open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the first Sailor Moon anime, Tuxedo Mask is one of two Trope Codifiers. He was the mysterious protector of the main characters while Usagi and her team got stronger. He becomes completely useless against the first and last Big Bads, often leaving Usagi alone for the bigger battles. (In his defense, it's not like he wants to: in the first series he's gravely injured and then dies in between the fight with Beryl and the one with Metallia!Beryl, in S he's keeping Chibi-Usa alive via constantly transferring some of his own Life Energy to her comatose body after her Heart Crystal is stolen, in Super S the influence of Black Moon leave him greatly debilitated, and in Stars he was dead again.)
- Austria from Axis Powers Hetalia was shown to be this, back when he and Hungary were still together. Prussia's comments at his loss hints that he used to be able to hold his own, but got complacent and has gone soft, or at least weaker than Prussia and his allies.
- Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman's official Love Interest for decades, was a US Air Force pilot and agent and the second Trope Codifier. But he ended up rescued by Wonder Woman as often as Lois Lane was by Superman. Eventually they wrote him out of the series, even marrying him to Wonder Woman's female sidekick, Etta Candy.
- In the TV series, this is averted. While he's not bulletproof so the heavy hitting still has to be done by the heroine, he's still a badass soldier. They don't let useless wusses be USAF fighter pilots, after all. Of course, gender roles mean that when it comes to audience perception, any given instance of needing rescue adds far more The Load points to the character than it would for a female character.
- The Wonder Woman (2017) film averts this as well. Set in WW1, Steve is introduced as a daring spy on an important mission and that mission drives much of the plot. While Wonder Woman obviously dominates every fight scene she's in, Steve remains useful in combat. He even gets a Heroic Sacrifice to complete his mission that saved thousands which convinces Diana to not give up on mankind.
- Shows up quite often in Touhou fan fiction, due in part to the fact that many such fanfics involve Muggle humans accidentally finding themselves in Gensokyo, a land whose chief population seems to be magic bullet-shooting Action Girls.
- According to the celebrated Sailor Moon fanfic Tuxedo Mask, the Token Male Tuxedo Mask's apparent uselessness is a tactic intended to keep Sailor Moon fantasizing about him while simultaneously forcing her to do all of the real work.
Live Action Television
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer's boyfriend in seasons 4-5, Riley, was a Badass Normal who was completely and utterly outclassed by Buffy. The show even deconstructs the trope, with all the Unfortunate Implications that come along with it. Riley eventually feels useless (in combat and even emotionally because Buffy refuses to really open up to or rely on him when she needs help) and weak compared to Buffy and leaves her. Later it turns out that he marries a different, and less empowered Action Girl with whom he can form a more equal Battle Couple.
- In Charmed, Cole turned into this after his Heel–Face Turn, but then turned into a Muggle. His frustration with this led to him using a forbidden power source, becoming strong again, but eventually being corrupted. Then he gets better, then he gets worse again, then...
- Played straight with Mickey of Doctor Who at first, then subverted.
- In Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!, Kazama, Gakuto and Gen are all shown to be extremely talented fighters who can take down large swarms of thugs on their own. However, whenever the Villain of the Week shows up, they all get sidelined in favor of one of the girls taking them on. This even applies to their rivals as well, as while Hideo may be able to toss around the average Mook with ease, he's completely overshadowed by his female companions and never participates in any major fights. This is regularly lampshaded, as the guys mention how humiliating it is to constantly get shown up by girls.
- Fey of the Whateley Universe has immense magical powers and has beaten The Necromancer in one-on-one duels. Her boyfriend Stalwart is an inventor, and not all of his inventions work.
- In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Shining Armor is a captain of the guard. However, he has a weak record of being badass or doing anything on camera when the mane 6 get involved. In his defense, though, he does have some outstanding moments such as performing a spell fueled by The Power of Love alongside Cadance that kicked the changelings out of Canterlot, briefly taking on King Sombra (even though it ended up putting black crystals in his horn that temporarily prevented him from doing magic), and throwing Cadance like a javelin to catch Spike and the Crystal Heart, enabling Sombra's defeat.
- In Winx Club, the specialists from Red Fountain are depicted as completely badass warriors, due to the fact that they are training all the time to be Badass Normals. For this reason one would logically expect them to be able to fight competently against the forces of evil. Despite this, they are usually ineffective against the Big Bads, and are very weak compared to the Winx against magical threats. However, they do manage to hold their own against mooks and can sometimes take on bigger threats like the Trix and the Wizards of the Black Circle.
- In W.I.T.C.H., Cornelia's boyfriend, Caleb, is an undeniable badass, leading the resistance forces in Miridian, running daring raids against Phobos' forces, and even saving the girls in their first encounter. Despite all of this, he is next to useless against Phobos, Cedric, or any of the Big Bads, really.
- Matt Olsen, Will's boyfriend, subverts this trope. When he finds out of Will's second life, he decides that he isn't going to let Will get hurt with him around. He takes copious amounts of Taking a Level in Badass after his successful Battle In The Centerof The Mind against his Brainwashed and Crazy self, gets himself new powers and is now on equal footing with them! Sadly, the series is canceled before we can find out if he'd end up getting shunted back into this category.
- The wielders of the Forest Stones from Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders, despite riding badass wolves and having their own magic stones, were unfortunately made all too aware of this trope. They have been kidnapped, transformed, and in short are pretty much useless.
- In Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable is this for Kim. Despite the act that he has "mystical king Fu powers" he is unable to beat Shego nor any villain of the week. Most of the time Kim does all the work. He becomes aware of this trope at the last episode and feels outclassed compared to Kim. Even in the last episode when he was allowed to awaken his powers and beat the Big Bads by himself, he was unable to use his powers until the last moment and when Kim was knocked out.
- Ron really is more of a subversion however. He is, in fact an attempt at lampshading this trope. The main difference is that Ron hasn't made any claims to be badass, he knows he isn't badass.
- The other thing is that it's Kim's show, so she's usually the hero with Ron as loyal support, though he has a number of All Up to You moments. note
- Lampshaded and... Parodied?... with Steve Trevor, love interest of Wonder Woman in his appearance at Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In all other incarnations (animation, live action TV) he is a fairly proactive guy, (except comics, as you can see above) in the Cold Opening of "Scorn of Star Sapphire!" he is a secret agent so confident that Wonder Woman will come to his rescue that he doesn't move a muscle to get out of a Death Trap, let her do all the work, and gushes in her presence. And this immortal line:
Steve Trevor: Have to say, being a secret agent is a cinch when you have a super-powered girlfriend.
- Which prompts Batman to wonder What Does She See in Him?