Attempting to pierce the villain's eardrums may not be a useful tactic.
— about every example on this page
When a truly terrifying danger rears its ugly head, maybe a monster appears or a large object is about to fall on them, one of the female characters stands there and screams helplessly, necessitating that one of the heroes pull her out of harm's way. Is guaranteed to become even more annoying when said female character sees something dangerous, and stands and screams for the hero to help, when they would have had plenty of time to get out of the way themselves. Not necessarily limited to the Damsel in Distress
or The Chick
, but can be infuriating if the character is supposed to be
a hardened Action Girl
Contrast with Screaming Warrior
and Screams Like a Little Girl
. Also see Make Me Wanna Shout
, when the scream is superpowered and weaponized.
A woman's scream is a powerful auditory bomb: nothing conveys terror quite like it. However, it can easily become Narmful
when overused, especially if Stock Screams
are used. See Eek, a Mouse!!
for one example of something that can trigger this phenomenon. Actresses frequently cast in the role
of the Screaming Woman are often called "Scream Queens."
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Anime & Manga
Films — Animation
- Monsters vs. Aliens
- Spoofed when General W. R. Mongernote is showing the President of the United States footage of all the monsters he's got locked up. Every time he shows one, the coffee lady screams in sheer terror and drops her tray. Finally Monger has had enough and angrily orders her thrown out of the room. He then shows his next clip, that of "Ginormica", a 49 foot, 11 1/2 inch woman. Whereupon there's an identical high-pitched scream... from the President!
- Susan herself briefly lapses into this upon first bumping into Insectosaurus. Not that one could blame her, considering that it is a grub seven times as tall as she was.
- Shrek 2: The lady outside the Farbucks coffee provides an excellent scream complete with hands clutched backwards beneath her face.
- The woman in the monster movie Norman watches at the beginning of ParaNorman has no lines, just a lot of terrified shrieks.
Films — Live-Action
- Brought up in Tales of Kolmar. Lanen fights back in every situation, but she screams like bloody murder as she does so, too - her philosophy there is to never deny anyone the chance to come help.
- Mentioned in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Cimorene's princess training included lessons in how to scream while being carried off by a giant (because being abducted by horrific monsters and rescued by a prince or knight is a major form of matchmaking in the setting). Fortunately for the plot, she's not that kind of princess.
- Lampshaded in the 1951 sci-fi novel Seetee Ship by Jack Williamson, when the Love Interest asks the heroic space captain to stop their search through the creepy abandoned alien spaceship because she can't possibly scream any more.
- Invoked by Hobbie Klivian in Starfighters of Adumar, when he and his fellow pilots are Disguised in Drag. Wedge is actually surprised at how well his fellow (male) pilot can Scream Like A Little Girl.
- Babylon 5: Sheridan's wife (played by Melissa Gilbert) screams when the White Star comes plowing through the dome of the Zahadum city... carrying two 500 MT nukes. Perhaps justified in her case as in that situation there wasn't really anything she could do but to scream.
- The novelization of this moment (in the Technomage trilogy) states that this was actually her battle scream; she had previously been the core of a Shadow vessel, which emits a psychic scream in battle.
- Doctor Who
- While not doing it as often as some make out (especially in the 1970s), the series got associated with this trope to the point that "she's not just a screaming girlie" had to be emphasized when the new series was created. Plus, an inversion in Series 2 of the new show: it's Rose's boyfriend who Screams Like a Little Girl, and is called upon by the Doctor.
- The first regular to leave the series, Doctor's granddaughter Susan, did so because the actress portraying her felt Susan had no depth beyond the screaming girl slash damsel in distress. (Curiously, in her very last serial (The Dalek Invasion of Earth), she nearly drops a literal bridge on herself.)
- The Second Doctor companion Victoria Waterfield is an exaggeration bordering on subversion - she is actually quite brave and adventurous, but has a truly eardrum-shattering scream considered painful even in-universe. In "Tomb of the Cybermen", Victoria even stuns someone pointing a gun at her and a friend by shrieking so loud he can't think. In "The Ice Warriors", her scream causes an avalanche that takes out her captor. In "Fury from the Deep", her scream is the weapon that defeats the Big Bad. The actress was nicknamed "Leatherlungs" by the rest of the cast.
