Smurfette Breakout

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Pictured above: Captain America: The First Avenger. Pictured below: Spinoffs, Agent Carter short film, Agent Carter TV series, and Peggy Carter of S.H.I.E.L.D. comics.

"Women who are in this sport, I always tell them not to quit too soon. If they work hard, they will eventually go further than many of the men!"
Sweet Nancy, LadySports.com

It's often that many shows feature a bigger ratio of males to females in their characters, with The Smurfette Principle being pretty widespread. However a lot of the time this can work in favor of the female character. Being the only female in a largely male environment makes her stand out and be distinctive from all the male characters. If the writers have written her well and avoided most Positive Discrimination, then chances are she will become popular with the viewers. If her popularity rises high enough, she might even become a Breakout Character.

The area in which this is most common is Professional Wrestling. It's a rather frequent occurrence for a woman to be introduced as someone's manager or valet, usually for a tag team, and end up becoming more popular than the wrestlers they're managing. Often if the team splits, the woman will fare much better because she can be integrated into the women's division while the men will often become lost in the shuffle. It also helps that by nature of the beast, a woman with no athletic or mic skills can easily get over with the male-dominated audience if she has enough sex appeal.

Note that this is not simply about a female becoming a Breakout Character. There must be a majority of males compared to females for this to count. The character need not be the only woman on the show either. See also Ensemble Darkhorse and Breakup Breakout.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

     Comic Books  

  • Spider-Man: Gwen Stacy was originally remembered in the 21st century only for being part of Peter's Love Triangle with Mary-Jane and then dying. However, her return in adaptations The Spectacular Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man Seriesnote  resulted in Gwen getting fans again and many begging for her to not be killed off again. This culminated with Spider-Verse, a massive crossover of all the alternate universe counterparts of Spider-Man, which introduced Spider-Woman-65, from a universe where Peter died and Gwen gained spider powers. "Spider-Gwen", as she became known, was so popular amongst fans that she gained her own comic series, which was the first-highest debuting comic of 2015. A far cry from her iconic "death for angst".

     Film  

     Live-Action TV  

  • After the end of Drake & Josh, Miranda Cosgrove moved on to the lead role in iCarly. That show was a massive smash hit for Nickelodeon and propelled her to a level of stardom way beyond what any Nickelodeon actor had ever had before and likely won't see again for a long time...until Ariana Grande came along. She eventually became the highest paid 'minor aged' actress on all of television for the last three seasons of the show.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: Ashley Tisdale and Debby Ryan are the two biggest stars to come out of the franchise. Tisdale continued to make a name for herself in High School Musical and Phineas and Ferb, whereas Ryan got her own show in Jessie. And, when Jessie ends, Peyton List may go the same direction.
  • Kickin' It is one of Disney XD's biggest hits. Its sole female star, Olivia Holt, eventually got her own show with I Didn't Do It.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess may be one of the biggest examples of this. Xena started off as an arc villain in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, who was slated to reform and then die a heroes death. She proved popular enough to warrant her own TV series. The show in question ended up becoming a More Popular Spin-off and one of the highest rated television shows in the 90s.
  • An unusual example in The Big Bang Theory, Penny started off as the only female character of note on the show, and a sort of stereotypical So Beautiful, It's a Curse / Attractiveness Isolation kind of female character. A combination of naturalistic writing, comedic chemistry between Kaley Cuoco and the rest of the cast and deliberate efforts to keep her from being a walking sex joke kept her as a vital mainstay of the show's format. In the fourth season they started experimenting with bringing other recurring female characters Bernadette and Amy as part of the main cast, forming a Power Trio with Penny. Many have felt that several mediocre episodes are saved by the "girl squad" subplot.

