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Distressed Dude

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"Sorry Princess, but your Mario is in another castle!"
"Look up there! It's a big, strong man in need of rescue!"

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Meet the Spear Counterpart of the Damsel in Distress. He's usually the sidekick to a butt-kicking Action Girl, always getting himself captured for the female lead to save. This may also occur in shows featuring a male protagonist and even when the male protagonist is a total badass, they tend to get captured quite a bit, usually to demonstrate their awesome escape skills.

Sometimes this trope is regarded as a product of twentieth-century feminism, but it's Older Than They Think. When classifying fairy tales according to the ATU Index, one distinguishing mark of several types of tales is that a man (or men) is rescued — generally by the heroine. While he is generally her Love Interest, they are generally her brothers.

Compared to the Damsel in Distress, the Distressed Dude is somewhat more likely to save himself in the end or to be saved by someone of the same sex. If he is saved by a woman, she is likely to use her traditional, feminine strengths rather than a more direct approach. When the Distressed Dude is rescued by an Action Girl, it's not uncommon for him (or for another character) to describe this as an injury to his masculinity. If he's in a relationship with the Action Girl, he may be a Useless Boyfriend. This may be Played for Laughs, though sometimes the Distressed Dude will learn An Aesop instead.

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The dude may have picked up the Distress Ball. If he was a badass before getting kidnapped, he may suffer Badass Decay, but if he continues to kick ass after being freed, he's a Badass in Distress. Compare Non-Action Guy.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Ballads 
  • In the Child Ballad "Tam Lin" (Child #39), Fair Janet rescues Tam Lin from The Fair Folk.
  • In the Child Ballad "The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward", the young lord saves his life by promising to never tell that his servant robbed him; the servant turns him into a servant until the daughter of a local lord figures out how to get the story out of him. (Gender Flip version of the Damsel in Distress in The Goose Girl).
  • In the Child Ballad "Geordie" (Child #209), a woman pleads for her husband Geordie who is condemned to hang, convincing the King to commute the sentence to a fine. In the Scottish version sung by Maddy Prior and June Tabor (as the Silly Sisters), she doesn't merely plead— she brings all the fighting men of Clan Gordon ready for action, to make sure the King listens. In Joan Baez's version, presumably related to others called "The Death of Geordie", her plea fails. See also http://www.csufresno.edu/folklore/ballads/C209.html
  • There are versions of Child Ballad #95, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows", where the condemned is male, ransomed by his female lover.
  • In the Child Ballad Young Beichan, the hero is imprisoned and must be saved by the heroine.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix:
    • Getafix the druid is sometimes captured by the Romans or Goths because they want his Super Serum potion.
    • Cacofonix gets captured by the Romans a few times and gets Bound and Gagged at the end of most stories. In most cases, the kidnappers want to give him back.
  • Batman:
    • Dick Grayson used to get captured and tied up a lot during his old Robin days, in order to play the sidekick in danger and get rescued by Batman. Now, as Nightwing, this has evolved into a tendency to end up bound and stripped down to his underpants by the villain. Not that we're complaining.
    • Lampshaded in The Dark Knight Returns comic when Joker refers to "Robin, the Boy Hostage".
    • Hey, Dick isn't the only one who gets tied up. Even Batman gets it sometimes.
  • A common premise for pre-Crisis stories featuring Black Canary was her saving her love interest (and eventual husband) Larry.
  • Blake and Mortimer: Professor Philip Mortimer usually investigates alone and tends to get captured when he's trapped and outnumbered, leading his best friend, Captain Francis Blake to rescue him. Though there are a few cases when Blake also gets captured and Mortimer is the one who rescues him.
  • Green Lantern has been full of this since the dawn of time, but special mention goes to the New 52 run that, thus far, has been chock full of our two leads getting captured (by the Sinestro Corps, Indigo Tribe...).
  • Rick and Morty (Oni): Both Rick and Morty become this sometimes:
