The hero and the villain are having a Sword Fight or similar one-on-one altercation.
Meanwhile, our lovely heroine, whom the narrative will insistently claim is physically capable, is just standing around... and doing absolutely nothing (and not in a winning way, either). This isn't a case where she's trapped, incapacitated, physically impaired, or any less experienced than the hero, himself. This is an able-bodied woman with some established ability who is just standing around on the sidelines, helplessly watching while the men do all the dirty work.
So no trying to improvise to assist the hero. No calling for help. No making any attempts to stalk off while the villain is distracted; anything that could possibly enable the hero's success. Not even cheering the hero on to boost morale. You could replace her with an inanimate prop for all the good she's doing.
The situation doesn't necessarily have to be Hero vs. Villain. It can also apply between good guys, especially in terms of romantic competition. The point is that the girl is still not helping either of them nor doing anything to stop the fight, not even by saying something that could settle everything between the combatants.
There are cases where her inactivity or lack of involvement in a fight can be justified. As stated above, she may be injured or Bound and Gagged and thus unable to move. She could be lower on the Super Weight scale or lack experience. Another reason could be This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself (where none of the hero's allies help him) or the hero insists on an honorable one-on-one duel. An especially fickle heroine may simply be waiting to see which man comes out on top, since Women Prefer Strong Men.
What differentiates her from a regular Load is that it's established she has abilities or has choices at her disposal but when confronted with duking it out among the boys she's suddenly rendered inept by virtue of being female. Compare to Damsel in Distress but with a case of Faux Action Girl; which often serves as both the source and result of this trope. The distinction is that the Faux Action Girl is consistently failing to live up to her hype. It is a character trope. This trope here is more of a situational trope and it could have some justifying context (This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself for instance). Thus, not every Neutral Female is a Faux Action Girl.
Also compare Standard Female Grab Area which is where being caught by the wrist or upper arm is enough to impede her. Both tropes are often caused by the writers' unwillingness to have a woman fighting (and thus being hit by) a man. Polar opposite of the Defiant Captive, who may be helpless but won't let that stop her from telling her captors exactly what she thinks of them.
- Bleach plays with this trope:
- Claymore: While Claire is an Action Girl now, she was like this back when she was just a child, often gasping in horror as her mentor, Teresa, fought off the bandits invading the village, and eventually her own fellow Claymores. Justified because she was just a small girl back then. Claymore also has a Gender Inverted for this trope as well: Raki. He often stood around, hoping that Claire would save him from the monsters attacking him. But in Volume 14, of the manga, he, just like Claire, became more than capable of holding out on his own, or to be more precise, chop Yoma into hunks of meat.
- Death Note has Misa in one scene hiding like a scared cat, while L and Light punch and kick each other.
- Averted by Videl in the tenth Dragon Ball Z movie. Broly is crushing the life out of Gohan, so Videl throws a crystal shard at him. He breaks it easily, but his concentration is broken long enough for Gohan to kick his way out of the stranglehold and start the Kamehameha Wave that (with help from Goten and Goku) does Broly in.
- Fairy Tail:
- Eclair in the movie: The Phoenix Priestess. Justified in that she not only doesn't practice magic, she also hates it, but it's a little strange to see an example in an endless sea of Action Girls.
- Lucy herself does take an active role in most battles, but she filled this role during the fight with the Lullaby monster. In the anime version, Happy even made fun of this trope.
Lucy: I hope [Natsu, Grey, and Erza] will beat that thing...
Happy: Shouldn't you help them out?
Lucy: Gee, I'd love to, but none of my Celestial Spirits are available right now, and I'd probably just get in the way.
Happy: That's no excuse.
- Erza Scarlet herself even tries to Invert this trope at times. For example, at one point during Natsu's fight with Laxus, Erza punches Natsu in the stomach and attempts to take on Laxus herself.
- Haruhi Suzumiya: Mikuru Asahina fits this trope because she doesn't help in the fighting. This is because she's ordered to be neutral by her time-travelling superiors, namely her future self, which means the poor girl literally has herself to blame for her helplessness.
- Averted by Snow in the anime ending of MÄR. Ginta would not have been able to beat the Orb without her merging her soul with Koyuki, thus allowing him to use the stone that was trapped inside of her all her life.
- My-HiME has Yuuichi as an understandably neutral male when his super-powered best friend starts trying to kill his also super-powered love interest. He's not the only one, though: Mai's little brother Takumi also does that at least thrice And the third one happens just before he dies, when his tomboyish girlfriend Akira's CHILD is destroyed.
- Sakura is infamous for spending most of the time in battle just standing with a kunai in a defensive position while her male teammates do all the actual fighting (it made sense in the Bridge Builder arc because she was left as the only one actually guarding the person they were supposed to be guarding). If they had indicated that she's supposed to be a non-combatant, this would have been more acceptable, but the fact that she's supposed to be a highly trained ninja makes this all the more insulting. It isn't until the first arc after the Time Skip that she does anything else... until she gets shunted to the sidelines again as The Medic and doesn't have any memorable fights for most of the manga. The fact that both Naruto and Sasuke tell her to stay back as they fight at different times and then they both point out that she won't be of much help in the fight against the Big Bad Ensemble at the end of the manga doesn't help.
- A couple of girls in the series lapse into this at times, like in Team 10's fight against Kakuzu, where Ino's only contribution to the fight was locating him. By the Fourth Shinobi World War Arc, she makes up for it big time.
