The Dulcinea Effect
"No matter what she's accused of doing or how mysterious her origins are, the hero will always be ready to fight to the death for any girl he met three seconds ago."The Dulcinea Effect is the compulsion many male heroes have to champion, quest for, or die for girls they met five minutes ago. Dulcinea is the name Don Quixote gives to the (blissfully unaware) noblewomannote of whom he is the self-appointed champion, ready to quest for her honor and die for her name. (He read too many books on chivalry, you see.) In the Spanish of the time, "Dulcinea" is an overly elegant way to say "sweetness," and the name persists as code for the object of one's hopeless devotion and idealized love. The Knight In Shining Armour (in non-medieval settings, The Cape) is a frequent user of this trope. Medieval chivalric romances, indeed, portrayed knights who fell in love with a princesse lointaine (faraway princess) merely on hearing her described. The Dulcinea Effect is often used to hook a hero into the story or steer him in a particular plot direction. Championing the Distressed Damsel is often an excuse for the hero to become involved in righting a larger injustice or confronting the Big Bad or foiling the Evil Plan when he otherwise might have simply walked away. Sometimes his devotion to her is a transparent excuse to justify his usual habit of traveling In Harm's Way. By application of the effect, the Distressed Damsel usually becomes the protagonist's Love Interest. This is not to say that the motivation involved is solely (or even partially) out of lust or love. In championing the girl involved, the hero may have no other motivation than acting in support of an ideal, particularly in Romantic Era examples and those inspired by it. This trope is, after all, Older Than Print. The Failure Knight may be motivated by a desire to atone and Big Brother Instinct is possible if the Dulcinea is much younger than him. Additionally, heroes under The Dulcinea Effect in more cynical settings (particularly Film Noir) tend to fall prey to a Wounded Gazelle Gambit set up by a Femme Fatale or The Vamp, who generally know about this effect and take advantage of it in the most evil way possible. Seldom gets Gender Flip; after all, Men Are the Expendable Gender but it happens nonetheless. The Dulcinea Effect is also the main reason that women are put into a fridge in order to cause the male character angst and push him to drive the plot forward. Contrast Magnetic Hero, for a hero's ability to pull this on followers. Chronic Hero Syndrome is when the hero does this for any random stranger. If this leads to a highly implausible romance, it's a case of Strangled by the Red String. See also Living MacGuffin. It's quite possibly related to Love Makes You Dumb. If the woman has little to no personality and this is her only purpose in the plot, it's a variant of Excuse Plot.
— Thinking With The Wrong Head (Hiro Rule), The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés
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Anime and Manga
- Gets a rare Gender Flip in the film Millennium Actress with Chiyoko's lifelong quest through history and a film career to be reunited with the mysterious man of her dreams, although she loves the chase more than anything. Played somewhat straight with the documentarian Genya who follows her through her journey, who repeatedly sacrifices himself for her, although we find out he had saved her life once before, on a film set, and idolized her since.
- In Full Metal Panic!'s first season, Sousuke goes AWOL and abandons his post under a hostage situation to recover Kaname from the villains. Granted, she was the VIP he was specifically assigned to protect while the rest of the plane's occupants were not (and he had known her for a bit longer than most examples of this trope), but he was still ordered to stay with the other hostages by his superior officer. As to remove any doubt that he was planning to do disobey that order, said officer also states that Sousuke's professionalism meant he'd definitely not do emotional things like charge off after the Distressed Damsel.
- An interesting female version of this is shown with Grace Weissman (AKA Gray). She hardly knows much about Sousuke (who temporarily joined her team in a mission), yet immediately defends him and, in a way, "champions" for him against her skeptical teammates suspicions about him (who dislike him due to him only being 16, yet being an equal in their mission). Her passionately defending him eventually made one of her teammates ask her if she's going that far because she has the hots for him. Even till the end when she's killed by Gauron, her last thoughts are for Sousuke not to worry about her, and that she hopes he will be able to return safely. Considering Sousuke's track record, it isn't far off in saying Gray might've had at least some attraction to him.
- Lupin III:
Jigen: (seeing a girl in a little economy car chased by some men in a big black sedan) Who we gonna help?Lupin: The girl!Jigen: Typical.
- Lupin's original intention is a simple snatch and grab of the high-quality plates used to make near perfect counterfeit bills, then a pretty girl is chased past him by bad men with guns and the movie happens.
- Fujiko is also responsible for causing the Dulcinea effect on Lupin; the story with Pycal began this way, and she used it on both Lupin and Goemon to get them to kill each other in Lupin III (Green Jacket).
- Lupin III: Episode 0: First Contact is another example of Fujiko tricking Lupin into letting her get her way, making him believe she's escaped from Galvez.
- In Black Cat, Woodney, Train's imposter, imagines Eve as being a Distressed Damsel "Senorita" he must protect, and is shown continuing to play the Black Cat role and defend her even at the risk of dying.
- Recca from Flame of Recca is the equivalent of an Anime Don Quixote. He plays at being a Ninja (though later he does become one) and determines at first sight of Yanagi that he will protect her and follow her every order from now on. He even calls her "Princess," and lets her know that she is now his master.
- In Deadman Wonderland, Ganta quickly becomes this way with apparent Shrinking Violet Minatsuki, feeling the need to protect her with his life and break out of Deadman Wonderland together with her. However, it turns out that Minatsuki is Ax-Crazy and and counted on The Dulcinea Effect kicking in. She tried to use his protectiveness to injure him and make it easier for her to kill him. To put it in her words: "I'm sorry, but the whole virgin knight thing is fucking disgusting."
- Yukiteru "Yukki" Amano from Mirai Nikki is shown to act this way towards Tsubaki Kasugano, a beautiful and gentle Distressed Damsel from the Omekata cult, quickly jumping in to save her and escape with her despite having just met her. When given a choice to trust her or his partner Yuno Gasai, he chooses Tsubaki (though you can't blame him because Yuno is a Yandere). It's not until she makes it obvious that she's actually a Manipulative Bitch (mixed with Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds) that wants to kill him that he decides to go back to teaming up with Yuno. Tsubaki ends up disarmed by Yuno and killed by Yukki.
- In the Alternate Universe spin-off, Mirai Nikki: Paradox, Akise Aru is shown acting this way towards Yukki himself. Apparently, Akise falls in love with Yukiteru at first sight, and decides to take Yukiteru's place as the Diary Holder so he can fight off all the enemies and allow Yukiteru to become God. All this being decided after just having met Yukiteru.
- In Xxx Holic, Watanuki is this all the way - as long as it's a pretty girl in trouble, he's willing to risk his life to help her, even if they just met. In one case, he was shown to even be willing to continue meeting a lady, despite knowing that doing so was slowly killing him, because "she's lonely." (Granted, the lady reminded him of a mother figure he lacked, but still, they had just met and only talked a little.) It's a deconstruction because it shows he places no worth on his own existence or how he himself affects the lives of others, which brings him great damage and upsets the persons whom he wants to help. Example: he sacrifices an eye to help Doumeki when he's going blind before investigating his other options, Doumeki (who didn't want Watanuki to do such a thing in the first place), understandably gets pissed off at him, and a spirit that Watanuki had befriended almost dies trying to fix the mess.
- In one episode of Black Lagoon, Rock speaks out of turn to Balalaika (an act that is generally considered to be somewhere between extremely ill-advised and suicidal moronic) in order to speak out for a girl he just met a few days ago. The girl in question, Yukio Washimine, repays him by trying to have him killed.
- In Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, Tsuna is shown to be willing to die for Kyoko. He hardly ever really talks with her or knows her, and apparently the whole reason he has a crush on her in the first place was because she was the only girl that bothered talking to him in twelve months.
- His relationship with Uni too. The series seems to fully be implying a sort of Tsuna = Knight in shining armor who protects and "champions" for Uni (the Distressed Damsel). Just look at this page. Tsuna seems to like the idea - he's certainly blushing a lot every time she says anything. His decision to take her under his wing seemed to mainly be influenced by the tragic, self-sacrificing expression in her eyes.
- In Naruto, immediately after Rock Lee meets Sakura, he asks her to be his girlfriend and promises to protect her with his life, an offer she just as promptly rejects. Less than 48 hours later, he ends up defending her against three Sound Ninja in the Forest of Death, despite her being on an opposing team, and Sakura recognizes that he meant what he said.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
- A Foe Yay/Les Yay version. after her quest for the Jewel Seeds leads her to get blasted into unconsciousness by Fate Testarossa, Nanoha Takamachi makes it her sole priority to help get rid of the sadness she saw in the other girl's eyes, with the Jewel Seeds becoming secondary. What Do You Mean It's Not Love at First Sight?
