"This woman - you know, with the long golden braids and a bullet helmet, armed with a huge sword - has arrived to challenge them. She is Freada, shield-maiden daughter of Hrothgar! Now, um, *ahem*, the daughter of Hrothgar is supposed to be Freawaru, which means 'peace weaver' — not 'beater of ass.'"The polar opposite of Chickification and a subtrope of Adaptational Badass. We all know girls will need role models, so what do you do when you're adapting or sequelizing a work from a "less enlightened" time? Make your female lead into an Action Girl! The title comes from Xena: Warrior Princess, who is not an example but rather the inspiration, being something of a Trope Codifier for Action Girl. Xenafication thus can be defined as "becoming like Xena". At least once, this has been lampshaded by having the character go "AYIYIYIYIYIYI!" before kicking ass. Related to Took a Level in Badass and Adrenaline Makeover. Sometimes a specific form of Adaptational Badass. Not to be confused with Xenofiction.
— SF Debris, "Heroes and Demons"
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- Maid Marian from the Robin Hood legends is an odd case. She was an Action Girl in some of her original appearances (fighting Robin to a standstill while disguised as a boy in one ballad). Victorian writers turned her into The Chick. Modern writers tend to make her the Action Girl again:
- The New Adventures of Robin Hood turning her into a virtual Xena clone. The Outlaws of Sherwood, the novel, has Marian and Robin actually sharing the public role of Robin Hood. Well-handled, but definitely an example, especially given that in Outlaws Marian is very much the better archer of the pair.
- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves does this in quite an odd way: it includes the "fight to a standstill" bit, then turns her into the Damsel in Distress for the rest of the film. Might even qualify for Faux Action Girl status.
- And of course there's Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, playing this trope (and Non-Action Guy with Robin) for laughs.
- See also Marian from the BBC's Robin Hood under Live-Action Television.
- Superman's Lois Lane. In the early comics, Lois is pretty capable of taking care of herself, thanks to the wits that came with her Intrepid Reporter lifestyle. She didn't become a stock Damsel in Distress until the Silver Age. Later adaptations have increasingly toughened her back up again:
- In one of the old Fleisher shorts, Lois was shown blasting away with a tommy gun at a gang of train-robbers.
- Before they were canned, Siegel and Shuster were even considering having her figure out Clark was Superman, and making her Superman's civilian sidekick, similar to Margot Lane and the Shadow. They even wrote a script, which is floating around on the Internet.
- Marian, the ladyfriend of the Lee brothers from the Double Dragon video games who gets sucker-punched and carried off in the original arcade game, became a policewoman in the comic and animated adaptation of the series and a female gang leader (who just happens to be the daughter of a policeman) in the movie. The Neo Geo fighting game version influenced by the film followed suit and made her into one of the playable fighters in the game who can stand on her own against the likes of Abobo, Burnov and even the Lee Brothers themselves.
- The creator of the Magical Girl genre in its initial form took inspiration from Bewitched, and the result was Slice of Life with a dose of magic (and the need to not let people know the magic hijinks are indeed magic). Pretty much the entire genre got Xenafied by Sailor Moon and the Magical Girl Warrior subgenre it inspired, which today is what most people think of when they hear the phrase "Magical Girl". Later series such as Pretty Cure and Lyrical Nanoha pumped up the action elements even further.
- In Norse Mythology, Sif is Thor's quiet wife, known mainly for her beauty. In The Mighty Thor and the two film adaptations, she's a tough Lady of War and even said to be a War Goddess. She's even referred to by the SHIELD agent who sees the companions walking into town as "Xena".
- When Lewis Carroll's heroine from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is portrayed as a teenager or adult in a work of modern fiction, she is bound to be both this and Hotter and Sexier.
