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The Dulcinea Effect

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"No matter what she's accused of doing or how mysterious her origins are, the hero will always be ready to fight to the death for any girl he met three seconds ago."
Thinking With The Wrong Head (Hiro Rule), The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés

The Dulcinea Effect is the compulsion many male heroes have to champion, quest for, or die for girls they met five minutes ago. Dulcinea is the name Don Quixote gives to the (blissfully unaware) noblewomannote  of whom he is the self-appointed champion, ready to quest for her honor and die for her name. (He read too many books on chivalry, you see.) In the Spanish of the time, "Dulcinea" is an overly elegant way to say "sweetness", and the name persists as code for the object of one's hopeless devotion and idealized love.

The Knight in Shining Armor (in non-medieval settings, The Cape) is a frequent user of this trope, with The Lady's Favour being its primary indicator. Medieval chivalric romances, indeed, portrayed knights who fell in love with a princesse lointaine (faraway princess) merely on hearing her described.

The Dulcinea Effect is often used to hook a hero into the story or steer him in a particular plot direction. Championing the Damsel in Distress is often an excuse for the hero to become involved in righting a larger injustice or confronting the Big Bad or foiling the Evil Plan when he otherwise might have simply walked away. Sometimes his devotion to her is a transparent excuse to justify his usual habit of traveling In Harm's Way. By application of the effect, the Damsel in Distress usually becomes the protagonist's Love Interest.

This is not to say that the motivation involved is solely (or even partially) out of lust or love. In championing the girl involved, the hero may have no other motivation than acting in support of an ideal, particularly in Romantic Era examples and those inspired by it. This trope is, after all, Older Than Print. The Failure Knight may be motivated by a desire to atone and Big Brother Instinct is possible if the Dulcinea is much younger than him.

Additionally, heroes under The Dulcinea Effect in more cynical settings (particularly Film Noir) tend to fall prey to a Wounded Gazelle Gambit set up by a Femme Fatale or The Vamp, who generally know about this effect and take advantage of it in the evilest way possible.

Seldom gets gender-inverted; after all, Men Are the Expendable Gender but it happens nonetheless.

The Dulcinea Effect is also the main reason that women are put into a fridge in order to cause the male character angst and push him to drive the plot forward. Compare Loving a Shadow, which is being in love with the idea of someone rather than the actual person. Contrast Magnetic Hero, for a hero's ability to pull this on followers. Chronic Hero Syndrome is when the hero does this for any random stranger. If this leads to a highly implausible romance, it's a case of Strangled by the Red String. See also Living MacGuffin. It's quite possibly related to Love Makes You Dumb.

If the woman has little to no personality and this is her only purpose in the plot, it's a variant of Excuse Plot.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In ×××HOLiC, Watanuki is this all the way — as long as it's a pretty girl in trouble, he's willing to risk his life to help her, even if they just met. In one case, he was shown to even be willing to continue meeting a lady, despite knowing that doing so was slowly killing him, because "she's lonely". (Granted, the lady reminded him of a mother figure he lacked, but still, they had just met and only talked a little.) It's a deconstruction because it shows he places no worth on his own existence or how he himself affects the lives of others, which brings him great damage and upsets the persons whom he wants to help. Example: he sacrifices an eye to help Doumeki when he's going blind before investigating his other options, Doumeki (who didn't want Watanuki to do such a thing in the first place), understandably gets pissed off at him, and a spirit that Watanuki had befriended almost dies trying to fix the mess. Watanuki is a replacement clone and deep down knows he is not supposed to exist, thus his Chronic Hero Syndrome; he's subconsciously suicidal. A large purpose of him being at the shop was to gain self-worth so when the time came, he wouldn't vanish and the Timey-Wimey Ball would remain intact.
  • Gender-inverted in The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You. Kishika first meets Rentarou when she rescues him from a group of delinquents who were harassing him for a set of keychains.
  • Akuma no Riddle: Tokaku is a high-school assassin who's pretty quick to risk death and openly declare her intentions to a room full of fellow killers to protect a girl she's only recently met. Said "girl she's only recently met" actually has the ability to induce this in nearby people, whether she wants to or not. This revelation causes Tokaku to seriously question why she wants to protect Haru.
  • In Black Cat, Woodney, Train's imposter, imagines Eve as being a Damsel in Distress "Senorita" he must protect, and is shown continuing to play the Black Cat role and defend her even at the risk of dying.
  • In one episode of Black Lagoon, Rock speaks out of turn to Balalaika (an act that is generally considered to be somewhere between extremely ill-advised and suicidally moronic, as Revy herself outright states in her very profanity-laden rant following this) in order to speak out for a girl he just met a few days ago. The girl in question, Yukio Washimine, repays him by trying to have him killed.