- Konan, who probably has the least screen-time out of all the members of Akatsuki, Averts this when she faces down Tobi and forces him to resort to a Dangerous Forbidden Technique in order to survive.
- Averted in Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge, which is mostly about a schoolgirl fighting an axe-crazy chainsaw murderer. The main character is a normal guy who wants to help her out. How well does he do? Put it this way: the first fight, he nearly kills her by hitting her in the head with a pork chop he was trying to throw at the villain.
- A rough example in Neon Genesis Evangelion, during Episode 23: Rei Ayanami struggles with one of the most horrifying Angels - Armisael - and is losing. Misato deploys Asuka to assist her, but her EVA simply will not move. The show portrays Asuka's ability to combat effectively frequently enough in the previous episodes to justify her warrior status, but her history nearer the present fight with Arimisael tears open very old psychological scars and cuts new ones even deeper. Asuka's shot pride is her only inhibitor: she cannot/will not help Rei. This inaction kills Rei.
- Shigure from Ninja Scroll (the series, not the movie) spends a fair amount of time standing around and watching while the villains massacre the people whose savior she's supposed to be. She then proceeds to angst about it: "They're all dead and it's all my fault!"
- One Piece gives us the villainous example of Smoothie. Her demonstration of the trope is such that she quickly achieved memetic status. She is in the top 3 fighters in one of the 4 strongest pirate crews in the World and yet, when a coalition aiming to assassinate her captain (who's also her mother) bursts into and ruins the tea party, she basically just stands in the background and does nothing. Made even worse by many of her brothers who, despite having a lesser rank, actually show themselves far more useful than her.
- In Pokémon Adventures, during the first battle with N, Black yells at White to help him out as he's getting his ass kicked. She cries out that all her Pokemon aren't really hers, as they are actors from her talent agency, and that she has never been in a battle in her life. Black promptly goes into a hilarious Face Fault with the words, "Does not compute" over his head. Subverted with Diamond's mom in an earlier arc. When there's a Zubat threatening to slit her throat, she manages to squirt some berry juice in its face before hitting it with her basket.
- Zigzagged in Rave Master. Elie helps twice when Haru's in the middle of a fight, but one of those times was accidental, and she sat in the sidelines in all his other battles.
- Anthy Himemiya from Revolutionary Girl Utena can be seen as this for roughly 90 to 95% of the series. In fact, the series could be seen to Deconstruct the trope that women ought to ultimately obey their 'prince' and have no life of their own. As punishment for being a witch, Anthy was cursed to be in the role of the Rose Bride, passed around from person to person based on the outcome of a duel. As Anthy saw herself as an empty shell with no heart, she went along submissively. Only when she became friends with Utena who encouraged her to obey her own will did she start to try doing what she wanted.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Defied by Kamiya Kaoru during the Kurogasa arc, where she was paralyzed by a powerful hypnotic suggestion by Jineh so the poor woman truly couldn't do anything but watch as she slowly suffocated to death. She forcibly breaks through the trance to stop Kenshin from killing Jineh. Since If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him is repeated through-out the episode, this becomes a crucial action.
- Sometimes in Sailor Moon. One of the cases was in the end of Season R. After main heroine Sailor Moon/Usagi managed to explain and convince Prince Demand (who was in love with her) that he had been manipulated by Wiseman, said character appeared to kill her. Demand started fighting him...and Usagi just stood there doing absolutely nothing. To top it, Demand died in this battle when he stood in front of her to protect her from Wiseman's attack.
- Parodied in the first episode of Slayers, when Lina is attacked by bandits and Gourry comes to her aid. Lina is preparing to blast the bandits into oblivion, but then realizes that she's supposed to be all passive and distressed in these situations, and so she role-plays it for fun.
- Tokyo Mew Mew: In a very similar style to the Sailor Moon example above, this happened in the last battle, when Kishu fought Deep Blue and Ichigo just stood there watching. The manga shows that their fight wasn't as quick as in the anime (and even in the anime, what was stopping Ichigo from getting up and going over there to help Kishu defeat the guy?).
- Sakura of Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- is almost always this in the first season. She spends the first few episodes unconscious, and when she does awaken, she often wanders off in a semi-trance and needs to be saved. It's not her fault (she has no memories), but there is one exception. In one world, she is kidnapped and locked away in a castle. Naturally, the guys launch a rescue attempt, but rather than sitting there waiting for them to show up, she resourcefully escapes from her cell, discovers the secret of the place, and has to rescue the rescuers using her often-neglected super power. But considering she is wandering around with three expert fighters, it's not surprising they don't need or expect her help in fights.
- The girls of YuYu Hakusho, barring Genkai, are this, more often than not because only Genkai has spiritual abilities. This is justified in the Dark Tournament arc; they're only at the tournament as spectators in the crowd and support for the Urameshi team.
- In Bambi, Faline just stands against a rock wall and watches Bambi and Ronno fight over her. Justified as in real life, a doe would be fine with bucks fighting over her. Less so when she is utterly unable to do anything when the hunting dogs show up and corner her; in real life, female deer can give predators hell with their hooves, and she's roughly the same size as Bambi, who trashes them.
- Averted in The Book of Life. Maria takes part in the action at every opportunity, and leads the finale battle.