- Thoma goes through quite a bit of trouble to help out Lily in Force, breaking into a lab and almost getting incinerated, becoming a fugitive from the TSAB, getting sought after by the Hückebein, and slowly losing control of himself, and gets involved merely as a result of hearing her calling for help.
- The central plot of Freedom Project involves the main character traveling from the Moon to the Earth - and then across the entire United States - just to meet a girl in a photograph.
- In Baccano!
- Jacuzzi gets a ransom note for a woman he met earlier that day. His response is to turn in himself for the money the mob put on his head. However, he's shown to be like this towards everyone. He was, at one point, more concerned about the safety of some Russo mafia mooks than he was over the fact that said mooks were about to kill him.
- Claire Stanfield, a man who insists on devoting himself completely and utterly to the first cute girl he finds that doesn't say no. Considering he's the series' resident Ax-Crazy Sociopathic Hero, Chane now has either the most awesome or the most terrifying boyfriend in existence.
- Kiri of The Severing Crime Edge knew Iwai for approximately 48 hours at the point he decides to defend her from the serial killers out to murder her. No, not kidnap and sacrifice her, but kill her on the spot. Whoever does manage to gets the power to break the laws of nature, and presumably have one of their wishes granted. Admittedly, it doesn't take much to want to prevent a young girl from being brutally murdered.
- Slayers, as with so many others, lampshades this. When Gourry first meets Lina, he proclaims it is his duty as a knight to escort and protect Lina, despite knowing nothing about her (largely in part to his own lack of awareness).
- Touma in A Certain Magical Index succumbs to The Dulcinea Effect throughout the series. This is even discussed at one point by his Harem, who is mostly made up of girls he's rescued earlier.
- Edo Phoenix in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX himself is slightly confused when he decides to have a duel to the death with Amon Garam over a woman he doesn't much care about and only talked to once before this because he doesn't realize he's the Anti-Hero in a Deconstructor Fleet that's made a point of demonstrating the absurdity and danger of myriad shonen and Super Hero tropes.
- In King of Thorn, it's revealed that all the survivors (except Kasumi) were implanted with "keys" in their minds - and one of the "keys" was to "protect a weak Japanese woman with your life." Meaning that all the survivors were under The Dulcinea Effect, having the idea ingrained in them that they must irrationally protect Kasumi with their lives, even if they had never met her before.
- Koyomi Araragi of Bakemonogatari suffers from this, even going so far as to risk his life to save a girl he barely knows when the sole reason she is in trouble in the first place is that she subconsciously wants to kill him.
- Specifically referenced in Nekomonogatari (Black), where Araragi tries to make sense of his feelings for Hanekawa. He realizes that, rather than wanting to date her, he likes her so much that he might want to die for her instead. This is followed shortly by getting himself PUNCHED IN HALF as part of a gambit to save her.
- Gender inverted in Princess Tutu, where Ahiru is talked into becoming Princess Tutu (and thus roping herself into a fairytale charging straight for a Downer Ending) to restore Mytho's heart after little more than a single encounter. She thinks it's Love at First Sight, but later starts having her doubts and goes on to confess to Mytho's companion Fakir that she doesn't really know why she loves Mytho, other than because he's pretty. The answer is that she doesn't. The girl who does love him that way is Ahiru's opponent, Rue/Princess Kraehe, who pulls a Heroic Sacrifice for him and ends up becoming his Princess. Something that Ahiru comes to aknowledge, saying that she would have not been strong and selfless enough to do the same, since it would also involve giving up on her chance to stay as a human.
- In Midori no Hibi, Seiji is shown to be afflicted with this towards... Kouta in a drag. Unfortunately for poor Kouta, such feelings don't transfer over when he's dressed normally as a boy.
- Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate Ayasaki's big brother, Ikusa, is a guy who'd always help anybody in need... unless it's his parents. He'll help out his little brother on those occasions he's around). He's kind of a powered-up version of Hayate — he just can.
- Rune Soldier Louie: The Idiot Hero is very susceptible to this, which Celecia shamelessly exploits all the time; much to the annoyance of his female teammates.
- Mikado is compelled to save Anri from the delinquents harassing her.
- Chikage takes this trope to its logical extreme by being willing to risk his life for any girl ever.
- Mikado also saves Mika from Celty, no questions asked—until later.
- In Gundam's Universal Century, one of the Psychic Powers associated with Newtypes is the ability to rapidly establish deep emotional connections with others of their kind. Whilst most Newtypes are pretty sane about this (due to their powers manifesting once they had the emotional maturity to handle that sort of thing), Banagher Links of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn first manifested his powers when he was a young child, meaning that they're a far more integral part of his personality. Then the Industrial 7 incident happens whilst he's marinating in teenage hormones, and he suddenly finds himself up to his ears in pretty young Newtype girls with intriguingly tragic backstories. The results are entirely predictable.
- Gender flipped, inverted, and otherwise played with in Revolutionary Girl Utena. Screwing with this trope might be the point of the story, as Prince Dios became the Big Bad Akio when he was abandoned by the crowds after he wasn't able to save all the girls who needed it, then ropes Utena into coming to Ohtori by first saving her under the guise of the Prince he used to be, and then setting his much abused sister Anthy aka the Rose Bride in situations that would make Utena invoke this trope on her.
- Busou Renkin: Five minutes hadn't even passed in the first episode before Kazuki flings himself in the path of an on-coming homunculus, stabbing him straight through the chest resulting in his immediate DEATH, just to save a girl whose face he couldn't even see clearly, let alone know for three minutes. The kicker is that Tokiko didn't even need to be saved, as she was baiting herself in order to draw out the homunculus and Kazuki was merely in the way. But luckily for Kazuki, Tokiko had an extra kakugane on hand in order to give him a second chance at life: by making his memories of the previous night appear as nothing more than a horrible nightmare. Too bad that Kazuki couldn't just leave it at that.
- In Hidan no Aria, Kinji inheritated this genetically. It's a side effect of his Super Mode. He can't not help a girl in trouble.
- In the pilot of GUN×SWORD, Van saves the town of Evergreen on Wendy's behalf, even though he's known her less than a day. Up to that point (and, to some extent, afterward), most of their interactions consisted of argument.
- Samurai Champloo zigzags the trope throughout the series.
- In the first episode, Mugen offers, unprompted, to help Fuu with her teahouse's thug problem... in exchange for food. When said thugs threaten to cut off her fingers, Mugen lounges on his table until Fuu promises him an absurd amount of dumplings to save her.
- As early as the second episode, Mugen nearly verges into Always Save the Girl status, barely reacting to the woman who poisoned him until she mentions that Fuu is in danger and killing anyone who gets in between himself and Fuu (including Oniwakamaru, who would have surrendered).
- Played perfectly straight in the episode eleven with Shino, whom Jin immediately falls in love with.
- Daphne in the Brilliant Blue: Gender flipped. Shizuka finds a guy injured near trash cans and quickly becomes attached to and protective of him. The guy's a con artist and calls this his "lonely enigmatic spy" routine.
- In Gundam SEED Destiny, Shinn risks his military career and possible execution to save Stellar, an enemy Super Soldier and Tyke Bomb who he met once before he found this out. Slightly justified in that she reminds him of his Dead Little Sister, and its hinted that he loves her more as a Replacement Goldfish than anything else.
- Played for Laughs in Ouran High School Host Club. While the whole Host Club is protective of Haruhi, Tamaki is the most zealous about it, constantly trying to protect her from people and situations that present no danger to her.
- In the first episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji initially refuses to pilot the Eva until Rei is brought in and he realizes that if he doesn't do it, she's going to have to. In a twist, this seems to be more from empathy than from chivalry, since Rei is already seriously injured from an earlier attack.
- Gender Flip example: This is how Yukari from Sekirei meets Shiina. Shiina is being chased by two sekirei who are looking to capture him and bring him back to their ashikabi to be indoctrinated into his team. Yukari interferes because she believes that pretty boys should be protected.
Mayuri: Are you that big a fool? You feel pity for a woman, even though she's your enemy? Is this the honor you Quincies take such pride in?!
- Seems to be part of the Quincy honour code that Ishida lives by. He fights a shinigami vice-captain to protect Rukia, despite having professed to hate her only a few days beforehand, and gets outraged at Mayuri's treatment of his daughter Nemu despite the fact that Nemu attacked him. It's lampshaded by Mayuri himself.
- Ichigo gets it too. While he had a month to get to know Rukia, and even longer for Orihime, he was willing to risk his life for Nel after knowing her for a few hours, despite her status as an Arrancar and thus technically being his enemy. It's even more egregious in the first movie with Senna. After knowing her for about two days, he is more than willing to go on a rescue mission in an unstable region within enemy territory, despite warnings that this equates to a Suicide Mission. This is justified, as he lost his mother when he was 9, he believed it was his fault for years, and he decided to become someone who can protect people. In the case of Nel, she has the appearance of a child, is harmless when she's not in her original form and she helps Ichigo.