  • Bleach:
    • Seems to be part of the Quincy honour code that Ishida lives by. He fights a shinigami vice-captain to protect Rukia, despite having professed to hate her only a few days beforehand and gets outraged at Mayuri's treatment of his daughter Nemu despite the fact that Nemu attacked him. It's lampshaded by Mayuri himself.
      Mayuri: Are you that big a fool? You feel pity for a woman, even though she's your enemy? Is this the honor you Quincies take such pride in?!
    • Ichigo gets it too. While he had a month to get to know Rukia, and even longer for Orihime, he was willing to risk his life for Nel after knowing her for a few hours, despite her status as an Arrancar and thus technically being his enemy. It's even more egregious in the first movie with Senna. After knowing her for about two days, he is more than willing to go on a rescue mission in an unstable region within enemy territory, despite warnings that this equates to a Suicide Mission. This is justified, as he lost his mother when he was 9, he believed it was his fault for years, and he decided to become someone who can protect people. In the case of Nel, she has the appearance of a child, is harmless when she's not in her original form and she helps Ichigo.
  • In Brave10, the first time Saizo saved Isanami was just self-defense. And the second time, too. And the third...
  • Daimos: In the first episode, Kazuya, while piloting the titular mecha robot, discovers a mysterious girl on the cliffs and falls in love with her. The mysterious woman, though amnesiac, turns out to be the Princess of the Baam-seijin, the very aliens who are warring with Planet Earth at the moment. She feels ashamed that Kazuya fell in love with her because of the fact that not only are their races warring, but her own brother, Prince Richter, is the one heading the Alien Invasion and genocide against humans. However, Kazuya tells her that he loves her anyway, making her very happy.
  • Daphne in the Brilliant Blue: Gender flipped. Shizuka finds a guy injured near trash cans and quickly becomes attached to and protective of him. The guy's a con artist and calls this his "lonely enigmatic spy" routine.
  • In Deadman Wonderland, Ganta quickly becomes this way with apparent Shrinking Violet Minatsuki, feeling the need to protect her with his life and break out of Deadman Wonderland together with her. However, it turns out that Minatsuki is Ax-Crazy and counted on The Dulcinea Effect kicking in. She tried to use his protectiveness to injure him and make it easier for her to kill him. To put it in her words: "I'm sorry, but the whole virgin knight thing is fucking disgusting."
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, if the resident Cowardly Lion Zenitsu can’t muster the inner courage, he has to surpass all of his cowardice on the surface. A good way to make him focus and be brave — or at least try to — is to find himself in a situation where there’s a woman in peril; Zenitsu will stop his complaining right away and go for the rescue.
  • Eureka Seven: Renton Thurston joined on an outlaw ship with a crew that constantly abuses him for the sake of a girl he had just met. Then, she has jealousy issues not over him but the fact that he pilots her mech. Then on top of that, she shows little romantic interest in him at all for about the first twenty episodes and admits to using him for the mecha. What does Renton do about this? Sulk about how he wants to continue to protect this girl and continue to take abuse.
  • Recca from Flame of Recca is the equivalent of an Anime Don Quixote. He plays at being a Ninja (though later he does become one) and determines at first sight of Yanagi that he will protect her and follow her every order from now on. He even calls her "Princess," and lets her know that she is now his master.
  • The central plot of Freedom Project involves the main character traveling from the Moon to the Earth — and then across the entire United States — just to meet a girl in a photograph.
  • Future Diary:
    • Yukiteru "Yukki" Amano is shown to act this way towards Tsubaki Kasugano, a beautiful and gentle Damsel in Distress from the Omekata cult, quickly jumping in to save her and escape with her despite having just met her. When given a choice to trust her or his partner Yuno Gasai, he chooses Tsubaki (though you can't blame him because Yuno is a Yandere). It's not until she makes it obvious that she's actually a Manipulative Bitch (mixed with Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds) that wants to kill him that he decides to go back to teaming up with Yuno. Tsubaki ends up disarmed by Yuno and killed by Yukki.
    • In the Alternate Universe spin-off, Mirai Nikki: Paradox, Akise Aru is shown acting this way towards Yukki himself. Apparently, Akise falls in love with Yukiteru at first sight, and decides to take Yukiteru's place as the Diary Holder so he can fight off all the enemies and allow Yukiteru to become God. All this being decided after just having met Yukiteru.