- In recent years, more Action Girl-style portrayals of Snow White have come to the fore. Sword and Sorceress XXVII's introduction contrasted Snow White's portrayal in the Grimm and Disney versions with that of modern versions like Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror, Mirror, and Once Upon a Time. Anthology editor Elizabeth Waters says:
I suspect that most modern viewers find it easier to identify with a Snow White who fights back. Spending years asleep in a glass coffin waiting to be awakend by "True Love's Kiss" is hopefully not something that girls today aspire to. We can fight for what we want, and we have a good chance of getting it.
Anime and Manga
- Wonder Woman underwent this Post-Crisis; while she was already a superhero, the 80's version of the character played up her Amazon Warrior roots and even has her killing some of her foes. The 2011 Post-Flashpoint reboot takes this up a notch by ratcheting up the Amazon warrior aspect even further.
- Occurred with Lois Lane's Post-Crisis reboot, though in truth it was actually a return to her Golden Age roots (in the pre-Silver Age comics, Lois was indeed quite the badass). Whereas her dominant characterization in the Silver Age had derailed her into a typical shrieking helpless damsel and in the Bronze Age it was attempted to make her Take a Level in Badass, her revamped continuity fully restored her original badassery and gave her an army brat past to provide an origin for it, and made her highly adept at hand-to-hand combat as well as a wide range of weapons and vehicles. The very first post-crisis miniseries in which she appeared had her beating up and commandeering the machine guns of a gang of terrorists holding her and a group of socialites hostage on a yacht, while Superman lets her take care of things as he obligatorily carries the yacht to safety. Needless to say, this pretty much makes him fall for her even harder than he had already.
- In the Fantastic Four, Susan Storm was originally The Chick of the team with a near useless power of invisibility. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby took partial steps to fix that early on giving her force field projecting powers. However, it was John Byrne who really powered her up by having her nifty new ways of using her powers and learning to get aggressive enough to really use them well. Today, she is now considered one of the most powerful superheroes of the Marvel Universe and even the character of Doctor Doom underestimates her at his peril.
- In some alternate timelines, Spider-Man's Mary Jane Watson has had spider abilities and used them as a superhero.
- Shadow Lass from Legion of Super-Heroes. Compare the fight with the Persuader. Some decades ago: Hides behind her shadows and cries for Mon-El to help. After-reboot: Blinds him and mops up the floor with him. (The generic setup is so similar that it well might have been an intentional lampshading.)
- Super Mario Adventures: Princess Peach, ordinarily the Designated Victim of Super Mario Bros., is an asskicker on par with (if not greater than) Mario himself. She's just about unstoppable until Bowser resorts to hypnosis.
- Rapunzel's Revenge has Rapunzel lassoing villains with her hair and generally kicking ass.
- While still starting the story as a Distressed Damsel, Zelda in the Nintendo Power The Legend of Zelda comics ends the story by capping Ganon with a Silver Arrow. Overlaps with Adaptational Badass.
- Taken to hilarious extremes in Comics Nix's Bella Swan: Pregnant and Furious, which basically treats Twilight like Thirty Hs treats Harry Potter. Probably justified, since she made a Deal with the Devil.
- Hinata in A Growing Affection. In the first book, she and Naruto become training partners, and Tsunade decides to put them as a pair through Training from Hell. By the middle of book 3, Kakashi acknowledges she is one of the ten strongest Leaf ninjas. She kills Madara towards the end of the last book. With a little help from Sakura.
- Aurora from Maleficent is often given this treatment in fanfics, though arguably she had it in her in the original - it's just that there isn't much ass-kicking to be done when you live in a peaceful forest. In Seldom All They Seem by Bemusedlybespectacled, for example, Aurora is a thief, who can kick some ass if needed.
- If a TRON: Legacy fic doesn't kill off Yori, chances are, they'll end up doing this. Justified as Clu's rule is even nastier than Master Control, that she already fought against Master Control as a pilot and saboteur, and that someone has to be kicking ass and taking names for the Users with her bondmate out of the picture.
