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Distress Ball

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"If any female character, in a burst of anger or enthusiasm, decides to go off and accomplish something on her own without the hero, she will fail miserably and again have to be rescued."
— Gender Equality, Part 2 (Tifa Rule), The Grand List of Console RPG Cliches

When a writer needs to have a character put in trouble so she (and it's almost always a "she") can be rescued, they will sometimes have characters act in ways that serve the needs of the plot rather than their own characterization or common sense, up to and including the character acting Too Dumb to Live. This is generally considered sloppy or outright bad writing, although there are exceptions.

The Heart or other Love Interest is the most common target of this trope, but Sidekicks, Tagalong Kids, other non-combatants, and even very stubborn Lancers are not immune.

Such acts may include wandering into a dark alley at night while alone, separating from the main group due to anger at one or more of the team members, Going for the Big Scoop, losing a fight against opponents that are well below her skill level, trying to take on the Big Bad one on one, deliberately taking on way too many enemies single-handedly, or not listening (or listening, for that matter) to The Hero suggesting she Wait Here. It also includes not having the sense to kick the villain in the nuts when he tries to grab her upper arm. It can also play a role in her actions (or lack of them) after being captured, such as being detained in an area with little or no security and failing to take advantage of obvious opportunities to escape.

If the Ball is handed once too often to an otherwise competent and talented female character, it can lead to her Chickification and possibly becoming a Faux Action Girl if she never returns to her pre-Ball badass self. On the other hand, tossing the distress ball back and forth between both sides of a Battle Couple allows for all the cuteness of a Rescue Romance without the weakness.

This trope is frequently coupled with Rescue Romance. More rarely, you might find it suddenly reversed with the character rescuing herself.

Compare Damsel Scrappy and A Tragedy of Impulsiveness. Deliberately Distressed Damsel and Worf Had the Flu are more justified versions.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The title character of Cardcaptor Sakura, though equipped with an amazingly large array of powers to evade all sorts of threats, got into helpless situations more than a few times, if only for Syaoran to get an intimate moment with her. This was somewhat more justified in later episodes, since most of the threats were deliberately designed by The Chessmaster Eriol to be defeated solely by Sakura's cards, and were immune to the magic of others, thus protecting her as she fought through was the most plausible use most other characters could have (not to mention Eriol also enjoyed playing The Matchmaker for her and Syaoran).
  • Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran: Meow has recurring drops in both fighting skill and common sense just to give Ran an excuse to rescue her.
  • Faye in Cowboy Bebop's Episode 5 tries to find out who murdered Mao Yenrai on her own, but winds up captured by his murderer, Vicious, and his Red Dragon goons. Spike heads to the church to take Vicious on, but does take the time to save Faye when a Red Dragon mook tries a Put Down Your Gun and Step Away.
  • Butt-Monkey Matsuda from Death Note picks it up, but he handles it with almost uncharacteristic competence after he's in over his head.
  • Descendants of Darkness: This gets passed around a bit, but is often picked up by Tsuzuki. He really shouldn't get into as much trouble as he does because of his powers, but he tries to never hurt others so he gets hurt instead.
  • Digimon Adventure: WarGreymon participates in every fight with the Dark Masters. He spends most of each fight firmly clenched between teeth, manipulated by an opponent, paralyzed by hunger or transmogrified into a key-chain. His allies often have to rush to his rescue due to his rushing into fights.
    • Though he did beat Mugendramon/Machinedramon in a Curb-Stomp Battle... who turned out to actually be alive and became Milleniumon and is later defeated in Ken's backstory.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: Sora Takenouchi got hit upside the head with one of these during the Christmas episodes, by panicking when debris started falling around her and having to be pulled away by Matt; the other characters (including Sora's Bond Creature) ran away. "Chickification!" fans screamed. Sora did recover and joined Miyako/Yolei in the World Tour arc, leading the Russian Digidestined. Unfortunately, that mission didn't go too well either; the girls nearly froze to death and had to be rescued there as well.
  • Fairy Tail: Erza Scarlet, usually the most competent of the main cast, is quite happy to paint a target over herself whenever Jellal in any way becomes involved with the current action.
  • Flame of Recca Mikagami Tokiya picked this up, twice, despite his status as "the most cruel" of Hokage and one of the more efficient and intelligent fighters. First, in Sealed Lands arc. After completely ousting Mokuren and Mikoto in a 2-on-1 fight, without chance of recovery, he's pitted against Aoi, who completely overwhelm him stats-wise, even if he has recovered. The result is very obvious, he completely lost it and was later crucifixed and used as a hostage. And then in SODOM arc, he was forced to pick up another ball for comic relief, where he fails to notice a drugged teacup and then was in turn... strapped into a mechanism, whereas people with less intelligence like Domon slips out of it (in his defense though, his perverted tendencies saved him), and after being pulled out of it, Mikagami was rained with taunts like "So much being the genius!"

