The Damsel in Distress is an age-old classic plot device, which places a character in danger to add tension to the story. Sometimes one character (usually a Love Interest or a relative of another character) seems to have no discernible purpose besides serving as the Designated Victim. If the character is popular with the audience, this can be effective. Other times, well... let's just say that the audience starts wishing that the Big Damn Heroes would get stuck in traffic, just so they won't have to put up with her anymore.
The Damsel Scrappy is a combination of the Damsel in Distress (or in some cases, the Distressed Dude) with The Scrappy. The result is a character that the fans dislike because she's perceived to be The Load or even The Millstone of the group, not pulling her weight compared to the importance the story gives her as a plot device. It's especially irritating if the character is said to be a competent and valuable member of the team. Most of the time, this character's plight is due entirely to her own stupidity. She doesn't just pick up the Distress Ball, she runs it into her own endzone and gets tackled for a safety. And she keeps on doing it, again and again and again. This may be due to being The Ditz, or a severe case of crippling Genre Blindness.
Even if she's just unlucky, she may be disliked for other reasons. Perhaps the audience finds her too bland, or too bitchy. Perhaps her presence seems shoehorned into the main plot (perhaps to attract a Periphery Demographic or for blatant Fanservice), and the audience feels she steals time from the story they're actually interested in. This is especially true when her subplot has nothing to do with the main plot at all. Or else she seems like useless dead weight whose only purpose is to pad the plot by getting in trouble. And worst of all, the fans may just dislike her for getting in the way of their Fan-Preferred Couple, and actually use this trope as an excuse to hate her without being called out for it.
Faux Action Girl is frequently what you get when you mix this with an Action Girl. Chickification is what happens if an actual Action Girl gets retooled or derailed into this. Child characters can fall prey to this just as easily, especially the Tagalong Kid or a hero's Oblivious Younger Sibling. Large risk of being Trapped by Mountain Lions.
See also Too Dumb to Live. Compare The Scrappy and The Load. Compare Defiant Captive and Damsel out of Distress. See also Reckless Sidekick, Sympathetic Sue. Deliberately Distressed Damsel can justify or subvert this trope.
- Meg from Burst Angel. Supposedly an Action Girl, but Jo must rescue her all the time.
- Bleach: Princess Rurichiyo. A bratty, spoiled rich kid who can't seem to stop getting kidnapped. After Ichigo and crew have the kidnapper cornered and it looks like the filler arc is over, a new villain is revealed and she's kidnapped again.
- Pan in Dragon Ball GT had this enforced upon her by the writers, who specifically claimed she'd been added to the show so that Goku could have someone to rescue. She continued to tag along with Goku long after there was any reason for her to do so, or when there were much stronger fighters who could have been following him. It was especially noticeable because Pan never achieved Super Saiyan, something her uncle was able to do as a five-year-old, which would have been a perfectly reasonable way to elevate her into a more competent fighter.
- Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi, despite being the series protagonist, has caught some fan hate for the numerous times she pointlessly rushes headfirst into dangerous situations, in some cases even actively sabotaging her protectors or not telling them important information, then getting in trouble and needing them to come save her anyway.
- One of the reasons why Akane Tendō from Ranma ˝ is considered by some to be a Base-Breaking Character is the fact that, sometimes, she comes off as one of these. It's not that she gets kidnapped a lot (in fact, Ranma Saotome himself is actually kidnapped more frequently than she is), but she does get into trouble frequently, often because of her own issues (temper issues, pride and blind distrust of Ranma/trust of her enemies, mainly), and usually ends up contributing nothing positive to the experience. The very earliest examples of this are the Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics and Martial Arts Figure Skating stories.
- Sailor Moon:
- Molly (Naru) in the DiC English dub. Her horrible accent, combined with how she gets attacked by the Monster of the Week in almost every episode of the first season, makes her much more annoying than her original character.
- Chibi-Usa/Rini, too. Over half of the Monster of the Week plots in the second season are kicked off by her running off and getting herself into trouble. You'd think the girl would catch on after it happens so many times, but nope. The villains of that season have the easiest job in the world - they don't have to try and find her at all, they just need to wait for her to run off and inevitably reveal herself, which happens every time. Again, the DiC dub makes her even less tolerable with a grating voice and editing out scenes the moral guardians would object to, usually of Usagi punishing Chibi-Usa. Rini came off as an utter Karma Houdini sometimes.
- Saori Kido from Saint Seiya, who has to be saved by the main characters about five times in the original manga, four other times in the movies, twice in the spin-off anime, and once in the manga sequel, much to fans' dislike.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Also invoked in the early manga somewhat with Anzu. She is first held hostage by a restaurant owner and then nearly assaulted by a classmate. Yami Yugi rescues her both times and she promptly develops a crush on him. Then she herself invokes the trope, trying to put herself in danger in one chapter to make him appear. She isn't usually held hostage any more than anyone else in Yugi's immediate circle of friends, though, and given that she gives friendship speeches much less than she does in the anime, the extent of her scrappy-ness is debatable.
