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Designated Victim

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"I can't believe I got kidnapped again."

Oh, why must it always be her?

They're not just the Victim of the Week, they're the Victim of The Century.

When the writers enjoy picking on a character, it's funny. When the universe enjoys picking on a character, it's sad. When the Big Bad or Monster of the Week insists on picking on the same character every episode, it's both sad and funny.

Sure, the protagonists of any show where out of the ordinary stuff happens are going to be Weirdness Magnets, but there is something about the number of times this one character is targeted specifically that stands out. Danger seeks them out like a bloodhound. While the other heroes are off foiling the Evil Plan, she (and 90% of the time, it will be a "she") is busy trying to survive. The Designated Victim isn't incompetent or helpless or accident prone or that much different from the rest of the cast. Something in her DNA is just a magnet for danger, probably something of the same material that went into the construction of Tokyo and New York.

Oftentimes, the victim is female. Usually within the realms of The Heart, Faux Action Girl, a girl who has gone through Chickification, an adaptation of a girl who has an intense Girliness Upgrade, and sometimes even a true Action Girl when the writer just has no one else he thinks would be an appropriate victim. Male examples do exist and they are either younger siblings (usually the youngest of the litter) or even true males who are usually The Hero and are exceedingly capable can fall victim for a specific reason. In this case it is usually for someone who is usually the victim such as a younger sibling or a female to save them in their own A Day in the Limelight game or episode. If this trope is abused to the point of annoyance, however, expect the victim to become a Damsel Scrappy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: Eren Yaeger gets kidnapped and injured with great frequency — once in every major arc, in fact. It's given him the Fan Nickname Princess Peach. Justified in that he's a Titan Shifter with unique abilities, making him desirable to many different factions.
  • Hideyoshi is the only one of the group in Battle Girls: Time Paradox who gets kidnapped and captured. She catches onto it by about the fourth time it happens, and wonders why it's always her.
  • Tatsuki Arisawa from Bleach. Every single arc that takes place in Karakura Town is guaranteed to have her as a victim of some spiritual being at some point during the arc, with the first arc having her a victim twice.
  • Everyone in Higurashi: When They Cry tends to come to a bad end sooner or later, but Miyo Takano and Jiro Tomitake are almost always the first ones to die (the exception being Atonement Chapter, where they're the third and fourth ones to die). Of course, Takano's "death" is always faked and she always arranges Tomitake's, but that doesn't become apparent until Massacre Chapter.
    • Irie also apparently dies several days later (but still before the point where it ceases to matter) in every iteration of the loop, but this takes quite a long time to become apparent because many of the arcs end and jump back to the start of the loop before reaching that point. It should also be noted that Takano always dies by being burned to death and Tomitake by clawing out his own throat; at least this third one gets a rather painless method of death.
  • A rare male example with Jean-Pierre Polnareff from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. Part of the reason that Polnareff gets so much screentime is his habit of blundering into trouble and being saved by the others.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Nodoka has started finding herself in this role. She's the only one Fate and his minions actually want dead, because they want to Shoot the Mind-Reader First. Although they find out the hard way that when when the chips are down, you really really don't want to screw with her.
    • Anya qualifies even more, as the only semi-plot relevant thing that she's done is get immediately captured by the Big Bad, soon after she enters the magic world.
  • If something bad happens to someone in Occult Academy, it's usually to Kozue.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • For whatever reason, Team Rocket always makes a point of trying to capture Ash's Pikachu.
    • Generally, when the action get heated, and Ash isn't bound for The Worf Effect, the female companions will usually be the first to fall under distress. May of the Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire arguably suffered this most commonly, falling into danger or getting kidnapped or tied up by the bad guys routinely, though Lillie gets notice for needing rescuing in nearly all her limelight episodes in the relatively laid back Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon.
  • Pretty Cure:
    • Yui Nanase of Go! Princess Pretty Cure is attacked by Dyspear and her underlings FIVE times, most of anyone in the series. It ends up working out for her, though, as she is able to break out on her own the third time and help other victims.
    • Mika Masuko of Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has a bizarre tendency to be attacked every time she gets more than a minute or two of screen time. The heroines' other acquaintances didn't have to deal with this...
  • Mytho from Princess Tutu easily falls into this trope. In the first season alone he falls out of a window three times (once while the building he's in is burning!), is constantly taken captive by Princess Kraehe and others, gets slapped for not following orders by several people, gets locked up in a small room in the library, etc etc. In the second season this doesn't happen as much...but that's because Kraehe kidnapped him and used Raven's blood to turn him evil, so it's really an extension of his role anyway.
  • Naru Osaka from Sailor Moon always seemed to attract a Monster of the Week within minutes of appearing on screen, probably because she was Usagi's only non-superpowered friend. The very first episode of Sailor Moon R even had Luna and Artemis breaking the fourth wall to comment on the frequency of her being attacked by monsters. Likely the only reason this doesn't happen in later seasons is her being Put on a Bus.