    It's later shown in the PlayStation 2 game Final Burning that instead of getting suspicious and trying to drink with the teacup, Mikagami can opt to say "Sorry, I'm not thirsty" and just avoid all that embarrassment. But apparently, in the manga, he was holding the Distress Ball, so obviously (and gratingly), he did not pick that option.
  • Inuyasha: Sango picks this up a few times, seemingly to give Miroku a chance to show his heroism and devotion to her. First there was the incident in Mt. Hakurai where she gets knocked out by her own weapon after Kagura blows it back at her, despite having plenty of time to catch it (since it's a boomerang, this is what she normally does) or get out of the way (she was partially distracted by seeing Kohaku, but that's no excuse). The most notable case is in episode 131, where she gets mad at Miroku, runs off to find him, and gets captured (by a bunch of unskilled mind-controlled human drones) without putting up any resistance, resulting in her getting possessed by a demon egg and an epic battle (in the next episode) with Miroku where he fights to free her from demon control. Then there was the incident near the end of episode 161, where she gets captured by a lowly demon that was never depicted as a serious threat up to that point.
  • Tsukumo from Karneval. She's usually competent, but when the plot calls for someone to be rescued, well...

  • Mazinger Z: Sayaka suffered from this several times in the original series, generally tied up. It also was played straight in Mazinkaiser. Hilarity Ensues. And much Fanservice.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Of all people, Negi picks up the distress ball during the Chao arc. After The Masquerade fails, he lets the other mages catch him, forcing his True Companions to bust him out so they can Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
    • Asuna also falls into this sometimes, although it's less of "picking up the distress ball" and more "got hit on the head with the distress ball".
    • During the Wilhelm arc, about a third of the class gets hit with the ball.
  • Akane Tendo in Ranma ½. The girl was first shown beating up fifty-odd armed attackers on a daily basis and was called Champion of her Martial-Arts School. Yet on more than one occasion, she gets kidnapped by opponents, far, far beyond her level, and acts like a complete ingenue (one kidnapper tied her up with pantyhose for pete's sake!). In both Ranma 1/2 movies, she spends the majority of screen time in captivity waiting for Ranma to save her, and does not attempt an escape or do anything make his job easier, despite never being tied up, locked up, or seriously restrained in any way.
  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold, just about everyone except maybe Mendoza are captured due to momentary stupidity at some point of another. Tao even lampshades that they were captured three times in one week.
  • Sands of Destruction: Kyrie picks this up every other episode. Despite the fact that he is a capable fighter in the game and he has the power to destroy the world, Kyrie never arms himself with anything and must rely on his friends Morte and Toppi to bail him out. He manages to subvert this slightly in the manga as the only reason he picked it up was because he froze in place. And despite the fact that he can fight in the video game, he still gets himself captured.
  • Jinpei in episode 8 of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. Bothered by his alter ego The Swallow's lack of popularity, he decides to go off on his own to save their new underwater base from Galactor and to show everyone just how heroic The Swallow really is. Naturally, he gets nabbed by Katse and has to call the rest of the team for help.
  • Lampshaded in Sekirei, when Yukari ends up briefly being held prisoner. After spending time moping and wondering when her brother will come rescue her, she suddenly jumps to her feet and wonders why the hell she's sitting around waiting to be rescued. She then proceeds to set fire to the penthouse where she's being held, verbally gives the villains the middle finger, and leaps out a high-rise window into Shiina's arms. The villains are......surprised to say the least.
  • Carrot Glace in Sorcerer Hunters is shown to be more than capable in a fight, but several times he's become a Distressed Dude and needed the rest of the team to bail him out. Though to be fair, this usually happens due to his Idiot Hero status.
  • Asuna Yuuki from Sword Art Online during the Fairy Dance arc (episodes 15-25 in the anime, volumes 3 and 4 in the Light Novel). Although her dis-empowerment is more or less justified in-universe and at least tries to escape on her own (and manages to go pretty far), there are moments where her Action Girl attitude is completely gone.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Mokuba gets kidnapped roughly once-an-arc, and briefly possessed in an Anime-only arc. Granted, unlike most of the examples, he's just a pre-teen with some improbable skills. One wonders why Seto Kaiba doesn't hire some competent bodyguards, or better yet, chain his brother to him by now!
      • Parodied in YGOTAS, in one episode, Kaiba stated that he has been kidnapped for about the 50th time that month during a flashback. In another episode, there was a montage of Mokuba being kidnapped, which has happened at the very least 2,042 times in total. Kaiba then considers keeping him on a leash.
    • In the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Anzu attempts to lure Dark Yugi into the open by riding a Ferris Wheel with bombs underneath each of the cars. Too Dumb to Live, indeed.