  • Gundam:
    • In the Universal Century, one of the Psychic Powers associated with Newtypes is the ability to rapidly establish deep emotional connections with others of their kind. Whilst most Newtypes are pretty sane about this (due to their powers manifesting once they had the emotional maturity to handle that sort of thing), Banagher Links of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn first manifested his powers when he was a young child, meaning that they're a far more integral part of his personality. Then the Industrial 7 incident happens whilst he's marinating in teenage hormones, and he suddenly finds himself up to his ears in pretty young Newtype girls with intriguingly tragic backstories. The results are entirely predictable.
    • In Gundam SEED Destiny, Shinn risks his military career and possible execution to save Stellar, an enemy Super-Soldier and Tyke Bomb who he met once before he found this out. Slightly justified in that she reminds him of his late little sister, and it's hinted that he loves her more as a Replacement Goldfish than anything else.
  • In the pilot of GUN×SWORD, Van saves the town of Evergreen on Wendy's behalf, even though he's known her less than a day. Up to that point (and, to some extent, afterward), most of their interactions consisted of argument.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate Ayasaki's big brother, Ikusa, is a guy who'd always help anybody in need... unless it's his parents. He'll help out his little brother on those occasions he's around). He's kind of a powered-up version of Hayate — he just can.
  • In King of Thorn, it's revealed that all the survivors (except Kasumi) were implanted with "keys" in their minds. One of the "keys" was to "protect a weak Japanese woman with your life" — meaning that all the survivors were under The Dulcinea Effect, having the idea ingrained in them that they must irrationally protect Kasumi with their lives, even if they had never met her before.
  • Laughing Under the Clouds: Subverted. In the backstory told in Utakata ni Warau this is what it looks like when Hirari meets Botan at random in the street, follows her and supposedly saves her from a bunch of thugs (which she was about to get rid of anyway) and promptly declares he loves her and will marry her and protect her. Botan's initially having none of it, but it is later revealed that when Hirari was a child, Botan was the only one who did not treat him like a pariah, and that is the true reason he falls for her when they meet again.
  • Invoked in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016). As Link was literally born to be The Champion of Hyrule's Abstract Apotheosis, Princess Zelda, he has what's implied to be a divinely imposed compulsion to serve and protect her long before they even meet, and he carries an Intrinsic Vow to never cause her harm—a fact Ganondorf gleefully exploits by possessing Zelda's body to beat the crap out of him, knowing he can't fight back. Ironically, Link's not romantically attracted to her in the slightest, and instead falls head-over-heels for Midna.
  • Liar Game: Despite initial reluctance and starting to play for money, Akiyama quickly ends up stuck in the game by protecting Nao.
  • Lupin III:
    • In The Castle of Cagliostro, Lupin's original intention is a simple snatch and grab of the high-quality plates used to make near-perfect counterfeit bills, then a pretty girl is chased past him by bad men with guns and the movie happens.
      Jigen: (seeing a girl in a little economy car chased by some men in a big black sedan) Who we gonna help?
      Lupin: The girl!
      Jigen: Typical.
    • Fujiko is also responsible for causing the Dulcinea effect on Lupin; the story with Pycal began this way, and she used it on both Lupin and Goemon to get them to kill each other in Lupin III: Part 1.
    • Lupin III: Episode 0: First Contact is another example of Fujiko tricking Lupin into letting her get her way, making him believe she's escaped from Galvez.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • After her quest for the Jewel Seeds leads her to get blasted into unconsciousness by Fate Testarossa, Nanoha Takamachi makes it her sole priority to help get rid of the sadness she saw in the other girl's eyes, with the Jewel Seeds becoming secondary.
    • Thoma goes through quite a bit of trouble to help out Lily in Force, breaking into a lab and almost getting incinerated, becoming a fugitive from the TSAB, getting sought after by the Hückebein, and slowly losing control of himself, and gets involved merely as a result of hearing her calling for help.
  • In Midori Days, Seiji is shown to be afflicted with this towards... Kouta in a drag. Unfortunately for poor Kouta, such feelings don't transfer over when he's dressed normally as a boy.
  • In the My-HiME manga, Yuuichi almost immediately becomes the Key, or most important person, of Mai and Natsuki. By contrast, in the anime, it takes over half the series to get close to that status for Mai, and it is also implied that Yuuichi became most important to Mai partly because a rift formed between Mai and Takumi over his decision to go to America for surgery alone shortly before his death.
  • In Naruto, immediately after Rock Lee meets Sakura, he asks her to be his girlfriend and promises to protect her with his life, an offer she just as promptly rejects. Less than 48 hours later, he ends up defending her against three Sound Ninja in the Forest of Death, despite her being on an opposing team, and Sakura recognizes that he meant what he said.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: In the first episode, Shinji initially refuses to pilot the Eva until Rei is brought in and he realizes that if he doesn't do it, she's going to have to. In a twist, this seems to be more from empathy than from chivalry, since Rei is already seriously injured from an earlier attack.