  • Athena from Saint Seiya is always about to die and her warriors go on a mission to save her. This was repeated so many times that Athena started forbidding the participation of the protagonists in the fights yet they decide to save her again. And she keeps playing this role in some of the spin-offs, such as Saint Seiya Omega and Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho, and in the sequel Saint Seiya: Next Dimension.

    Comic Books 
  • Abel from DC Comics is literally mankind's designated victim, although usually it's just his brother, Cain, who torments him.
  • The main plot of Empowered is about the central character trying to get out of this role.
  • Shimy from Les Légendaires; sure, all her comrades got their part of bad treatment, violent backstory, beat up and mutilation, but compared to the others, she gets an impressive part, such as : getting captured and tortured by Tenebris (in flashbacks and Origins); rejected by her mother; being the Chosen One to serve as the reincarnation for a God of Evil; getting her eyes pierced with a Flaming Sword from said God of Evil; learning her boyfriend cheated on her; getting drunk to the point she ends up kissing Tenebris (and feeling humiliated for it when she comes back to her sense). The author actually admits she was part of his favourite characters, and that he enjoyed making her suffer, arguing that "The more you like them, the more you chatise them".
  • Back when the Thing was appearing every month in Marvel Two-In-One, just how many times did poor Alicia Masters get kidnapped?
  • The Savage Dragon had a balding, glasses-wearing, mustached man appearing in the background of every issue. And many times fulfilling this trope, such as when mass brain-washing made him leap in front of a moving car. And then of course, Josh Eichorn who is insulted in the "credits" page for each SD book.
  • Back in the Silver Age, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen could be relied upon to catch this all the time, though they each had their own specialties. Lois was the most likely to get menaced by criminals or fall off a building, while Jimmy was a magnet for getting turned into a werewolf, porcupine-man, or giant turtle.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): In the Golden Age and into the Silver Age Steve Trevor was routinely imperiled and kidnapped by the villains only to be rescued by Wonder Woman. Part of this is because he was a regular human military officer looking into situations that often called for superhuman intervention. However Steve had nothing on Ronno the Merman who only ever seemed to appear in order to be captured or otherwise imperiled and unlike Steve who regularly got himself and others out of trouble always needed Diana to rescue him.

    Films — Animated 
  • Parodied in Megamind; Roxanne Ritchi is Megamind's go-to kidnap victim of choice. He's done this so often and yet failed to accomplish anything by it that her standard response has become dry sarcasm at how hackneyed his death traps are. She was also part of Megamind's Frequent Victim Program, but apparently he discontinued it.
  • In The Secret of NIMH, Mrs Brisby certainly pulls her worth trying to protect her family, neverless a lot of hindrances occur along the way, be it a monstrous cat, a nightmarish rat guard or the power-corrupt villain whose scheme she has somehow gotten entangled into. Jeremy's klutzy behaviour also causes some annoyances in between, though even he has to protect her at one point.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in the indie short film D.E.B.S. (later remade into a movie) in which secret agent Amy keeps getting kidnapped by the Big Bad, Lucy in the Sky. Only it turns out they're in love and it's the only way they can get together without attracting suspicion.
  • Eric Idle's character in National Lampoon's European Vacation just happens to turn up at the same spots all over Europe at the same time as the main characters, suffering increasingly grievous injuries due to their actions. He returns for more of the same 18 years later in the Made-for-TV Movie Christmas Vacation 2.
  • This is parodied in the Scooby-Doo movies, particularly the first. Daphne complains about how she's always the one to get captured and, when she insists that she's going to solve a mystery herself, one of the gang asks, "Who's going to rescue you when you get kidnapped?" It's actually subverted since she Took a Level in Badass at the beginning of the first film and knew martial arts. The sequel takes it one step further and has her know how to use her blush and some tape to trip a fingerprint-activated switch.
  • Star Trek: Chekov continues to be the designated victim in a few of the TOS movies like he had been in the TV series. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture he gets both is hand and wrist burned when his weapons console overloads. Then in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Khan implants an alien slug in his ear that nearly kills Chekov. Finally in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Chekov falls off the deck of an aircraft carrier, sustaining severe head injuries that probably would've been fatal had not Dr. McCoy been able to treat him.
  • Time Bandits: in a number of different time periods, characters played by Michael Palin and Shelley Duval run afoul of the bandits and end up in some sort of debacle. It's not clear if they're relatives of each other or just Identical Strangers in different time periods.
  • In the Italian movie Le Comiche a couple of newlyweds is the designated victim of the two main characters. They have their wedding completely ruined in the first episode and the honeymoon ruined later on. In particular the woman has the worst of it, being constantly stripped to her underwear or even naked and touched. She even develops PTSD because of it.