- Parodied in Angry Marines Ruby Quest. Whereas in the original, Ruby is more of an Action Survivor who is described as having a "girlish figure" and requires the help of Tom to do most of the heavy lifting, here she's a Crazy Awesome Religious Bruiser with Unstoppable Rage who saves Tom by punching a hole through the ceiling of his cell and escapes the facility by swimming to the surface and then proceeds to flee with Tom to the moon. When questioned on how did she manage all her obviously impossible feats, all the Angry Marine bothers to explain is that she's "guided by the Emperor! All things are possible by him!"
Films — Animation
- Disney's Cinderella III: A Twist in Time features the classic Disney Princess escaping from a demon pumpkin carriage onto horseback in a tattered wedding dress with her disheveled hair blowing in the wind.
- Disney turned The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Esmeralda into a street-smart Combat Pragmatist Action Girl who fights with Frollo's mooks on a regular basis. It's downplayed overall as they also made her smarter than the original character, and that the character trait that stands out most about Esmeralda in the adaptation is her moral courage rather than being an Action Girl.
- The Little Mermaid does this with the mermaid from the original story. Her rescuing her prince from a shipwreck becomes a full action scene, and she later saves his life again from the sea witch. It's downplayed in the first film but in her prequel TV series and sequel movie she is a definite Action Girl.
- Tangled makes Rapunzel a more pro-active character, who knocks out the male lead with a frying pan as soon as he sneaks into her tower. She also uses her hair itself as a weapon numerous times. Like Esmerelda, this is downplayed - as Rapunzel's strength lies in her kindness and compassion for others.
Films — Live Action
- Evelyn Carnahan in The Mummy Trilogy. In the first film, she is able to hold off most of her attackers (not so much a fully rejuvenated mummy, however), but not necessarily fight back. By the second film, she knows how to use Katanas and Sais, and aim guns with deadly accuracy thanks to living with an ex-legionaire for ten years and starting to remember her previous life as an Egyptian Princess
- In an attempt to make her an actual character (and cut down on the Loads and Loads of Characters), Arwen from The Lord of the Rings was given a big chase scene on horseback that Glorfindel did in the book. She was originally intended to fight at Helm's Deep as well, in order to allow her and Aragorn to actually interact, but it was cut in favor of sticking closer to the books. By that point, however, fans had already dubbed her Xenarwen. Liv Tyler even comments on this in the extended version's behind the scenes, saying she had done months of swordplay training to prepare for Helm's Deep, before the fans caught wind and dubbed her "Liv Tyler, Warrior Princess", and the idea was scrapped.
- Hermione Granger didn't properly become an Action Girl until the fifth Harry Potter book and even then she was still inexperienced. In the films she gets Xenafied two stories earlier by riding around on the Whomping Willow (and somehow being able to use its momentum to throw Harry through the hole), being able to throw a pumpkin seed several feet through a kitchen window to break a sugar bowl, blast a cage door open and perfectly imitate a werewolf's call to save everyone. In the books the most she did was kick Sirius in the head to get him off Harry (oddly enough the film left that out). Also her Armour-Piercing Slap to Malfoy was changed to a punch.
- Daphne in the Scooby-Doo movie banks on Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy the Vampire Slayer fighting moves to make her tougher. The trope is lampshaded when the gang meets up after a long time apart and she reveals that she studied martial arts because she's so sick of always being the Damsel in Distress.
- Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia series of movies. This is to remedy some Values Dissonance in the original book where Father Christmas says "battles are ugly when women fight". Susan doesn't fight in battle in the first movie - but she is shown to be an excellent archer and kills Jadis's dwarf at the end. By the sequel she's essentially a brunette Legolas and gets to fight and take part in battles. Lucy avoids battle completely in the first film, attempts to fight Nikkabrik in the second (as well as drawing a dagger when being faced by an army of Telmarines) and properly becomes an Action Girl in the third. This is presumably due to the character being a teenager now.
- Keira Knightley plays a scantily clad, sharp-shooting Guinevere in King Arthur. In the older pagan celtic versions of the tale Guenwifhar (Guinevere's original name) was a total badass.
