I'm a cute black kitten with a nasty bite.
I'm an action double-feature on a Friday night!
An Action Girl is a female badass who is tough and kicks butt. Damsel in Distress? Not her. She's featured in far more than the Designated Girl Fight. Expect regular appearances in actions scenes, facing dangerous foes and deadly obstacles, and expect her to win.
For the longest time in many cultures, Double Standards in both fiction and real life meant that when it came to action and fighting, guys definitely outnumbered girls. Men Act, Women Are was the rule of thumb, which led to the Action Girl being a subversion of what was acceptable. As society has marched on, this view has faded in some media, leading to stories where Action Girls become the norm rather than the exception, such as stories set in a World of Badass, and especially a World of Action Girls. In real life, at least in western society, most people are okay with the idea of a woman defending herself (after all, it's not like she has any real choice). However, there is still somewhat of a stigma against the idea of a woman voluntarily putting herself in situations where she is likely to be fighting, such as the military or combat sports.
The broad Action Girl concept can take many forms. Faux Action Girl is a case of presenting a character as this, only for them not to live up to the standards of this trope. Dark Action Girl is the villainous variety, and Affirmative Action Girl is a cast addition intended to balance out gender ratios that typically also falls under this trope. Less action-y versions include You Go, Girl! and Plucky Girl.
This is somewhat of a Cyclic Trope, with Action Girls often having surges in popularity in the 1940s, 1970s, 1990s and 2010s, probably not coincidentally times when the women's movement increased in prominence.
See below for even more subtropes and other variants.
A Super Trope To:
- Action Fashionista: Action Girl version of The Fashionista
- Action Girlfriend: She either makes up the other half of a Battle Couple, or covers for her non-action boyfriend.
- Action Mom: An action girl (woman more likely) who has given birth and kicks ass.
- Amazon Brigade: A group of Action Girls who consistently work together with no male teammates.
- Badass Driver: When a woman is an astonishingly good driver.
- Biker Babe: Exactly What It Says on the Tin, an Action Girl who is also a Badass Biker.
- Black Magician Girl: She's spunky and focuses on offensive magic.
- Boobs of Steel: When her fighting ability is directly proportional to her bust size.
- Cute Bruiser: When female - she might look small, sweet, and mostly harmless, but she hits like a freight train.
- Dark Action Girl: An evil woman who kicks ass.
- Dragon Lady: She comes from Asia, and is often associated with The Triads and the Tongs or the Yakuza. Very likely to be a Dark Action Girl.
- Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: A young woman who engages in action by the use of her powers. These powers put her beyond normal humans, but only barely.
- Girly Bruiser: The Action Girl happens to be a Girly Girl. Can overlap with Action Fashionista above.
- Hates Wearing Dresses: Action girls often aren't fond of dresses.
- Jeanne d'Archetype: Action girls modelled on Jeanne d'Arc.
- Jungle Princess: Lives in the jungle, often protecting native tribes and animals.
- Kick Chick: Not only fights unarmed, but doesn't even favor her arms.
- Lady of Black Magic: A sorceress who's graceful in appearance with dignified manner and wields immense magical power.
- Lady of War: The Lady of Black Magic's sword/polearm/bow and arrow wielding counterpart.
- Little Miss Badass: Very young Action Girls who are notable for skills and abilities other than, or in addition to, physical strength.
- Little Red Fighting Hood: An Action Girl version of Little Red Riding Hood
- Lovely Angels: Two Action Girls who work together as a consistent team.
- Magical Girl Warrior: Where "Magical Girl" translates into "Kung-Fu Wizard or Magic Knight who wears Frills of Justice".
- Mama Bear: Don't mess with her or her kids, or she will kick your ass out.
- More Deadly Than the Male: If she wins fights by looking like the exact opposite of an Action Girl, and then being cunning and cutthroat.
- Never Mess with Granny: Sweet little senior citizen who can still kick your ass; may also be an Old Master.
- Ninja Maid: Her official job is as a household servant or employee: maid, butler, babysitter or nanny are the most common.
- Pirate Girl: She's a pirate.
- Pregnant Badass: If she's capable of fighting while pregnant. If she's extra ferocious because of said bun in the oven, this overlaps with Mama Bear, above.
- Pretty Princess Powerhouse: Looks like a delicate princess but can fight better than her guards.
- She-Fu: Action Girls tend to use lots of flips and cartwheels in fight scenes.
- Silk Hiding Steel: She's gentle and lady-like, but she'll cut you to ribbons if need be.
- Small Girl, Big Gun: Prefers a BFG.
- The Squadette: The only female in an otherwise all-male unit.
- Strong Girl, Smart Guy: When she's part of a Brains and Brawn duo with a guy.
- Undercover Model: She's a police detective going undercover in a beautiful-woman-related job to investigate a crime.
- Valkyries: Work for Odin as choosers of the slain. They have an awesome theme tune.
- Waif-Fu: For when a small woman has to fight a much larger man.
- Warrior Princess: She's royalty and she fights for her country.
Genres and worlds populated by Action Girls:
- Girls with Guns: An action genre focusing on badass girls with guns.
- World of Action Girls: For works dominated by this character type.
Examples of Action Girls who don't fit into any of the sub-tropes above:
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Films – Animation
- Films – Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Myths and Religion
- Pro Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Visual Novels
- Web Animation
- Web Comics
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Real Life