  • From the 1632 series:
    • In 1634: The Galileo Affair, investigative reporter Joe Buckley is tortured and killed (not in that order) by a French spy, ostensibly because he can't keep his damn mouth shut, actually because said spy was trying to provoke the protagonists.
    • In one of the Grantville Gazette short stories, Joe Buckley is already dead, as a somewhat notorious downtimer London area criminal who fell into the Thames while drunk, and drowned. His actual role in the story is as a corpse to be dissected to demonstrate uptimer knowledge.
  • In Artemis Fowl, Holly Short complains in The Lost Colony about the fact that she was picked as a decoy to fool Minerva Paradizo into losing No.1. Even in the Academy, she was always picked to play "the little blonde elf in distress during the bank holdup role-play".
  • Joe Buckley, a fan of Baen Books who has a website collecting preview snippets from upcoming books published by them, has been killed off repeatedly by various Baen authors, including but not limited to David Weber (Honor Harrington), John Ringo (Legacy of the Aldenata), and Eric Flint (1632 Series). This came about when Ringo asked for feedback on the draft of his novel, and Buckley made the unfortunate mistake of giving it to him in public, and without a lot of tact in the delivery. The only way this writer felt he could regain his honor was to tuckerize Buckley and kill him off in the most creative way possible. This amused other Baen writers, who decided it was a good idea and should be encouraged. To put it in perspective, Ringo decided the best way to kill him more was to have the only stable and adjustable human AI's personality be taken from the brain scans of Joe Buckley. Eventually they tend to go crazy and need to be reset to default, essentially killing him again. Under stress and at high levels of function this is known to happen dozens of times a second.
    • Ryk E. Spoor and Eric Flint's Boundary plays with this tendency: the opening line is "Dear God, I'm going to die," muttered Joe Buckley and Joe is subjected to all manner of near-fatal injuries and accidents throughout the book - including being thrown out of a spaceship during a crash landing. His shocking ultimate fate: he lives, and even gets a love interest.
      • See Joe's own reaction to this tendency here (to the Boundary Tuckerization) and another in his site's FAQ (His reaction in general to the whole deal. Also contains his version of why it happens.)
    • In the Solarian League, there's even an entire series of Joseph Buckley starships named after a famous scientist who helped discover the impeller wedge, and died from a screw up in hyperspacenote . They are on the sixth ship named it, only one which survived to be decommissioned. Notably, of the five ships that did not survive to be decommissioned, most or all of them were not destroyed in combat either, but often by freak accidents.
    • There is now a specific short story collection of just his deaths, with twelve authors contributing, and most contributing many times over
    • Larry Correia's Monster Hunter Alpha, the third of the Monster Hunter series and another Baen book, features a Deputy Sheriff Joe Buckley, who is killed by a werewolf, and then raised from the dead as a nearly unstoppable zombie werewolf (sic). On page 398 one of the characters exclaims "So, Buckley, how many times does someone have to kill you before you stay dead?"
  • To an extent, this happens to Lord Vetinari in Discworld, who has been turned into a lizard, very nearly killed-via-sword, shot, poisoned, cudgeled, framed for attempted crimes he'd have certainly committed more competently were it not a frameup, etc. On two occasions, a plan against him has specifically involved the caveat that killing him would be a very very bad idea, so they specifically decided to only incapacitate him a little... which means he always survives being Victim of the Week so it can happen again. Plus the gallant Commander Vimes keeps rescuing him. So he's always fine in the end but ends up looking like just a little bit of a damsel in distress. Hilariously, Terry Pratchett keeps trying to assure the audience that Vetinari is a Magnificent Bastard who always has things under control, even though he's completely unable to stop a single one of these plans.
  • Book III of The Faerie Queene has the Damsel in Distress Florimell. She is captured and attacked by nearly every man she meets, forcing her to run away from terror about half a dozen times and only find herself in another situation for knights to rush to her rescue. Her captors include a gaggle of mean foresters, a witch and her ugly son, a wind god, and a sea god.
  • Prior to her empowerment, Gail Godwin played this role in Superheroes Anonymous. Shortly after she arrived in town, a supervillain attacked the train station and Blaze saved her. As a result, she has become the go-to hostage. One of the reasons she stays at a job she hates is the excellent medical coverage.
  • The Twilight Saga. Bella frigging Swan. Every single plot in the books centers around a crazed vampire trying to kill her.
  • Well-known Russian fan and editor Yuri Semetsky was for several years repeatedly killed in almost every new Russian Science Fiction book. This became so popular that writers started to compete in the most imaginative ways to kill him, and some young authors were even told by editors to remove killing Semetsky from their books because they were too junior for it. This was allegedly due to the fact that fortuneteller once told Semetsky that he was to die at 43, and his writer friends started this campaign to save him from this fate—there is a Russian folk belief that if a person once thought dead actually isn't, then he or she would live a long life. So, when he topped 44 and was still alive, this thing generally stopped.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Can the main character himself be this trope? He can be if the series is 24. Are terrorists menacing the USA/President/world again for the 8th day in a row? Jack Bauer must have betrayed us again!!! Wait, didn't he save us all those other times? Yes, but we're REALLY sure he betrayed us this time!