- Averted in one memorable scene from Shrek, where an inexplicably French Robin Hood is about to throw down Shrek and "rescue" Princess Fiona. But it's Fiona who ends up clobbering Robin and his Merry Men with some Wire Fu and Bullet Time moves.
- In Babes in Toyland, the hero and the villain are both shrunk down to toy size and then begin to engage in a sword fight while the normal-sized heroine watches them, very concerned. She could have easily flicked the villain away or stomped on him, or simply picked him up and put him in a jar or something.
- Dawn of the Dead (1978). The actress playing Francine famously refused to be just another Screaming Woman; however during the first confrontation at the airport she just stands there while her boyfriend is fighting with a zombie, neither running nor helping. She does get better though. The 2004 remake gives us Luda, who's entire purpose for being is to 1.) Scream, 2.) be pregnant, and 3.) turn into a pregnant zombie and have a zombie baby. Needless to say, she isn't entirely helpful.
- In For a Few Dollars More, Mortimer's sister might well have survived if she'd shot her rapist instead of herself, as well as watching her boyfriend being murdered in front of her by El Indio.
- Subverted in Get Smart with 99. Once Agent 23 is revealed as the mole he takes her captive, and ties her up in the back of his SUV while Max and the Chief give chase. At first she's neutral in the pursuit, but when he makes a comment about how guys like women who are feminine, 99 takes offense and begins kicking the crap out of him while he's driving, incredulously shouting "I'm not feminine?!" the entire time.
- Played Straight and then averted in Hearts of the World. The Girl is cowering off to the side while her fiancée, the Boy, is engaged in a life-or-death struggle with a German soldier. Then she realizes that she has a large butcher knife, which she's been carrying ever since a German officer nearly raped her. She stabs the soldier in the back.
- Subverted in High Noon, where the hero's wife is built in such a way to expect her to be a Neutral Female—she's a Quaker and a pacifist, and so would supposedly be neutral even if she were male. However, she eventually shoots one of the bad guys, and when the leader takes her hostage, she claws into his face, allowing her husband to shoot him.
- In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it's understandable that Willie Scott would be unprepared compared to career adventurer Indiana Jones. But when an 11-year-old child is noticeably more useful and proactive, and given more responsibility by Indy himself, it gets a little silly. Again, as an homage to B-movie tropes, this is likely the whole point — Willie as the Girl of the Week is a deliberate contrast to two-fisted, hard-drinking Marion Ravenwood from the previous movie.
- James Bond. It would take less time to list the Bond Girls that were NOT useless in a fight: Camille, Jinx, Wai Lin, Certes, Domino (with a harpoon!), Contessa Tracy, Pussy Galore, Melina, Pam, May Day, Stacy, Vesper, and Eve Moneypenny. Honorable mention for Tanya, who was mostly useless but did shoot the villainess after Bond subdued her. Natalya gets a pass because she was busy engaging in Hollywood Hacking during the climactic fight scene.
- Juanita in Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. After she is kidnapped by an Indian, Jesse arrives to rescue her. She stands by wringing her hands and praying while Jesse and the Indian fight; instead of, say, picking up a rock and hitting the Indian. In the final battle, it looks like she is doing the same thing again as Jesse and Igor wrestle. However, she somehow finds the wherewithal to pick up Jesse's dropped gun and shoot Igor.
- In Jurassic Park, this role is played by Tim. While Lex turns the power back on and Grant and Ellie try to keep a raptor out, Tim stands ineffectively behind his sister shouting encouragement instead of passing Ellie the gun she's trying to reach with her foot so she can shoot the raptor before it devours them all. Justified in that he's nine and also had his back to Ellie at that point.
- Kaleidoscope: An extremely absurd example. Barney and Harry's Mook are having a fist fight with death on the line. Angel dashes up to find the mook's gun, knocked out of his hands, on the ground. She picks it up, holds it awkwardly as Barney and Harry fight, then throws it in the moat. She then watches as Barney wins the fight and throws the mook in the moat as well.
Angel: And I don't like fighting.
Barney: [irritated] How does living grab you?
- Averted in The Karate Kid Part II. During the final confrontation, the first thing Kumiko does is take her dance ribbon and try to strangle Chozen. Chozen knocks her out with one punch, but at least she tried.
- Defied in the Alfred Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes. The male lead, Gilbert, fights a henchman for a bit with female lead Iris watching meekly from the sidelines. Finally Gilbert shouts "don't just stand there like a referee, cooperate!" Working together they easily subdue the man.
- Subverted in Maleficent. Aurora was magically blessed to be an All-Loving Hero and has been raised in complete happiness and safety, so she can't bring herself to be violent even when her godmother is being attacked. She finds a way around it by finding and freeing Maleficent's wings, allowing her to win the fight.
- Examples from films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- Played Straight in Girl in Gold Boots: in the "climactic" fight Michele just stands around not offering any assistance to the protagonist.
- Played Straight again in Cave Dwellers, where the female lead, despite being handy with a sword, suddenly forgets all her combat training and just shrieks as Ator fights a giant snake.
- Christine does this twice in the 2004 musical movie adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera. In the musical it's based on, both times there was little Christine could do during the scenes; not so in the film. First she just watches worriedly during Raoul and the Phantom's sword fight, and then when Raoul gets the upper hand and is about to stab him she tells him not to.