     Music  

  • Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, though she was The Face Of The Band to begin with. The video for "Don't Speak" shows her taking the spotlight and starring in all the publicity photos, while her three (male) bandmates languish in obscurity.
  • Very prevalent in hip-hop. Any time there's a lone femcee among a clique of male rappers, she'll stand out simply by being the only female voice. Her success as a solo artist isn't guaranteed, but she'll still serve a niche by catering to female audiences in the male-dominated genre. Lil Kim is one of the earliest and best-known examples, as she was the breakout star from Junior M.A.F.I.A., a group of The Notorious B.I.G.'s proteges, before becoming famous in her own right. Other female rappers who came up this way include Lauryn Hill (The Fugees), Eve (the Ruff Ryders), and Nicki Minaj (Young Money).

     Puppet Shows  

  • In The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy, one of the few female Muppets, was initially only a minor character, but her popularity skyrocketed and she is now probably the most famous of them, along with Kermit.

     Professional Wrestling  

  • Older Than They Think: The Fabulous Moolah was initially a valet for "The Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers but eventually branched out on her own and became a pioneer for women's wrestling. She is recognised as the first ever WWE Women's Champion and held it for over twenty years. However, Rogers is still a legend, so she doesn't overshadow him completely.
  • Sable was first Triple H's valet and then Marc Mero's. He was popular in WCW as Johnny B Bad but the WWF fans cared little for Marc Mero and much more for Sable, to the point that this was made into an angle. She was given more attention and storylines and is now recognized as the first true WWE Diva. This also happened to Mero's second valet, Jacqueline, though she didn't become quite as big a WWF star as Sable. She did however get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016.
  • Sunny first debuted as the valet for the Bodydonnas. She became much more popular than they did, and was booked as the manager of several different wrestlers (The Godwinns, Farooq Asad, even The Road Warriors briefly). However she was a few years early for the Attitude Era and so wasn't able to reach the popularity level that Sable did.
  • Stacy Keibler. Originally came up in WCW as Miss Hancock, the secretary for Standards & Practices. Eventually broke out and wound up being the only woman NOT to be fired by WCW near the end. In the WWF, she was manager for many wrestlers, and was almost always more popular than the guys she managed.
  • In World Class Championship Wrestling, Hollywood John Tatum was a decent wrestler with poor mic skills. To spice him up, his real-life girlfriend, Missy Hyatt, was promoted to being his valet. She was considered much more interesting than he was and when they moved to the UWF, Missy & John broke up and she got involved with manager/booker/part-time wrestler Eddie Gilbert. Tatum's career flamed out, while Missy went on to working in Memphis, WCW and had brief runs in the WWF and ECW.
  • A few people probably remember Test and Albert, and some probably will remember that they were in a tag team, but who knew that Trish Stratus, the 2013 Hall Of Famer, was their valet?
  • Trish's arch-rival, Lita, benefited from this as well. She debuted as a valet to Essa Rios who was meant to be a pioneer of the Light-Heavyweight division. He ended up lapsing into obscurity (more so than Test and Albert) while Lita became popular with the fans for her high flying moves. She averted this when Team Xtreme broke up, as all three of that group have remained well known.
    • Of course, everyone remembers her being with a certain Rated R Superstar. That and the angle where she was Kane's bitter wife.
    • Lita was also one in ECW, when she managed Danny Doring and Amish Roadkill during her time as Miss Congeniality.
  • Hardly anyone remembers the team of KC James and Idol Stevens known as the Teacher's Pets, but they do remember Michelle McCool, who was their valet and went onto become the first WWE Divas' Champion as well as one of the prominent figures of the women's division - not to mention Mrs. Undertaker.
    • As of 2012, KC James has been released from WWE and is toiling away on the indy circuit. Stevens was sent back to developmental where he was repackaged as Damien Sandow, tore up FCW, and soon earned the attention of WWE's higher-ups as a possible future star. He has since reappeared on WWE main programming in a fairly prominent role and thus has over came this.
  • Happened again when the Hart Dynasty split. David Hart Smith got released, Tyson Kidd mostly competed on NXT, but Natalya got put back into the women's division and pushed to win the title.
    • This was actually used as a storyline on NXT. Tyson Kidd made a heel turn as a result of feeling overshadowed by his wife's success - to the degree that crowds were chanting "Nattie's wife!" at him.
  • The British wrestling family of the Knights have five wrestlers, three men and two women. The two women are much more well-known in America. Sweet Saraya has competed with SHIMMER many times and eventually claimed their title while daughter Britani is now Paige in WWE. Paige also became the first ever NXT Women's Champion.
  • For that matter, the Canadian All Knighter's tag team did operate in the USA for awhile and they had a student who became their valet, one Beth Phoenix.