  • Wesley in Angel. Blown up in season 1, Gutshot in season 2, throat slit in season 3, forced to decapitate a loved one in season 4. By the time the finale rolled around it was inevitable he was going to be killed.
  • Babylon5: Michael Garibaldi: accused of being a saboteur, betrayed by his own second-in-command, lost the love of his life repeatedly, was manipulated by the Psi Corps into betraying his closest friends, had a block placed in his mind to prevent him from harming the manipulator, and finally fell off the wagon in Season 5 due to all of this building up, not to mention the gradual loss of his hair. Seriously, Garibaldi could not go more than about three episodes without the B5 universe taking another giant dump on him.
  • The 60's Batman (1966) Show (and pre-Crisis Batman Comics, in general), had Robin kidnapped so many times that nowadays the nickname "Robin: The Boy Hostage" is practically canonized (at least among villains).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Jonathan started out this way, until he gained enough of a fan following that he got his own episode and worked his way up to villain-esque status. And then he got killed off for real.
    • In later seasons, Dawn assumed this role, to the point that it was Lampshaded with the following line:
      Buffy: Dawn's in trouble. Must be Tuesday.
    • Xander was always getting captured, imperiled, or humiliated. His taste for demon women may have had something to do with this.
  • Ethan Hardy from CASUAL+Y has been a series punching bag from day one. He seems distracted in his first appearance because his mother has just died. Then he finds out he's working with his brother Cal, with whom he has a constant, bitter rivalry. His asshole brother steals £15000 from him to give to his girlfriend's medical charity- which turns out to be a scam. He later finds out that his late mother wasn't really his mother- he was adopted. His real mother has Huntingdon's disease, a crippling, irreversible illness that has a 50% chance of being passed down. As his helpless birth mother dies beside him not long after they first met, he finds out he has inherited the disease, and of course Cal hasn't. Despite all of his brother's misdeeds, Ethan loves him and remains loyal to him- so of course, Cal is murdered by a cold-blooded racist who gets away with it. Cal's murderer ends up falling and getting gravely injured, and when he shows no remorse, Ethan watches him choke to death on his own vomit. This should be a victory, but Ethan is now haunted by how he allowed himself to betray his moral duty as a doctor. He hands in his resignation to the clinical lead, who doesn't accept it...because she would rather use the knowledge that he let a man die as blackmail. What's more when Ethan isn't being burdened by the universe, he's the type to get completely strung out with work and make mistakes that make him question his worth.
  • In the 2010 and 2011 seasons of Doctor Who it is companion Rory who is the designated victim. He just keeps getting killed, or abandoned in time, or both together.
    • The opening of the series 6 mid-season finale A Good Man Goes To War possibly marked the point where he Took A Level In Bad Ass. The later episodes saw him picked on a lot less, and hardly ever killed.
    (CyberShips blow up behind him)
    Rory: Would you like me to repeat the question?
    • Early on, the Ninth Doctor seemed to suspect that Rose was this:
    Doctor: "Is anyone in there?"
    Rose: "Let me out!"
    The Doctor: "Oh, well it would be you."
  • Both Don Ramónnote  and Señor Barriga in El Chavo del ocho. Profesor Jirafales also seems to be one mainly from his class...
  • Pretty much any Firefly episode involving River Tam has her getting in serious trouble with someone after her, though this is averted in "Objects in Space," where River outmaneuvers the Bounty Hunter after her with trivial ease. Somewhat ironically inverted in Serenity, where River goes from being the Damsel in Distress to an extremely waifish Badass.
    • Also pretty much anytime some violent idiot is on the ship and needs a hostage, they grab Kaylee. Dobson, Tracy, the Bounty Hunter, etc.
    • Presumably "Objects in Space" was meant to mark the point in the series in which River was on her way to recovery and would begin to access her forgotten training. Since the series was Screwed by the Network, Whedon had her make the leap during the movie.
  • In the popular Dutch series Flikken Maastricht, the main protagonist is a Death Seeker and the only two people keeping him alive are Eva and his daughter Fleur. This is the main reason why the aforementioned two keep getting evil boyfriends and held hostage. The latter eventually dies.
  • Kurt from Glee has been this for some time, as every other episode seems devoted to either emphasizing how hard it is being gay or how much he deserves anything good that happens to him.
  • Harold Finch from Person of Interest has been kidnapped in all three season finales so far, and has been held hostage a few times in between. In the most recent kidnapping he was kidnapped a fourth time FROM the original kidnapper. This is because Harold is "the most important man in the world", since he is the man who made The Machine, and thus is wanted by a LOT of people.