  • Now and Then, Here and There: Shu starts the series by talking to a blue-haired girl he barely even knows, then spends the rest of the series paying for it.
  • One Piece:
    • A platonic version is basically why the Straw Hats manage to make waves despite their Heroic Neutrality: They fight evil only when it hurts their friends, but consider friends they've just made as worth fighting for. Since villains who aren't targeting the Straw Hats tend to threaten every innocent person in the vicinity, conflict between the two forces is pretty much inevitable.
    • Sanji is a Chivalrous Pervert so willing to fight to help any pretty lady he comes across that he's developed a "damsel-in-distress" sixth sense.
    • Baby 5 is a gender-inverted example that takes the trope to the point of an Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny! in-universe and a parodically exaggerated deconstruction out-of-universe. She wants so badly to be wanted that she compulsively throws herself into any situation where she feels she might be useful- a problem compounded by her devil fruit powers making her a Shapeshifter Weapon capable of becoming anything from a BFS to a high-yield bomb.
  • Played for Laughs in Ouran High School Host Club. While the whole Host Club is protective of Haruhi, Tamaki is the most zealous about it, constantly trying to protect her from people and situations that present no danger to her.
  • Gender inverted in Princess Tutu, where Ahiru is talked into becoming Princess Tutu (and thus roping herself into a fairytale charging straight for a Downer Ending) to restore Mytho's heart after little more than a single encounter. She thinks it's Love at First Sight, but later starts having her doubts and goes on to confess to Mytho's companion Fakir that she doesn't really know why she loves Mytho, other than because he's pretty. The answer is that she doesn't. The girl who does love him that way is Ahiru's opponent, Rue/Princess Kraehe, who pulls a Heroic Sacrifice for him and ends up becoming his Princess. Something that Ahiru comes to acknowledge, saying that she would have not been strong and selfless enough to do the same since it would also involve giving up on her chance to stay as a human.
  • Reborn! (2004):
    • Tsuna is shown to be willing to die for Kyoko. He hardly ever really talks with her or knows her, and apparently the whole reason he has a crush on her in the first place was that she was the only girl that bothered talking to him in twelve months.
    • His relationship with Uni too. The series seems to fully be implying a sort of Tsuna = Knight in shining armor who protects and "champions" for Uni (the Damsel in Distress). Tsuna seems to like the idea - he's certainly blushing a lot every time she says anything. His decision to take her under his wing seemed to mainly be influenced by the tragic, self-sacrificing expression in her eyes. Directly lampshaded by Byakuran, who mocks Tsuna by asking him if he's trying to be Uni's "Knight in Shining Armor".
  • Gender-flipped, inverted, and otherwise played with in Revolutionary Girl Utena. Screwing with this trope might be the point of the story, as Prince Dios became the Big Bad Akio when he was abandoned by the crowds after he wasn't able to save all the girls who needed it, then ropes Utena into coming to Ohtori by first saving her under the guise of the Prince he used to be, and then setting his much-abused sister Anthy aka the Rose Bride in situations that would make Utena invoke this trope on her.
  • Rune Soldier Louie: The Idiot Hero is very susceptible to this, which Celecia shamelessly exploits all the time; much to the annoyance of his female teammates.
  • Samurai Champloo zigzags the trope throughout the series:
    • In the first episode, Mugen offers, unprompted, to help Fuu with her teahouse's thug problem... in exchange for food. When said thugs threaten to cut off her fingers, Mugen lounges on his table until Fuu promises him an absurd amount of dumplings to save her.
    • As early as the second episode, Mugen nearly verges into Always Save the Girl status, barely reacting to the woman who poisoned him until she mentions that Fuu is in danger and killing anyone who gets in between himself and Fuu (including Oniwakamaru, who would have surrendered).
    • Played perfectly straight in episode eleven with Shino, whom Jin immediately falls in love with.
  • Gender-inverted example: This is how Yukari from Sekirei meets Shiina. Shiina is being chased by two sekirei who are looking to capture him and bring him back to their ashikabi to be indoctrinated into his team. Yukari interferes because she believes that pretty boys should be protected.
  • Kiri of The Severing Crime Edge knew Iwai for approximately 48 hours at the point he decides to defend her from the serial killers out to murder her. No, not kidnap and sacrifice her, but kill her on the spot. Whoever does manage to gets the power to break the laws of nature, and presumably have one of their wishes granted. Admittedly, it doesn't take much to want to prevent a young girl from being brutally murdered.
  • Time Stop Hero: Kuzuno Sekai has a real weakness for pretty girls and will always try to help them. His party comments on how this is pretty much the only way to motivate him.
