The Distressed Damsel
is sitting in their cell with head in hands, or hanging by a thread from a cliff, when suddenly, the door is broken down, or a head peeps over the cliff edge. Joy turns to terror as he or she realizes it's The Dragon
(who unbeknownst to them has made a Heel-Face Turn
,) an Eldritch Abomination
, Fluffy the Terrible
, a Killer Robot
... and so on.
Usually it'll only be temporary until someone fills the rescuee in on current events, although it may lead to Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like
. Sometimes it'll turn out they actually are
in worse danger now such as with a Villainous Rescue
or Destructive Savior
A Dark Messiah
can be this on a global scale. See also Horrifying Hero
and Terror Hero
who tend to cause this reaction even when being 100% good.
Compare Stockholm Syndrome
, Unwanted Rescue
, Embarrassing Rescue
Anime & Manga
- In Magi – Labyrinth of Magic, Aladdin's djinn, Uugo, tends to scare the crap out of whoever he's rescuing or protecting, what with him being a headless giant and all.
- Tenchi Muyo! GXP: Protagonist Seina is only rescued from the Space Pirate Tarant Shank (Knight of Cerebusnote . and Knife Nut) by the Betty of his Love Dodecahedron, Kiriko — covered in the blood of every mook between her and Seina. His first reaction is terror — which upsets her, and Seina spends most of his screentime in the rest of the episode upset at himself for being scared of his childhood friend/crush when she'd just saved his life.
- Done a lot in One Piece. We have Monster Point Chopper in the Enies Lobby arc, inadvertently saving many of his True Companions while also trying to kill them. Aokiji saves Robin in her backstory, while killing his own ally right in front of her. Crocodile gets Luffy out of Impel Down and — while that had a reason; he wanted out too — he later takes blows for Luffy and orders Mr. 1 to do the same as they attempt to rescue Ace. This is partially because he's done a... well, a "Heel Neutral Turn," and partly because Luffy just has that much charisma.
- The Black Swordsman of Berserk. A tall, hulking man with one eye, heaps of scars, a mean scowl, a bad attitude, and a BFS almost as thick and tall as he is. Fortunately, he's actually Guts, our Anti-Hero protagonist. Unfortunately, whether he cares if you live or die depends on if it's the beginning of the manga or the latter of it.
- There's a brief moment of this in Full Moon o Sagashite in episode 40. The guy that went into the canyon to look after Mitsuki unintentionally scared her and caused Takuto to take human form to attack him. Luckily, the mistake was quickly cleared up.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the protagonist doesn't realize that Homura is this trope because she's so terrifying. Not knowing the the Incubators' true, sinister nature, Madoka is horrified when Homura shoots one and chains it up. Then it gets free, and things get a lot worse for everyone.
- A Justice League Unlimited comic has Blue Devil suffer a Heroic BSOD when he tries to save a child who's too scared of his demonic appearance to go with him. Dr. Fate tries to cheer him up by telling him that Superman actually had the same problem once, while trying to save a girl from a flaming plane wreck.
- In one Hellblazer story, a little girl is kidnapped by a demon and kept caged inside his body. John is allowed to see her, and as he's being removed, reaches towards her yelling "We're coming to get you!" and wondering why she's backing away as far as the cage allows. Only later does he realize that what the girl saw was an indistinct shape covered in slime reaching towards her yelling "We're coming to get you!"
- In the New 52, Superman has a sad flashback of a time when he saved a little boy from getting hit by a truck. The boy was utterly terrified of him and struggled to get out of his arms. The neighborhood immediately forms an angry mob and attack him, and he is forced to flee to avoid harming them.
Film - Animated
- Among the characters of the Shadow Wars My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanon is Claire Pie — a giant, invisible, eight-headed Fluffy Pony with tentacular tongues and dimensional Gate powers. She is quite good at rescuing Ponies. How does she normally accomplish this? By opening a temporary Gate to the distressed Pony's location, reaching through with a couple of tentacles, and dragging the Pony through. This can be frightening, especially if you don't know her, especially since she has trouble speaking in normal Pony hearing registers and is thus The Unintelligible save to those who know her very well.
Film - Live Action
- Zig-Zagged in the original Shrek movie: at first, Fiona is not happy about being rescued by an ogre, but then comes to like Shrek. Then a gang of a handsome Robin Hood-wannabes attack them, ostensibly with intent of saving Fiona from the "beast", but she dislikes him even more than she disliked Shrek. However, instead of calling for help, she dispatches all the attackers herself, leaving Shrek awed.
- In Tarzan, Jane falls off a great height as she is chased by baboons and Tarzan catches her. She looks up at the half-naked wild man grabbing her by the waist and lets out a scream.
- In The Terminator, Sarah Connor is understandably freaked out when a guy pulls out a sawed-off shotgun in the Tech Noir and starts shooting. It's only after the bullets have stopped and he's hauled her outside that he explains that he was saving her from the hulking dude he shot.
- In the sequel, Sarah's in the middle of escaping the institution holding her when that same hulking dude steps out of the elevator and approaches her. She remembers how impossible it was to kill last time and she has no weapons capable of stopping him. She's trapped between the hospital guards and it until it holds out its hand to her and says "Come with Me If You Want to Live" and her son shows up and vouches for it.
- Subverted in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Princess Leia: Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?
Luke Skywalker: Huh? Oh! The uniform... I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you.
Leia: You're who?
- During The Great Raid (both the film and Real Life) some of the prisoners did not recognize the uniforms of their rescuers, and had to be coaxed out of their huts. One even hid until after the raid was over.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man tries to save a boy from a burning car, and has to take off his mask to prove that he's not a monster.