  • Rome's answer to Chief O'Brien, Lucius "Fortune Pisses on me Again" Vorenus.
  • Blair from The Sentinel is always getting roughed up by the bad guys, including getting temporarily murdered by Jeri Ryan. He should have stayed in the truck!
  • Smallville:
    • Lana Lang is firmly stuck in this role, especially in the early season where the Monster of the Week formula prevailed. In those episodes, the meteor freaks commonly gained a fixation on Lana before Clark could defeat them. However, it is something of an in-series Dead Unicorn Trope that the freaks wants to eat Lana; it likely stems from the first Lana-inclined meteor freak, who ate his mother and wanted to mate with Lana.
    • Chloe gets this treatment fairly commonly in the middle seasons, which makes more sense after she learned Clark's secret so he could save her without any inhibitions. A notable difference between Lana and her is that Chloe is usually more plot-involved (like her involvement with Brainiac and Doomsday) while Lana is mostly just there to be a lightning rod for one-episode freaks.
  • Michael Shanks often jokes at Stargate SG-1 conventions about the number of times his character has entered a scene bound and being kicked to his knees.
    • It didn't help that the number of times Dr. Jackson has been killed or presumed dead has become a joke in universe, one time he was refused a funeral because O'Neill was convinced he was not dead.
  • Star Trek usually has at least one per series:
    Walter Koenig: There's peril! How do we know? Because Chekov is screaming!
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: If someone is kidnapped, beaten, experimented on, Mind Raped, electrocuted and thrown across engineering by an android with Super-Strength, temporarily turned into an alien, or just eaten, chances are it will be Geordi "My Best Friend Stuck Electrodes In My Brain" LaForge.
    • In narrower terms of physical violence, Lt. Worf is so famous for it, a related trope is named after him.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. O'Brien Must Suffer.
    • Harry Kim of Star Trek: Voyager was often the designated target of much suffering, because like Colm Meaney on DS9, Garrett Wang was good with this material. Harry was also the youngest and least experienced member of the senior crew, so he made a good thematic choice for this role too.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise. Being the captain, he always saves the day in the end, but Jonathan Archer is always getting tied up and roughed up by villains. Even the Ferengi. In the first season, it's practically every episode. It's toned down a bit afterward, but he still takes a beating more often than the others put together.
  • The Vampire Diaries:
    • Elena Gilbert, especially in the first three seasons. She is either kidnapped, threatened, or otherwise put in peril by whoever the villain is at the time during pretty much Every. Single. Episode. Either saving Elena is the entire point of the episode, or she's used as a bargaining chip to foul up whatever plan the protagonists have at the moment. There is almost always some (occasionally arbitrary) reason that the villian needs to keep her alive. Her life is rarely in real danger, meaning that these "save Elena" plots start to feel more like Bowser and Peach than anything else this side of Mario.
    • April young is introduced in season 4 seemingly to fill this role. At this point, all the main characters have Taken A Level In Badass or become a supernatural creature. Thus April ends up being the recurring, mortal character to end up in the villains' crosshairs.
    • Season 6 introduces Sarah Nelson. With the aforementioned April being Put on a Bus, most of Sarah's screentime involves being manipulated or attacked by Enzo, and at one point by a post Face–Heel Turn Caroline. After being Put On A Bus herself, she eventually returns in the final season where she is targeted and killed by the current Arc Villain. Due to her resemblance to Elena in the early seasons, many actually suspected that Sarah was a deliberate Expy.
  • Alex Cahill of Walker, Texas Ranger, though in her case, it's every other episode rather than every single one.
  • Gabrielle on Xena: Warrior Princess was practically made of this trope in the earlier seasons of the show, before she Took a Level in Badass.

  • The stage directions of Pippin call for the same actor to play the lord put to death by Charlemagne in act one and the peasant put to death by Pippin in act two. Many productions will also have that actor be the head Pippin talks to after the battle and lampshade this with "Not again!" or "Why is it always me?!"

  • Aurora's Monster Scenes, a line of models revolved around the antics of a cadre of monstrously villainous cretins - including Vampirella, Dr. Deadly, Frankenstein and a few others - and included one model kit of a scantily-clad woman simply called "The Victim." She was intended to used as the go-to victim for the villains. She could be caged in the Pain Parlor, strapped to a table in Deadly's laboratory, or menaced by the Giant Insect while chained to a pillar. Originally, she was going to be named "Dr. Deadly's Daughter," but this was quickly changed to the more generic name she ended up being sold under probably to avoid angering the Moral Guardians with implications of Offing the Offspring. Unsurprisingly, the line got canned anyway.
  • Todd McFarlane's Monsters was one of McFarlane Toys' many attempts to reinvent classic (i.e. Public Domain) monsters. Each set came with an elaborate base for play (kids) or display (adult collectors), loads of accessories and two figures themed to the set. The Werewolf set of course had a werewolf, but the second figure was a character named "Steve the Victim." Steve was capable of being dismembered and his remains hung in a tree hollow.