    Comic Books 
  • Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 9 comic. She is supposed to be this great Vampire Slayer, yet almost every time we see her, she is defeated, humiliated, kidnapped, or betrayed. She always needs rescue and she can't do anything right. First she got drugged and her body is stolen from her. In issue 2 she lost a fight with a single zompire and she must be rescued by Severin. In issue 4 she was lured into a trap by Severin and must be rescued by detective Dowling. Then, in issue 7, she got her arm torn off by a single zompire. Later, in issue 9, she is kidnapped, and in issue 10 must be saved by Spike, Andrew, and Spike's cockroaches. In issue 11, she fails to stop an assassination attempt; fortunately, this was just a drill. Then in issue 12, she is almost smothered to death by a tentacle monster and must be rescued by Kennedy. In the very next issue, she is defeated by Elder Koh who cut her face. In issue 16, she got owned three times in a row by single zompire. Finally, in issue 18, she had to fight Severin, a guy who almost killed her before. Severin is a human who draws powers from supernatural beings but can be hurt with a gun, and instead of using a gun on him, Buffy decides to fight him with her superpowers.
  • This happened a lot to Allan Quatermain in the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Usually Mina, Nemo, or Griffin had to save him, in a bit of a gender inversion.
    • Somewhat justified, as the story goes to great pains to emphasize that he is a drug-addicted, traumatized and washed-up old man, almost unrecognizable as the courageous adventurer he used to be.
  • Princess Theti-Cheri from Papyrus is need of rescuing many times because of being an impulsive hot-headed teenager who tends to not think straight when she gets angry or upset.
  • Ric Hochet: Nadine Bourdon is constantly being captured in the span of the 78 comics, sometimes many times in the same story.
  • The Scrameustache: Khena needs rescuing from Scrameustache quite a lot, although there is one case where their roles are reversed.
  • Superman:
    • Lois Lane, oh so very often. She's followed her journalistic instincts into danger so frequently it's a miracle she ever survived before having the personal attentions of the Man of Steel.
    • Jimmy Olsen got in trouble as often as Lois, prompting Superman and sometimes Supergirl to rescue him frequently.
    • During Supergirl's 2016 book, Benjamin Rubel had to be rescued at least once per storyline due to his inability to follow a sensible course of action such as "Don't get near from that glowing portal".
  • In Tales of the Jedi, Lady of War Nomi Sunrider gets a Poke in the Third Eye so she can be knocked out just as Ulic Qel-Droma walks past and be impressed by the "beautiful fallen Jedi", kicking off their romance.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The ruthless and usually quite astute Emperor Sangtee ends up escorting a prisoner without her guard, which ends up with her held captive and forced to sign a treaty to end the war which pardons the rebels and abolishes chattel slavery in the Empire. There are rather heavy handed signs that this was intentional—her handling of the Lasso of Truth while contemplating the situation, her awareness that the Empire's policies are garnering public unrest, and having her "captor" at gun point but lowering the weapon—but it's not made explicit that she exploited this trope to make the nobility accept what she's done.
  • In Yoko Tsuno, Vic and Pol sometimes need Yoko to rescue them, especially in The Seventh Code.