  • Inverted Thuggin And Buggin Enterprises, as Jazz ended up being the most successful member of the group despite being a hanger on to it while they were together but after they were forced apart by the draft, Theodore Long eventually became general manager of Smackdown, Mark Henry eventually became World Heavyweight Champion and Chris Nowinski's research into concussions would change the way people in the USA looked at sports (and simulated sports) for good. She likely is the most successful of the Impact Players, post breakup, but that group almost had as many women as men (Nicole Bass, Dawn Marie being the other two).
  • ECW dancing machine DJ Gabriel lasted only six months in the WWE, while his valet Alicia Fox got traded to Smackdown and put into a prominent storyline. She became an Ensemble Darkhorse with Diva fans on the internet and won the Divas' Championship when she was moved to Raw.
  • Though they've never wrestled away from Vince McMahon's thumbs, The Funkadactyls' WWE Career has very much out shined Byron Saxton's, starting when they were paired up with the Funkasaurus Brodus Clay. In 2013 they were chosen to star in the reality series Total Divas - which was an immediate hit while Brodus Clay and Tensai mostly competed on Superstars and in the odd Squash Match. Cameron and Naomi have received prominent spots in the women's division in addition to their managing duties, duties which eventually transitioned to Ron Killings when Brodus was released.
    • This may yet to be determined. As of December 2015, Byron Saxton is now part of the RAW commentary team, while Cameron was largely off TV before being released in 2016. Naomi, however, became part of Team B.A.D., a female stable with Tamina and Sasha Banks. All appearances point to Banks eventually being the Breakup Breakout of that team.
  • If you talk to wrestling fans long enough you just might run into one or two who have a passing familiarity of Cheerleader Melissa. Perhaps as the ChickFight staple, the multiple time APW Future Legend title holder, a SHIMMER Champion, perhaps as the burqua clad Raisha Saeed or zipper happy Alissa Flash in TNA, for that time she was ranked #1 among wrestlers around the world, as a President Of Wonder Ring Stardom, maybe even as that jobber on Sunday Night Heat but good luck finding anyone who knows the tag team she used to lead cheers for, the Ballard Brothers. They do still appear on the same card every once and while, even if no longer on the same spot, so the Ballards have benefited from her success to an extent.
  • People recall Jillian Hall's WWE run for her ridiculous gimmicks and jobber run but at least they recall. How much less is said of the rest of the Bomb Squad, the stable she used to be a member of? So the bomb squad sharing their name with many other stables may also play a role but the same could be said of Jillian's OVW team, the Blonde Bombers, who became the Dicks on Smackdown? Who knows her personal referee Whipme Spearz or her former tag team partner Tiny Tim? The male teammates whose fame was not overshadowed by Jillian's were already well established (JBL, London, Kendrick...maybe Orlando Jordan and the Basham Brothers)
  • Among English speaking wrestling fans, Black Rose is easily the best known member of the Dominican Revolution (despite being Puerto Rican). She's also better known in the continental US than her WWC clients Los Fugitivos de la Calle (Niche and Lynx) or El Bronco #1.
  • Yes, Alexander Rusev just debuted on WWE programing in April 2014, but it's obvious that his valet Lana is stealing the spotlight away from him. In fact, when asked what the first think they'd think of when Rusev is brought up, 9 out of 10 people would name his manager. Granted, the fact that Rusev isn't portrayed as being conversant in English doesn't help matters.
    • Averted in the end. The pairing of Rusev and Lana worked well and Rusev eventually got over, but in 2015, WWE had big plans to split them up in preparation for Lana becoming a solo star, as Vince Mc Mahon liked her but not him. Lana was paired with Dolph Ziggler while Rusev was paired with Summer Rae, who dressed and styled her hair much like Lana did. Fans hated the angle and both of them suffered from it, and was scrapped due to a combination of both Lana and Rusev getting hurt, and Lana posting about their real-life engagement on Twitter. When both had recovered from their injuries, they were back together.
  • It happened with Fandango's dance partner Summer Rae. After months of just acting as a valet, she began getting chants from fans. She was slowly integrated into the women's division and was chosen to join the cast of the reality show Total Divas. When she broke away from Fandango, this happened to his next dance partner Layla. The two feuded for a while before ultimately joining forces and dumping Fandango. They formed a team called SLayers while Fandango just faded away.
  • Irish wrestler Katey Harvey began her career as the valet of a tag team called Rough Stuff. She went on to wrestle overseas in the UK and Europe frequently while the other team quietly disbanded.
  • All three Eagles have found success in professional wrestling, however, Ryan and Robbie are not as well known as Madison is in North America thanks to a run as SHIMMER Champion getting her ranked #1 in the world by Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
  • Alexa Bliss became the manager to Blake and Murphy on NXT. Fans are usually indifferent to the two of them, but Alexa draws good reactions and has been pushed for the Women's Championship more than once. She became a high-profile star of her own when she parted ways with them, while Blake and Murphy have largely faded back into obscurity.