- In The Princess Bride, Buttercup is almost laughably useless in Wesley's fight against the Rodent of Unusual Size — she does actually try to fend off the ROUS with a stick, but fails utterly. She's not much better at most other points in the story either, and the one time she does something reasonably useful ("Do you promise not to hurt him?") everyone yells at her for it.
- The Mel Brooks parody Robin Hood: Men in Tights has Marion just as inactive as her counterpart, although she is never presented as an Action Girl in this film.
- Subverted in Serenity, where Inara appears to do little during the Mal/Operative fight (after her initial attempts to help Mal ended up with the Operative casually tossing her aside), only to be revealed that her earlier "praying for Mal" by lighting incense was actually arming a flashbang.
- Inverted and Played for Laughs in Shaun of the Dead: During the gang's back garden safari to the Winchester, Shaun grapples with a zombie while Ed and David stand by and watch uselessly. Shaun even calls them on it: "Feel free to step in at any time!" Liz and Di are slightly more useful, the former knocking the zombie off of him with a chair, and the latter supplying Shaun with a weapon in the shape of a swing ball pole.
- Spite Marriage: Trilby and Elmer are stuck on the boat with a bank robber captain, who has already tried to rape Trilby and is certain to try again after he finishes killing Elmer. So what does Trilby do during Elmer's death struggle with the bank robber? She stands off to the side looking concerned.
- Subverted in True Lies. Mousy Helen Tasker wants a little adventure in her life, but not if it requires her to cheat on her husband. Later, when she and Harry are both kidnapped, she tries to tell him "let me do the talking". Even later, Helen finds out her husband is a spy, and falls into true Neutral Female territory. Later still, Helen tries to help Harry by taking up a gun she has no idea how to shoot, and drops it. As Helen winces at her "oopsie", the gun falls down the stairs, still firing, and takes out every bad guy in the room. At Harry's look of incredulous awe, she shrugs and smiles. Kidnapped again, though, she smacks her kidnapper upside the head with a bottle of Dom Perignon, and is well on her way to the XP required for her level in Badass.
- Lampshaded and Defied by Rachel of The Beyonders. She knows that she's in a medieval world where women are told to stay out of fighting most of the time, but she refuses to let it happen to her and becomes the party's Black Magician Girl.
- Subverted as early as the book version of The Body Snatchers; the female lead pretends to be a stereotypical version until she can sneak the syringes full of morphine out of her shirt sleeves and poke the Mooks with them.
- Gender Inverted in A Brother's Price, for the whole society, but especially Jerin's grandfather Alannon, who was kidnapped by Jerin's grandmothers, out of a castle under siege. Apparently he was just taking a bath when the spies found him, and decided to take him with them. It's encouraged by the society, as men are seen as too valuable to harm. Jerin averts this trope, as he has his own ideas about whom he wants to marry, and it just so happens that the women who kidnap him are less attractive than the set of sisters he is engaged to marry. (Alannon was apparently not engaged, and as his kidnappers did everything to make him happy, and his family had been executed, anyway, he decided to just go with it.)
- Justified and subverted by Chloe in the Darkest Powers series. While they're separated from the other two members of their group, her friend Derek is attacked by a man named Liam. She has a switchblade and desperately wants to help, and keeps trying to—she even lampshades this trope in her distress and frustration at not being able to help:
"I thought of all the times I'd been in an audience, snarking about the stupid, useless girl hovering on the sidelines of a fight, holding a weapon but doing nothing, watching the guy get pummeled."
- The thing is, the two guys in question are 1) werewolves, and therefore have super strength, and 2) moving so fast that every time she attempts to stab Liam, she has to pull up fast so she won't stab Derek instead. However, this trope goes from justified to subverted when Liam has Derek pinned—the second they stop moving, Chloe darts forward and stabs Liam in the back of his leg, thus allowing Derek to free himself and giving them both the chance to run like hell.
- Justified and subverted in The Reckoning as well. This time, though, Derek and his opponent are both in wolf form, so it would be understandable if Chloe did nothing but watch. Even then, though, she manages to avert this trope entirely: She climbs a tree so that Derek won't have to worry about her getting hurt, and then notices that the other werewolf is badly scarred on one flank, meaning that his skin is unprotected there. She yells this down to Derek, and that strategy is what allows Derek (who has never been in wolf form before, and even now has only been in it for about an hour) to win the fight against an experienced werewolf.
- Both the heroines and villainesses of the Elemental Masters series like to exploit this, as Edwardian Era men don't think much of women and thus are more willing to turn their back on them or underestimate them in a fight, much to their detriment.
- Discussed, then subverted in The Fire Rose, when Rosalind finds it absurd when women in plays just faint when men capture them and her friends respond that she doesn't know she might react in that situation. In the climax of the book, the villain captures her and tries to give her love interest Jason a Sadistic Choice between saving her but giving into his animal side or letting her die....and Rosalind promptly uses her own magic to incinerate him.
- The Hunger Games: Justified for Mags because of her old age. Since she was a previous victor, though, we can assume she was an Action Girl in the past.
- In The Princess Bride, Buttercup is in the room throughout Westley and Humperdinck's final face-off, but as the narration abruptly stops mentioning her, it can be assumed she stands there like a wall hanging while the antagonist threatens her and her lover's futures and those of their friends. Since the altercation starts by interrupting her attempted suicide, Buttercup is literally holding a knife. One belonging to the villain himself, no less. You'd think Humperdinck insisting at length that they're powerless would prompt her to go in for a stab.
