocked out by Miss Martian so that the latter can steal her identity.