  • The ToyBiz toyline for the 2000 X-Men movie packaged Sabretooth with a "Security Guard" figure, apparently inspired by the Liberty Island sequence where Sabretooth and Toad kill several cops (not guards). The figure was made of several parts held together with string. Turning a knob on his back tightened the string and brought the guard together. When knocked over by Sabretooth, the same knob used to wind him up would depress, causing him to go loose and lie sprawled limply as though dead or unconscious. It did not quite work as intended, though; for one thing, the way he was constructed meant he wouldn't stay standing before his legs gave out and he just fell down on his own without Sabretooth's help.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Throughout the mainline games, Phoenix's co-counsel and assistant Maya Fey finds herself either getting framed for murder, kidnapped, or otherwise targeted with shocking regularity. Eventually lampshaded at the end of the sixth game; upon being called as a witness in "Turnabout Revolution", her immediate response is to assume she's under arrest again.The List (Spoilers) 
    • Maggey Byrde, though a more minor character, also qualifies. If a protagonist meets the Goddess of Misfortune, it's because she's somehow managed to be framed for murder again and needs them to take her case. In Justice for All, she's accused of murdering her boyfriend in the first case, in Trials and Tribulations she's accused of murdering a customer at a restaurant she works at, and in Investigations she's the primary suspect of the first murder, though Edgeworth proves her innocent before the case can get to court.
    • This trope also appears in the crossover title with Professor Layton. Three of the four witch trials have Espella Cantabella as the defendant. The only other defendant in the entire game is Maya, as usual.
  • Both Coco and Crunch often got kidnapped or put out of action during the 2000s Crash Bandicoot games, mostly to justified as Big Bad tends to capture them in a bait to Crash Bandicoot. Taken to extremes in Crash Tag Team Racing where every single character (even the villains!) need Crash to find power-ups or items to fix their repeatedly incomplete or sabotaged vehicles.
  • If you're in promotional material for Danganronpa and your name is Yasuhiro Hagakure, then consider yourself doomed. So far, he has been stabbed to death in the demo of the first game, the trailer of the anime adaptation of the first game, and the demo of the third game. Ironically, this is to obfuscate the fact that he survives until the end of the Hope's Peak Academy saga.
  • This was Spoony One's take on Yuna in Final Fantasy X. He had a running tally of how often she got kidnapped during his videos on the game. The counter got to half a dozen, including one instance where she was kidnapped by one group, then kidnapped by a second group before she could be rescued from the first.
  • In Hidden City, if someone gets kidnapped, attacked or cursed, it's usually Juliette. This is actually lampshaded by the Detective, who, after realizing that his lady love is (yet again) possessed by a spirit, bemoans the frequency at which Juliette gets into trouble.
  • Poor IF in Hyperdimension Neptunia V. She goes from a really competent Lancer in the first two games to the Designated Victim in this game, kidnapped three times by Arfoire at three different times.
  • Throughout the Kingdom Hearts series in general, if Pinocchio appears in a game, it's a safe bet that he's going to end up either captured by one of the bad guys or menaced by random Heartless, requiring you to track him down and save him.
  • In the Kirby games, King Dedede constantly finds himself brainwashed or possessed by the new Big Bad. This is likely done to keep the Dedede boss fights coming, since his tenure as a villain is long gone and he's usually no worse than a Friendly Rival to Kirby otherwise.
  • Most The Legend of Zelda games involve the current Princess Zelda getting waylaid in some way and in need of rescuing.
    • Lampshaded in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. Once a ghost, Zelda insists you go retrieve her body while she waits for you, claiming it's tradition. Anjean, who's listening to all this, tells her that it's not happening that way this time, and Zelda joins you as your Exposition Fairy instead.
  • Professor Theo from Mischief Makers is kidnapped (and almost killed at one point) several times throughout the game, sometimes right after he was rescued.
  • Kaya in Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army. She's kidnapped, tortured, rescued just in time to be possessed, her body is used to fight Raidou, she's forced to fuse with the Soulless God...Yeah, it's pretty clear why she asks you to kill her at the start of the game.
  • Princess Elise from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) is kidnapped several times by Eggman throughout the game; sometimes immediately after she was rescued. It gets to the point that rescuing her is all that Sonic does in his route, while Shadow and Silver get to do more important things, like dealing with the actual Big Bad of the game.
  • As the page image tells you, the Super Mario Bros. series has Princess Peach. When not being kidnapped by Bowser, she's near-always connected (whether by fate or magic) to the plot at large regardless and thus in need of protection from some other party. Sometimes she's playable instead, but even that doesn't save her most of the time. The series itself has regularly lampshaded this since the almost the beginning, with everything from comic adaptations, to the various RPG spin-offs, to even the mainline gamespoking fun at it.