- Defied in Mercedes Lackey's The Sleeping Beauty. When the Big Bad is fighting The Hero coming to save the princess, the former's job is somewhat harder when said princess is throwing everything she can reach at his head.
- Brought up in Tales of Kolmar, as Lanen thinks that if this were a tale she'd be expected to do this. A number of the fights around her are dragons versus demons or demon summoners and she just stays out of the way, not even wanting to be on the sidelines, but there's a memorable instant in Song In The Silence where a demon summoner who is immune to dragonfire turns out to not be immune to human fists.
- Bella Swan from Twilight plays this straight. Her prime role in the books is to end up in danger so that she can be rescued by Edward, mostly from situations that she senselessly caused in the first place. Even when she's against something, at most, she'll only murmur apologetically before she's quickly dismissed. This even goes as far as being expected to comply and wait passively while she's being assaulted by Jacob or ordered around by Edward.
- Subverted and defied in the children's book Zog, by The Gruffalo team Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The eponymous dragon is going through dragon school, kidnaps a princess, and then a knight arrives to fight Zog to rescue the princess. The princess immediately steps in saying "Stop fighting, both of you. I don't want to go back to wearing silly dresses in the castle." Then the three of them team up to become the medieval world's first flying doctors squad.
- The typical gun moll in Adam West's Batman (1966), who typically stands around during the fights like a complete ninny. Even Catwoman does it to a lesser extent. Never worse than in the episode "Walk the Straight and Narrow", which has the moll, for no explicable reason, switch sides in the middle of the fight!
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Xander usually got this role, despite being male. Justified as Xander has no special powers, and attempting to go up against the demons Buffy tends to be fighting would simply put him and his friends in harm's way, if not getting killed outright.
- The season 3 finale does this, except the Neutral Female is Wesley. It's the final battle, and everybody gathers to rush at the Big Bad; a few seconds later, we see Wesley get knocked down, and he is pathetically unable to get up for the rest of the fight. Wesley gets far better in Angel when he finds a way to be useful in fights - by bringing pistols and shotguns.
- The opening episode of season 3 ("Anne") subverted this with Lily. She spends most of the episode completely useless, and during her and Buffy's daring escape from the demon world, she gets captured by the villain and threatened in order to stop Buffy from fighting. Then, in the middle of his villainous monologue, she pushes him off the balcony they're standing on. Later episodes (on Buffy's sister show Angel) show her as being far more independent, to the point of taking care of at-risk children.
- Daredevil (2015): Karen Page takes every step to defy this trope. After Wilson Fisk tries to have her framed up and twice attempts to have her killed for exposing corruption at Union Allied, she becomes feverishly devoted to bringing down Fisk and ending corruption in Hell's Kitchen, single-handedly pushing Foggy and Ben into helping her uncover Fisk's secrets and expose him. She ends up feeling guilty later on about Ben though, since she's blames herself for pushing Ben into writing about Fisk and therefore his death at Fisk's hands, but it doesn't stop her from fighting on.
- Inverted, subverted, and played with in the "A Spy in the House of Love" episode of Dollhouse. Female Echo fights Dominic who has been discovered as the titular spy. Meanwhile, male Topher dives behind a couch to get out of the way of the fight. Ivy joins him there, but immediately suggests they try and help Echo. Topher then insists that he has already helped Echo by imprinting her with the ability to fight very effectively.
- Played Straight in the Firefly pilot "Serenity", where River has been captured by Dobson and Simon comes to save her. Once he intervenes, she stumbles out of the way and hides behind a stack of crates while they face off. Justified in that River just woke up from cryogenic storage a few hours previously, has been unconscious for most of the episode, and is completely confused, disoriented, and still recovering from three years of having her brain cut up. It doesn't help that she's a psychic who can't filter her perceptions and is surrounded by people who are scared or outright hostile.
Zoe: Jayne. This somethin' the Captain has to do for himself.
- And again in "Ariel", while escaping from the Feds. Simon and Jayne attack the guards together, but River just stands by the door sobbing. Again, this is justifiable, for much the same reasons as above. Simon still hasn't found a way of treating her for the aforementioned cut-up brain, and so River cannot intervene. Once he is able to begin treating her, she becomes a lot more effective, as seen in "Objects in Space" and "Serenity".
- "War Stories" has Mal's fight with a torturer, while Zoe initially tries to stay out of it:
Mal: No! No, it's not!
Zoe: [surprised] Oh. [shoots the torturer]
- Game of Thrones: Craster's wives and daughters-turned-wives. There's around two dozens of them, he's been raping and abusing them and sacrificing their infant sons to White Walkers, and when he actually dies the women seem confident they can survive without him. Yet it apparently didn't occur to them to get rid of him earlier. This is actually lampshaded in the novels.
- Deconstructed in C-Drama The Holy Pearl: Heroine Yao lacks kung fu skills but still gets chewed out for not realizing she can contribute to the fight via Magic Music. When Yu Die, who also lacks combat or magical skills, also tries to intervene in another fight, she explicitly makes things worse for the combatants and ends up fatally injured.
- Done in Robin Hood with Kate. The problem was that Kate, as the Designated Victim of the gang, would always be the one to get captured, with the rest of the boys running in to save her. Kate would often try to free herself from whatever situation she was in (and was very vocal about Unwanted Rescues), but one of the other outlaws would always burst in right as she was on the verge of rescuing herself. As such, her continual insistence that she was "not some stupid girl" and that she "could take care of herself" came across as an Informed Attribute, and therefore qualifies.