- Empowered has a very sturdy reputation as this in-universe, as a "D-list superchica prone to capture and bondage", despite the fact that when the villains she faces upgrade from obnoxious, but not very harmful pervs to actively threatening the safety of her friends and/or the world, she is one of the most effective and powerful heroes (and a good battlefield leader even), especially in the later stories. She becomes increasingly effective against the pervs too. It's finally revealed that she let the harmless pervs tie her up because they had a tendency to forget she was there and start gossiping about more powerful villains' secrets. It later turns out to be an Enforced Trope in that she was cursed by Sistah Spooky so that villains feel compelled to try and take her hostage — and what's worse, the caster actually felt remorse for the curse and tried undoing it to no avail.
- Franco-Belgian comic book Kid Paddle and its spin-off Game Over give us the Princess, a video-game Damsel in Distress who always has to be rescued by her Pint-Sized Powerhouse barbarian boyfriend. The Princess is so stupid and lacking in common sense that most of the time, she ends up getting herself and/or the Little Barbarian killed, generally in a particularly stupid way. Good thing Negative Continuity is in full effect, as they are video-game characters...
- This is the characteristic once strongly associated with Lois Lane. In 1940s-era issues, she needs to be rescued a lot (usually while pursuing a news story), but is fairly intelligent and can sometimes get herself out of scrapes by kicking ass and taking names. In the '50s issues, though, she is constantly putting herself in danger for no reason, and her main goal in life in her own book Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane is to trick Superman into marrying her. In the early '70s issues, she becomes a much more well-rounded and developed character, who just needs a little help against superpowered aggressors from time to time, and she is written to be more assertive in her Superman Family's solo stories. This includes Lois mastering a Kryptonian form of martial arts named "Klurkor."
- Being associated with this trope is probably what spurred John Byrne, in his Post-Crisis retelling of Superman's origin, to make it very, very obvious that Lois was now a borderline Action Girl. This eventually led to an Inversion immediately after her wedding to Clark when he is kidnapped after temporarily losing his powers. Lois takes her Army brat background to extremes, becoming a G.I. Jane in order to come to the rescue.
- It's played for laughs in Supergirl (2005) #60, which shows there are quite a few guys like this in Metropolis; they will literally jump off of buildings so Supergirl has to catch and rescue them (and they often ask for her phone number afterward).
- The Incredible Hulk: Rick Jones was this from his first appearance, in which he stupidly drove out into an active military testing site, causing Bruce Banner being subjected to Gamma radiation while saving him, turning him into the Hulk. This tendency tends to annoy the Hulk, especially during his grey, intelligent phases, and is lampshaded by Rick himself in one issue where he manages to beat his captor and escape on his own.
- The Ultimate Spider-Man version of Mary Jane Watson fits this so well that even Spidey notices in-universe, breaking up with her because he can't trust her to handle herself intelligently when a supervillain is wrecking up the place. Unusually, she takes this as a spur for Character Development and resolves to do better in the future.
- Krysta from My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic rarely does anything aside from being kidnapped and having someone rescue her.
- The eponymous Ariana from the The Ariana Black Series, who continuously stumbles into extremely obvious traps and then the canon characters have to rush in to save her. Ariana is never called out on her idiocy, despite her kidnappings taking place at least once a year at minimum and her supposedly having a power that is coveted by Voldemort.
- In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, the Guild of Trespassers of Ankh-Morpork considers this is a legitimate job role, and when sending an expedition into, for instance, Darkest Howondaland, it actively recruits for the position of Girl Who Frequently Gets Into Dangerous Situations Where She Screams, Flounders Ineffectually, And Requires Rescue.
- What happened to Vicki Vale in Tim Burton's Batman (1989). Originally it was going to be quite different, but after the first actress cast as Vicki (Sean Young) fell off a horse and broke her arm in a scene that was cut from the film, it was decided that the replacement (Kim Basinger) shouldn't be put at such risks.
- The real Blanche Barrow felt this way about how she was portrayed in Bonnie and Clyde, declaring that the film "made me look like a screaming horse's ass!"
- Nicole from the Dawn of the Dead (2004) draws a lot of ire for a scene in which she ends up in trouble because she drives a truck into a store full of zombies to rescue a dog when it's already been established that the zombies have no interest in animals. The protagonists then decide to rescue her, which results in more survivors being killed, and them having to flee the mall - although in Nicole's defence, the shop she was hiding in was a gun shop and they go there to stock up as well and were intending to leave the mall anyway (and had already fortified some abandoned buses that they immediately go to). While she doesn't prove herself useless, and apparently survives the end, she doesn't necessarily redeem herself either.
- Lori from Freddy vs. Jason. The one character that could have died in the first five minutes ends up surviving the whole movie.