    Fan Works 
  • Given to all of Equestria in My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic, when Nightmare Moon and her allies enslave the place without much resistance and take Luna and Celestia hostage. Naturally, the Unicornicopians have to come to the rescue.
  • In the Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Genderswapped Nations, Francisca and Ariana are handed the ball when they are both kidnapped by the Big Bad out of nowhere just so that a few new characters could be introduced into the plot, and also so the author could write a chapter where Mattie and Allison have to embark on a journey to save them. Either way, there was no logical reason why the Big Bad would benefit from kidnapping them again.
  • The ball gets flung at Victoria in All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird during the Winter Palace ball. Somewhat justified here, because while she's a very competent swordswoman who could normally defend herself without difficulty, the distress comes when she's unarmed, wearing a dress, and being attacked by a Harlequin - some of the deadliest fighters in all of Thedas. Fortunately, she's got someone looking out for her.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • For there to be a plot in Coherence, characters are required not to stay calm and sit out the night in the house where they stranded but rather venture out to solve the problem. Case in point are Hugh who desperately tries to contact his brother and Properly Paranoid Mike.
  • The Day After Tomorrow wouldn't exist without this trope.
    • The opening scene in which paleoclimatologist Jack risks his life to save three tubes of ice cores at a drilling site at Antarctica. A minute earlier they showed us the interior of the tent with numerous other tubes. There was no indication that the three tubes were precious enough to die for.
    • J.D., who desperately needs to leave the safety of his father's apartment to pick up his brother in Philadelphia.
    • Sam, who desperately wants to go home in the worst weather conditions.
    • Jack, who desperately needs to travel from Washington D.C. to New York during the ice storm and save his son.
    • The policeman in the library, who urges everybody to set out and find a rescue party that may or may not be there several miles away.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Madison uses the ORCA, a device which can communicate with Kaiju but which specifically drives Ghidorah to hunt down and murder whatever's producing it, to lure Ghidorah to an evacuated city... and then she just stays put at the stadium with a pair of binoculars, waiting for any sign of the three-headed, Ax-Crazy dragon barreling towards her (the dragon who, again, becomes even more determined to kill you than he normally is when he hears the ORCA). Thankfully, Godzilla also arrives, in time to fight Ghidorah before he can kill Madison.
  • Anna in A Million Ways to Die in the West is established a crack shot early in the film. But when Clinch Leatherwood comes to town looking for her, she suddenly loses her ability to use firearms. For the entire final act of the movie, she never attempts to use a gun in self defense. She also doesn't take advantage of an obvious opportunity to take Clinch out of the picture for good after she knocks him out with a rock. Does she then kill him or tie him up and lead the Sheriff back to him to make an arrest? Nope, she just leaves him there to wake up and continue pursuing her later.
  • Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat: The Movie goes from Action Girl to "oh he's too strong someone save me" the second Shang Tsung gets her arm behind her back. Never mind that she should be by far the toughest person in the group, being a professionally trained special agent compared to an actor and a disillusioned Shaolin Monk.
  • Inspector Chan from Sha Po Lang, after losing three of his four men to the rather psycho assassin played by Wu Jing and his badass kung fu, decides to go after the guy's boss, Wong Po, all by his lonesome. He storms the guy's HQ and does a fair job of blowing away Wong's mooks, but when he finally confronts Wong, being as this is a kung fu movie and not a gun fu movie, he promptly gets owned by Wu Jing and captured by Wong, which means that Donnie Yen has to save his ass in the final showdown.
  • Ryan, the protagonist of Warriors of Virtue, is captured about three times over the course of the movie. It's mainly due to him being vital to Komodo's plans against Tao and him not knowing at martial arts (for the first movie anyway).

  • Laurana from Dragonlance gets passed this in Dragons of Spring Dawning, when, after having been previously shown to be a brilliant military leader, she suddenly accepts without question a message from her Arch-Enemy, Kitiara Uth Matar, claiming that their mutual love, Tanis Half-Elven, is with Kitiara but has been mortally wounded and wants to see Laurana before he dies. Laurana believes the message even though Kitiara: has an obvious motive to want to harm Laurana; provides no proof Tanis is even with her much less that he is dying; and requires Laurana to come to the meeting site without any guards. Laurana's friends Flint Fireforge and Tasslehoff Burrfoot even try to warn her that the message is obviously Schmuck Bait, but Laurana is absolutely certain she can trust Kitiara, so she goes to the meeting site without taking any precautions and is promptly betrayed and captured and ends up having to be rescued by Tanis.
    • In fairness Laurana, while far stronger and smarter than the Brainless Beauty she seemed to be during her first appearance, is still someone who just hasn't had that much experience of the wider world (even in Dragons of Spring Dawning she's only been away from elven society for a year or so). She hasn't completely lost her naïvity and faced with the possibility that Tanis is dying she isn't thinking too clearly. It was stupid yes, but a moment of in-character stupidity.
      • In the Annotated Dragonlance edition, the authors acknowledge that Laurana's character development at this point meant that it was stupid and out of character for her to do this. But they had to do it for the plot's sake, making it a perfect example of this trope.
  • Happens in Septimus Heap, where Sarah Heap in Darke runs back into the Palace after her duck and is overrun by the Darke Domaine mostly so that Simon can rescue her later.
  • Subverted in Wind Rider's Oath. We get the classic setup: the female lead heads off to confront the Big Bad on her own, and gets trapped by a spell cast by the Big Bad, who details what is in store for the female lead. Meanwhile, the male lead hears about what she's planning, and charges off to play Big Damn Hero. At this point, the Big Bad discovers that coercion spells don't work against champions of the Light. Single-handed (well, two-handed) clearing of the villain's lair ensues, and the male lead shows up just in time to be dragooned into cleaning up the mess.