- In the Supernatural episode "Like A Virgin", the brothers possess an ancient sword, the only thing they have capable of killing the dragons that have kidnapped a group of virgins. During the fight, the sword falls through the grate under which the virgins are trapped, but are not restrained in any other way. At which point every one of them fails the absolute minimum requirement of having agency in their own survival by not handing Dean the damn sword when he can't reach it. Instead Sam, who has longer arms, grabs it.
- Tower Prep to frustrating degrees. Any time Ian got in a fight, his three friends (CJ, Suki, and Non-Action Guy Gabe) would merely stand there, even when time was a factor and they needed to get past the goon in question quickly (made worse by the fact that the fight scenes were often framed badly, showing the three standing in the background, doing nothing.) Granted, Ian had abilities that made him an exceptional fighter, but even he needed help occasionally. CJ finally averted this when she hauled off a walloped a guy who ruined a dance she planned.
- Hestia from Classical Mythology was this to her pantheon, a goddess who was capable of taking on Titans refuses to engage in any mortal activities, unless listening to prayers counts. Even during the Trojan War when the gods had a free-pass to walk-among mortals, or the gigantomachy —- which was basically a sequel to the issues with the Titans — Hestia is committed to Actual Pacifism. Most artwork portrays Hestia as a literal back-ground character, cooking or patiently standing behind other gods when fighting. Justified since someone needs to take heed of the fire within the hearth.
- Averted with Ellie in The Last of Us. Every time the person playing her saw an opportunity to intervene constructively shed Point it out, leading to the character being retooled as having more competence and agency.
- Another Code: Ashley Mizuki Robbins may solve all the puzzles, figure out the sub-plots and spend her games pulling her dad's fat out of the fire, but when it's time to confront the evil mastermind, she just kinda stands there and talks a bit. It's forgivable in that she's a teenage girl with probably little combat training facing down a gun-toting maniac whose anger is more with her father than her.
- Molly in Call of Juarez just stands rooted to the spot while Billy and Juarez engage in fisticuffs.
- Played With for Katey from Dead Rising 2. She is too small to help her father when they get attacked by madmen or zombies, but she's smart enough to find a safe hiding place (typically under a couch or behind crates), so that she won't be in the way and that Chuck can focus on kicking ass instead of worrying about her.
- In Final Fantasy IV, Rosa just sort of shouts at Kain when he shows up to steal Fabul's crystal and nearly kills Cecil. Seventeen years later, she does nothing to stop Kain's dark side from kidnapping her, and in the battle between Edward and Dark Kain she sits on the sidelines, untargetable, doing nothing to help, not even healing Edward.
- During the fight against Caius in the ocean of Valhalla in Final Fantasy XIII-2, Noel yells "Together now" to Serah to which she responds by doing absolutely nothing. Instead, she stands on the side and watches Noel fight Caius solo. She only drops her neutrality a few seconds later by...falling on her knees and sobbing after Noel's overdramatic speech.
- Invoked in the battle against Boc in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II where a recently freed Jan Ors heads to safety. Subverted in the novella covering the game, where Ors is able to distract the dark Jedi with a thrown rock allowing Kyle to strike him down.
- A variation in The King of Fighters 2003: Rose Bernstein calmly sits on the sidelines and plays the piano while her older brother Adel and the player beat the tar out of each other. People are throwing fireballs around and she doesn't seem to have any supernatural powers, making her less than optimal help anyway. The King of Fighters XI pokes fun at this with Adel's "G. Princess" move; it calls Rose into the battle... by which we mean she strolls in under an umbrella and makes fun of Adel.
- Subverted at the end of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, where you will only win the final swordfight if you earlier slipped the princess a dagger, which she will use to stab the villain in the back when he's about to win. While the swordfight is going on, the princess isn't just watching, but visibly struggling against the ropes that bind her. The moment she frees herself, she's on her feet and advancing with the aforementioned dagger.
- Kingdom Hearts II:
- Subverted when Xaldin is trying to make the Beast choose between his magical rose and Belle. He hesitates for a moment, at which point she takes a third option, elbowing Xaldin in the chest and stealing the rose while he's distracted.
- Played Straight when Axel was kidnapping Kairi. While both Hayner and Pence at least attempted to stop them, Olette just sat and watched, even though she was sitting on one of the couches right next to her.
- The manga averts this and has Olette attempt to chase Axel with a bat full of nails after Hayner and Pence get their hair set on fire. The Dark Corridor knocks her back instead.
- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance subverts it as well. While Pete and Maleficent capture Minnie, the moment Pete lets his guard down, Minnie hits him with a Light spell and escapes.
- Kingdom Hearts III: In regards to Kairi, the game finally averts her Neutral Female status... by making her a Faux Action Girl who does nothing of consequence. Eventually averted in the Re:Mind DLC, however, which allows the player to control her for the first time and has a handy explanation of why she appeared to be weak in the original.
- Iris only pleads for them to stop during the fights between Zero and Colonel in Mega Man X4. Supplemental material justifies this: she and her brother were the result of an experiment to create the ultimate combat reploid. The repliforce scientists couldn't get the warrior and pacifist sides of the personality to mesh, so they were split into Colonel and Iris and they have a mental link from sharing over half the same mental programming. She's literally unable to go beyond her neutral-ness if Colonel's alive. In the manga of the same game, Iris points a gun at ''her own head'' and threatens to kill herself if either of them continues to fight.