- I Know What You Did Last Summer is an odd example where the Damsel Scrappy - in this case Julie - starts out as a proactive character who drives the plot and is able to take care of herself. But once she's trapped on a boat with the killer in the third act, she does nothing but scream and be useless while having to be rescued by Ray twice. At one point she just calls out his name, which distracts him and allows the killer to knock him overboard. It's especially egregious when she's put in comparison to Helen, who's presented as the weaker, daintier Girly Girl, who ends up putting up a good fight against the killer, and Helen dies while Julie survives.
- Parker from Frozen (2010). Audiences blamed her for getting herself, her boyfriend, and his best friend all stuck on a ski lift during a snowstorm. She survives the ordeal and has the massive luck of finding a road where she can be rescued.
- Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Some fans view her as the Ur-Example of this trope; the character and Ms. Capshaw's portrayal embody all of the negative aspects mentioned in the trope description above — except, to be fair, there is no evidence that her director intended her to attract a Periphery Demographic or for Fanservice. She's an especially jarring example in comparison to Marion Ravenwood of the previous movie.
- Even Bond girls from the James Bond movies are not immune, despite trying to help more than once.
- Stacy Sutton... seriously, woman, Christopher Walken is able to sneak up on you in a zeppelin. And the screeching...
- Mary Goodnight from The Man with the Golden Gun is supposedly an intrepid agent sent along to aid Bond. All she manages to do is get caught by Scaramanga in a particularly stupid way, with the MacGuffin in her possession, and then lie around on a beach wearing a bikini.
- There's also Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever, who at one point falls off the edge of an oil rig after trying to use a submachine gun and failing epically. From the way she held the gun, one would assume she had no prior firearms training, so she didn't know what kickback was.
- Spider-Man Trilogy:
- Mary Jane Watson. Three movies. Three times kidnapped to be used as bait to lure Spidey out. It's particularly egregious in the first movie; Spidey rescues her three times in it alone.
- Lampshaded in the third movie novelization by Mary Jane who asks if she has bait stamped across her forehead when she's locked in Venom's falling car.
- In the sequels, she makes a couple of attempts to become a Heroic Bystander. She drops a block of cement on Venom's head as he fights with Spider-Man in the third film and tries to attack Doc Ock from behind in the second film — but Aunt May had already successfully done the same thing earlier on, and Doc Ock doesn't repeat his mistakes.
- Interestingly enough, Gwen Stacy was originally going to be the one abducted for the final battle in the third film, not Mary Jane, and Mary Jane would have been the one who helped Harry come to his senses. A line from this was included in the trailer: "We've all done terrible things to each other, but we have to learn to forgive each other or else everything we ever were will have meant nothing."
- If you listen to the DVD commentary, you can hear the irritation in Sam Raimi's voice while he recalls having to A) put MJ back in the damsel role because of time constraints and B) having to apologize profusely to Kirsten Dunst after he promised her before the filming of the movie that she wouldn't be doing that again. To make up for it, he gave her more action to do in the scene and used recycled audio of her past screaming rather than make her scream again.
- Michael Roarke's teenage daughter Kelly in Volcano, who has a snarky attitude and hates that her dad hired a babysitter to watch out for her because she assures him that she can take care of herself, but otherwise spends the rest of the movie as The Load, due to her habit of freezing like a deer in headlights whenever danger arises. (One egregious scene has her wander out of the car despite her father's orders, indirectly getting two firefighters, including one Michael was trying to save, killed.) She's nearly consumed by a slow-moving river of lava, stands stiff while her leg is on fire, and wanders right into the path of a falling building because she's incapable of doing anything but waiting for her dad to pull her out of the way.
- Depending on how you feel about her, Dakota Fanning's character in the 2005 remake of The War of the Worlds is this. Due to being a young child, she's ill-equipped to fight the aliens or be useful in any way while her father and brother have to protect her. She tends to be a polarizing character, with some viewers finding her useless and others sympathising with her apparent anxiety disorder and claustrophobia.
- Carly from Wrong Turn. She spends the entire movie screaming "I CAN'T!" at the top of her lungs and doing absolutely nothing useful.
- A good chunk of Catherine Anderson's heroines follow the same pattern: Get mad at the hero, run off in a hissy fit, get in trouble, scream for help, get rescued by the hero. The biggest examples are Baby Love, Cherish and Phantom Waltz.
- Nora Grey, the heroine of Hush, Hush. Over the course of three books, she repeatedly walks into dangerous situations without telling anyone else where she's going (so no hope of a rescue if a plan goes wrong), no weapons of any kind, and usually no actual planned course of action beyond "I'll break into that place and wing it". The author seemed to be trying to channel Nancy Drew, but failed to give Nora any competency. Really, Nora's stupidity can be summed up near the end of the first book when she willingly walks into an empty school and plays into the bad guy's hands, even though (A) she knows she's being lured into a trap, (B) her super-powered, invincible boyfriend is already rescuing the hostage being used as bait for Nora, and (C) the bad guy doesn't even know said boyfriend is on the case, meaning that if Nora had stayed put, the entire climax probably would never have happened. And then, when she's in the school, she gives up and says that she hopes her boyfriend will rescue her. Even though he has no idea she is inside because he told her to wait outside for him.