     Video Games  

  • Nina Williams, the only woman to have appeared in every Tekken game, got her own spin-off game titled Death by Degrees based on her assassin background.
  • Chun-Li of Street Fighter and Mai Shiranui of Fatal Fury, originally the only female characters in their series, are quite possibly even more popular than the two franchise's true leads, Ryu and Terry. Chun-Li is the only character aside from Ryu to have appeared in every Capcom vs. Whatever game and even got her own movie, though people don't like to talk about it.
    • Related to Chun-Li, Cammy White is the only new character from the expanded editions of Street Fighter (besides Akuma) to appear in several spin-offs including Street Fighter X Tekken.
    • Weirdly zigzagged with the strange case of C. Viper of Street Fighter IV. It seems that Capcom thought that she would become an Ensemble Darkhorse and thus included her in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, then realized that she was not actually that popular and bailed to the point that she wasn't even playable in Street Fighter X Tekken.note  Juri eventually proved to be SF4's most popular newcomer.
    • In Street Fighter Alpha, Sakura Kasugano became a case of this. A female fan of Ryu with a similar play style, she became one of the most beloved characters of the spin-off series, to the point where she got her own manga spin-off. The only other Alpha character to prominently feature in other games is Dan.
  • Morrigan Aensland and Felicia (and to a lesser extent, B.B. Hood and Hsien-Ko) from Darkstalkers are a particularly extreme example. They have completely overtaken the male lead, Demitri, almost 100%. Probably because he was a Villain Protagonist who was hard to render in 3D. In, particular, Felicia was advertised as just another monster at the start, and is now way more than that. And Morrigan has become to Darkstalkers what Chun-Li is to Street Fighter, the consistent face of the franchise in crossover games, while Demitri Maximoff, the original protagonist of the series, is pretty much forgotten today.
  • Poppet from Moshi Monsters, specifically, the pink one that is used as the default color and is classified as female, managed to get popular enough to have a spin-off magazine with new monster friends.
  • Hyrule Warriors basically is "The Legend of Zelda: Smurfette Breakout Edition" as its cast of playable characters is mainly composed of popular female characters from all across the series (including the titular Zelda finally proving that she is a Badass Princess, and fan favorite Midna from Twilight Princess, whose fans asked for her return for years, and she is in the game twice AND as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. 4 released at the same time). It even created its own Smurfette Breakout in the form of Linkle, who was popular even before her formal inclusion in the game (she previously only existed as concept art before actually being implemented in the 3DS edition).
  • Princess Peach of Super Mario Bros. proved to be popular enough to receive her own spin-off game: Super Princess Peach. The game was well received, though criticized for using the Hysterical Woman trope as the main gameplay mechanic. In any cases, she never missed a single spin-off multiplayer game and proved to be quite the Action Girl in some of them (especially in the Mario Strikers series).