- In The Terminator, Sarah Connor is just an ordinary waitress who just happens to be the mother of the future savior of the world. By the time of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she'd learned how to kick ass. Unusually for this trope, this is both explained and deconstructed, as her knowledge of the future apocalypse seems to have driven her over the edge and she has become almost like a human terminator as a result. This even gets some foreshadowing at the end of the first film, as, after the terminator is defeated, she drives down to Mexico to hook up with a gun runner. By Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, she's up to Jack Bauer's badass tier.
- Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean was never actually weak or passive in the first movie, and even fought alongside Will in the final battle. However, in the sequels she ditched the dress, grabbed a sword, and Took a Level in Badass. It was partially explained for the second movie, with her telling Jack that Will taught her how to sword fight.
- Alice in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) to a smaller extent. She becomes The Chosen One who is destined to slay the Jabberwocky with the Vorpal Sword. She dons armour in the final scene but doesn't do too much fighting (she is still a Proper Lady from Victorian society after all). But she still defeats the beast.
- While Irene Adler has gotten an expanded role in Sherlock Holmes adaptations for a long while, in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, she becomes a definite Action Girl, which is showcased in a Mugging the Monster scene. This probably has to do with the fact that the film also emphasizes Holmes and Watson's (canonical) fighting prowess. In the sequel, Mary seems like she's getting this treatment as well - as she threatens an assailant with a gun. But she's not in the thick of battle for the rest of the movie (though she does prove integral in the climax).
- The Three Musketeers (2011) makes Milady a Dark Action Girl who can take down a half-dozen men while wearing a Pimped-Out Dress. In the original book, she had all her fighting done for her by minions.
- In-universe example in the live action Peter Pan film. Wendy's version of Cinderella swashbuckles with pirates trying to steal her glass slippers and gutting any pirate who dares to call her "girly".
- Snow White and the Huntsman has Snow White donning knight's armor and leading a rebellion against the Evil Queen. In this version of the story, she hasn't just been forced to scrub floors, she's been locked in a tower for eight years. Like Esmerelda above, this is downplayed. In this case, Snow White's strength as a character comes from her kindness and courage and is about her journey to become The High Queen. The only fight scene she has is with Ravenna. The Evil Queen now becomes a Big Bad who uses her powers to conquer entire kingdoms, technically making her an example of the trope too.
- Also occurs in 2012's other Snow White adaptation, Mirror, Mirror, with the seven dwarves training Snow White to be a Combat Pragmatist Action Girl.
- Dracula's brides in Van Helsing. In addition to getting names and characterisation, they also get plenty of fight scenes and are a lot more competent than the supposed heroine. They're also given the handy little power of turning into harpy-like creatures whenever they feel like it.
- This is the whole point of The Princess Series by Jim C. Hines. Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty — all Distressed Damsels in the original tales — form a Charlie's Angels-esque Action Girl Power Trio who kick ass throughout the fairytale world. Other alumnae include The Little Mermaid — who is the homicidally insane warlord and ruler of the merfolk — and Little Red Riding Hood, who is a psychotic serial-killer/professional assassin.
- Nancy Drew is another example like Lois Lane of this going in the opposite direction then swinging back with a vengeance. In the original stories of the 1930s, she was definitely more headstrong than a typical teenage girl of the time period, but her greatest strength was being stubborn and clever instead of being strong. After a near Orwellian Retcon of the stories in the 1950s, she became quite a bit more ladylike, with a lot more "smiling sweetly" and "asking nicely." However, after the Feminist Movement rolled around and the stories changed publishers in the 1970s, Nancy became a full fledged Action Girl. The Spin-Off series "The Nancy Drew Files" gave Nancy martial arts training and made the already-tomboyish George an accomplished athlete. The most recent series "Nancy Drew: Girl Detective" is a more partial example: They're not quite to the level they were in the "Files," but they have gotten a bit more clever, George is still athletic, but also a computer whiz, and the normally timid Bess is now a full-fledge Wrench Wench.