- Clary Fray from The Mortal Instruments mostly. Indeed, Simon would be leading a happily mundane life were it not for his determination to protect her, even though she just sees him as a friend. Jace could be argued as being a male version of this trope as well, since a great deal of effort on the part of Clary, Alec, Isabelle, Magnus, the Lightwoods, and others centers on saving him from some life-threatening situation that could have been avoided were it not for his nasty independent streak.
- The Twilight Saga: Bella Swan pretty much epitomizes this trope, even commenting in her own narrative that "I guess my brain will never work right. At least I'm pretty." Add in the fact that she can't seem to get out of any scrape without the intervention of a man, and you've got a textbook example of this trope. Alice Cullen sums it up: "I have never seen anyone more prone to life-threatening idiocy."
- The entire Tribe Of Rushing Water in Warrior Cats. In only one of their four appearances did they not need to be saved from something by the clans, yet they are rude to the clans and tell them to go away. In Sign of the Moon, the cats come for a visit when the Tribe doesn't think they need help and the Tribe actually attacks them!
- Determinedly invoked by Millie in Castle Roogna. She repeatedly gets kidnapped or attacked and never does anything to defend herself other than by kicking (not kicking the assailant, mind you, just kicking in the air) and screaming. She seems to believe that's how she should act, and no one can convince her otherwise.
- Kimberly Bauer, former Trope Namer, has an annoying habit of getting Trapped by Mountain Lions, wandering around bra-less in wifebeaters around potential rapists, and doing everything in her power to anger men with guns. Kim is sometimes known as "Bathroom-Break Bauer", due to a nearly unbroken string of kidnappings, confinements and hostage-takings, which make it possible to take a bathroom break whenever she's on-screen without missing anything truly important. The writers admitted, in essence, that she couldn't be killed off because Jack had already lost Teri, his wife, and it would destroy him. Jack also says this much late in Season 7, when the only way to save his life puts Kim at risk of losing hers.
- Then in the final season, Kim finally kicked this to the curb. She managed to get out without being kidnapped, and she sent Jack off to do his thing.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003) has Colonel Tigh's wife Ellen. The woman is essentially a walking plot complication. They eventually had to put her down because of it.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Dawn is put in peril often enough to be notable in-universe; in the Musical Episode "Once More With Feeling," Buffy quips, "Dawn's in trouble, must be Tuesday." When local theaters used to play this episode as a singalong, some also passed out lists of Rocky Horror-style audience-participation phrases to yell out; among them was "Shut up, Dawn!" every time Dawn is on-screen. By the final season, however, Dawn grows up, becomes a full member of the Scooby gang, and doesn't exist purely to get rescued and give Buffy unconditional love.
- Charmed (1998): Jenny Gordon was already considered annoying for her whiny behaviour, but in "The Devil's Music", she sneaks into a nightclub she was specifically forbidden from going to and ends up as the next victim of the Monster of the Week. This tends to be the biggest strike against her, as she only appeared in one more episode before being written out.
- Doctor Who:
- There is a common misconception among media commentators and some post-2005-only fans that every female companion before 1989 was nothing but helpless shoulder-candy for villains. This is completely wrong, and the few companions who genuinely did approach that tend not to be very popular.
- Susan is a Screaming Woman well-known for twisting her ankle, freaking out hysterically, and (in one story) refusing Barbara's plan of escape from a Revolutionary France Death Row because she's scared of the rats in the cell. She has occasional stories where she is useful ("The Sensorites") but most of these are not followed up on. Amusingly, the actress had been cast to be a telepathic martial artist and was instead given a character who spent all her time being captured, which contributed to her decision to quit.
- A male example of this trope is Harry Sullivan, who tends to catch the Idiot Ball a lot and gets himself and the Doctor captured, with even the Doctor picking up on it and complaining. His character had been written in as complement to the elderly Non-Action Guy the Fourth Doctor had originally been pitched as before the role was cast with a huge, highly energetic, and physically fit forty-year-old who could comfortably do action. The result of this is that the writers were not quite sure what he (or his co-companion Sarah Jane) was supposed to be for other than to catch the Distress Ball, but Sarah Jane has the benefit of being a previously established character and having writing that portrays her as consistently sympathetic and intelligent, whereas Harry happily ploughs into obvious traps and fails to notice things the Doctor had pointed out to him thirty seconds ago. Both the Doctor and Sarah moan at him about this in various scenes.
- Peri is the single most notorious example. Her first appearance in "Planet of Fire" has her being very self-possessed and one of only two characters ever to No-Sell the Master's mind-control abilities, but the rest of her tenure hardly ever has her achieve anything except being an object to be fought over. Due to the Darker and Edgier tendencies of the era, she comes in for an unprecedented and uncharacteristic amount of explicitly sexualised menace from villains, which comes across as particularly disturbing given the unusual degree of sexualisation in her portrayal and her borderline-abusive relationship with the Doctor. Her brutal (possibly averted) death comes across as not so much shocking as the inevitable climax of her character arc. She certainly would have been more bearable, if not for that fake American accent.