    • Morty is the more common target since Rick's enemies often try to use Morty against him. Most notably, he gets taken hostage at gunpoint in Issues 9 and 39, and is outright kidnapped in Issues 18 and 57.
    • Rick gets captured by Dictator Morty of Dimension 304-X, and by his former employees of his dinosaur park, requiring his grandkids to save him both times.
  • In the climax of one issue of Runaways, Chase is captured and held at knifepoint by Geoffrey Wilder, while trying to see if Nico and Xavin escaped from the burning planetarium. He's rescued by Gertrude. Unfortunately, Geoffrey decides to just kill Gert instead, making it a Heroic Sacrifice on her part.
  • Sami The Samurai Squirrel: In one story, Doug is kidnapped by pirates.
  • Bob Reynolds, the boyfriend of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, spent most of his time having to be rescued by Sheena.
  • Pick an issue of Will Eisner's The Spirit. Any issue.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman's traditional boyfriend the Ace Pilot Steve Trevor tends to get into quite a fair share of trouble. His competence level varies from bumbling idiot, to experienced soldier, to commando superspy badass enough to be part of the Justice League, Depending on the Writer. His tendency to need rescuing, though, is pretty constant.
    • A more recent (Wonder Woman (2006)) boyfriend, Tom Tresser a.k.a. Nemesis, is generally portrayed as more competent, if not outright badass. But he's still not in WW's league, and thus still needs saving on occasion. The first time Diana rescued him he was actually disguised as Steve Trevor.
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Ronno the Mer-Boy in the Silver Age comics also qualifies, partly due to him always putting himself in harm's way just to impress Diana, and partly because, being a merman, he is pretty much helpless on land. He is especially ticked when he's rescued by Steve Trevor, despite Steve being an Ace Pilot superspy.
    • In Wonder Woman (1987) Diana had to team up with Ares to save Hermes from Hades after Hades and Poseidon reacted poorly to Athena usurping Zeus' throne and strung up the messenger of the gods in Tartarus.
    • A different version of Steve finds himself in the same old boat in The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016). He was dragged to Themyscira to become a Human Sacrifice for Ares' plot and was injured and essentially helpless and in need of rescue for the duration of his stay.
  • X-Factor: Rictor's first appearance in comics consisted of his being saved from the Right, who'd kidnapped him in order to use his powers to wreak havoc on San Francisco. Since then, in his two stints in X-Factor and his time in X-Force, he's often the go-to guy to be kidnapped.
  • Y: The Last Man: Yorick Brown frequently needs to be rescued by 355. And in the "Safeword" arc, the bondage gets... rather literal. He's also a trained Escape Artist, so he can free himself at least some of the time.
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    Comic Strips 
  • Mark Trail: Rusty's designated role, constantly getting kidnapped or trapped.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 

Fandoms

  • A 30-year Running Gag in Blake's 7 fandom states that there are only two types of Avon fanfic; slash and trash. "Trash" being an example of this trope.
  • This crops up quite a lot in Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfiction. They tend to fall into one of two camps:
    • The nations are discovered by the public at large or some shady organization and are abducted and imprisoned. This usually leads to some sort of experimentation on them.
    • One or more of the nations kidnaps another or several nations and holds them hostage, usually for some dark and disturbing purposes. This can be used to represent historic events, like an occupation or invasion. Beatrice The Golden (NSFW, no longer active) has written some of the more graphic ones, including Debt and My Little Chicken.
  • How much The Lord of the Rings fanfiction has either Aragorn or Legolas in danger, kidnapped, tortured, or out of commission so the other has to rescue him? Answer: lots.
  • At the moment, Bucky/the Winter Soldier is probably the most popular Distressed Dude in Marvel Cinematic Universe fanworks, but people are also fond of beating up on Tony, Clint, and Loki.
  • The TGWTG fandom has been making the Critic the Distressed Dude long before he got captured canonically. Mostly justified, seeing as how the fics usually also have Ask That Guy in power and that usually means no happy fun times for the Critic. But other times it's just because he's so very pretty when suffering.