- Liar Game: Despite initial reluctance and starting to play for money, Akiyama quickly ends up stuck in the game by protecting Nao.
- In the Mai-HiME manga, Yuuichi almost immediately becomes the Key, or most important person, of Mai and Natsuki. By contrast, in the anime, it takes over half the series to get close to that status for Mai, and it is also implied that Yuuichi became most important to Mai partly because a rift formed between Mai and Takumi over his decision to go to America for surgery alone shortly before his death.
- One Piece has Chef of Iron and Chivalrous Pervert Sanji, who has this trope to the point that he's developed a "damsel-in-distress" sixth sense.
- X1999: Sorata Arisugawa decides to protect Arashi Kishuu with his life, immediately when he meets her for the first time. This is justified because Sora knows that he is fated to die for a woman. And the reason why he chooses Arashi is because he wants to die for a beautiful girl. Though he actually does fall for Arashi's actual person when he gets to know her, and she falls in love with him as well. It happens both in the anime movie and in the anime series while the manga is never finish but implied to be going the same way.
- Now and Then, Here and There: Shu starts the series by talking to a blue-haired girl he barely even knows, then spends the rest of the series paying for it.
- Eureka Seven: Renton Thurston joined on an outlaw ship with a crew that constantly abuses him for the sake of a girl he had just met. Then, she has jealousy issues not over him but the fact that he pilots her mech. Then on top of that she shows little romantic interest in him at all for about the first twenty episodes and admits to using him for the mecha. What does Renton do about this? Sulk about how he wants to continue to protect this girl and continue to take abuse.
- Akuma no Riddle: Tokaku is a high-school assassin who's pretty quick to risk death and openly declare her intentions to a room full of fellow killers to protect a girl she's only recently met.
- Donten ni Warau: In a flashback Hirari meets Botan at random in the street, follows her and supposedly saves her from a bunch of thugs she was about to get rid of anyway.. and promptly declares he loves her and will marry her and protect her. Botan's initially having none of it, but then she starts to reciprocate and they spiral into a Reincarnation Romance until about 600 years later they can finally find happiness.
- Sin City: Most of the antiheroes Sin Cityare afflicted with this trope to some degree. Several characters compare themselves to knights, with Dwight being Lancelot, and Hartigan "charging in like Galahad."
- Marv goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge for a woman he spent only one night with in the original graphic novel. He overlaps with Because You Were Nice to Me.
- Wallace from "Hell and Back" goes through hell and high water to rescue a woman whom he saved from suicide at the start of the story.
- Hartigan from "That Yellow Bastard" goes through even worse hell than Wallace for the sake of a little girl who grows up to be one of Sin City's best known strippers. It's more the fact that this is all Unfinished Business (he originally saved her when she was a child), and until he meets her, it doesn't truly occur to him that's she's no longer a child. Hartigan was more in it to protect the innocent. It just so happen that the innocent was a girl.
- Dwight McCarthy would also qualify — the woman in question is someone who burned him in the past, but when it turns out she's in danger, Dwight rushes in to save her. Dwight's adherance to this trope is lampshaded by his lover Gail. True to the series' Film Noir roots, it's a Wounded Gazelle Gambit on the part of Ava to get Dwight to murder her husband so that she can get his hands on all his money. Dwight himself lampshades this weakness in "The Babe Wore Red", when he first finds the titular babe and thinks "One look at her and I know I'm in trouble deep." He risks his life once more to save this woman.
- Subverted in the Sandman tale "The Hunt", in which the protagonist travels long and far in order to find a beautiful noblewoman whose picture he's seen on a necklace, only to end up returning the necklace to her and walking away to marry someone else. The tale ends with the wisdom that some goals are better not attained.
- In Ace Attorney fanfic Dirty Sympathy, Klavier only knew Apollo for a night before deciding he will try to save him from his brother. Justified in that Klavier knows what kind of man his brother is and he would have been in Apollo's place if he hadn't run away the first chance he got. There is also an implication that Klavier is projecting his feelings on his bad situation onto Apollo.
Films — Animated
- In Tangled, despite Flynn Rider's annoyance of how Rapunzel forced him into guiding her, when the thugs turn on them in the Snuggly Duckling tavern, he pushes her behind him, and when they realize they are being chased in the tunnels by the royal guards, he tells her to run and waits until she's ahead of him before he flees himself.
- Shrek: This is parodied when Lord Farquaad chooses Princess Fiona when she's clearly a princesse lointaine he has never met, only been given a picture and description by the magic mirror. However, Farquaad can't be bothered to go on the quest himself, and holds a tournament to select a knight to do the job for him. When Shrek beats up all the knights, Shrek ends up going on the quest (but only to get his swamp back).
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars:
- Luke Skywalker after he sees the hologram of Princess Leia in A New Hope. While trapped in the Death Star, he takes an enormous risk to rescue her.
- Han Solo averts this by refusing to rescue Leia until he's told that the princess is very rich. Luke's willingness to rescue the princess contrasts his heroic idealism with Han's cynicism. It's made even more explicit in the Alan Dean Foster novelization of the film:
Luke: She's beautiful.Han: So's life.
- The Pink Panther: Inspector Clouseau in A Shot in the Dark is unshakably convinced that the beautiful Maria Gambrelli is innocent of murder despite the overwhelming mass of evidence that she is the killer. She actually is innocent, but Clouseau was certainly acting under the influence of this trope.
- James Bond acts under the influence of this trope all the time, but somehow always manages to fulfill his organization's objectives in the course of doing so. That's not the only thing he fulfills in the course of doing so... Or the only thing he acts under...
- Excalibur: Queen Guinevere stands accused by Sir Gawain of treason by adultery, and was to have Sir Lancelot champion her in trial by combat. Sir Lancelot is late to the field and King Arthur is dismayed when no other individual is willing to champion Guinevere — except for the newly-arrived, unarmored, untrained apprentice Perceval, who asks to champion Guinevere and is knighted by King Arthur for that purpose. He then readies himself to charge a fully-armored, battle-hardened Sir Gawain when (fortunately) Lancelot shows up to prevent it from happening.
- Lampshaded in Constantine:
Midnite: Tell me this is not about the girl.John Constantine: Definitely... mostly not about the girl.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grailparoids this (as one might expect) : John Cleese's Sir Lancelot receives a desperate message from someone he believes to be a wrongfully imprisoned girl, and he immediately sets out to free the prisoner. Sprinting (several times) across open fields, he single-handedly assaults and slaughters half the inhabitants of a local castle in the rescue effort, operating under the influence of The Dulcinea Effect. However, the Effect is instantly overcome by the revelation that the girl is, in fact, a guy. A pathetically effeminate guy, but a guy nonetheless.
- In the stage adapation, Spamalot, the same thing happens... only it winds up that Herbert becomes Lancelot's love interest anyway.
- Daniel Jackson in Stargate. He had just ended up in an Accidental Marriage with her.
- The Terminator. Kyle Reese volunteers to go back in time to protect Sarah Connor, who he fell in love with only from stories and a picture he was given by John Connor, knowing there is absolutely no way back and that going up against a Terminator programmed to kill Sarah will most likely result in a violent death. The line in question: "John gave me a picture of you once. I memorised every line. Every curve. I came across time for you, Sarah." Though considering the alternative in the future... and John Connor gave the picture of Sarah to Kyle specifically to elicit this effect... Kyle being his father thanks to time Travel, and all.
- Slumdog Millionaire: Jamal scrapes by as an orphan from the slums and gets into some very nasty situations, but never gives up looking for the girl he was friends with for a short time during his childhood.
- In Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd's odyssey to return the briefcase of a woman he drove to the airport (he can be forgiven for thinking with the wrong head, though, given that the other head isn't good for much).
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gives us a straight and justifiable male example, but an inversion as well, with the Love Interest herself. Philip shows the most kindness for Syrena after she's taken captive by Blackbeard as a means to harvest a tear for the Fountain of Youth, but as a clergyman, you can understand that his acts of kindness are mostly motivated by his view on the value of all life, and he's wary about Syrena possibly killing him since their first meeting was just after the mermaids attacked the entire crew. Once Syrena reveals that Philip has no reason to fear her, she gives a more straight example of this trope by revealing that her "attack" on Philip was an act to save his life, stating that her reason was that he was different from the other men. She didn't show up prior to her introduction when the mermaids came about. It's after that moment that Philip is willing to risk his life for her.