- Mel was the only companion during her tenure and thus had the duty of getting captured. This would be fine if she were useful or likable. And then she was followed by Ace. Who killed Daleks with homemade explosives (stored in deodorant cans) and a super-charged baseball bat.
- Matlock: Charlene Matlock, who almost every episode gets herself into some sort of trouble by trying to investigate/snoop around alone and either Ben or Tyler needs to come to her rescue.
- Drove some fans to dislike Tessa in season 1 of Highlander. It was all too common for Duncan to have to rescue her from whichever immortal opponent was targeting him in the episode. She did have a few good moments to be fair and was seen to use mental smarts against villains a time or two, but she wasn’t much of a fighter, and some found it repetitive after a while.
- Revolution: Charlie. She needs to be rescued in "The Plague Dogs", and again in "Soul Train". There is something seriously wrong if Danny has to save your ass from getting choked to death. Fortunately, they did end up redeeming her; Spiridakos is a little less wooden in later seasons, and the character becomes really effective with her weapons. It is pretty funny when General Monroe actually saves her life in "Children of Men".
- Robin Hood: A number of viewers feel that the replacement for Marian, Kate, fits this. She's pushy, loud, and generally useless, where in contrast the previous character in the love interest role is an Action Girl who at least has the dignity to be right when she's pushy and is never louder than needed. And yes, true to the trope, all of Kate's numerous kidnappings are due to her inability to keep up, defend herself, or know when to keep her mouth shut. In her capacity as a "damsel" scrappy, she is captured by guards more times in one season than any of the other outlaws were in three. The words "Where's Kate?" could be a drinking game.
- Stargate Atlantis: Jennifer Keller is completely useless outside sickbay, on top of being shoehorned into as many episodes as possible — even having two characters fall in love with her, so we'd realize we are supposed to love her too as if they thought they could bludgeon the audience with her until they surrendered and decided they may as well like her. (The writers have admitted to doing this.) Didn't work. She at least learns to fight in the final season.
- Stargate Universe: Chloe, a character that was only there because she was a Senator's daughter, had absolutely no useful purpose whatsoever and repeatedly put the rest of the crew in danger. She was also a central part of the Love Dodecahedron that most of the viewers were disinterested in. Eventually the viewers began to warm to her when she starts some character development and is temporarily Cursed with Awesome by an alien infection that gives her superpowers.
- The Vampire Diaries: Elena Gilbert becomes this later on after she is turned into a vampire (which was polarizing for the fans). She becomes all whiny and boring, she keeps getting kidnapped, attacked, or threatened and still needs to get saved all the time by the Salvatore brothers.
- One of the most annoying is Sharmell Sullivan, 1991 Miss Black America and the wife (both on-screen and off) of former WCW great Booker T. Beginning in 2005, Sharmell accompanied Booker to all his matches dressed "beauty queen" style in a fashionable gown and tiara, and sometimes petticoats as well. Her only purpose when she and Booker were faces seemed to be getting menaced by her husband's heel opponents (including Kurt Angle, who notoriously threatened to rape her). While Sharmell was capable of giving some of the weaker villains a good slap across the face from time to time, for the most part she was reduced to shrieking "BOOK-ERRR!" until her husband could come in to save her. After the pair's Face–Heel Turn (and especially after Booker became "King Booker"), Sharmell became more of a Faux Action Girl (with a bit of the Alpha Bitch thrown in). At the 2006 WrestleMania she even joined Booker in a handicap match against The Boogeyman - but the pair lost when Boogey grabbed Sharmell and shoved a handful of worms down her throat!
- Vickie Guerrero as well, with a side order of Miles Gloriosus to boot. As General Manager of Friday Night SmackDown, Vickie would boss around all the fan favorites in her obnoxiously whiny voice and generally act like a bitch... until someone like The Undertaker would threaten her, and Vickie would turn into a cowardly Screaming Woman who was helpless until her love interest of the moment could come rushing to her rescue. She eventually did Take a Level in Badass and even wrestles occasionally, but at heart, she remained a man-hungry Mrs. Robinson Wannabe who pouts when she doesn't get her way and still screams all the time (particularly when her newest boyfriend, Dolph Ziggler, is losing a match).
- Final Fantasy:
- Rosa from Final Fantasy IV, who spends the whole first half of the game in distress, gets this reception from some, even though she makes up for it in the game's second half as the White Magician Girl. Rosa potentially gets worse by the sequel, the After Years as she now only exists as a Damsel in Distress to give character development to "Ceodore! Cecil! Kain!" and spends one climax getting dragged around forcefully by Dark Kain.