- The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel features plenty of mythological and historical Action Girls such as Scathach the Shadow and Joan of Arc, but it applies this trope to several others. Perenelle Flamel becomes one of the most powerful sorceresses known to mankind, and Virginia Dare gets similar treatment.
Live Action TV
- In Happy Endings this happens mildly to Jane during Krav Maga and then much more dramatically to Penny after Jazz Kwon-Do. Jane is already kind of a violent, action ready person, but Penny is a very girly, Large Ham type of woman.
- In Lost In Oz, Princess Ozma is mentioned as having been trained from birth to fight the Wicked Witch, and is apparently in her 20s. It's actually a subversion, as by the time the heroes rescue her she's lost all fighting capabilities and has been enchanted to be an eight-year-old.
- Averted with Guinevere from Merlin. It would have been easy for the writers to simply give her a sword and have her display unlikely physical prowess in battle ...but she never does. Instead her worth is founded on her kindness and intelligence, and she's managed to get herself out of several dangerous situations by using her wits or stalling for time until she's either rescued by other parties, or manages to escape by herself. On the odd occasion when she does wield weapons in self-defense, she's portrayed as a competent but hardly skilled fighter.
- As mentioned above, Maid Marian from the BBC's Robin Hood had a secret identity as the Night Watchman, a masked and hooded vigilante who was giving alms to the poor long before Robin came up with the idea. Despite Marian having a reputation as an Action Girl in the original ballads, the Night Watchman was clearly an attempt on the writers' behalf to have a "strong, modern take" on Marian, an idea that (in the context of the show) was somewhat unnecessary for several reasons: a) Marian already had a vitally important role as the spy and informant within Castle Nottingham, b) the concept was stuffed full of Fridge Logic (why didn't anyone notice that the NWM had breasts? Why did Marian need the guise in the first place considering taking food/money to the poor was hardly illegal? Where did she get her combat skills in the first place?note ), and c) despite being presented as a skilled fighter, the writers often had her thrown into the role of Damsel in Distress anyway (and most of her best badass moments were done without the disguise). For the most part, the writers get away with it considering their Marian was a three-dimensional character in her own right, and the idea fitted in well with Marian's rebellious attitude, but often the Night Watchman just felt like an excuse to have their lead female do an occasional back-flip or karate chop.
- Once Upon a Time
- Snow White in particular is an extraordinary Action Girl more than willing to fight anyone who tries to keep her away from Prince Charming (at one point planning to snipe the Evil Queen with a magic bow and Instant Death Arrow). In this case it's fully justified as, after the Huntsman spares her, she becomes a forest bandit to survive.
- Season 5B reveals that she got her start as a teenager, with help from Hercules.
- Little Red Riding Hood also kicks copious amounts of ass, though in her case, it's because she is the Wolf in this adaptation—the trademark red cloak is an enchanted item that keeps her from transforming, and once she finds out the truth, she uses her wolf form to help her friends—after making sure they get far away from her first.
- Ditto for Red's grandmother. Far from being eaten by a wolf, this one stands guard all night with a crossbow and is able to shoot a gun out of someone's hand when her granddaughter is threatened. Never Mess with Granny indeed.
- A smaller case with Princess Anna from Frozen. It's established that she knows how to swordfight, a skill she didn't display in the film (not that she was ever in a situation where she would need to demonstrate it). She and Kristoff become a Battle Couple once or twice, and she was the one who trained Charming. She explains that she learned from her soldiers after the film.
- Implied with Maid Marian, as she's shown drawing a weapon to help fight a snow monster. However the monster is quickly destroyed by Regina's magic - and Marian is not in any other battle scenes.
- The Spin-Off series does the same with Alice in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, wherein our female protagonist is able to take out a number of asylum orderlies all by herself. The second episode shows her being taught by her love interest in a flashback.
- Snow White in particular is an extraordinary Action Girl more than willing to fight anyone who tries to keep her away from Prince Charming (at one point planning to snipe the Evil Queen with a magic bow and Instant Death Arrow). In this case it's fully justified as, after the Huntsman spares her, she becomes a forest bandit to survive.