    • In Super Mario and its spin-offs, several female characters stood up enough to receive some kind of representation in Super Smash Bros., which is usually a good barometer of popular characters in the Nintendo universes. First, Super Mario Galaxy's Rosalina is the most notorious exemple as she became playable in the fourth game before more familiar and grounded Mario characters like Daisy and Waluigi. WarioWare's Dark Magical Girl Ashley is also noteworthy, receiving two songs in Brawl then promoted to Assist Trophy in Smash 4. Finally, Goombella from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is probably the most popular companion from the Paper series, and as such is the only one of them to have its own trophy in Brawl and even in Smash 4, ten years after her first and last playable appearance.
  • Adorkable yet badass Lucina from Fire Emblem Awakening became one of the most popular characters in the game and even the entire franchise to the point that she is featured in numerous crossover games such as Super Smash Bros. and Project X Zone.
  • After her introduction in New Leaf, the fourth game in the series, Isabelle was quickly adopted by the Animal Crossing fans, and the character is now even more popular (and used in advertisement by Nintendo) than previous Breakout Characters like K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti, and Tom Nook. She was Promoted to Playable in a Mario Kart 8 DLC and featured as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. Ankha the Egyptian cat is also rather popular, as well as the three Able Sisters.
  • After the success of Final Fantasy X, Square decided to make a storyline sequel simply called Final Fantasy X-2 and focused on summoner Yuna who also was a main character in the previous game, but this time she actually is the main character and leader of a Power Trio. However, if she was pretty popular in the first game, her portrayal in this Lighter and Softer sequel received a lukewarm reception. She eventually appeared in Dissidia 012 (which in itself is pretty remarkable, the cast of the game mostly focusing on The Hero and the Big Bad of each entry) with a mix of her Era Specific Personalities.

     Western Animation  

  • Jasmine from Aladdin is a supporting character while the story is about Aladdin, but she is included in the Disney Princess franchise and is actually the only princess in the lineup who isn't the main character in her film.
  • Tinkerbell from Peter Pan got her own spinoff franchise in the Disney Fairies. In a different kind of level, Tinkerbell also became the Disney mascot. And she's easily the most recognisable character from the movie for this reason.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power was actually introduced with this in mind.
  • Penelope Pitstop was the only female racer on Wacky Races and got her own spinoff series.
  • Cindy Bear, despite having only a handful of appearances in the original Yogi Bear cartoon, seemed to gain more prominent appearances in later revivals and crossover series, likely because she is the nearest to a recurring female character representing the early Hanna-Barbera works. She is among the few supporting characters to compete in Laff-A-Lympics and is a lead character in Yo Yogi!. In both cases she is the only female character in her team.
  • Tak on Invader Zim, despite only actually appearing in one episode, became an Ensemble Darkhorse at least in part because she was a female character who had degrees of Ship Tease with both Zim (whom she was technically dating) and Dib (who admits he "likes" her without specifying how). Other than her, Gaz and Ms. Bitters most of the female characters are just background filler.

     Other  

  • Near the end of the Book of Genesis, we get a list of several dozen grandsons of Jacob/Israel...and one granddaughter, Serach, listed among Asher's children. She's only mentioned one other time (in the Book of Numbers, which implies that she's still alive centuries later), and the strangeness of both passages have led to many legends about her in Jewish literature.


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