    Live Action TV 
  • Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer falls prey to this a lot. Hey let's go out with people I don't know, at night, in Sunnydale. That's not suicidal.
  • Sara Sidle in CSI. As someone who lives and works in the desert, you’d think she’d know enough to stay put when she gets left in the middle of nowhere so she could be found easier. Instead, she wanders around til she passes out and just makes it harder to find her.
  • Stella in CSI “All Access”. She’s reasonably smart and a trained detective, she should have known not to enter her apartment unarmed after she finds the door open and should have just arrested her ex. Instead, she gets herself tied up and beaten.
  • The Doctor's companions in Doctor Who tend to carry these around a lot. The Doctor himself points it out in the episode "The Empty Child", muttering about how he always tell them not to wander off alone and how they never listen.
  • Normally one of Ezel's most sensible characters, Azad takes the ball and runs with it in the season two's "Lives Unlived"tr , where she insists on meeting Bade in person over an issue that (while concerning) doesn't exactly require immediate action. Despite her status as a high-value target, she leaves the safehouse and is subsequently captured by Kenan to be used as leverage against her father.
  • Gender inverted in Farscape a couple of times, generally involving John storming off the ship in his module for one reason or another and getting stranded. Parodied and lampshaded in the episode "John Quixote" when John finds Aeryn dressed as a princess on the top of a castle asking for help John then says "Now I know somebody is messing with us".
  • There tend to be a number of them every episode of Ghost Whisperer. Although there are plenty of subversions too — Melinda will often do something very stupid and dangerous, but nothing will come of it.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Dear GODS, Nancy Drew in second season:
    • "Arson & Old Lace" has Nancy held captive for six months. By an old man in his 70s. In a penthouse. With a phone and an intercom to a secretary who's not in on the plot. With an elevator that doesn't require any special code to operate, that leads right down to a very public and open office area. No, she's not tied up. She's not held under lock and key. And somehow the elderly gent is able to force her into an elaborate dress and hairstyle, too. She just passively waits for Frank Hardy to rescue her as the building is burning down.
    • "Voodoo Doll". Nancy goes off on her own to investigate the Big Bad. Yup, gets caught. Yup, is held captive (again, untied up) with two other women, similarly untied, in an open warehouse with tons of crates. The only door INTO the warehouse area is locked. On Nancy's side of the door. With the hinges on HER side, too. Her one attempt to escape involves her climbing UP crates to go through a window, and is promptly caught. It takes the Hardys breaking into the warehouse through said door before Nancy can escape. *sigh*
  • During the "Port-to-Port Killer" arc of NCIS, Ziva leaves HQ on her own to see if her boyfriend's OK...and is quickly subdued and captured. Team Gibbs manages to locate and rescue her...which keeps them occupied while P-to-P goes after his real target at NCIS.
  • Kate from Robin Hood. Technically she is a full-time Damsel Scrappy, so perhaps doesn't fully belong here, and yet the writers' dependence on using her to kick-start plots by having her acting stupid (to the point where the character served no other purpose) and the fact that she never manages to extract herself from any of the danger she wanders into means she deserves a mention.
    • In her first episode she abandons the outlaws in order to try and rescue her brother on her own. Naturally, she's captured in under five seconds and her brother is killed as he tries to rescue her. Two episodes later, a tax collector begins swaggering around Locksley; Kate decides that the best way to handle the situation is by loudly bad-mouthing him in front of everyone. He captures her and the outlaws have to drop everything to go and save her...twice. In the sixth episode she doesn't get out of the way of a dagger being thrown at her, and spends the rest of the episode being tended to by the other outlaws (this includes her getting spoon-fed). One episode later she's captured yet again (off-screen) because apparently she couldn't run away from the guards fast enough, and in the episode after this she is captured by a soldier (by not being stealthy enough) and is then almost raped in a bar tavern. In the second-to-last episode she storms into a peaceful sit-in protest, ranting and raving and hurling abuse at the soldiers for no apparent reason, and is about to be killed when another outlaw intervenes, effectively beginning a fight. In the grand finale, she's - you guessed it - captured yet again, offscreen again, and the outlaws have to save her again (although in context this capture was more justified than the others).
  • In Sapphire and Steel, Sapphire needs to be rescued an awful lot. According to Word of God, this was deliberate and meant to be justified in the context of their roles: Sapphire was conceived as the member of the duo who investigated and sensed what was going on, and Steel as the one who did things about it. Because her powers were more about detecting danger than getting out of it, this meant that hers was actually the more dangerous role of the two.