- In A Knight's Tale,Jocelyn makes William feel like a poet even though he doesn't know her name. Later, when Jocelyn demands that William prove his love by losing an important joust for her. After watching him get knocked around for awhile, she changes her mind and sends word that he must prove his love by winning the joust. William is very obviously pissed and, when Chaucer tries to motivate him by pointing out Jocelyn in the stands, William growls "And how I hate her!" He meets her that night and has apparently forgiven her, but when she sees his injuries and says that it's all her fault, he gives a very unromantic "Yes, it is."
- Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid: When Gail gets attacked by a crocodile, rather than grabbing a rifle, Bill simply jumps into the water and starts wrestling the crocodile with a knife. Lampshaded:
Sam: That is either the bravest or the stupidest thing I've ever seen.Bill: It's a fine line.
- The Ambulance, the main character sees an attractive woman walking down the street and attempts to hit on her, she rebuffs him, he follows her and continues hitting on her, she collapses and the titular ambulance picks her up. He then spends the rest of the movie risking life and limb, fighting a sociopathic doctor constantly trying to run him down with an ambulance, and he never even got her name. After he rescues her from certain excruciating death and declares he did it for true love which he recognized at first, she asks him to call her boyfriend and let him know she's ok.
- Runaway: After noting how attractive she is, Sgt. Ramsey charges in to save Jackie from being zapped by a malfunctioning security robot, instead of returning to his car to suit up in protective gear. He gets zapped repeatedly, snarked at by both Jackie and his partner Thompson, and ends up smashing the expensive robot with a chair.
- Averted and then Played Straight in Guardians of the Galaxy: Peter Quill decides to rescue Gamora from Drax not because he has any feelings for her, but because she knew where to pawn off the Orb. Later however when Gamora is dying in the vacuum of space, Peter calls on his vindictive mentor to pick them up and jumps into the vacuum after her, even giving up his helmet so she would have enough air before they were picked up after knowing her for at most several days.
- In Ex Machina, Caleb falls in love with Ava and is willing to risk everything to rescue her within days of meeting her. Nathan and Ava are separately manipulating him to evoke this exact response.
- Don Quixote, the Trope Namer, is a parody of this trope. The hero Don Quixote, who believes himself to be a knight, claims to serve a beautiful, virtuous young lady, Dulcinea (really named Aldonza, but Don Quixote doesn't care), who is, in fact, nothing more than a peasant from his hometown, and, in some adaptations, a whore. Interestingly, in the original novel as well as in most adaptations, the actual character Dulcinea makes not a single appearance. He knows that the lady is nothing more than a excuse for the hero to have adventures, so he imagines his lady and begins to live his dreams!
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy is awfully quick to label friends he met a few days ago as "family." This is because they ARE family (in a twisted, mythical not-exactly-blood-relations kind of way). Virtually every major character in the stories is the descendant of one of the ancient Greek gods, who are themselves one big dysfunctional family. The series puts a lot of emphasis on the tragic flaws of heroes, so you might have an example of this trope show up, but it's explicitly stated that Percy's flaw is that he can't make sacrifices when it comes to his friends (male or female), even for the greater good.
- Edward knows Bella as an person and not prey a month maybe before he wants to spend the rest of his (non)-life protecting her from every other vampire in the world.
- In Breaking Dawn, Renesmee. The plot of the latter half of the book was to rally up vampires to protect this one child that none of them even know. All of them agree to put their lives in danger for Renesmee the second they see her, without any logical reason as to why they even should endanger themselves to protect someone they only just met. Word of God says that vampires are extremely apathetic and, especially those that drink human blood, feel no affection for other vampires other than the one or two that travel with them.
- Ivanhoe from the Walter Scott novel has one of these. Ivanhoe champions for Rebecca, a girl who is not his Love Interest. It was a fair exchange, since she healed his injuries and was accused of witchcraft for that and for being Jewish. Ivanhoe and Rebecca may not be the Official Couple, but they are very much the Fan-Preferred Couple... even by the author.
- Robert A. Heinlein's If This Goes On: John Lyle gets involved in the revolution against the Theocracy for the sake of a girl he barely knows.
- The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: The Protagonist gets involved in the Lunar revolt for a barely better reason (granted, they had a slightly better chance of winning that one).
- The Rainmaker: Rudy Baylor does this even to the point where he tells himself in the first stages of his relationship with Kelly, the Love Interest, that doing so is a bad idea.
- Sword of Truth
"Well, I guess it all started when I met this girl...""Doesn't it always?"
- In Wizard's First Rule, Richard's entire quest starts when he sees some random lady running off in the distance, then sees a group of armed men stalking her.
- In The Law of Nines, a modern-day "reboot/continuation" of the story, the book ends with the main character being asked by an ally to tell him how the whole conflict started.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Robert Baratheon's relationship with Lyanna Stark. 15 years later he still she was the love of his life and he went to war for her. Her brother Eddard says that for all his talk, Robert barely knew her, and Lyanna had acknowledged before her death that being married to her would not change Robert's womanizing ways.
- Knight and Rogue Series: Subverted in The Last Knight, when it turns out that the apparent Distressed Damsel the hero just rescued from the tower is actually a murder suspect locked in the tower awaiting trial. (There's no indication that the hero is attracted to her; he just considers it his duty to help people.)
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden will help any woman who needs it, regardless of common sense, even if they haven't asked for help. In the first book, he complains about Murphy "pulling my old fashionec chain" by invoking this. Eventually, he learns to use his brain first and spot when this tendency is being used against him, as Sheila/Lasciel did at one point. Yet despite this new ability, Harry still doesn't seem able to prevent himself from going into auto-chivalrous mode anyway. He recognizes that this tendency is dangerous, possibly lethal.. .but he can't stop it. He even refers to it as his sexist neanderthal instincts, and they're just as uncontrollably automatic as his snarking in the face of certain death.
- Neil Gaiman's Stardust is an Affectionate Parody of chivalry. Tristran Thorn goes on a quest to find the fallen star and prove his love to the village beauty, Victoria Forrester, who seems extremely uninterested in him. He ends up realizing that he's not interested in her, either.
- Neverwhere (Still true for another Gaiman's book): Richard goes out of his way to help a girl he sees for the first time in his life, leading his fiancée to break up with him.
- Inheritance Cycle: Eragon is only too ready to give his life saving a girl he met moments ago, who's spent the entire time he's known her in a coma. All he had to work with was a dream of a beautiful woman behind held in a dungeon.
- In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, Torin warns Ragnar that the conversation he overheard may have been to induce him to assassinate a lord to protect a young woman — and that the woman may have been part to such a plot.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs's heroes have this bad.
- Played straight in The Faerie Queene. Redcrosse utterly fails at it, at first, but it's his first mission — one doesn't become a Knight in Shining Armor overnight. The Sweet Polly Oliver Britomart demonstrates this for her fiancé, too.
- Orlando Furioso: Sacripant is in love with Angelica and will do whatever he needs to protect her, and she's self-interestedly using him for protection and unwilling to consider his romantic advances. Orlando himself, who is even more devoted to her, goes all ORLANDO SMASH! when he finds out that he can't have her and that she's not perfect.
- Played for laughs in the Jeeves and Wooster stories, where Bertie's insistence on gallantry gets him into a lot of trouble. Luckily, he has Jeeves there to extricate him from the soup.
- In some versions of the King Arthur legend, Sir Gawain takes a knightly vow to be a protector of ladies to atone for having accidentally killed a woman in his youth. Thus the fact that they are strangers to him is irrelevant.
- Captain Hastings, from the Poirot stories by Agatha Christie, suffers from this a great deal. He will always leap to the assistance of a young lady (especially a redhead), and will generally ignore any evidence pointing to her as the murderer. One such woman is even named Dulcie.
- Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Invoked and then defied in Talking To Dragons. When Shiara and Daystar are trapped in a hedge circle and Daystar is able to get in and out (because he's polite to the bushes), Shiara demands that he tell the hedge to open and let her out. Daystar, who is the son of the very Genre Savvy Cimorene, sensibly points out that it's getting dark and thus impractical to leave at that moment, plus he doesn't know Shiara from Adam and thus is uncertain as to whether or not he wants to rescue her. Shiara replies that she had been hoping he was a hero, as one can "talk them into anything".
- In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.
- Gareth Bryne's chasing down Siuan might count for this trope. He certainly believes he does at first, lampshading that he's too old to be chasing after pretty girls, much less when he can't figure out the reason (beyond the money/service she owed).
- In a gender inversion, the members of Rand's harem are all inextricably in love with him at first sight, though their reactions differ (Min plays this straightest, while Aviendha tries to run in horror).
- In Shienar they have a saying: "A man who is not willing to give his life to save a woman is not a man."