- Rinoa from Final Fantasy VIII gets blamed for this, managing to get herself kidnapped four times through the course of the game. However, only in the first instance does her own foolishness get her into the situation; the rest is unfortunate circumstance. The thing that grates most players is how accepting the rest of the cast becomes afterward—at one point, even choosing to save Rinoa despite the fact that saving her conflicts with Squall's current task as leader. They get mad at you for even considering that the mission may be more important than saving her. It doesn't help her case that the other two playable women, Quistis and Selphie, are highly trained military professionals, while Rinoa is an untrained teenage girl (though ironically, she's a huge Game-Breaker gameplay-wise). Also, there's a whole extended chunk of the game during which Squall must literally carry Rinoa on his back, complete with a slower walking speed.
- Minfillia in Final Fantasy XIV is seen as this by most players due to her not fighting back with her mythril knife when she is captured twice (first by The Empire and the second being an Ascian with immense magical strength) and that she also doesn't do anything beyond playing politics with the city-state leaders and telling the player character what to do next.
- Terra in Dissidia Final Fantasy, though in her case it's more due to Character Derailment from her original personality to fit this character type than due to the number of times she needs to be saved. While she's often victimised and confused in the original, she becomes confident as soon as it becomes clear that Edgar sees her as a person, growing more so once she regains her memories, and often finds time for teasing Sabin and showing open enjoyment about fighting the Empire. In Dissidia, Kefka's menace takes on an I Have You Now, My Pretty tone, her personality becomes much more negative and serious, and she is constantly rescued by male characters for their benefit, or getting lectured by Cloud (of all people) about the importance of knowing who you really are. The fact that Terra is the only woman of Cosmos' Warriors doesn't make this seem any more classy; the remake mitigates this somewhat by altering Terra's dialogue as much as the recordings allow and adding some other female characters to soften the Unfortunate Implications. In Dissidia NT, she is as confident as any of the other heroes and gets her Mama Bear protectiveness back.
- Ninian from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade often gets lumped into this category, even though she's only ever captured twice and the third time she goes with the Big Bad willingly to spare her friends' lives. Not to mention she is a very useful member of the party with her ability to give an extra turn.
- Rosie in Fossil Fighters seems to exist solely to get kidnapped a lot, and to have various other humorous problems befall her. It wouldn't seem quite so bad if she and the hero weren't getting Strangled by the Red String. You, however, can eventually choose to deny the red string and be with Action Girl alien Duna if you want.
- Yukimura Chizuru from Hakuouki comes in for a lot of frustration from players for her lack of combat ability and reluctance to fight, which - since she spends all her time in the company of The Shinsengumi and is herself the target of kidnapping attempts by demons - makes her The Load and means she repeatedly has to be rescued by others.
- To make it even worse, she's a pure-blood demon. It's emphasized many times that pure-bloods are far stronger than any human except Hijikata. While she wouldn't be on the level of the rest of the Shinsengumi, training would easily make her very capable of holding her own.
- Kairi from Kingdom Hearts becomes one in Kingdom Hearts III. Despite being trained to use her Keyblade, Kairi is once again kidnapped and then killed by Xehanort. One of the biggest complaints about it is how Kairi’s potential was wasted.
- Mercifully, the backlash toward this got so bad that a course correction transpires in the Re:Mind DLC, where Kairi is shown to be as strong as Xemnas which forces him to drain her energy before kidnapping her, and after Sora resurrects her, she fights Xehanort alongside him as, by player's choice, either a party member or the playable character. As a result, public opinion on Kairi has shifted back toward positive.
- Shandra Jerro in Neverwinter Nights 2 starts out like one of these (first barn, then house burned, then kidnapped by Githyanki), but subverts it when she joins the party and Takes a Level in Badass. (Almost literally: she's a Fighter.) The player's party even lampshades the scenario, commenting that if they're going to keep her around, they have got to teach her how to fight. Her Dying Moment of Awesome is arguably an inversion of the trope: it's the party that has to be rescued by her.
- Ashley Graham from Resident Evil 4. You're forced to save her multiple times throughout the game, and with the bonus of Artificial Stupidity you're forced to go back for her through monster hordes a lot. This is only made worse by her repetitive, irritating cries for help.
- Princess Elise from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Throughout the course of the game, she gets kidnapped by Dr. Eggman five times (although for the fifth one, she allowed herself to go in Eggman's Egg Carrier to prevent him from destroying Soleanna).
- The Damsels in Spelunky are pretty much based on Willie Scott and manage to work this trope into game mechanics. Though they aren't that annoying, some players still delight in throwing her at spiders, attaching a sticky bomb to her and sending her charging toward enemies, and then throwing her corpse at more spiders.