    Video Games 
  • Kazooie picks up the Distress Ball in the early stages of Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge, where she's kidnapped by Gruntilda. Sort of. It's actually the result of time travel. Mostly... Point being, you have to rescue her (and a bunch of other trapped Breegulls) from the second level before you can use her powers. Even the manual says "She just wants to get back to her best friend and back to kicking Grunty's butt."
  • Right at the beginning of Beyond the Beyond, Annie takes the Distress Ball and runs into a cave with it, after her father, a seasoned knight, refuses to let her go out adventuring. She promptly gets trapped and nearly eaten by a cave beast, and it becomes the duty of Finn, the hero, to go to the cave and save her.
  • In Breath of Fire I, shortly after Ryu arrives at Winlan, the player gains control of Princess Nina as she decides to storm the lair of a powerful wizard to obtain a cure for her poisoned father (who the wizard was responsible for poisoning). Granted, she does (or rather, is forced to) take a pair of soldiers with her as bodyguards, but all the same, she is captured and needs to be rescued by Ryu afterwards.
  • In City of Heroes, fan wisdom is that Fusionette was issued one of these at birth. It's a bit of an exaggeration: "Rescue Fusionette" is only a mission objective in four of the seven missions where you encounter her, and two of the four are while she's still a teenager.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Lenna Charlotte Tycoon of Final Fantasy V is notable for inflicting this on 'herself'' more than once. Yes, she gets kidnapped and possessed by external enemies, but she has become infamous in fandom for stubbornly ramming herself face-first into poison in order to save dragons.
    • Adelle briefly leaves the clan in Final Fantasy Tactics A2. Guess what happens? The Big Bad, who expressed interest in her abilities as a Gifted before, brainwashes her, of course.
    • Rinoa Heartilly of Final Fantasy VIII. She foolishly goes after the Sorceress intending to bind her powers with a Power Nullifier (a plan that could have worked if Edea weren't being possessed by another Sorceress from the future who knows the item) but ends up in a trance and attacked by Iguions. Naturally she must be saved. This is balanced out somewhat by moments of competency such as leading an attack on the prison to rescue the others, gaining Sorceress powers to become a Game-Breaker and saving Squall from the Time Crash during the ending.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, if you choose Ephraim's route, Princess Tana of Frelia (a Pegasus Knight who has just finished her training) will try to follow him to war against orders of her father and brother, only to get herself captured; therefore, one of your purposes in the following stage is to rescue Tana and give her the weapons she needs to join the group. Note that in Eirika's path, Tana offers her help directly to Eirika from the very beginning, so the hostage situation doesn't happen and you can have her in the party from the start.
    • On the other hand, early before the route split, Ephraim and his knights, Kyle and Forde, suddenly needs to be rescued after being betrayed by Orson... or so it seems when suddenly the trap turns into Eirika and company, now they need to be rescued... by Ephraim and company.
    • Azura from Fire Emblem Fates is normally more than capable of protecting herself, but there are still occasions where she finds herself held hostage or in need of rescue. It's justified, though—she gets targeted specifically because her powers are a threat and the enemy wants to remove her from the equation before she can use them. Like Tana and Lilina, she proves just how right the enemy was to be worried whenever the Avatar rescues her.
    • Kagero in the same game is a capable and highly skilled Ninja and one of Prince Ryoma's retainers, but in every playable route she's captured by Kotaro of Mokushu. In Birthright and Revelation her capture comes off as more a nasty surprise given that no one knew Mokushu had sided with Nohr, but in Conquest it's more the standard I Have Your Wife scenario as she's held hostage to bully the Hoshidans into surrender. All three times, though, she keeps a cool head and is freed once Kotaro is defeated.
    • Leo's son Forrest is a straight example. After being chewed out by his father for his Wholesome Crossdresser habit, Forrest sadly leaves to he can return to the Deeprealm he came from. On his way back, though, a pack of bandits mistake him for a pretty girl and kidnap him, requiring the party to rescue him.
    • In Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, the remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, a plot element is added whereby villains want to kidnap Celica throughout the game. Since the rest of her side of the game progresses similarly to the original version, this causes her to suddenly turn into a complete idiot every time an attempt is made to either forcibly take her or convince her it's for the Greater Good to give herself up.
  • The End Times: Vermintide: Despite having edged weapons, the main characters are somehow rendered helpless whenever a Skaven Packmaster puts a rope around their neck. They cannot escape being caught by the packmaster and need to be saved by their companions.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Bastila has a Distress Ball at the beginning but drops it pretty quickly after the swoop race. Justified as she was knocked unconscious when her escape pod hit the ground, and then had a Restraining Bolt in the form of a device that made it so she couldn't even think. She was building up the willpower and force power to break the device in the time you were running around.
    Bastila: "Rescue me? Is that what you thought you were doing?"