Individual Fics

Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
  • Chrysalis: Niko was the only one who managed to escape the Supervillain Lair — meaning she had three Distressed Dudes to rescue on a return trip.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  • In West of the Moon, East of the Sun (a loose adaptation of both the famous Norwegian fairytale and the Greek myth Cupid and Psyche) Spike is captured by the Big Bad and held captive in another dimension. Buffy has to go and rescue him.

Calvin and Hobbes

  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
    • Calvin's father (and mother) in "The Return of Dr. Brainstorm", though they were asleep the whole time.
    • Calvin and Hobbes get stuck in a Bag of Kidnapping in "An MTM Episode".
    • Socrates tends to get kidnapped a lot - he's held for ransom by Dr. Brainstorm twice (though Calvin shows little concern) and the Super Smoke being in "Nocturnals" says that a returning character is after him, to his surprise.

Disney

  • In Crowns of the Kingdom, the Disney Villains capture all of the princes except for Charming at one point.

Doctor Who

  • Parodied in this adult but fairly cracky fic. The Doctor's tendency to get tied up, handcuffed, etc by the villain of the week means bondage no longer does anything for him.

Godzilla / King Kong / MonsterVerse

Good Omens

Hetalia: Axis Powers

The Lord of the Rings

  • Pip-napped!: Pippin is kidnapped by a former innkeeper and his accomplice. Since the story is set AFTER the War of the Ring, and his kidnappers are nowhere near as dangerous as Orcs, it takes no time at all for Pippin to free himself and turn the tables on his captors.

Mega Man

  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Mega Man is captured for the latter half of Episode 13, and Roll, ProtoMan, and Kalinka set out to rescue him. Tron Bonne also tags along, unbeknownst to the other characters.

NUMB3RS

  • Yield: Happens to Charlie when he is shot at when he and the team are on horseback trying to retrace the victim's shooter's tracks and gets a shot in the arm and a concussion as a result.

Pokémon

  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash has been kidnapped twice, though in both cases he was taken off-guard. The first time, he was attacked while on the road and taken captive by Hunter J, though he manages to (barely) escape from her ship on his own. The second, he was forcibly teleported to the Saffron Gym by Sabrina. He managed to hold his own until his female companions and his recently found half-sister Belladonna managed to get there and get him out.

Sonic the Hedgehog

  • In the original Sonic CD, Sonic rescued Amy from Metal Sonic. In Always Having Juice, though, Rosy is the one who rescues Sonic from his doppelganger.

Thomas & Friends

Transformers

Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-

Yu-Gi-Oh!

  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series:
    • Many jokes are made about Mokuba Kaiba's frequent kidnappings.
      Mokuba was supposed to be there with me, but he had been kidnapped for the fiftieth time that week so his seat was empty.
    • LittleKuriboh even saw fit to put together a montage of a few scenes in which he was kidnapped.
      Kaiba: [thinking] Hmm. Perhaps I should consider keeping him on a leash.

Dormant/Dead/Unsorted

  • In Marc Being In A Gang Rights, Nathaniel has been threatened by Marc's gang at knife-point, kidnapped to be helped for ransom, kidnapped by a villain, and is almost mugged, coincidentally by the same gang that kidnapped him.

    Films — Animation 
  • Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return has no less than three men who are in need of rescuing by a woman. Who are they? The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, to be saved by Dorothy Gale.
  • Princess Aurora/Briar Rose is the Distressed Damsel in Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty, but her boyfriend Prince Phillip does spend a while as a Distressed Dude when Maleficent captures and chains him to keep the guy from giving Aurora the True Love's Kiss required to break her Convenient Coma. The Fairies have to break him out and give him the weapons he needed to win his fight.
  • In Tangled, Rapunzel's interventions did save Flynn on a few occasions, most notably during the Snuggly Duckling scene. That said, he is able to hold his ground against the palace guards, and he kind of repaid the favor by performing a Heroic Sacrifice, thereby freeing Rapunzel from Gothel.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the animated series. He's still a badass, but Rapunzel has also Taken A Level In Badass. Notably there's never any insulting of his masculinity; he usually just swoons and/ or brags about his badass girlfriend before getting back in the action.
  • Thanks in no small part to his injured arm and the arguments of his fellow "captives," Woody is this for most of Toy Story 2.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: At the end of the movie, Vanellope saves Ralph from what would have been a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Ralph Breaks the Internet does it again, with the Disney Princesses teaming up to save Ralph from falling to his doom near the end of the movie.