- Lucy Lane in the comics is best known as Jimmy Olsen's stewardess love interest (though she did become Superwoman for a while). In Supergirl she's a Military Brat who has become a major by the time she debuts in the show. She even assumes control of the DEO at the end of Season 1.
- Carol from The Walking Dead was an anti-social Shrinking Violet who was too afraid to fight zombies and other enemies, but from Season 3 onward she becomes a Badass Grandma One Woman Army who slaughters hordes of walkers and Ax-Crazy humans alike and is willing to make the harder choices that others are too afraid to consider. Taken Up to Eleven when she completely lays waste to a cannibal base holding her friends hostage, annihilating an entire armed group of sociopaths.
- Noticing that most wrestling promotions of the USA were only giving women five minutes to wrestle, Penny Banner and Tom Randolph opened PGWA in 1992 where women would be able to wrestle for fifteen to thirty minutes. A match with Lexie Fyfe under the banner is credited with getting Angelica, who was primarily known for managing otherwise, a wrestling role in the WWF.
- Jacqueline was originally brought into WWF to feud with Sable and due to the latter's contract saying she couldn't take bumps, she came off looking rather weak. About a year passed and Jackie was able to show off her true ring skills, often getting in matches with men and even briefly winning the male Cruiserweight title.
- The WWE "Divas" as a whole got a big boost from 2001-2004 when David "Fit" Finlay came on board and was placed in charge of the division. More time and effort went into matches, storylines and pushing women who could actually wrestle. The Divas got to wrestle in rougher matches as well such as hardcore matches, tables matches and even a steel cage match. After Finlay went back to being an active wrestler, they quickly went back to the bikini models, short and tedious matches, and girl drama formula once again.
- Trish Stratus is the wrestling queen of this trope. She came into WWE as a manager with an athletic build, but little actual fighting ability of her own, was shown as a submissive type for most of her early tenure, and then stepped up her in-ring work in a BIG way. She's now remembered as fondly for her impressive matches as for her impressive looks, and is one of only five women in the WWE Hall of Fame (alongside her contemporary Lita, Sensational Sherri, Wendi Richter, and Tammy Lynn "Sunny" Sytch, who is the only one who WWE never used in a wrestling capacity, as she was a manager/interviewer/commentator).
- Dutch Mantel was to TNA's knockouts what Fit Finlay was to WWE's divas, taking them from valets who occasionally fought to giving them their own division where they sometimes wrestled in Impact's main event. Likewise, the division got a lot less time and importance once he was no longer a factor.
- The Dynasty Warriors series does this for Zhenji, Yueying, the Qiao sisters and Diaochan. Sun Shangxiang is a borderline example as she was known as something of an Action Girl by the standards of her time.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Amy Rose was kidnapped in her first video game appearance in Sonic CD. She was given a Piko Piko Hammer in Sonic the Fighters then Sonic Adventure and was more than capable of taking care of herself. Prior to that, she had a mild form of this. Her Informed Ability of being a spunky tomboy who could fend for herself started coming into light with the Spin-Off games. Though she's gotten less tomboyish over the years, this trait being passed to newer female characters like Blaze and Sticks.
- Kairi in the first Kingdom Hearts game spent 80% of the story inside of Sora's heart, with her body an empty shell. In the second game she acquires a Keyblade and is able to kick plenty of ass to save Sora and the others. Dream Drop Distance's secret ending reveals Kairi is going to receive formal keyblade training to be able to hold her own alongside her friends.
- The manga adaptation took it further: Kairi saves Sora from Xigbar!
- While Ariel in The Little Mermaid franchise qualified as an Action Girl, she was made into a guest party member in Kingdom Hearts and kicked more ass than she did in the movie or TV series (though neither of them had Heartless so who's to say she wasn't already like that?).
- Way before Kingdom Hearts, the The Little Mermaid for the NES cemented her status as this.