  • X/1999: Sorata Arisugawa decides to protect Arashi Kishuu with his life, immediately when he meets her for the first time. This is justified because Sora knows that he is fated to die for a woman. And the reason why he chooses Arashi is that he wants to die for a beautiful girl. Though he actually does fall for Arashi's actual person when he gets to know her, and she falls in love with him as well. It happens both in the anime movie and in the anime series, while the manga is never finished but was implied to be going the same way.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Edo Phoenix is slightly confused himself when he decides to have a duel to the death with Amon Garam over a woman; he doesn't much care about and only talked to once before this because he doesn't realize that he's the Anti-Hero in a Deconstructor Fleet that's made a point of demonstrating the absurdity and danger of myriad Shōnen and Superhero tropes.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk (1962): In issue #5, the Hulk, generally an Anti-Hero at best up to this point, allows himself to be enslaved by Tyrannus holding Betty Ross captive. Compare that to Bruce Banner, who barely acknowledges Betty even exists.
  • The Sandman (1989): Subverted in "The Hunt", in which the protagonist travels long and far to find a beautiful noblewoman whose picture he's seen on a necklace, only to end up returning the necklace to her and walking away to marry someone else. The tale ends with the wisdom that some goals are better not attained.
  • Sin City: Most of the antiheroes are afflicted with this trope to some degree. Several characters compare themselves to knights, with Dwight being Lancelot, and Hartigan "charging in like Galahad."
    • Marv goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge for a woman with which he spent only one night in the original graphic novel. He overlaps with Because You Were Nice to Me.
    • Wallace from "Hell and Back" goes through hell and high water to rescue a woman whom he saved from suicide at the start of the story.
    • Hartigan from "That Yellow Bastard" goes through even worse hell than Wallace for the sake of a little girl who grows up to be one of Sin City's best-known strippers. It's more the fact that this is all Unfinished Business (he originally saved her when she was a child), and until he meets her, it doesn't truly occur to him that's she's no longer a child. Hartigan was more in it to protect the innocent. It just so happen that the innocent was a girl.
    • Dwight McCarthy would also qualify — the woman in question is someone who burned him in the past, but when it turns out she's in danger, Dwight rushes in to save her. Dwight's adherence to this trope is lampshaded by his lover Gail. True to the series' Film Noir roots, it's a Wounded Gazelle Gambit on the part of Ava to get Dwight to murder her husband so that she can get his hands on all his money. Dwight himself lampshades this weakness in "The Babe Wore Red", when he first finds the titular babe and thinks "One look at her and I know I'm in trouble deep." He risks his life once more to save this woman.

    Fan Works 
  • Male-on-male example: In Dirty Sympathy, Klavier only knew Apollo for a night before deciding he will try to save him from his brother. Justified in that Klavier knows what kind of man his brother is and he would have been in Apollo's place if he hadn't run away the first chance he got. There is also an implication that Klavier is projecting his feelings on his bad situation onto Apollo.
  • Maidenless No Longer: Melina notes that the Tarnished is clearly going out of his way to save every woman in the Lands Between, even though she has no idea how he knows where most of these women are. Since we don't see his thoughts, it's hard to be sure, but the author's notes imply it isn't quite as simple as him just being obsessed with rescuing pretty girls. The implication is that, over his many resets of the timeline, he fell in love with each woman in turn, but lost them as their stories inevitably ended tragically. Now, he's finally strong enough to save all of them.
  • In Runaway Wind, Ventus wakes up in Castle Oblivion during the events of the original Kingdom Hearts and runs into Naminé. After barely a minute of conversation, he considers her a friend and has agreed to help her escape the castle and hide her from the Organization.
  • Sporadic Phantoms: Kyle immediately throws his lot in with Elizabeth shortly after meeting her, getting highly defensive about her and her methods in The Sharing, and is convinced that other Full Members are trying to oust her. It's what starts driving a rift between him and the others.

    Films — Animation 
  • Castle in the Sky: Pazu sees a girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky with a magic pendant and catches her in his arms, and then learns that she is being chased by suspicious-looking men and the army. Never once does he question this, doing everything in his power to protect her.
  • Gender-inverted in Millennium Actress with Chiyoko's lifelong quest through history and a film career to be reunited with the mysterious man of her dreams, although she loves the chase more than anything. Played somewhat straight with the documentarian Genya who follows her through her journey, who repeatedly sacrifices himself for her, although we find out that he had saved her life once before, on a film set, and idolized her since.
  • Shrek: This is parodied when Lord Farquaad (who is looking for a royal bride purely because he needs the marriage in order to upgrade his noble title) chooses Princess Fiona when she's clearly a princesse lointaine he has never met, only been given a picture and description by the magic mirror. However, Farquaad can't be bothered to go on the quest himself, and holds a tournament to select a knight to do the job for him. When Shrek beats up all the knights, Shrek ends up going on the quest (but only to get his swamp back).