- Averted at the end of Outlaws. When the Not Quite Dead Big Bad comes into the room and puts a gun to the main character's head (echoing the way he killed the main character's father), his daughter shoots him.
- Averted in Sid Meier's Pirates! 2004, where you can confront Annoying Captains (yes, that's their title in the game) in the various taverns, who are all annoying the barmaids. Telling one of them to leave a barmaid alone results in a duel with the Annoying Captain, but while the barmaid is the subject of the fight, she doesn't just stay passive and out of the fight—in fact, she's the one who ends it if you defeat the Annoying Captain, by virtue of beaning him with a bottle of wine.
- Princess Peach of Super Mario Bros. plays this straight in most games she's in, with a few exceptions:
- In Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Peach doesn't fight the Final Boss, but she does help the Bros. out by tossing them Stars to attack with. Of course, when things get really tough, she faints, leaving them on their own.
- She helps out when Bowser first appears in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story by reducing his power with Starlow. Later when the Bros. have to face the Kretin both Starlow and Peach are there, but they don't do anything to help.
- Peach subverts the trope in the first two Paper Mario games. In both cases she's being held captive in...inaccessible places, but still takes care to make sure that Mario is sent all information she finds out. In the first game, she is also able to send Mario items to help him out and is able to give Twink the power to stop Kammy Koopa.
- In the second Paper Mario game, she also manages to resist possession by the Shadow Queen long enough to completely refill Mario's various health meters.
- In Super Mario World in the final fight against Bowser, Peach tosses out a Mushroom every two hits Bowser takes.
- In Super Princess Peach the roles are reversed: Mario and Luigi are kidnapped by Bowser and Peach goes off to rescue them.
- The first fight with Ramsus in Xenogears has a neutral (or at least non-combat) female for both sides. Ramsus has Miang on his side, whereas Bart and Fei have Margie. Both will occasionally heal their comrades but neither take part in the fighting directly (Miang isn't even a selectable target). Miang later averts this when she appears alongside Grahf as the Executioner: in this fight she CAN be targeted, and for good reason, too — her One-Hit Kill attacks make her an even bigger threat than Grahf. Even later on, Miang proves to be able to hold her own as a solo boss, as well.
- Gender inverted in Cuphead; while Sally Stageplay introduces Cuphead to her Parasol of Pain, her husband can be seen bouncing about in the background, behaving in the manner of a stereotypical scared love interest during a battle aside from briefly serving as a getaway driver.
- Zelda herself in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time when Link is battling ganon Zelda herself despite her vast array of magical powers including being able to teleport wherever she wants and ability to transform into a more nimble being who could easily jump over the firewall simply stands there doing nothing in the battle. Even when the firewall goes down all she does is tell Link to get the Master Sword (while she makes no attempt to move whatsoever) and stands there even after there is nothing blocking her. She only gets involved at one point.
- Subverted in Fate/stay night with Sakura, who keeps trying to make Shirou stop participating in the Grail War and despite having the potential of Tohsaka knows nothing of fighting or real magecraft. She's actually the biggest powerhouse of any single character in the entire game... and she is not on Shirou's side by that point.
- Averted in El Goonish Shive by both Sarah and Melissa.
- Sarah attempts to talk her way out of a fight between Elliot and Hedge, and when that doesn't work she goes for a Groin Attack, grabbing Elliot, and fleeing. This would have likely worked if Hedge had been an ordinary human.
- Melissa has no fighting skills, so when confronting a dragon, she screams, knowing her super-powered friend is nearby, then buys time for him to jump into action by attempting to disprove its ability to fly a la The Flight of Dragons.
- Subverted by Girl Genius during the "Maxim Buys a Hat" arc. Maxim nearly wins the fight with Ol' Man Death for his hat, but his granddaughter Zeuxippe hits Maxim with a jar of olives to stop him taking it. Ol' Man Death objects as her interference meant that he would have to forfeit. Maxim is sportsman enough to find a way that his opponent won't have to forfeit, by categorizing her as a "course hazard".
- Averted in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when Jean saves Bob from a bigfoot. She had resented being reduced to a damsel in distress earlier in the story. She also resents it when he tries to leave her behind where it's safe in the subsequent storyline.
- Sheena in Kid Radd starts off this way, because thanks to her NPC programming, she's not allowed to harm or be harmed in combat. Several times she expresses her frustration with this condition, until she learns she's absorbed some code from her duplicate in Kid Radd 2, which, when invoked, allows her to fight the enemies after her and Radd this time, though this also leaves her vulnerable to taking damage—a problem which is minimized by her ability to switch back to her old NPC mode at will.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Lampshaded when Roy's kidnapped sister is asked why she didn't bother to warn her rescuer (her older brother, no less) of an ambush over an accidental slight before kicking his sword over to him. She explains that she's True Neutral, and goes both ways.
Pompey: That is so hot.
- Therkla also joins this territory when she realizes that between the compelling arguments of Lawful Evil against Chaotic Good is a whole slew of inappropriate ego. So she tries to compromise hard. It doesn't end well.
- Lampshaded when Roy's kidnapped sister is asked why she didn't bother to warn her rescuer (her older brother, no less) of an ambush over an accidental slight before kicking his sword over to him. She explains that she's True Neutral, and goes both ways.