- In Peacebreakers, Jackson kills Kiera's stalker, gets her sober, and dies to save her from zombies after knowing her for a few months and dating her for two.
- In Robert E. Howard's stories "Shadows In Zamboula", "Shadows In The Moonlight", and "The Pool of the Black One", Conan the Barbarian fights for unknown women on little provocation. Then again, he's prone to fight on little provocation anyway.
- In the Arabian Nights, a prince falls in love with the princess of another kingdom on hearsay alone. It's played straight a few other times throughout the novel also. This may be an Ur-Example, though there may be even older mythological examples that aren't on this page yet.
- Falcon Quinn: Pearl is both a genderflip and a platonic example, in that she is only too willing to declare herself the "Sworn Friend" of numerous people she's only just met, and vows that she's willing to give her life defending them. Being Hot-Blooded is part of her schtick.
- Sherlock Holmes: This was clearly a reasonable thing to expect, if the woman was English like himself. Thus it's proof that nationalism was a lot stronger in the 1890s: if a character in 21st century fiction drops everything to help out a random stranger who happens to be from his home country, nobody would buy it.
- Played with in Rose in Bloom, the sequel to Eight Cousins. Mac finds a girl, and tries very hard to help her, even though he's only known her for a few minutes at the time he agrees. Then again, she's about two years old, an orphan, and has no other close relatives. Lampshaded when he and Rose call her note Dulcinea.
- In Summer Celebration, stoic robber Misha Barkhasid sends away everyone around him to listen to Miriam Helen’s story about how notorious criminal Woldarski seduced her and tried to blackmail her into prostitution. He agrees to help her, despite her story being just one of many stories about Woldarski, and eventually fights him and takes a knife to the lung and narrowly escapes death for her.
- In Lloyd Alexander's The Golden Dreamof Carlo Chuchio, the title character first meets his love interest Shira briefly as a boy, and upon finding out she is a girl is instantly smitten. When she is being threatened an hour later, he shoves her out of the way and angrily tries to defend her honor, despite the fact that she was defending herself quite well.
- The Hunger Games: Peeta Mellark has known who Katniss is since he was five years old, but the first time he actually speaks with her is after the reaping. Still, he's willing to die and kill for her without the slightest hesitation, to the point where their mentor Haymitch realizes there's no point in trying to keep Peeta alive since he's just going to sacrifice himself for Katniss anyway. Even before they both became tributes, he willingly took a beating from his abusive mother so he could give Katniss some bread, when he was just eleven years old.
- Many women in The Mark of the Lion wish they had this effect on the gladiators, but Julia is the one to have it (accidentally) on Atretes.
- The Exile's Violin: Clay meets Jacquie when she's in the process of stealing from an auction. After she explains herself, he says (paraphrased) "I'll help you." This is because he is bored, but later he becomes genuinely protective of her and she finds this smothering.
- In Andre Norton's Storm over Warlock, Shann, seeing a Wyvern lose control of a forktail, leaps to fight the monsters. This is not from a romantic interest, as they aren't even the same species.
- In Heart Of Steel, Alistair is willing to do some crazy(er) things for the sake of Julia, whom he barely knows. Justified in that she was the first meaningful human companionship he's had in ten years.
Live Action TV
- In Heroes,
- Peter Petrelli often fulfills this trope, given his quest to prevent a viral apocalypse in the second season is really more about saving the life of a girl he knew only briefly.
- Matt Parkman risks his life — several times — to save a supervillainess he just met yesterday, all because he had a psychic vision of them being married in the future.
- You may be forgiven for thinking that "Hiro Rule" in the page quote refers to Hiro Nakamura. He goes through an awful lot of effort for Charlie, whom he hadn't known for a long time. Then again, this is pretty in character, given that he seems to view life as a comic book. Also in his case, it may be more a case of simply wanting to save her, because he wants to save EVERYONE (it's what heroes do, after all), and it's only in the process of trying to save her that she becomes more than just another innocent civilian that needs saving. While the Dulcinea Effect is falling in love (lust) and then helping, in Hiro's case, he was helping and then fell in love. He followed much the same pattern with Yaeko as well.
- In an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a boy gets sucked into a pinball game where he has to battle a witch and crown the princess. The princess is represented by a woman he had met at the mall only five minutes ago and who only spoke to him because he was standing in for a repair shop owner. And yet the guy comes to her rescue with the zeal of someone fighting for his true love. Admittedly, he was probably also fighting with all the zeal of someone who just got sucked into a killer pinball machine. He didn't even get to escape in the end.
- House :
- Lampshaded when Thirteen points out to Foreman how foolhardy he was to risk his medical license on a two-week-old relationship. She was the proverbial Dulcinea.
- Wilson was unbelievably devastated by the death of his girlfriend, who he had known only for four months, and dated for a few weeks. He asked his best friend of many years (House) to risk his life for her. He's still devastated by her death, about a year later, because she was the only person he had "loved in a long time". Season 4 was shortened, and if it had gone as the writers intended, they would have been dating for 6 months or so. Also, Wilson deeply attaches himself to girlfriends with pathological ease.
- Dollhouse: Victor's feelings for Sierra are just as much about this - he tries to save her and take care of her even in personalities that don't know her. However, just like Echo and Paul, they eventually fall in love and turn out to be just right for each other.
- Played with in the Highlander: The Series episode "Chivalry". Richie falls for Kristin, a beautiful Immortal who becomes murderously jealous when jilted, as Duncan knows from past experience. As she plays the weak and helpless damsel when defeated, neither Duncan nor Richie can bring themselves to take her head. That doesn't stop Methos:
Methos: [to Kristin] Pick [the sword] up.Kristin: Who the hell are you?Methos: A man who was born long before the Age of Chivalry. Pick it up.
- Merlin: This is in full effect in the episode "The Lady Of The Lake". Merlin merely glimpses Freya and instantly decides he must risk everything to save her. The fact that she's being persecuted for magic use might have something to do with it, but it still fits the straight version.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Requiem for Methuselah", Kirk goes down to a planet where he only has four hours to obtain some material for a vaccine and promptly falls so in love with the girl he meets down there that Spock is forced to erase her from his memory when he's left too heartbroken to go on after being forced to leave her. Even for the notoriously womanizing Kirk, this is a severe example.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode 'Q-pid', Q insists that Picard is still in love with Vash, a woman he knew for one day a year earlier, and proves it by trapping them in a storyline where he has to rescue her. Picard brushes off his claims, pointing out that he'd try to rescue anyone in danger.
- Robin Hood: Robin takes one look at Kate and is instantly in love, even though she treats him with mild contempt. All of a sudden, Kate is the centre of Much's universe (and all the outlaws thanks to the Always Save the Girl principle). Oddly though, in a mid-season episode Much laments the fact that Kate has been captured and says: "I'd do anything for her." Yet he doesn't stop what he's doing in order to go and rescue her, so this is a subversion.
- In The Lone Gunmen, John Byers gets hit with this hard when he sees Suzanne Modeski. He ends up throwing away his career, his respectability, and most of his illusions about the country he loves in the process. The other two Gunmen see Modeski as little more than a Femme Fatale. The truth is...somewhere between the poles.
- Chuck has a Gender Flip example. It may be Sarah's job to protect the Intersect, but her feelings for Chuck provide the motivation for just how seriously she takes his safety. In Season 3, she admits she fell in love with Chuck "some time between his fixing her phone and defusing a bomb" when they first met.
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "The War Machines", Ben's brooding is broken up when he sees a man is being a nuisance to Polly. When the man starts a fight, Ben does not back down. (Then, he's brooding because he's on a shore posting, so there may be a touch of In Harm's Way to it.)
- In "The Evil of the Daleks", the Daleks' plan relies on Jamie being prepared to risk his life to rescue Victoria, whom he hasn't even met at that point. He does.
- In "The Night of The Doctor", it is revealed that the Eighth Doctor's death and eventual regeneration was caused by him choosing to risk his life for a cute girl he met five seconds ago, whose name gets mentioned dramatically at the end of his list of companions as if it is the most special one of them all. It's justified in that the Eighth Doctor is one of the most innocent, optimistic and All-Loving Hero incarnations of the Doctor, so it serves as a decisive Break the Cutie for him.