- Princess Peach in the Super Mario Bros. series has this reputation, in spite of the fact that she became the heroine of her own game where she beat Bowser and saved the Mario Bros and her kingdom on her own. Although she does Take a Level in Badass in that game and the various RPG games (especially Super Mario RPG, the first three Paper Mario games, and the Mario + Rabbids games), shows off the full extent of her magic powers in Mario & Luigi, along with the Super Smash Bros. games since Melee (where she is a fan-favourite due to her Game-Breaker moveset), the Mario Kart, Mario Party, Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, Mario Strikers, Mario Sports and Mario and Sonic games, as well as Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Run (where she's a playable character and a well liked excellent choice because of her floating ability), it's just that it's heavily undermined by the vast majority of games where she plays the Damsel in Distress trope straight, which brings the question of why she is utterly incompetent in defending herself in most of the main series games. Of course, it could simply be a case of Grandfather Clause; Peach has been the series' designated Damsel in Distress for so long that it just wouldn't be the same without it. Then again, most people do agree that the series is better off without the trope altogether as it has become rather stale and annoying over the years and makes Peach a major Base-Breaking Character for a very frustrating reason that could be easily fixed by making her playable. It's also rather jarring that the most important and most recurring female character of the most popular video game series of all time has to play this role in most of her appearances.
- Tales Series
- Shirley Fennes from Tales of Legendia gets kidnapped constantly and does nothing to help herself despite having a bunch of powers, eventually making a full Face–Heel Turn under More than Mind Control. She is also considered the game's plain Scrappy for her Yandere tendencies.
- Tales of Symphonia
- Colette Brunel. Protecting her is the entire point of the game since she's The Chosen One, and it becomes a major plot point at the end when she's kidnapped (although it can potentially be anyonenote ) by the Big Bad. Fans especially dislike it because early on, Colette is granted angel powers, which include Super Strength, Super Senses, wings and light-based techniques, yet Colette getting kidnapped or sick takes up a large chunk of the game, and she often hands over the decision-making to Lloyd.
- Chocolat. The party has to save her twice, mostly thanks to Chocolat intentionally antagonizing the bad guys and generally being out of her depth. Also, when she learns that Lloyd and Genis had to perform a Mercy Kill on Chocolat's grandmother Marble, something Marble asked them to do, Chocolat sides with the bad guys and refuses to be rescued. She's viewed as Unintentionally Unsympathetic for how needlessly she keeps making things worse.
- Estelle is a bit of a Base-Breaking Character in Tales of Vesperia, but those who dislike her consider her as one of these for much of the same reasons as Shirley and Colette - being Purity Personified and getting kidnapped and doing nothing to help herself, and finally fighting against the heroes after Brainwashing.
- Cheria from Tales of Graces gets viewed this way by a Vocal Minority of Tales fans who dislike her. While Cheria gets kidnapped, it's only once at the beginning of the game, the plotline to resolve her kidnapping takes about ten minutes, and she's an active party member for the rest of the game (and one of the more useful ones, since she has group healing spells). Doesn't stop the complaints, though.
- Ciem Webcomic Series. One of Denny Levens' basic purposes is to give Candi someone to constantly protect/rescue.
- The idiot damsel in the trope image is Zola from Girl Genius. Not a true example, as while she starts out appearing to be a picture-perfect Damsel Scrappy, it is later revealed she was a Deliberately Distressed Damsel hiding her true ambitions and skills behind a mask of uselessness. She is actually one of the most dangerous antagonists of the series. But before the reveal, she sure has to get rescued. A lot.
- In Flander's Company episode "Pegasus Fantasy", this is how Lawyer-Friendly Cameo Seiya sees Saori Kido from Saint Seiya. It's part of the reason for his Face–Heel Turn (the other part being that he's fed up with the yaoi innuendos of his teammates).
Seiya: Oh yeah? And spending your whole life running after princess Whatshername, who's so dumb, so DUMB that she gets kidnapped every five minutes, you think it's a soft job?
Hippolyte: Indeed... seen like this...
Seiya: Miss is supposed to be the incarnation of a warrior goddess, but as soon as she goes to the Walmart to take advantage of discounts for the Pig Feast, slam! Two mooks drop on her, and she can't even send them flying. And of course, who has to climb 6000 steps and beat up 142 assholes to get her back? Muggins here! And in half a day, to boot, otherwise Miss could end up dead cold.
- The Nostalgia Critic summed this trope up in his "Top 11 Dumbasses in Distress" video: that the Damsel in Distress and Distressed Dude are old tropes and not inherently bad at all, unless it's a character the audience is annoyed with rather than cares about.
- Young Allies, according to the site: "Near as I can figure, the premise [...] is that group of kids [...] keep getting captured by the Axis forces, and keep needing to be rescued by Bucky and Toro.", and the covers confirm this impression.
- Also Bucky, but well before he was brought back by Ed Brubaker having taken a massive level in badass.
I'm starting to think that Bucky must have a tracer planted on him that allows Captain America to track down these hidden enclaves of enemy combatants. That's the only possible use I can think of for a sidekick whose only contribution to the war is to get captured every month...