  • Pretty much the first thing that happens in Tales of Legendia is someone tries to kidnap Shirley. While you're fighting off that kidnapping attempt, someone else comes along and kidnaps her. Then, when you finally find out where she is and go to save her, before you can get her out safely, someone else comes and kidnaps her. She doesn't actually stick around long enough to be part of your party until after you beat the game. In a way, it's sort of satisfying to see her become Brainwashed and Crazy and attempt to flood the world, because at least now she's got some power!

  • The Kingfisher has a few candidates for this trope, most notably Jack Whitechapel. Key plot events for Jack almost all involve being tormented, abused, or molested.
  • The Fourth: Princess Veronika is constantly being kidnapped, and is pretty resigned about it.
  • Girl Genius has Tarvek who, despite his relative competency, has been kidnapped by the Geisters (Actually faked on his part), been rescued out of custody by Violetta, had Zola attempt to kidnap him, been kidnapped by Othar, been rescued from imprisonment by Gil, was trapped in the Take 5 Bomb, and was then kidnapped by the Library, kidnapped by his grandmother, and then underwent second kidnap attempt by his grandmother.
  • Magellan has The Man Who Can, a Technopath superhero, who seems a magnet for mind controlling villains. In the first arc, he was merely disabled in such a manner. In the second he became one of the bigger threats the protagonists had to deal with. In the third, while almost the whole cast was affected, the Big Bad mostly used all other minds that were affected to boost The Man Who Can's powers to fight all those unaffected, while the Big Bad was The Unfought. Although the fourth arc featured an invasion by Scary Dogmatic Aliens who use telepathy to copy and adapt technology, The Man Who Can is not present for the events of this Arc, so for once the protagonists' problems aren't caused by his tech being turned against them.

    Western Animation 
  • Tails in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. To be exact, he's kidnapped 22 times.
    • In its SatAM variant, Princess Sally tended to face this problem repeatedly as well. Antoine also got into trouble a lot, but it was usually due to his own bumbling rather than acting as favored hostage bait for the villain.
  • Arcane: Hilariously, despite being The Lad-ette main character, Vi is kidnapped at the end of every single Act. She really needs to work on watching her back.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, you could tell when a writer wanted to get Batman alone and take Robin out of they way, because he would always be injured at the beginning of the episode, or taken hostage for Bats to rescue. This happened in "Riddler's Reform", "The Demon's Head" (though this was the case in the original comic version), "Fear of Victory" (though Dick saved the day later in the ep), "The Terrible Trio" and a few more. The most bizarre example is in "Bane" when after Batman freed Robin from his typical hostage situation, Dick stayed behind and wrestled the powerless mob-wench, who had never shown any combat abilities whatsoever and then let her get away (although after the day he was having, Dick may have just wanted some light wrestling with a pretty girl). While Bats went after Bane. Clearly they wanted Batman and Bane to fight one on one, but that's just ridiculous. It's not really the show's fault, as one of Robin's nicknames in the comics is "Boy Hostage". It's hard being a sidekick. Also, better writers on the show (such as Paul Dini) would incorporate Robin successfully into the story without victimizing him.
  • In the Beetlejuice cartoon, whenever the writers wanted Beetlejuice to actually act heroic, they would put Lydia in an untenable situation — kidnapped, bullied, being forced into a shotgun marriage to an anthropomorphic bull, etc. Lydia being in danger was the only thing that could spur him into action.
  • Ma-Ti on Captain Planet and the Planeteers. What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? — indeed.
  • Yumi of Code Lyoko; the first season's examples coining the phrase "Pick On Yumi Week". While it would be logical for XANA to repeatedly go after Aelita, or The Smart Guy Jérémie (he does this too, to a lesser degree), or the team's best warrior Ulrich, for some reason Yumi instead is the one who gets: captured by a Guardian and replaced by a clone; shot at by a Kill Sat; attacked by a possessed suit of armor; her home ambushed by Krabes; chased by a busload of zombies; her DNA code stolen, leaving her trapped on Lyoko; almost dragged underground by tree roots; falsely told that virtualization is slowly killing her; attacked by a flock of birds...
    • Of course, XANA's actual Designated Victim is Aelita, but he always has a different reason:
      • First Season: Aelita is the only one who can deactivate the towers, so killing her would make him unstoppable.
      • Second Season: He required her memories to use a program to escape Lyoko.
      • Third Season: He needed her to input the "Code: XANA" program in order to destroy Lyoko. (He usually used Demonic Possession here.)
      • Fourth Season: He used her as bait to lure Franz Hopper out of hiding. Fortunately, the heroes caught on quickly after they realized this was his goal.
  • On Courage the Cowardly Dog, Muriel is a sweet, clueless old lady who always gets terrorized by the Monster of the Week. Then again, she is one of only three main characters.
  • On El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, the spunky but powerless Frida. So far, Manny has decided on at least one occasion to end their friendship for her own safety. However, the show is big on Amusing Injuries, so it's really nothing permanent.