- The Fourth Doctor novella Ghost Ship shows the Doctor having a Heroic BSOD when he fails to prevent the death of a woman he spoke to twice, even though he took every reasonable precaution to protect her (keeping an eye out for her, checking in on how she was feeling, and telling her when he experienced a premonition that she would die in water, suggesting that she avoid the swimming pool). It's Justified in that he is not in a healthy psychological state during the story, due to a combination of depression and the Mind Rape effects of the Negative Space Wedgie in the place he landed; that he admits to himself that he isn't in pain out of sympathy but out of selfishness and frustration with his own incompetence; and that a plotline of this kind is the kind of thing included in the Gothic Horror novels that the story is pastiching. The Doctor also notes in the opening paragraphs of the story that he is consciously trying to write a gothic horror story and is also a shameless Unreliable Narrator, so it's also possible he's heavily altering the story to make it more romantic and genre-appropriate.
- Steven sees a young woman, Anne, getting chased by guards in the first episode of "The Massacre of Saint Bartholemew's Eve" and becomes immediately fixated on saving her. When the Doctor leaves the time period without doing anything to prevent the massacre, he focuses most of his grief over it on the fact that they'd left Anne to die.
- In the Tenth Doctor audio story "Dead Air", the Hush's plan depends on the Doctor being willing to take a beautiful young woman on board the TARDIS despite hardly knowing her. The Doctor even lampshades this in the narration. It's completely in character for him.
- In an episode of the 90s version of Cupid, a nutcase who thinks he is Don Quixote singles out a bewildered sex worker as literally his Dulcinea.
- In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Rogue Planet", a race of shapeshifters is being hunted like animals. A member of this race transforms into a beautiful woman, meets with Captain Archer, and begs for help. Captain Archer immediately agrees to drop everything he was doing to help her and her people, acting like a man in love. T'Pol lampshades Archer's behavior by asking if he would be so eager to help if the shapeshifter came to him in the form of a man. When the day is saved, the "woman" thanks Archer and turns back to her true form, which looks like a giant slug. Archer is shocked, but they part on friendly terms.
- Jamie Reagan in Blue Bloods absolutely cannot resist a Distressed Damsel.
- Masters of Horror: In "Valerie on the Stairs", Rob is rather drawn to Valerie, the woman who begs him to save her from a monster, even though he knows nothing about her. This is later explained to be because they're both fictional characters who were written that way. Valerie specifically has no personality attributes beyond her status as a damsel in distress because she's defined solely by her relation to Rob.
- In Lost, Jack barely knows Kate for a couple of days before he's growing protective about her safety and looking out for her. This includes trying to convince her she shouldn't come with him (or anyone else) on treks into the jungle because it could be dangerous, despite her seeming no less capable than the others (and moreso than some). This continues in the third episode, even when he sees her mug shot in the possession of a police officer - who keeps ranting about how dangerous she is!
- The song Dulcinea by Isis is about, well, this.
- The original princess lointaine story dates from the 12th century and describes the Troubadour Joufre's passionate love for the Countess of Tripoli, whom he has only heard described. He eventually journeys to the Holy Land and arrives dying and expires in her arms. She then enters a convent - over a man she meets briefly and when he is NOT at his best (since he was dying and all). Joufre and Hodierna Countess of Tripoli are historical - the rest of the story not so much.
- A rare guy on guy version: in the Ramayana, Hanuman devoted himself to Rama after their first encounter.
- In The Little Soldier, the titular little soldier finds a beautiful woman in a fireplace, who has the body of a serpent. She begs him to retrieve various articles of clothing for her and he readily does so, even though he must fight through monsters to get to them and has never seen this girl before in his life. This bites him in the ass big time, when the princess turns out to be a horrible person who drugs him so she doesn't have to marry him, steals various magic items from him, and mocks his attempts to woo her. He gets over her and ends up with the fisher-woman who helped him out.
- In Greek Mythology, Perseus had no idea who Andromeda even was when he saw her shackled to a rock and about to be Fed to the Beast, or who had done it to her, or why. (He got explanations after rescuing her.)
- A not-uncommon scenario includes a heel diva's male manager, friend, boyfriend, tag partner, or stable attacking a face diva and subsequently being driven away by an otherwise mostly unrelated male face. The rescuer may be in a feud with the male attacker, but the point remains that he's interfering to protect the girl.
- The quoted musical, Man of La Mancha, as well as the classical novel Don Quixote upon which it was based, parodies this very trope, when the self-considered knight Don Quixote falls instantly in love with a beautiful damsel (in fact, a barmaid moonlighting as a prostitute) and refuses to be convinced by any means that his lady "Dulcinea" (a name he gave her, because certainly her real name, Aldonza, was ill-fitting for a lady of her splendor) was anything less than the beautiful and virtuous lady he imagined her to be. In this particular musical, Don Quixote's high (if misguided) opinion of Aldonza eventually causes her to realize that she is not living up to her potential, and makes it her business to take more pride in herself and become her own Dulcinea.
- In The Magic Flute, Tamino sings his main aria to a picture of the heroine her mother has given him as an incentive to rescue her.
- As one might garner from the page quote, this trope tends to show up a lot in video games. However, Hiro from Lunar: Eternal Blue is the smack-bang-in-the-centre example of the videogame version of this trope. It's even the Trope Namer in The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés, as seen at the top of this page.
- One might think that he only did this for Lucia because she's a mysterious beauty who he's clearly smitten with at first sight but the manga "Lunar: Younenki no owari" shows that he will literally do this for ANY girl he met 5 minutes ago, making his more of a case of Chronic Hero Syndrome.
- A rare female example crops up in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World - Marta is infatuated with Emil from the moment he "saves" her - so infatuated, infact, that she sets an ancient guardian monster to stalk him for several months, and when she does reunite with him, offers to hand herself in to be executed in order to spare his village (and his guilt). All for a guy whose name she had learned only an hour or two ago.
- Xenogears gets away with this by turning it into a part of a larger plot point: the hero not only leaps unreasonably to the heroine's defense, he shouts her name in the process before he's told it. Dun dun DUUUUN! They'd been lovers over several incarnations, the latest being the one we see in-game.
- Several games the in Zelda series fall under this trope, as they show Link going off on a quest for Princess Zelda after knowing her for only a few minutes or, such as in the original The Legend of Zelda game, never having met her at all. Although, given that she's his sovereign ruler, it's probably illegal for him not to quest or something, and if he ever did say no, she'd probably just keep asking him.
- The Legend of Zelda Oracle of Ages: Link goes and saves Impa from some attacking monsters (while he does know Impa, he doesn't seem to know her when he saves her). He then accompanies her to find the girl Impa was looking for. Once they find said girl, it turns out that Impa was actually possessed by an evil sorceress, the girl was the Oracle of Ages, and the sorceress has now possessed her. Well done, Link.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess mostly avert it. In Wind Waker, Link starts his quest because his little sister was taken by a giant bird, and finishes Because Destiny Says So. Twilight Princess has Link trying to save the kids from the village; at first he's helping Midna because she's helping him. Those first 3 dungeons are by no means short (especially the third one), so by the second half of the game, he and Midna have had time to bond. Ganondorf just happens to know how to push Link's Berserk Button at the end.
- If you look at the genderflipped version for Twilight Princess, Midna rescues Link from Zant's dungeon, after seeing him for five minutes. It turns out that she only did so because it was foretold that he'd help her overthrow Zant, and she later apologizes for this.
- In Metal Gear Solid, Snake devotes himself to saving Meryl when she's only around for one boss battle before she gets shot.
- Lampshaded in one parody, as seen here.
- It wasn't one-sided, either - when the two finally meet up, Meryl tells Snake that she had been given psychotherapy to destroy her interest in men, and then not ten minutes later the boss from that one battle before she gets shot is telling Snake with his dying breath that he has "a large part" in her heart.
- Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu: Played straight with Sigurd and Dierdre (or Diadora, depending on who your translator is). Gender-swapped in the same game... with Dierdre and Sigurd. Yes, they both immediately fall madly for each other.
- Knights of the Old Republic:
- Justified by having the girl the player has never met being his commanding officer and possibly the key to winning the war with the Sith.
- Gender-flipped in the sequel with Visas and the Handmaiden if the player is male, and played straight with Atton and the Disciple if the player is female. Though certain later events put it in a new context.
- Neverwinter Nights: The 'good' responses during most of Aribeth's dialogue in the first chapter suggest a male hero is falling victim to this trope. A male hero of Hordes of the Underdark can fall victim to this as well, with either Nathyrra or Aribeth.
- Neverwinter Nights 2:
- Most of the 'good' dialogue with Elanee or Neeshka suggests a male character is acting under the Dulcinea Effect. Especially the decision to help Neeshka in her feud with her former partner, leading to the question: Why, if Neeshka didn't tell the player that if he came to Neverwinter with her he would likely be the target of assassination attempts, does he still trust her?
- The player can use this trope with regards to Safiya in the sequel as well, despite the fact that she is of a sect of wizards noted for their brutality, political scheming (read: assassinations and shadow wars), and immorality. Yet the player can completely trust her from the outset (not like you have any choice).