  • Tangled: Despite Flynn being strong-armed into escorting Rapunzel to the lantern festival, and doing everything he can to weasel out of it, including trying to scare her by taking her to a bar full of scary thugs, he does try to protect her the moment he thinks she might actually be in danger and seems genuinely concerned when the head thug is bearing down on her.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Felix is determined to keep Calhoun safe even though he barely met her 24 hours ago — and she's the better fighter of the two. It's justified in that being a "good guy" and helping people are in his coding. It's simply what comes naturally to him. Also, they happen to share a similar goal (find Ralph and/or the Cy-bug) so it's logical for them to help each other.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Ambulance, the main character sees an attractive woman walking down the street and attempts to hit on her, she rebuffs him, he follows her and continues hitting on her, she collapses, and the titular ambulance picks her up. He then spends the rest of the movie risking life and limb, fighting a sociopathic doctor constantly trying to run him down with an ambulance, and he never even got her name. After he rescues her from certain excruciating death and declares he did it for true love which he recognized at first, she asks him to call her boyfriend and let him know that she's okay.
  • Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid: When Gail gets attacked by a crocodile, rather than grabbing a rifle, Bill simply jumps into the water and starts wrestling the crocodile with a knife. Lampshaded:
    Sam: That is either the bravest or the stupidest thing I've ever seen.
    Bill: It's a fine line.
  • Babylon (2022): Manny falls in love with Nellie the moment he meets her and they befriend each over the course of the night. However, they only see each other again when Manny happens to run into Nellie in New York months later, and it's implied that they have similar sporadic encounters until Manny becomes a studio executive and is able to work much more closely with her. Nonetheless, he still remains both hopelessly in love and unquestionably devoted to her, risking both his career and his life for the sake of helping her. Eventually, Nellie ends up leaving him because she knows she's a bad influence on him and that his sheer devotion towards her is unhealthy and only brings them more pain.
  • Lampshaded in Constantine (2005):
    Midnite: Tell me this is not about the girl.
    John Constantine: Definitely... mostly not about the girl.
  • In Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd's odyssey to return the briefcase of a woman he drove to the airport (he can be forgiven for thinking with the wrong head, though, given that the other head isn't good for much).
  • Excalibur: Queen Guinevere stands accused by Sir Gawain of treason by adultery and was to have Sir Lancelot champion her in trial by combat. Sir Lancelot is late to the field and King Arthur is dismayed when no other individual is willing to champion Guinevere — except for the newly arrived, unarmored, untrained (and, so far, unnamed) apprentice, who asks to champion Guinevere and is knighted by King Arthur for that purpose. He then readies himself to charge a fully armored, battle-hardened Sir Gawain when (fortunately) Lancelot shows up to prevent it from happening.
    King Arthur: Arise, Sir... um...
    Apprentice: Perceval.
    King Arthur: Perceval.
  • In Ex Machina, Caleb falls in love with Ava and is willing to risk everything to rescue her within days of meeting her. Nathan and Ava are separately manipulating him to evoke this exact response.
  • Discussed in G.I. Jane. Master Chief John James, who was tasked with training Lt. Jordan O'Neill to be the first female Navy SEAL, tells her that he has his doubts that the experiment will result in success, stating that the Israeli army tried a similar program years ago, and scrapped it when they tried it in combat situations. The Master Chief states the program was abandoned because the male soldiers couldn't stand the sight of dead women on the battlefield and would actively endanger missions to protect them. Ironically, he ends up falling victim to it himself during the mission in Libya, when he attempts a Heroic Sacrifice to save O'Neill's life.
  • Zig-zagged in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Peter Quill decides to rescue Gamora from Drax not because he has any feelings for her, but rather because she knew where to pawn off the Orb. Later, however, when Gamora is dying in the vacuum of space, Peter calls on his vindictive mentor to pick them up and jumps into the vacuum after her, even giving up his helmet so she would have enough air before they were picked up after knowing her for at most several days.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a rather extreme example. When Abe first meets Damsel in Distress Nuala, she presumes him to be an Enemy. He uses his Touch Telepathy to prove he isn't, but during this split-second mind contact, they both fall completely in love. After this moment, they have barely any interaction before the Big Bad kidnaps Nuala and demands the last key to control the titular Golden Army for her return. And although Abe knows the Big Bad plans to Kill All Humans with this army, and that he is Nuala's twin brother and will magically suffer any injury he might inflict on her, Abe goes behind his friend's back and gives up the MacGuffin, with no plan to stop the Big Bad afterwards.