    • In one episode, Frida tried to defy the trope by stealing Manny's belt and becoming a heroine. When the belt got taken off during a fight with Sartana of the Dead, Frida just grumbles a bit and walks into "her usual cell" of her own will, locking it behind her.
  • Subverted (at least toward females) in Extreme Ghostbusters. More than a few times does the Monster of the Week capture Kylie, then quickly release her because she wasn't "worthy" of a capture. E.g. in the episode "Killjoys", she was captured — and quickly released — by an evil ghost clown because she didn't laugh. Though this "selection of victim" down the character line ends up making Eduardo the Butt-Monkey.
  • Kim Possible with the titular character herself somewhat gets to be tied up, chained, or captured during her mission, also known to be Badass in Distress.
  • Downplayed in MADtv (1995)'s Spy vs Spy Animated Segments during the Rough Draft Studios' run with Black Spy tormented White Spy in a creative bondage solution or getting him under trap without any expectations.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Princess Cadance can't catch a break. Out of all her major appearances she's only had a good time twice; the rest of the time she's either imprisoned, straining to keep a monster from overwhelming and destroying a kingdom, or dealing with Discord's antics.
    • At least she and her husband have this in common. If Shining Armor shows up anywhere near a Monster of the Week he will get snuffed out by said monster in no time. Just ask Queen Chrysalis, King Sombra, Discord, or Lord Tirek. He even seems to take the majority of blows from his own daughter if his far more ragged state than his wife's is any indication.
  • In Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, there was literally never a time when Carmen came to extract the squad and didn't get shot down and have to be rescued. And yet everyone still talks about her as if she's the greatest pilot ever. She has been their pilot for like 2 years, and she has never not been shot down.
  • In early seasons of Scooby-Doo, Daphne was captured and kidnapped so often that she got the in-universe nickname "Danger-Prone Daphne".
    • Not to mention her tendency to unwittingly screw up Fred's traps pretty frequently.
  • Kenny in South Park is perhaps the ultimate example of this. He dies in practically every. Single. Episode. It usually happens in some very bizarre way that would be highly improbable to ever occur in real life, too. Of course, at the beginning of the next episode, he's alive again with no explanation and none of the other characters finding it strange. But then there was a Very Special Episode where Kenny was diagnosed with a terminal disease and his friends tried to get embryonic stem cell research legalized so a cure could be found before Kenny died. Although they convinced the government to change the law, it was too late, and Kenny tragically passed away, and stayed dead for the rest of the season.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), despite being a superpowerful alien being, Starfire was such a Designated Victim that she had to constantly and visibly be ironically babysat during the fast-paced fight scenes by superpowerless Robin.
    • Also, anything with tentacles is going after Starfire.
    • In the original comic, Starfire was casually beaten up in an alley (implying rape) despite being nigh-indestructible, super-strong and a handy combatant. Perhaps some writers just don't get it.
  • For some reason, the writers of Thomas & Friends really liked to pick on Percy. While most engines had accidents (running into a train, blowing through the station, falling in a mine, sliding into a ditch, etc) or were victims of the Troublesome Trucks playing tricks, Percy seemed to have the most accidents period (in addition to the dirty ones). Among these he was slid into the ocean, pushed into a break van (and was blamed for it), hit some buffers that broke, hit a Treacle cart, hit a fruit cart, hit a cart of jam, hit a cart of limestone, crashed through a chocolate factory and emerged covered in chocolate, or accidentally sprayed with snow and turned into a snowman.
    • While Percy gets the most accidents, James' tend to consist of some of the most elaborate and humiliating, usually to bring down his ego. Should he get even the slightest bit full of himself, something terrible is bound to happen to him, and usually his lovely red paintwork. He's hit a tar wagon, been repainted as a bee, stung by a real one, made to travel in just his pink undercoat and derailed into mud after colliding into Gordon. Additionally, while Percy at least gets to live most of his woes down, the other engines tend to have a better memory of James'.
  • Each girl on Totally Spies! is the designated victim of some type of Evil Plan:
    • Sam, the "smart one", is always the one who gets brainwashed/hypnotized.
    • Clover, who is most concerned about her looks, is always the one to undergo a Forced Transformation, whether it's being shrunk, turned into a cat, fattened up by highly-addictive cookies, or even having her legs stolen and replaced.
    • Alex and Clover take turns being the one who gets kidnapped, though Alex, being the most athletic, is often tied up or imprisoned as a restrained hostage (and this is considering all three of the girls are usually put in bondage or a death trap at least Once per Episode).
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise has a more comedic version, with one woman and her oft-destroyed red sports car being an incidental victim of villain plots or annoyed by well-meaning Autobots all. The. Freaking. Time. It's less "kidnapped and rescued" and more "her having the worst luck ever is a running gag." How bad is it? Even at the Great Wall of China she isn't safe!