- Alt-Zoe in Sluggy Freelance. Justified since, like all Dimension of Lame characters, she's completely and utterly opposed to violence.
- In Dino Attack RPG, as revealed in Greybeard's Pensieve Flashback, the infamous pirate "Bad Luck" Beatrice took on this role while Grisbarba and Anton Gaston dueled in a swordfight, doing nothing but standing off to the side and shouting at them to stop. Justified in that she could not do more because she was unarmed; once Anton was disarmed and Grisbarba prepared to kill him, she did grab Anton's fallen sword and step in, accidentally cutting off Grisbarba's hand in the process. Besides, even if she tried to step in before Anton was disarmed, it would have done more harm than good since Grisbarba was too drunk and would likely have killed her in his stupor.
- In Twitch Plays Pokémon Crystal, Oxxy Ozworme, the team's Metapod, is the least-used and most under-leveled member of the main party, outclassed by such male Pokemon as Feraligatr, Eevee, and even Togepi! Subverted, however, with Abed the Raticate, who can hold her own against most of the guys in the party, with the glaring exception of Feraligatr.
- Twitch Plays Pokémon Red has an interesting example: Air, the Lapras, was consistently the weakest member of the party, but it wasn't until the game was finished and the party data transferred to a copy of Gold that it was discovered that Air was in fact female.
- Played with in the episode "Jet", of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Male protagonist Aang goes one-on-one with the also male titular character Jet, while Aang's female friend Katara watches from the sidelines. However, after the initial realization that Jet is attacking Aang, most of the action takes place in the treetops, well above Katara's head. The instant the combatants come back to earth, with Aang clearly getting the worst of it, Katara steps in and proceeds to kick Jet's ass, blasting him back with water before he can blink, and freezing him to a tree! He is essentially defeated after that.
- While the ladies of The Legend of Korra mostly avert this, this is played straight with (the now 84 year old) Katara. Unlike Zuko or Toph, Katara stays on the sidelines all the time, becoming essentially a background character, and doesn't do anything of importance except for the very beginning of the series, when she lets Korra to leave for Republic City. In Season 2, she doesn't even mediate her children's bickering over Aang's Parental Favoritism, only expressing regret instead.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- A subversion happens in the episode "Two Face Part Two": An employee of the mob boss Thorne was a neutral female up until she tries to hit Two Face over the head with a container, when she is tackled by Two Face's fiancée (another previously neutral female, and a Face, believe it or not). Making it also a straight example of a whole different trope, Designated Girl Fight. Played with in the first part, where Thorne's moll sits out a fight between Harvey Dent (Pre-Two-Face) and Batman vs. Thorne's men, not because she was scared or ineffectual, she was just enjoying the show, describing it as "Wild!", disturbingly excitedly.
- Joker and Harley both avert and play this straight. Often Joker will tell Harley to sit out and let him handle "Batsy" on his own, in which case she will merrily cheer him on, as if she was watching a TV show. Other times she will help in the fight, often bringing out bigger weapons than the Joker himself (although Joker tends to stay more of the threat since he's a better fighter than she is). In the comics, however, Harley is a much better and stronger fighter than Joker (after getting low level superstrength and agility from one of Poison Ivy's chemicals), although Joker usually carries more lethal weaponry. Regardless, he most often uses her as his strong arm while he stays behind, not bothering to fight unless he is facing Batman himself.
- An inversion comes in the Batman/Superman crossover World's Finest, where Harley and Mercy, Luthor's assistant, take an instant dislike to one another, and have an all out brawl in the background while Joker and Lex talk business.
- Played Straight for Talia Al-Ghul, daughter of the infamous Ra's Al-Ghul and on-again-off-again Love Interest for Batman. Whenever her daddy and her beau fight, she refuses to take a side. The best she'll do is prevent Batman from actually capturing and imprisoning Ra's after winning said fight. Probably justified, as they are her father and the man she professes to love, which would make choosing a side somewhat awkward.
- Justified and averted by Dana in Batman Beyond. She's more of an Innocent Bystander than an Action Girl, so when the action comes close to her, she usually focuses on staying out of the way. But when she can't get out of the way, she fights back. She actually successfully protected Batman at one point.
- Aelita used to be like this in the early seasons of Code Lyoko. After spending some time at the boarding school with her friends, she gains a little more confidence, and when she gains an energy attack near the start of Season 3 (actually more powerful than her friends' attacks), she becomes able to kick ass alongside the others. Justified because her powers are mostly defensive and she's the only one who needs to "survive" the fight.
- In another example of Kim Possible playing with gender dynamics, in a number of fights between Kim and Shego, the "neutral female" role is filled by Ron. This is because his role is "distraction" or some other non-combat thing. He doesn't do combat unless his Mystical Monkey Powers decide to kick in (which is rare).
- A literal example could occur during medieval sieges. Depending on how well a castle was fortified and supplied, a siege could last years or even decades, so the leader of the attacking army sometimes ended up bringing all the comforts of home along, including his wife. Since women were considered neutral in all conflicts, the lady of the castle and the wife of the attacker were sometimes given safe passage to come and go as they pleased, and may become friends and even make social visits to each other, with each side forbidden to even touch them. Obviously, they would make invaluable hostages or infiltrators, but this didn't always happen. It was unchivalrous.