  • In Hobo with a Shotgun, the Hobo steadfastly refuses to get involved in any of the crime that is going on on the streets of the Wretched Hive of Scum Town, until he sees Slick attempting to abduct Abby, when he steps up and makes a stand.
  • The Hunger Games: Peeta may have known Katniss since the age of five but he only actually interacted with her once before being reaped with her and never speaks to her until they've become tributes. All the same, he's so determined to die for her survival's sake that Haymitch notes it's not even worth trying to save Peeta in the arena.
  • James Bond acts under the influence of this trope all the time, but somehow always manages to fulfill his organization's objectives in the course of doing so. That's not the only thing he fulfills in the course of doing so... Or the only thing he acts under... This is a stronger trait in Pierce Brosnan's Bond because it's made explicit in GoldenEye that he's constantly trying to atone for the women whose lives he wasn't able to save. He is protective towards all of the good (and two who pretend to be good) Bond Girls.
  • In A Knight's Tale, Jocelyn makes William feel like a poet even though he doesn't know her name. Later, Jocelyn demands that William prove his love by losing an important joust for her. After watching him get knocked around for a while, she changes her mind and sends word that he must prove his love by winning the joust. William is very obviously pissed and, when Chaucer tries to motivate him by pointing out Jocelyn in the stands, William growls "And how I hate her!" He meets her that night and has apparently forgiven her, but when she sees his injuries and says that it's all her fault, he gives a very unromantic "Yes, it is."
  • "John Smith" from Last Man Standing (1996) is a retired gunman for hire who is possibly on the run from something, but he decides to stop in a mostly abandoned town near the Mexican border taken over by two Mafia gangs, the Irish and the Italians. He plays both sides against each other to make money, but things get personal for him when he discovers a Mexican woman being forced to be the Irish mob leader's girlfriend. He decides to risk everything to free her in secret but is found out and nearly beaten to death before escaping to recover and get revenge.
  • Parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as one might expect. Sir Lancelot receives a desperate message from someone he believes to be a wrongfully imprisoned girl, and he immediately sets out to free the prisoner. Sprinting (several times) across open fields, he single-handedly assaults and slaughters half the inhabitants of a local castle in the rescue effort, operating under the influence of The Dulcinea Effect. However, the Effect is instantly overcome by the revelation that the girl is, in fact, a guy — a pathetically effeminate guy, but a guy nonetheless. In the stage adaptation, Spamalot, the same thing happens... only it winds up that Herbert becomes Lancelot's love interest anyway.
  • A New Hope:
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gives us a straight and justifiable male example, but an inversion as well, with the love interest herself. Philip shows the most kindness for Syrena after she's taken captive by Blackbeard as a means to harvest a tear for the Fountain of Youth, but as a clergyman, you can understand that his acts of kindness are mostly motivated by his view on the value of all life, and he's wary about Syrena possibly killing him since their first meeting was just after the mermaids attacked the entire crew. Once Syrena reveals that Philip has no reason to fear her, she gives a straighter example of this trope by revealing that her "attack" on Philip was an act to save his life, stating that her reason was that he was different from the other men. She didn't show up prior to her introduction when the mermaids came about. It's after that moment that Philip is willing to risk his life for her.
  • Runaway: After noting how attractive she is, Sgt. Ramsey charges in to save Jackie from being zapped by a malfunctioning security robot, instead of returning to his car to suit up in protective gear. He gets zapped repeatedly, snarked at by both Jackie and his partner Thompson, and ends up smashing the expensive robot with a chair.
  • In A Shot in the Dark, Inspector Clouseau is unshakably convinced that the beautiful Maria Gambrelli is innocent of murder despite the overwhelming mass of evidence that she is the killer. She actually is innocent, but Clouseau was certainly acting under the influence of this trope.
  • Slumdog Millionaire: Jamal scrapes by as an orphan from the slums and gets into some very nasty situations, but never gives up looking for the girl he was friends with for a short time during his childhood.
  • Daniel Jackson in Stargate. He had just ended up in an Accidental Marriage with her.
  • The Terminator: Kyle Reese volunteers to go back in time to protect Sarah Connor, who he fell in love with only from stories and a picture he was given by John Connor, knowing there is absolutely no way back and that going up against a Terminator programmed to kill Sarah will most likely result in a violent death. The line in question: "John gave me a picture of you once. I memorised every line. Every curve. I came across time for you, Sarah." Though considering the alternative in the future... and John Connor gave the picture of Sarah to Kyle specifically to elicit this effect... Kyle being his father thanks to time Travel, and all.

  • In the Arabian Nights, a prince falls in love with the princess of another kingdom on hearsay alone. It's played straight a few other times throughout the novel also. This may be an Ur-Example, though there may be even older mythological examples that aren't on this page yet.