  • In Metroid: Other M, when Samus encounters Ridley, she becomes terrified and is unable to fight back. Ridley easily grabs her, leaving one of her allies to begin the offensive in her stead. There are arguments over whether or not she had the distress ball at the time, since she had traumatic childhood memories regarding Ridley, but has also faced and defeated him numerous times in the past without an emotional breakdown. As you can imagine, this is one of the reasons why Other M is hated by much of the Metroid fandom.
  • The Ni GHTS Into Dreams levels begin with NiGHTS being held captive, which NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams accentuates by having poor NiGHTS constantly getting captured in cutscenes. Every level starts with you rescuing them, after which they blaze paths through the stage until it's time to get caught again, a couple times forgetting they have the power to fly.
  • There's an interesting case in Odin Sphere. Oswald, the unstoppable Shadow Knight, proves unexpectedly unequal to the task of fighting the baby dragon Leventhan when Fire King Onyx sends him to do - in spite of the fact that Oswald has by that point already killed two fully-grown adult dragons. Coming fresh from fighting Onyx himself to a standstill may have something to do with it. Fortunately for Oswald, his wife Gwendolyn is willing and more than able to swoop to his rescue, smack down Leventhan herself, and royally bitch Onyx out for trying to Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • In Persona 4, Chie Satonaka rushes off into Yukiko's Castle to save her friend, despite her previously having agreed to stay with the group, as she didn't yet have the power to protect herself. And yet, despite not having such power, she made it through a floor full of Shadows without anything happening to her.
    • That actually makes perfect sense. Shadows do not attack normal people, as they do not perceive them as a threat. They only attack people with Personas, unless the Shadow in question belongs to the person currently in the TV world.
  • Planescape: Torment: The mastermind behind Morte's 'skullnapping' in was a being of such immense power that he could permanently kill the Nameless One, but still, with a pair of wererats? At this point in the game, Morte could solo rooms full of them.
  • In Star Ocean: The Second Story Rena carries this for the very early part of the game, as the girl with mysterious magical powers and (according to her character profile) martial arts training ends up being kidnapped, going along with her kidnapper (to save her mother,) then trying to escape and bumbling right where her assailant wants her to be - all so that Claude can show up and save her. Fortunately, she mostly gets to drop that ball after the rescue is finished.
  • Super Mario Bros.
    • Princess Peach has handled this ball a few times in her career. A few others, things are just out of her control. A few other times, she's seduced by cake.
    • And even Mario is not safe. He wandered off into a haunted mansion by himself in Luigi's Mansion. The result is... predictable.
    • Happened again in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, where Mario got somehow captured by King Boo just before the story started. It's never really explained why Mario got captured, but it's possibly because he was the first guy sent in to deal with the problem by E Gadd and it all went wrong from there.
    • Averted in Super Princess Peach; one of Bowser's Goombas slipped in with the Vibe Scepter and zapped everyone - itself included - into emotional insanity, plumbers included. Peach, Toadsworth, and another escort happened to be Late to the Tragedy.
    • Everyone picks up one in Mario Party DS. Notice how their archenemy just invited them all to dinner. He's tried to take over the world, kidnap them, and kill them all in the past... but hey, free food!
    • Mario Is Missing!. How can he not have anticipated the consequences of always using the front door?
    • Bowser himself suffers from this a few times in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Not so much in Super Mario RPG or Super Paper Mario, though.
  • World of Warcraft: Jaina and Sylvanas both try in vain to confront Arthas directly in the Halls of Reflection dungeon. Jaina probably fits more, trying to appeal to his last bit of humanity instead of revenge, but they both fail and have to be saved by the players... who then in turn are saved by their faction's airship.
  • Yggdra in Yggdra Union fits this trope perfectly when she goes off after Gulcasa.
  • The entire plot of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was set into motion because Akane went back to retrieve the doll that Junpei had given her, which she'd dropped exiting the vent that Seven had led the children out of, thereby getting herself thrown into the incinerator room alone during the first Nonary Game.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Resident Evil has Jill, who was a member of the Delta Force in the Army, gets into trouble many times that requires aid from Barry. Jill can be locked in a room with a descending ceiling trap, get caught by a giant plant monster, and be held hostage by Wesker. Likewise, Rebecca can be cornered by a Hunter and will cower in fear instead of shooting it. She can actually die if you don't have Chris save her quick enough.
    • In Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, Claire gets hit with this when she runs into Wesker. The first encounter has him easily overpower her with his enhanced superhuman strength and only backing off when other priorities call him away. Claire tried to talk her way out of the situation instead of shooting him since she didn't fully know what kind of person Wesker was and only heard bits and pieces from her brother. Claire picks up the ball again from Wesker near the end of the game where it seems to be an excuse to have Chris and Wesker get into a showdown with each other to settle the score.