- Yuna in Final Fantasy X-2. She goes from being a White Mage / Songstress / Summoner (All the stock 'female' jobs in that franchise) to being gun slinging Action Girl who thanks to the metagame Dressphere system, can be any of several 'boyish' jobs such as Warrior, Dark Knight and Berserker.
- Fitting with the Alice in Wonderland example in Film, Alice takes several levels in badass in American McGee's Alice. Justified as it's a Battle in the Center of the Mind.
- The Legend of Zelda
- The titular Princess Zelda has progressively become more active in the games as the series went on. Originally just a classic Distressed Damsel, in Ocarina of Time she gained the badass alter-ego Sheik, who admittedly didn't do much against the actual Big Bad. But in the later games, starting with Wind Waker, it became her schtick to fire Light Arrows at Ganon during the final battle, and in Spirit Tracks she even helps Link push his sword into Malladus' head. Skyward Sword has her spending most of the game entombed in crystal and serving as a Distressed Damsel again at the very end, but the first part has her getting all the way through one and a half major areas by herself before getting caught and needing Impa's help for bodyguard services, not to mention her backstory.
- Hyrule Warriors pulls this off with a lot of characters. Zelda goes to battle in full battle gear, Sheik becomes a Musical Assassin, and the likes of Ruto and Fi along others become Promoted to Playable. Since this is a Dynasty Warriors spinoff, each of them deal with Mooks by the thousands.
- Impa undergoes a similar development to Zelda; in her initial appearance she's an elderly servant, but later games turn her into an Amazon Warrior who acts as Zelda's bodyguard. Since Ocarina of Time, her role varies from game to game between the two archetypes, but Skyward Sword includes both of them thanks to Time Travel shenanigans.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Princess Peach goes through this a lot. Sure, she's on the recieving end of a kidnapping a lot in the main series, save for those times when she's playable like Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario 3D World. In spin-offs, however, she shows herself as a very strong and capable fighter. The Paper Mario series tends to make her a helpful character even when captive, causing trouble for Mario's enemies and helping from afar, and she's outright playable in Super Paper Mario. And in Super Smash Bros. she is a very powerful fighter for her weight class and odd fighting style.
- Princess Daisy. When she was first introduced in Super Mario Land, she was actually portrayed as a Damsel in Distress where she is kidnapped by the evil alien Tatanga, and Mario had to defeat the alien to save her. Now, she's a Tomboy Princess who appears in various spinoff games alongside Peach and prefers competing in sporting events more.
- WWF No Mercy decided to make the female wrestlersnote playable competitively at the expense of realism and moveset accuracy. Trish Stratus, for example, used the koppu kick, rolling senton and choke w/bodyscissor in this game, even though at the time the game came out she was still in her "so bad she can botch a catfight" stage. They were also given enough stats to be competitively played rather than minimal stats like female wrestlers usually are in WWF/E games. Lita in particular was given a High Flying stat of 4, which made her not just competitive but fairly dangerous.
- Rinoa of Final Fantasy VIII is pretty prone to getting kidnapped for about 75% of the game. Then she's suddenly placed into a coma and when she comes out of it she has sorceress powers giving her a Game Breaker Limit Break where her Magic stat is raised to 255 and she can cast spells without depleting her stock.
- Chun Li in Street Fighter II was only fighting to avenge her father's death. If she wins the tournament she spends the rest of her life as "an ordinary girl." Subsequent rereleases show that she got tired of that VERY quickly and became a police officer. Then Street Fighter Alpha retconned it further, showing she was a member of Interpol long before the Street Fighter 2 tournament. At some point she does retire, only to come out to rescue the children she adopted before Street Fighter III.
- The Walking Dead: Clementine was just an innocent little girl who liked to play and have fun, but as soon as the zombie apocalypse comes down on her and the death of her best friend/surrogate parent Lee she graduates to a full on Action Girl defending herself and outsmarting people bigger than her.