- A male player in the Neverwinter Nights 2 community module Dark Avenger can behave like this towards Contessa Mignet. Her being madly in love with a Casanova character who is trying to get rid of her for being too clingy doesn't help.
- Ys: Most of these women save Adol Christin's life in the first place because he is almost always shipwrecked at the start of games. Then he spends the rest of them protecting them.
- Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories: while Adell's initial promise to protect and return Rozalin to her father probably doesn't raise any eyebrows at first (he's borderline Lawful Stupid, and clearly feels responsible for her Fallen Princess predicament), the Dulcinea Effect becomes apparent when he insists on keeping it in even the most suicidal circumstances, and he doesn't even like girls.
- In Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, Almaz decides that the best way to impress a girl he likes is to descend into hell on a nigh-suicidal mission to defeat the Overlord — for a girl that at least as far as he knows isn't even aware of his existence. Mao finds this all rather very silly.
- Baldur's Gate allows a justification of the trope, where you find a drow woman being pursued by a member of the Flaming Fist (a mercenary company that acts as law and order for the region). He says she is accused of murder, and he's going to kill her... without the messiness of a trial or any of that because she's a drow. She is evil and may well be guilty, but your character can protest that the law should be obeyed. The mercenary comes after you for it, and you get to fight him (with no loss of reputation, as would happen if you killed any other Flaming Fist soldier in the game).You do, however, lose 2 reputation points if you let her join your party.
- The Bard's Tale: The female shows up as an unreal owner of boob, so he immediately works for her although his tasks mess up his life severely. Later we "find" out that she is a demon.
- Chrono Trigger opens this way, when Crono follows Marle through the mysterious portal triggered by the malfunctioning telepods, after meeting her that day. Although after she disappears, the game prevents you from leaving the scene any other way, so it's forced. Lucca says it best: "Crono! You brought her here, you get her back!" And she's kind of got a point; what sort of person would bring a new acquaintance to something that goes terribly wrong — and then just abandon them to who knows what?
- Final Fantasy IX has Zidane, who is trying to kidnap the princess at the start of the game. Then he becomes her escort for the rest of it. This is even part of his skill-set. He has the in-game ability 'Protect Girls.' If there's a female in the party who gets attacked, Zidane will jump in front of her and take the hit. This does not, however, prevent him from grabbing the princess's butt while climbing a ladder.
Zidane: Ooh, soft...
- Ever17: The Kid fell in love with Coco at first sight. He then spent the next 17 years of his life learning to imitate his role model Takeshi as exactly as possible. He does this based on a story that You tells him involving the personification of the perception of time. He doesn't even get the girl because by this point he looks 20 and is actually 32 while she's 14, acts about 8 and considers herself to be the girlfriend of said personification. The Drama CDs show that after the incident, he got over Coco, got a job, and ended up with Sora, so it seems he's all right.
- RuneScape: Invoked during the "Death of Chivalry" quest as you come across a woman named Dawn, who is held captive by the Black Knight faction under the control of Captain Dulcin. It is later revealed that Dawn has secretly killed Dulcin long ago in in a plan that ultimately has the Player Character and/or his companion Sir Owen complete a series of tests of chivalry so that she may obtain an artifact of power.
- In Star Ocean: The Second Story, Claude winds up on an alien planet where he's absolutely not allowed to use his superior technology. The first thing he does is use that technology to save the cute blue-haired chick from a monster. note
- Final Fantasy VI: Locke is very quick to pledge his unfaltering protection to Terra and later Celes, two complete strangers who had once worked for the Empire. The reason for this is tragic. He lost the love of his life, Rachel, in an Imperial attack that he wasn't there to protect her from. Terra's amnesia hits especially close because Rachel contracted amnesia as the result of a trip he took her on. Rachel's amnesia and death are his greatest failures, and so he vows to protect Terra and Celes because he refuses to fail another woman like he did Rachel.
- Star Fox Adventures: Fox gets a few psychic message things from Krystal and sees her suspended in the Krazoa Palace and he's more than willing to do everything he can and risk his life to save her.
- White Knight Chronicles: Leonard had only met the princess, Cisna, once before, when they were kids (and she wasn't even interested in him, but in the butterfly on his head), but he falls in love with her the moment he sees her again (and she with him) and is willing to rush off and confront a hostile nation searching for destructive lost technology after they kidnap her (dragging his Unlucky Childhood Friend and the Heroic Mime with him).
- The Force Unleashed II plays this trope straight but with an added Gender Flip. Starkiller and Juno spend quite a bit of time together in the first game but their mild flirtations never seemed all that serious and were closer to crush status than genuine love. Then in the next game, without having spent any more additional time with each other, both characters are throwing themselves in front of buses to try and save the other —Starkiller more than Juno but she does some crazy shit too (like trying to stab Darth Vader with a lightsaber!.
- Agarest Senki: Leonhardt plays this so straight, the first time he does this, he gets killed (curiously, the first time he did this, the girl in question is not a Love Interest seeing as she's just twelve years old). He recovered, though, and does this trope again to two women.
- ICO: a childish innocence is the driving force because Ico and Yorda are kids. The game's minimalism leaves a lot open to interpretation, but Ico clearly cares for Yorda, who implicitly trusts Ico with her life. It helps avoid any cliche by the fact that the game is so well done that the player comes to love both Yorda and Ico as much as they love each other. It also helps that A) One of the first things Ico sees of Yorda is her ability to open locked doors; doors which surround the castle they're trapped in there's also one at the end of the giant bridge, assuming you don't turn around and try to jump back for Yorda the second the queen tries to capture her B) he has a vague idea of why he himself was trapped in the castle, and knows it's a bad idea for anyone to stick around there.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Phoenix is a sucker for Distressed Damsels in general, male or female, whether or not they have any way of paying for his services.
- Phoenix first meets Maya next to a dead body and he immediately takes her case when she's accused of murder.
- He does the same for Lana later on (taking her case right after meeting her) and keeps defending her even when the culprit starts personally threatening him.
- In Trials and Tribulations case 5, there is no evidence that Godot had ever met Maya before risking life and limb to protect her. He had a pretty good excuse though: she is his dead girlfriend's sister, after all. That, and the one after her was essentially his girlfriend's arch-nemesis, who was responsible for ruining Godot's life too.
- In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney's backstory, it is revealed that Phoenix adopted Trucy quickly after meeting her.
- Ar tonelico: Lyner has no hesitation in helping any Squishy Witch of the Reyvateil race, which only consist of girls. Lyner's keeping up with this trope so much that he will have no hesitation in "saving" a Big Bad in the final battle, who appears to be an over abused Reyvateil.
- Subverted in The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings, where you meet an elf girl accused of luring town guards to their death. When you do the investigation it turns out that she was completely responsible. If you defend her, as "thanks", she'll lead you to an ambush.
- An instance of this is optional in The Secret Of Monkey Island. If Guybrush completes the "Trial of Thievery" last (stealing the Idol of Many Hands from Elaine's mansion), he gets up from attempted drowning by Fester Shinetop (LeChuck in disguise) to see LeChuck's ship disappearing and being informed by Herman Toothrot that Elaine has been kidnapped by LeChuck. Guybrush then proclaims his love for her, even though he mumbled incoherently towards her just prior. If Guybrush doesn't complete the "Trial of Thievery" last, Guybrush and Elaine profess their love for one another and Guybrush still vows to rescue her when she's eventually kidnapped, averting this.
- Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean has a Double Subversion. When the player character sneaks into Rodolfo's mansion, it can suggest saving Xelha, but Kalas just gets annoyed with you if you do. After exploring a bit, he finds a gate he can't figure out how to open, but Xelha can.
- In the first mission of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, after fighting through a cartel compound only to find the girl they were hired to rescue dead, Rios opts to save another girl they find, while Salem just wants to leave.
- In Gemini Rue, Azriel Odin/Delta-Six has this for Saiyuri/Epsilon-Five. Even multiple mindwipes don't stop him from instinctively trying to protect her, nor do they stop her from trying to do the same for him. It's implied that she was someone important to him in the past.
- The PK Girl: The Protagonist just came into the mall for some ice cream. Before he knows it, a girl he's never even met has been kidnapped, and her sister, whom he's also never met, begs for his help in saving her.
- Psychonauts Raz goes down into the lake, fights the Lungfish, enters it's mind to bring it back from being brainwashed by Oleander, and also fights Oleander while there, cures all four asylum inmates to collect pieces for his costume so he can get inside the tower, climbs that hellish tower. All so he can get up to the top and save Lili. It's both downplayed and justified as Raz has multiple reasons for wanting to get up the tower and the game never explicitly makes any of them the only reason.