- The other companion famous for this trope is Mel. Reputedly her actress was told to pitch her screams to match the start of the theme music, so there wouldn't be any dissonance at cliffhangers. The fan webcomic The Ten Doctors has fun with this, with an author's note commenting that "Mel, as we all feared, screams".
- A double example from Delta and the Bannermen: gratingly, Mel ends an episode screaming at the hatching of a friendly alien's egg. Later, the growing child's screams are used as a weapon against the real villains.
- Leela's Moment Of Awesome might just be when she slaps one of these in The Horror of Fang Rock.
- In Season 6, while going into danger alone, River Song tells the Doctor he shouldn't worry, because she's "quite a screamer." Considering how flirtatious she is, and the fact that she's a genuine Action Girl, we think she's talking about a different kind of scream.
- Donna in The Runaway Bride. A lot. Though almost all those screams were mostly rage. After all, she's "Donna Noble, screaming at the world because you think no one's listening."
- The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries: the 2nd season episode Voodoo Doll has Nancy Drew. Dear Gods, it has Nancy Drew, who is reduced to screaming endlessly and uselessly...at the sight of a man in an obvious skull mask who is merely standing there. In a brightly lit room. She's reduced to the Screaming Woman again in Arson & Old Lace, when Frank Hardy finally finds her...and she stands there and screams as he's tossed around by a lawyer and menaced by a 70-year-old man. Yeeeesh.
- The first time viewers of LOST see Shannon, she is standing unharmed in the midst of the airplane wreckage, screaming continuously.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Played with in the episode "Hush", in which Buffy must scream in order to destroy The Gentlemen.
- Cordelia, though less so after she moves to Angel and toughens up.
- Several civilian women react to dead bodies and other gruesome sights by screaming uselessly on NCIS.
- Subverted in Space Cases. Catalina screams when threatened or in trouble, yes... but her scream is a sonic weapon, and a very effective one at that.
- Kira in Power Rangers Dino Thunder also has a scream that serves as a weapon.
- Joolushko "Jool" Tunai Fenta Hovalis from Farscape spends a good portion of her introductory appearance doing just this. And it continued throughout the third series. Interestingly enough, Jool's screams are so high-pitched, they can melt metal, resulting in a hilarious moment when Aeryn decides to forgoe finding power for a welding torch and simply breaks Jool's thumb.
- Stargate SG-1 episode "Bad Guys" spoofs this slightly by having the usually calm and diplomatic Daniel finally lose his patience and shout at the two screaming girls who decided to have a catfight, in the middle of a mistaken hostage situation.
- Star Trek: Voyager
- Supernatural plays this straight in virtually every episode.
- Discussed in The Conditions of Great Detectives when Fujii is told to go into a creepy room first because "it's the heroine's job to get scared and scream." She doesn't and instead Tenkaichi gets scared, screams and faints.
- Up to Eleven in Grey's Anatomy. A woman who brought in her severely wounded husband screams and keeps screaming for more than a quarter of the episode until Alex makes her stop — by screaming back at her.
- While the original The Outer Limits was admirably progressive in other respects, unfortunately its female characters wound up screaming an awful lot at the Monster of the Week.
- Parodied in the slasher movie-themed episode of Boy Meets World. Angela takes on this role and after several big screams Jack says "You know, you are really good at that." and she thanks him. Later, when Jennifer Love Hewitt's character shows up she lets out a big scream of her own and Angela then tries to out-scream her because she "is the screamer around here".
- Employed several times in the first two seasons of Fringe, with opening scenes regularly depicting female nurses screaming at the horrifying case-of-the-week. Stretches suspension of belief, since an emergency room medical professional in a major urban hospital would be trained to deal with the unexpected and horrible.
- Lydia Martin of Teen Wolf. The show makes a point of emphasizing her piercing scream whenever she lets it rip, something that usually happens in proximity of events involving the dead or the soon-to-be-deceased. This culminates in the third season's revelation that she is in fact a banshee and her screams are omens of death.
- Played for horror in The Stone Tape where the scream of a housemaid killed back in the 1890's has become a Living Memory imprinted in the foundations of a castle. Later on a female colleague is killed by whatever lurks there, and it's her scream that's now imprinted in the building.