- Max Gibson in Batman Beyond is often considered this by her detractors. This tendency is best displayed in the episode "Final Cut", where she ignores Terry's instructions and snoops around for clues, leading to her getting attacked by an assassin. Terry has to leave his post protecting the assassin's target to rescue her, which results in the target getting mind-wiped with a hidden bomb ready to explode thanks to his Dead Man's Switch.
- Aelita from Code Lyoko, big time. She is this for the first two seasons, as she is completely useless in battle and is mostly escorted safely to deactivate towers while the others fend off attacking monsters to protect her. In fact, it's very easy to make a drinking game out of how many times she gets endangered in the series as a whole. While she does Take a Level in Badass in the third season via Energy Fields, she still manages to get in a lot of trouble due to either: A) The Scyphozoa, or B) XANA-William (Though it is justifiable in both cases, given that the Scyphozoa is Nigh-Invulnerable and XANA-William is basically a tank) and requires rescuing from the other warriors.
- Norman Price in Fireman Sam. Even on the rare occasions that someone else needs rescuing, he's usually the cause of the trouble.
- Pepper Potts in Iron Man: Armored Adventures has two purposes for her existence: help Tony out on occasion, and get captured and rescued constantly even in situations she should be able to escape from on her own. Her behavior is consistently damsel-like despite her aspirations to be a kick-ass S.H.I.E.L.D. agent — at one point she's in the middle of an abandoned warehouse where two different factions of Chinese assassins are fighting, and she sits there waiting to be rescued instead of getting away from the fighting. Yeah, real S.H.I.E.L.D. material. She begins to grow out of this in season 2 after using the Stealth armor and eventually getting one of her own, making her a bonafide Action Girl.
- Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo is well known for falling into traps, being kidnapped by the villain, or angering the villain in some way, leading to the nickname "Danger-prone Daphne" in the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! series. However, The Nostalgia Critic did call this reputation into question in his review of the first live-action movie, pointing out that Scooby and Shaggy (and even Scrappy) seem to actually get into more danger than Daphne ever does, and saying her real major issue is that she never really does much of anything, at least in the original show.
- The aforementioned live-action film plays with the concept and has Daphne pick up martial arts skills and become generally more useful after the gang breaks up as a direct result of being called out for being the Damsel in Distress. In virtually all Scooby-Doo series and films since then, Daphne has been portrayed as a MacGyver with her makeup kit and accessories. Her martial arts skills from the live-action film carry over to the animated film Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword.
- In an interview, the staff of that movie said that changing Daphne was necessary for the sake of proper method acting. The goal established from the start was for live actors to do the best interpretations they could of the cartoon characters, but they ran into a roadblock with Daphne because in the cartoon she essentially had no personality. The natural choice was for Sarah Michelle Gellar to channel her greatest-known role.
- Daphne became more competent well before the live-action movie. In the 1980s Scooby-Doo series when the group was reduced to just her, Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy, she became the leader of the group. That also was true in the 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo series, where she is the Team Mom. Unfortunately, she quickly lost accumulated goodwill with the horrendous character design and jumpsuit she had in that series.
- Static Shock: Richie is constantly getting kidnapped, and his help is mostly ineffectual except for a few episodes. His tendency to be ineffectual begins in episode 1 when he tries to protect Frieda (herself an example) from Hotstreak and gets his shirt burned to a cinder, and he is first kidnapped in the episode "Sons of the Fathers" by Ebon. After that, he becomes a mind-slave twice and is kidnapped at least three more times. That, and the fact that Richie gets superpowers of his own later on, so he's actually able to help out more in combat and rescues Virgil a few times.
- Aquaman, on the Super Friends, sometimes falls into this role. He seems to exist only as someone to get captured by the Legion of Doom so that the rest of the Justice League can rescue him.
- Transformers: Animated. Sentinel Prime is an unusual male (not to mention giant alien robot) example. Most of his time onscreen involves him getting into some scrape or another, usually thanks to his massive stupidity, and having the long-suffering Optimus get him out. It seems the only thing that keeps Optimus from abandoning him is a sense of guilt about their shared past, some level of fondness for his old Academy-mate, and the hope that Sentinel gets it through his thick head that his arrogance is a Bad Thing. But Status Quo Is God, and he always rubber bands back to being a jackass by his next appearance. Even Jazz, who has long tolerated (or ignored) it as his second in command, finally gives up and more or less defects to Prime's crew.
- Miko of Transformers: Prime. No matter how many times she is told by her friends not to sneak off to see the titular robots fight and get caught in the crossfire, she sneaks off anyway, has to get rescued, and in some cases nearly kills her friends. After doing so, she can be counted on to laugh about how awesome it all was even as the Autobots are trying to make her understand that nearly getting people killed or causing important missions to fail is in fact not a good thing. Being merely Too Dumb to Live would be bad enough, but knowing and not caring because your amusement is more important... she makes people say "I guess Daniel Witwicky wasn't all bad..." Also, she's another one the creators love far more than the viewers, so we get a lot of screentime devoted to someone whose "wacky antics" were unamusing.note