- Jennifer Parker got hit with this trope very hard in Back to the Future: The Game. In the film trilogy, Jennifer was a useless, emotional Satellite Love Interest to Marty, but in an alternate timeline in the game she becomes a rebellious bad girl stirring up trouble for the Citizen Brown Regime and actively assists Marty in taking it down.
- Most of the portrayals of the mythological Amaterasu in media give her magical properties, including her three Sacred Regalia - Mirror of Yata, Yasakani Jewel and the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (she's mainly using a sword for magic, not direct slicing) - and wearing Shinto robes. She ran and hid in a cave after her brother Susano'o vandalized her belongings, and then ran from her other brother Tsukuyomi when he murdered a servant in front of her. However, when she appears in Smite, she flips those usual portrayals around: she's a warrior goddess decked in Samurai armor and her play style - including debuffing and using her Mirror of Yata to actually harm her enemies - involves hacking and slashing her enemies with Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, which can create a Sword Beam that also debuffs enemy hits. Basically, she becomes a Frontline General that leads her team by literally fighting the best she can in front.
- In The Legend of Zelda cartoon, Zelda got xenafied. She could use all of Link's weapons except his sword, and favored, of course, the bow and arrow. Her fighting ability seemed to swing wildly from episode to episode, from only nominally competent to almost as good as Link himself. In fact, there's several episodes where Link's Chronic Hero Syndrome and general stupidity gets him into trouble, and Zelda needs to rescue him.
- In Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword, 'Danger Prone' Daphne Blake is suddenly revealed to be a kick-ass martial artist good enough to be invited in a competition for the best in the world.
- The Cutie Zoey from Total Drama starts as a Damsel in Distress, but goes into Heroic Safe Mode in "Eat, Puke, and Be Wary", turning into a Cute and Psycho Action Girl in the process. The Power of Friendship later gets rid of the psycho part, but keeps the Action Girl part.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Applejack got this treatment versus her prior appearances in the older shows. In the original, they defeated enemies with song and dance. In Season 4, she has a one-on-one duel with a Chimera. Just look at her whole character compared to G1. In the original cartoon, her main contribution to the one episode she's in is to fall off of a rickety old bridge and need to be rescued. The UK comics make her a Cute Clumsy Girl bordering on Walking Disaster Area ("Who's a silly pony?") with an insatiable hunger for apples that's usually played for comedy, or paints her as a child who won't stay out of the cookie jar. Mind you, she does have "Applejack's Amazing Adventure" where she singlehandedly (singlehoofedly?) rescues the Twinkle-Eyed Ponies and straight-up kills the Big Bad of the story, so there's more to her than meets the eye, but that's an exception to the rule; the Joke Character got A Day in the Limelight and pulled a Let's Get Dangerous! moment once and only once. FIM AJ is a hardworking farm pony, very reliable, and very strong. The only time we get "silly pony" antics is in "Applebuck Season", when she'd been going for days without rest and her pride wouldn't let her accept help.
- From the same franchise, Rainbow Dash is this, BIG TIME. In her previous incarnation, she was a fashionistanote who lives in a cutesy world without any real danger. Friendship is Magic's Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, is the fastest flier in Equestria, kicked a dragon in the face, and is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Action Girl, and G-rated Ladette all in one, cute yet badass package. There's a reason why she's the partial Trope Namer for 20% More Awesome.
- Hilariously in The Simpsons, in "Desperately Xeeking Xena" Lucy Lawless herself gets this. She saves Bart and Lisa ,then beats up the Comic Book Guy, before flying the Simpson children to safety—and not in a plane.
Lisa: Xena can't fly!Lucy: I told you, I'm not Xena. I'm Lucy Lawless.
- In the original Thunderbirds Supermarionation series Tin-Tin Kryano is sometimes involved in missions and is an excellent pilot, but is mostly Jeff Tracy's secretary or Brains's lab assistant. In the CGI Thunderbirds Are Go, "Kayo" Kryano is Tracy Island's head of security, and has her own stealth Thunderbird vehicle.