- A special case in WWE, where heel Divas are as likely to scream out of rage as out of fear (not that the screams are any less annoying in the former case). Examples: Vickie Guerrero, Melina Perez, AJ Lee.
- Warhammer 40K: Subverted by the Eldar's Howling Banshees, who certainly scream when faced with combat but for different reasons: an Amazon Brigade (most of the time) whose screaming is amplified and distorted through their helmets to paralyze their enemies, which they then cut apart with monomolecular-edged swords.
- This is used to a character's advantage in Les Misérables. Eponine screams loudly to frighten off her father and his friends, who are planning to break into Valjean and Cosette's home.
- Little Red Riding Hood uses this to get her cape back from the Baker in Into the Woods. A more melodic version ("Ah ha-ah ah-ha...") is used as Rapunzel's main line, especially in "First Midnight" and the finale (she also does the non-melodic version after going insane).
In the original Donkey Kong
, Pauline does nothing but stand there yelling "HELP!" while Mario tries to save her.
- Spoofed in the flash cartoon The Demented Cartoon Movie:
Aaaaah! Evil Blah:
Screaming won't get you anywhere! Generic Damsel:
Actually, I'm screaming because my head's about to fall off. Evil Blah:
- In this World of Warcraft animated music video, a pervert dwarf makes a woman scream by flashing her. Based on a French song by Richard Gotainer, "La Ballade de l'obsédé".
- El Goonish Shive has a side character who exists only to fill this role.
"If there is monster business at Moperville North, I believe she should get her scream on."
- Her line during the first incident:
Girl: EEEK! A giant slime monster! Everyone run around in a dangerous panic, quick!
Ellen: Damnit, if the goo starts to eat people I hope whoever that was is the first to go.
- To her credit, though, she does compose herself pretty quickly in the latter incident, given that she phones for help only a panel later (albeit not in the most convincing terms).
- Played for Laughs in Girl Genius when the eponymous Agatha Heterodyne, prior to achieving Action Girl status, succumbs to this the first time she's left alone with a Jägermonster.
Vots de matta, gurl?* Agatha:
They sent you out here to eat
Hy em not
gun eatchu. Agatha: (over several panels)
Onless dots de only vay to shot hyu op! Agatha:
... *Transcribed from the Jäger accent, sort of their own version of Vampire Vords.
- Several female characters in Survival of the Fittest do this at least once, such as Helena Van Garrett when Hawley Faust starts shooting at her, though it's rather understandable considering the circumstances they're in.
- In the youtube series One Hundred Yard Stare, Avery becomes one of these when she sees The Slender Man for the second time.
- Early episodes of Teen Titans had Starfire playing the Screaming Woman rather a lot. Raven, however, did it in one episode, off-screen, before she was attacked by a were-creature.
- Sissi Delmas, from Code Lyoko, frequently lets out a frightened scream when confronted to XANA's latest attack. Parodied in episode "End of Take", where the only line of dialogue Sissi gets in James Finson's horror movie is "AAAAAH!"
- Subverted in the Batman Beyond episode "Babel". Shriek uses a device which messes with the hearing of everyone in Gotham. A construction crane falls off a skyscraper and is falling straight towards a traffic cop, about to crush him into strawberry jam. An elderly, meek-looking woman notices this and yells at him trying to get his attention, but when it doesn't work she proceeds to jump into the middle of the road without a thought of incoming traffic, and pulls the idiot out of the way and to safety. Badass Bystander? I think so.
- A psychology experiment done with two- (or three-) year-old children showed an interesting insight into this phenomenon. Each child was separated from its mother by a 4-foot-high wall, which it could see its mother through but not move aside. Understandably, this caused each child to get upset and cry loudly. The experimenters observed a marked difference in behavior between the genders: The girl children tended to stand there and cry loudly for their mother to come and get them, while the boy children tended to pound at the wall while crying and otherwise try to circumvent the barrier themselves.
- Also happens in high stress situation when a person is not used to them, like say a combat situation. This can result in people not doing anything but scream. Usually they either get killed, or someone who isn't screaming drags them out of the way.
- It is believed that the distinctive high-pitched woman's scream evolved in early humans as a danger alarm. If a predator came near the camp a woman's scream would summon all the men to drive it off.