    Manhwa 
  • Minwoo from Metal Heart gets kidnapped by Nova in order to use him as bait for Sia.

    Music Videos 
  • The video of the Brandon Flowers song - Crossfire has the guy repeatedly rescued from ninjas by the female leader.
    • In all fairness, most guys would probably be willing to be captured over and over if Charlize Theron is the one rescuing them.
  • My Brightest Diamond's "Inside a Boy" depicts a girl rescuing her boyfriend from a dungeon and slaying monsters along the way.
  • The Presidents Of The USA song "Ladybug", depicts a super-heroine ladybug rescuing her boyfriend from an evil centipede.
  • The music video for Miike Snow's "Genghis Khan" has the hero captured and tied to a table a la James Bond.
  • The music video for Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" puts the entire band in this situation, as they've been captured by the leader of an underground stuffed animal fighting ring (yes, really) and stuck in a dungeon underneath the arena. Alexandra Daddario ends up rescuing them after taking down the leader and his champion.
  • The music video for Bastille's "Laura Palmer" involves the frontman Dan Smith being kidnapped by two masked men and a masked woman riding ATV's. They bind him with duct tape and put a bag over his head, torturing him by shouting into a megaphone right next to his ear, placing a tarantula on his face, and hitting him over the head with a bottle.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Dirt: In what may be the first recorded example of this trope, a central point of Ancient Egyptian religion is the rescue of Osiris by Isis, after he's killed by his brother Set.
  • Classical Mythology: Prometheus, rescued by Hercules — eventually. This has featured in literature from Prometheus Bound (attributed to Aeschylus) to Percy Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.
  • Stavr Godinovich from Russian Mythology, a wealthy merchant and a bard. He offends Prince Vladimir's court when he boasts that his wife is smarter than the Prince and all his nobles combined. Vladimir throws Stavr into a dungeon... and guess what, Stavr's wife soon tricks him back to freedom, outwitting Vladimir and all his nobles.

    Pinball 

    Podcasts 
  • Lucas Miller of The Adventure Zone: Balance spends most of The Crystal Kingdom waiting for the Tres Horny Boys to save him, and bleeds out through most of the arc's final battle.
  • In the Cool Kids Table game Here We Gooooo!, the last hero of the Soda Pop Kingdom gets captured while trying to free the Grape Escape factory, and the party has to free him. When they ask Princess Caramel Seltzer about him, she admits that she's aware of him and that he's actually not that great at being a hero.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • After Paul Heyman lost his job as general manager of WWE Smackdown, he tried to maintain his power in the company by having The Dudley Boys kidnap Paul Bearer, hoping that in doing so they could control The Undertaker, who had just returned to his zombie gimmick.
  • On one edition of TNA Impact, Samoa Joe was jumped by masked men in black while in the parking lot and loaded into a van, which sped away. Kidnapped by ninjas became a meme after the commentators innocuously pointed out Joe wasn't returning anyone's calls in the following weeks.
  • BJ Whitmer was captured and tortured by the CZW roster during the promotion's war against Ring of Honor.
  • Jimmy Jacobs hired many masked men to kidnap Tyler Black in his final effort to continue The Age Of The Fall. This ended up being the end of The Age Of The Fall when Kevin Steen, El Generico, and Delirious came out to stop him.
  • During a most surreal Raw segment, CM Punk ordered his straight edge cohorts Luke Gallows and Serena Deeb out into the audience in order to capture Jared Fogal, Subway Sandwich spokesman, to force him into the cult after Fogal politely declined.
  • In their effort to take over TNA, Aces & Eights once loaded Kurt Angle unto the back of a pickup truck, though he got away on his own.
  • James Storm and Seiya Sanada once kidnapped Manik straight from the Impact Zone, then took him to a shed in the backwoods in order to brainwash him.
  • Seth Rollins once put retired wrestler Edge atop cinder blocks on WWE Raw and threatened to kill him unless The Authority were reinstated.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In something of a reaction to the kind of pulp science fiction Rocket Age tries to reconstruct, there are an almost disproportionate number of distressed dudes in the published adventures.