- In the online tie-in game for the movie Salt, the player is led to believe that Salt is being setup by the bad guys and she needs your help to clear her name. In reality, she is a Soviet mole and is using you to eliminate some loose ends. She later betrays the player to his (it's always shown as a male player) bosses in the CIA.
- In the Kingdom Hearts series, the heroes are always going out of their way to help people they hardly know. This gets lampshaded by Neku in Dream Drop Distance.
- The The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim quest In My Time of Need involves a group of Alik'r warriors looking for a Redguard woman they claim betrayed her family and a Redguard city to the Aldmeri Dominion. The woman herself claims she spoke out against the Dominion who hired the Alik'r to hunt her down an assassinate her. The player can either play the trope straight by killing the Alik'r or defy it by luring Saadia outside Whiterun where the Alik'r will capture her.
- Invoked in Dangan Ronpa. Makoto Naegi has this in regards to Sayaka Maizono, who has been pining for her since childhood, and he is willing to do anything to protect her during Monokuma's game of High School Life of Mutual Killing. It turns out that she's using the DE as a way to frame him for murder when she tries to kill Leon so she can escape from the school, but Leon kills her before she can do so.
- Bravely Default:
- Tiz agrees instantly to help Agnès in her journey despite a military coming after her because she's a Vestal and she made the vow to seal the Great Chasm (restoring Tiz's hometown Norende to normality).
- It's played straight with Ringabel, who joins the party because he feels an intense and inexplicable urge to protect Edea. It is hinted during the game that Ringabel subconsciously helps Tiz, Agnès and Edea because he wants to avoid them dying at the hands of Airy like the previous cycle. Then again, Alternis has a huge crush on Edea anyway...
- The main plot of Sands of Destruction kicks off this way: Kyrie is ecstatic when Morte decides to drag him around the world in order to convince him it's an awful place mere moments after breaking him out of the Sky Gaol and soon promises to help her in whatever she needs, including ending the world. He's obviously not thinking clearly at that moment.
Webcomics / Web Original
- In Gnoph, Abbey and Will are traveling through a forest when they come across a soldier pursuing a young woman. Abbey is not at all surprised that Will decides to intervene on the woman's behalf, and pointedly refuses to help him in the ensuing fight. In a subversion, it is the soldier who ends up joining the heroes, while the woman is never seen again.
- Fred from Molten Blade seems perfectly willing to drop everything and break into a government facility on behalf of a girl whom he'd known for less than a day, on the word of Chris, another person who was a total stranger to him twenty-four hours earlier.
- Gender-reversed in The Order of the Stick. Therkla is a ninja assassin who was ordered to kill Hinjo and his guards, yet when she encounters Elan (on whom she quickly gained a massive crush), she ends up helping him slay some sea trolls that had attacked the fleet. She would end up helping him several more times, the last of which would result in her death at the hands of her master.
- In Looking for Group, there is a Playing with a Trope example. Cale is revived by a priestess (Benny) after being incinerated by Richard the warlock and almost immediately devotes his life to her. While this sounds like I Owe You My Life he was pretty inclined to risk his life for her before being revived (she was being ganged up upon by some thugs and Richard and Cale's ashes watched as she fought them off). This ultimately leads to the forming of the group and their ultimate coupling. It had less to do with protecting the girl and more to do with his view of ultimate pure good and wanting to help everyone and everything and saving those who save him.
- Dept Heaven Apocrypha features the gender-reversed version, albeit with a bit of time lag. Even though she's only known about his existence for a few weeks (if that), Meria is still ready to protect Fia's demon from the rest of the school if need be. Her excuse is that he can't entertain her anymore if he's dead, but the demon just acknowledges her for the Knight in Sour Armor she is. (Cue massive flailing and embarrassment on her part.)
- Broken Saints: When the male heroes find Shandala sealed away in the back of Mars' strip club, naked and helpless, the first feeling each of them has is one of profound shock and despair. None of them have met her before, but they recognize her from their visions, and they recognize her aura immediately. It doesn't matter that they have no idea who she is or where she's from, they take her home with them and (by way of a mushroom-induced, Back Story-revealing Dream Sequence), they awaken her from her Heroic BSOD..
- When Lance from Gold Coin Comics first meets Silvia, they encounter a wolf-boss. He is willing to stand in front of Silvia to protect her, even though they met a few minutes earlier.
- In the Whateley Universe, Stalwart declares his undying love for Fey only seconds after seeing her. To make it extra-uncomfortable, he does it in the middle of the Whateley Academy quad, while Fey's father is standing right there. Fey throws him across the quad, but he doesn't give up. His Dogged Nice Guy behavior eventually saves Fey's life, and he gets several dates with her.
- In Wake the Sleepers, she is trying to distract the assassin from him, and Locke has to go and intervene.
- In Thistil Mistil Kistil, Coal can give no very coherent account of why he rescued Hedda.
Coal: I followed her voice. She was calling for help.Loki: So?Coal: So I. . . had to save her.Loki: Why?Coal: Because. . . she was calling for help. She wanted to live.
- Gil from Girl Genius is an interesting case. First time we met him, he jumped on Agatha to save her from an explosion. Later, he is revealed to have rescued Zola many times in Paris. But Gil has absolutely no romantic interest in Zola.
- Gil's initial rescue of Agatha likely was because he was a nice guy who felt sorry for her (she was clearly upset by everything that just happened). His later decision to bring her along to the airship was because he suspected that she was a Spark, and from there, his desire to keep her around was because he liked having someone his intellectual equal to work with.
- Demo Reel: Tacoma hears about Rebecca's Rape as Backstory and she cries against him when she's high, so from that point he tries desperately to protect her. One problem? She's a badass Gun Nut with Nerves of Steel, and he's the one who gets beaten up by the bad guys.
- The Adventures Of Puss In Boots plays this a little obviously, as the character involved is literally named Dulcinea.
Puss-in-Boots: She... fascinates me. And she needs my protection!
- The Truth in Television aspect of this really should come as no surprise: story devices are based on reality (to a degree) and human nature hasn't majorly changed. There are more than likely evolutionary and group-preservation aspects at play here, as the same is observable in many group-oriented animals. The key to this is the different procreative roles between men and women that makes the latter incomparably valuable when you reduce each gender to a resource. Though each person is an individual and men and women exist in roughly equal proportions, a population consisting of one man and a hundred women is many, many times more likely to survive than a population consisting of one woman and a hundred men.
- In the military and domestic settings
- A study on gender-integrated combat units suggests this trope. Seeing a female squad member injured would often see the male soldiers going a bit... berserk in response.
- The Israeli army had to confront this issue when they found that for integrated squads, the casualty rate for men was unusually high. The men were throwing themselves into danger to protect their female comrades, entirely for chivalry's sake.
- When men are aroused, it's supposed to release a hormone that makes them crazy protective/territorial of the object of their desires. (Which is probably the human trait Rescue Romance dawns from and why it's such an appealing fantasy for men and women.)
- It's alleged that in demos during The Troubles, police would pick on women in a group attempting peaceful protest in order to make the men... less peaceful, so they could justifiably be arrested.
- The notorious Stasi used it as late as 1989, during the riots on the evening of the 4oth anniversary of the GDR, as shocked western observers noticed. The horrible police brutality led many undecided bystanders to a decision TO JOIN THE PROTEST MOVEMENT in accordance with this trope.
- Dante Alighieri only saw his "beloved" Beatrice twice in life, probably for a length of time spanning less than an hour, and likely never spoke to her. Yet in his most famous work (in fact all his famous ones) she serves as his spirit guide, muse, etc. At the time of writing, Dante was married to a different woman and had kids by her, yet none of these loved ones merit any mention in his work.
- Engaging in this practice on an internet forum (or wiki) is derisively called "White Knighting." Doing it is particularly laughable due to most net denizens being aware of G.I.R.L..
- Ulric Von Lichtenstein, prominently featured in the book The Natural History of Love was the real life deal. He's not pathetic but definitely eccentric by modern standards. He was known as a wise and impartial counselor, and thus a witness / co-signer or many important treaties of his time. Had a very healthy relationship with his wife and many children, and managed his estates well. He was also first-class jouster, possibly a holder of multiple longest winning streaks. At the same time, he took his hobby - courtly love - very seriously, and arranged his affairs to have the maximal possible amount of fun. That is, the maximal amount of longing and suffering with minimal rewards, for the maximal amount of drama. This includes: cutting off an ugly "hare lip", cutting off his finger to make the rumor that he lost it in battle true, falling off a castle wall, dressing up as a leper, etc, etc. Oh, and jousting his way across Europe while wearing a lady's dress. Then jousting his way back, in another direction, while wearing a mock costume of King Arthur.