- In Adventures in Babysitting, Chris's car gets a flat, leaving her stranded on the side of the expressway. She is understandably frightened when a huge truck pulls up behind her and a hulking figure with a Hook Hand gets out. But this turns out to be tow-truck driver "Handsome" John Pruitt, who offers her a free tow to Dawson's Garage.
- In the Bones episode "The Woman in the Car", where the child Booth was rescuing was terrified until Booth told him his father's code word (Paladin).
- The titular Dexter, a Serial-Killer Killer, rescues Lumen, a young woman who has been subjected to horrific torture and rape by one of his victims. As she first sees him tying up and stabbing her captor, she is understandably spooked.
- In Doctor Who, this is Cass' reaction in "Night of the Doctor" upon realising what species the Eighth Doctor is from. Despite not fighting in the Time War himself (thus far), his people's actions have damaged their reputation so badly that Cass elects to die rather than be saved by a Time Lord.
- In the "The Reichenbach Fall" episode of Sherlock, Moriarty is revealed to have terrified a pair of kidnapped children with a double of Sherlock, in order to cast suspicion on Sherlock when the children begin screaming in his presence.
- Thanks to Disquiet, any Promethean attempting to help mortals turns into one of these.
- In Resident Evil 4, Ashley attacks Leon when he first comes through the door. He's actually a fairly friendly-looking guy, but he's a heavily armed stranger who comes in the door with his gun drawn, isn't dressed like a cop or a government agent, and immediately calls her by name. Not to mention that a former American agent was involved in her kidnapping, though she may or may not be aware of it. Understandably, she assumes Leon is with her kidnappers.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Light Sided Imperial players, particularly Sith, will often evoke this reaction in civilians, Imperial personnel and even Republic troops that they come to the aid of.
- In first BioShock 1, rescuing a Little Sister involves first killing her Big Daddy guardian and then finding her where she's trying to hide from you in absolute terror.
- In BioShock Infinite, Elizabeth is initially terrified by the sight of the heavily armed Booker, an understandable reaction given that she'd been locked alone in her tower for her entire life and that he'd just crashed through the ceiling. After accepting his offer to help her escape, her ease turns right back to terror again, after witnessing how brutally effective Booker is at killing people.
- In Mass Effect 2, if spared in the first game, Rana Thanoptis has this reaction to discovering that Shepard was the person shooting their way through the Blue Suns on Korlus. After thanking them for the rescue, she states her intention to leave as quickly as possible, since she was forced to outrun a nuclear explosion the last time they met.
- Shepard's initial reaction to Legion, after realising that a Geth not only sniped the Husk that was about to attack them, but more importantly, is able to speak and knows who they are.
- Mentioned in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne by a soul you can talk to in the Labyrinth of Amala. It asks the player character what he would do if he saw a bear attacking a man out of hunger, presuming that the player character would probably save the man. However, he notes that, in the act of tearing apart a bear with his own strength, the player character would have just proven himself even more terrifying. This has no direct relation to anything in the game itself, but given what the player character is, it might be a cautionary story in case he does decide to play hero and help people.
- In an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Obi-wan is disguised as a slave trader, and the alien he's trying to rescue is terrified of him until he removes his helmet.
- In the Batman Beyond episode "Heroes", the hero Magma terrifies a little girl when he rescues her from kidnappers.
- In the episode "Unmasked", Batman tries to pull a kid out of a burning building, but the boy keeps crawling away and accuses him of being a monster. Batman has no choice but to remove his mask to make the boy take his hand.
- In an episode of Street Fighter, Blanka rescues a drowning Japanese businessman. Upon seeing his savior, the man yells "Kaibutsu!" ("Monster!") and flees. This is part of Blanka's ongoing characterization of identity struggle caused by his forced mutation (the cartoon draws from the plot of the Street Fighter film).
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In "Hail the Tornado Tyrant!", two small children have this reaction to the Tornado Champion when he rescues them from a burning building, and run screaming into their parents arms.
- There have been many cases of kids, raised with Stranger Danger, getting lost but then hiding from their rescuers. One case had the child sighted within a couple hours, but it was a few days before the child was finally rescued, because he kept fleeing.
- A fully suited up firefighter can be very scary to children if they aren't prepared ahead of time, which has lead to some children hiding from their rescuer. Field trips and open houses at the fire station include introducing kids to a firefighter in the whole kit to help avert this.
- Imagine being from the developing world with no real knowledge of modern science. Now add foreign soldiers in your homeland. Imagine being injured or critically ill, then having these soldiers run up in their massive body armor with their automatic weapons. They speak in a language you don't understand, then an interpreter from your nation tells you that these foreign soldiers intend to help you. Then they begin to cut away at your clothing and bring out medical equipment you may or may not be familiar with at all. This was a regular feature of US and NATO military operations of the last quarter century, where aid for civilians was considered standard operating procedure for medics and medical units. In Afghanistan, this could even go as far as responding to an emergency by throwing emergency patients and a relative into an evacuation hospital escorted by Apache attack helicopters and taking them to a mobile hospital with a surgical team hundreds of miles away. A Combat Medic won't let a little thing like hundreds of miles of mountains filled with the Taliban prevent them from treating a patient.
- Mike Wasdin, a SEAL sniper, recounts a story how a team he was on saw a child whose foot was gangrenous was beyond local help, but not modern medicine. His team couldn't reveal their location, so they bust into the kid's house in Mogadishu in the middle of the night, rounded up every terrified occupant at gunpoint, put them on the ground and bound their hands and eyes, then treated the kid before releasing everyone in the house. The next night, the inhabitants calmly went along with it. The third night, they left out what meager tea and food they could spare for the team.