    Visual Novels 
  • Beat Blades Haruka plays this completely straight for the purpose of having Subaru fall for the main character and completing his Battle Harem. Right after joining the main cast, she is discontent about Takamaru being her master and she runs off to solo complete a mission at the very first occasion. The rest of the team is there when this happens and could just immediately follow her so they can fight together, but instead they have to look for her throughout the city. After being rescued her attitude towards protagonist does a 180 degree turn. She also insists that he punishes her for insubordination, but obviously Takamaru refuses.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Stampy's Lovely World, Stampy is handed this in Episode 541, "I Lost", when he decides to try to spy on HitTheTarget in his helicopter and ends up getting shot down with an Anti-Air cannon and gets captured. However, if this trope were averted, he would have still returned home to a missing Barnaby and would have to launch a rescue mission for him, and a confrontation with HitTheTarget would eventually occur regardless.

    Western Animation 
  • The Wasp, the only female Avenger during the first season of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, gets captured at least three times during the first 27 episodes, and becomes unconscious in four episodes, including one instance which occurred after she became the first Avenger to succumb to a burst of gamma energy.
    • One time, she got captured, and three of the male Avengers became kidnapped after her.
  • Code Lyoko:
    • Aelita has a tendency to pick the Distress Ball in Season 1 and 2 by not always waiting for the Lyoko Warriors' help. Worst case is certainly in episode "Uncharted Territory", where her difficulties to adapt to life on Earth spurred her to return alone on Lyoko, right into XANA's trap. Almost as bad is episode "Déjà Vu", but then it was XANA's entire plan to tempt Aelita into going by herself in Sector 5.
    • Contrary to popular belief, this concern Yumi much less despite her Designated Victim status. When she puts herself in danger, she knows what she's doing and has a damn good reason for it (like in episode "Hot Shower", to save her little brother).
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures has Pepper Potts hold this most of the time. Occasionally she'll pass it to Rhodey and be competent for an episode, but the next episode we're right back to her being too dense to do anything but sit dumbly in the middle of a room where two factions of the Chinese mafia are duking it out.
  • Kim Possible. 90% of the times when either hero (yes, both Kim and Ron) decides to do a mission of their own, they will be captured.
  • Lin Bei Fong in The Legend of Korra loses to the Lieutenant after attacking the electricity-wielding villain with her metal cables (when she also has access to master-level Earthbending and has done quite well just throwing mooks at each other. This takes her out of the fight... which allows the Airbending Kids a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Pearl friggin' Pureheart from the original Mighty Mouse cartoons. In the Bakshi retool, she's usually quite capable of handling things but still requires the hero's assistance in dire situations once in awhile.
  • Daphne from Scooby-Doo. The girl's entire purpose was to be "Danger-Prone Daphne", as they called her. (Note that this chiefly references Daphne from the cartoon series. In The Movie, she's more action geared.)
  • Princess Sally of Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) despite being The Smart Guy of the team, often got captured rather handily.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): April O'Neil is basically a modern-day version of Lois Lane as described above.
  • Starfire in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. She actually forgets that she can fly and has to be snatched out of the air mid-drop by Robin, who has no super-powers. Ironically, one fan once remarked on a forum that if such a thing ever happened she would be called out on it, as it would be an obvious ploy to attract Robin's attention. Instead it was played painfully straight.
    • Well her powers are emotion based and it wouldn't be the first time she lost them due to issues relating to Robin...
  • In Transformers: Animated, episode 2, Prowl, The Lancer of the team, tells Optimus Prime that there's only one person he trusts. Himself. He promptly gets sucked into a nanite monster and almost killed were it not for his teammates. In fact, despite him being the best fighter of the team, Prowl catches the Distress Ball quite a few times in the series, usually after trying to do something alone. Maybe it's trying to send him a message?
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Despite the fact that alicorns are essentially Physical Gods in this universe, they are almost always swiftly taken out of the battle in order for the Mane 6 to swoop in and save the day. This is especially infamous in the case of Princess Celestia, who, despite supposedly being the most powerful alicorn, as well as the ruler of all Equestria, is usually the first to go down. Such as in "A Canterlot Wedding", where she is defeated and subdued by Chrysalis, and "Princess Twilight Sparkle", where she and Princess Luna (who is also handed the Distress Ball) get abducted by the Everfree Forest and end up as Damsels in Distress for most of the two-parter.
    • In "To Where And Back Again", Chrysalis and the changelings somehow manage to capture and replace all 5 alicorns, as well as the Mane 6 and Shining Armour, leaving it up to Starlight, Trixie, Discord and Thorax to save the day.
    • Rainbow Dash gets this in "Daring Done". Despite being a pretty good fighter, she makes no effort to protect herself from Caballeron's goons and ends up having to be saved by Pinkie Pie and Daring Do.
    • A variant in "A Health of Information". Zecora is a talented herbalist who is usually approached to treat unusual ailments. In this particular episode, Zecora herself catches a disease and, even before it renders her bedridden, is completely helpless, first visiting a doctor and then suggesting some other herbalist as a possible solution.

Alternative Title(s): Dumbass In Distress Disorder