    Theatre 
  • The Mrs. Hawking series: In part V: Mrs. Frost, Nathaniel is taken captive by the villain, and an all-female team of heroes works together to save him.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Phoenix Wright is no slouch in this department. Accused of murder in 1-2 for daring to question the resident Corrupt Corporate Executive, stricken with amnesia in 2-1, then the defendant for Mia to rescue in 3-1. He and Maya share the distress spot in 1-3 when Dee Vasquez nearly rubs them out, Gumshoe arrives just in time to save both their hides.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, this happens twice. Once when Edgeworth is "arrested" for supposedly murdering another passenger on a first-class transcontinental flight and once when Edgeworth goes to deliver some ransom money to some kidnappers and gets taken hostage himself. Both times he ends up with his hands either tied or handcuffed behind his back, and he has to talk to other people into setting him free.
    • Poor, poor Sebastian Debeste from Investigations 2. Getting kidnapped (accidentally, at that) was just the icing on the cake to a severely traumatizing day for him. Kay and Edgeworth free him after finding him Bound and Gagged in a small, dark room while looking for another kidnapping victim, and by this point, he's become so emotionally fragile from the experience that the ensuing Logic Chess sequence is the most difficult one in the game.
  • Shane from Asagao Academy Normal Boots Club claims to have been one at one time.
  • In War: 13th Day, Brooks charges after Chase with a spear. He refuses to fight back because she's the best friend of his lover. He ends up pinned down and almost raped until Wildfire rescues him. Or not.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the Sirithai capture Refan and tie him into the arena where he is to be sacrificed to the monstrous Plushiebunny. Ax ends up saving him and can't help but keep teasing him about it because usually Refan has been the one doing the rescuing.
  • A few That Guy with the Glasses guys have been this. Linkara has been tied up twice, once by Sage to torture him with an Old Shame fanfic and the other time by Mechakara... just to torture him. Paw was tied up in a recent video and covered in blood while The Nostalgia Critic was kidnapped by the Game Heroes and made to promote their stuff at gunpoint.
  • Discussed in The Nostalgia Chick's review of Supergirl: it was an incoherent mess that eventually turned into a Love Triangle over a pathetic schlub, but the one thing that the Chick liked was that the Action Girl/male "damsel" aspect was Played Straight rather than For Laughs.
  • Rakion Kalsa in Chaos Fighters: Chemical Warriors-RAKSA.
  • The Fate of Paul Twister begins with Paul locked up in a prison, until a rather authoritative woman shows up to bail him out. Lampshaded by Paul when he finds out her identity:
    (Narrating) Now, I’m a pretty forward-thinking guy. By some ways of measuring it, it would not be at all inaccurate to call me the most modern man in the entire kingdom. But even so, there’s just something viscerally humiliating, and maybe even a little bit emasculating, about realizing that you’ve just been rescued from a dungeon… by the Princess.
  • Weebl & Bob: The first "Team Laser Explosion" short had Weebl and Bob having to save "the Mayor" from the evil Fire Thunder Squad.

Alternative Title(s): James Bondage, Dude In Distress

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Bobby

Bobby is kidnapped by a Folded Spike and held like their spikeballs.

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