  • In Aria the Scarlet Ammo, Kinji inherited this genetically. It's a side effect of his Super Mode. He can't not help a girl in trouble.
  • In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt fell in love with Dagny Taggart from hearing Francisco d'Anconia talk about her.
  • Baccano!:
    • Jacuzzi gets a ransom note for a woman he met earlier that day. His response is to turn in himself for the money the mob put on his head. However, he's shown to be like this towards everyone. He was, at one point, more concerned about the safety of some Russo mafia mooks than he was over the fact that said mooks were about to kill him.
    • Claire Stanfield, a man who insists on devoting himself completely and utterly to the first cute girl he finds that doesn't say no. Considering he's the series' resident Ax-Crazy Sociopathic Hero, Chane now has either the most awesome or the most terrifying boyfriend in existence.
  • Koyomi Araragi of Bakemonogatari suffers from this, even going so far as to risk his life to save a girl he barely knows when the sole reason she is in trouble in the first place is that she subconsciously wants to kill him. Specifically referenced in Nekomonogatari (Black) when Araragi tries to make sense of his feelings for Hanekawa. He realizes that, rather than wanting to date her, he likes her so much that he might want to die for her instead. This is followed shortly by getting himself PUNCHED IN HALF as part of a gambit to save her.
  • Touma succumbs to The Dulcinea Effect throughout A Certain Magical Index. This is even discussed at one point by his Harem, which is mostly made up of girls he's rescued earlier.
  • In the Conan the Barbarian stories "Shadows In Zamboula", "Iron Shadows in the Moon", and "The Pool of the Black One", Conan fights for unknown women on little provocation. Then again, he's prone to fight on little provocation anyway.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: The Fourth Doctor novella Ghost Ship shows the Doctor having a Heroic BSoD when he fails to prevent the death of a woman he spoke to twice, even though he took every reasonable precaution to protect her (keeping an eye out for her, checking in on how she was feeling, and telling her when he experienced a premonition that she would die in water, suggesting that she avoid the swimming pool). It's justified in that he is not in a healthy psychological state during the story, due to a combination of depression and the Mind Rape effects of the Negative Space Wedgie in the place he landed; that he admits to himself that he isn't in pain out of sympathy but out of selfishness and frustration with his own incompetence; and that a plotline of this kind is the kind of thing included in the Gothic Horror novels that the story is pastiching. The Doctor also notes in the opening paragraphs of the story that he is consciously trying to write a gothic horror story and is also a shameless Unreliable Narrator, so it's also possible he's heavily altering the story to make it more romantic and genre-appropriate.
  • Don Quixote, the Trope Namer, is a parody of this trope. The hero Don Quixote, who believes himself to be a knight, claims to serve a beautiful, virtuous young lady, Dulcinea (really named Aldonza, but Don Quixote doesn't care), who is, in fact, nothing more than a peasant from his hometown, and, in some adaptations, a whore. Interestingly, in the original novel as well as in most adaptations, the actual character Dulcinea makes not a single appearance. He knows that the lady is nothing more than an excuse for the hero to have adventures, so he imagines his lady and begins to live his dreams!
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden will help any woman who needs it, regardless of common sense, even if they haven't asked for help. In the first book, he complains about Murphy "pulling my old fashioned chain" by invoking this. Eventually, he learns to use his brain first and spot when this tendency is being used against him, as Sheila/Lasciel did at one point. Yet despite this new ability, Harry still doesn't seem able to prevent himself from going into auto-chivalrous mode anyway. He recognizes that this tendency is dangerous, possibly lethal... but he can't stop it. He even refers to it as his sexist Neanderthal instincts, and they're just as uncontrollably automatic as his snarking in the face of certain death.
  • Durarara!!:
    • Mikado is compelled to save Anri from the delinquents harassing her.
    • Chikage takes this trope to its logical extreme by being willing to risk his life for any girl ever.
    • Mikado also saves Mika from Celty, no questions asked — until later.
  • Eight Cousins: Played with in Rose in Bloom. Mac finds a girl and tries very hard to help her, even though he's only known her for a few minutes at the time he agrees. Then again, she's about two years old, an orphan, and has no other close relatives. Lampshaded when he and Rose call hernote  Dulcinea.
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Invoked and then defied in Talking to Dragons. When Shiara and Daystar are trapped in a hedge circle and Daystar is able to get in and out (because he's polite to the bushes), Shiara demands that he tell the hedge to open and let her out. Daystar, who is the son of the very Genre Savvy Cimorene, sensibly points out that it's getting dark and thus impractical to leave at that moment, plus he doesn't know Shiara from Adam and thus is uncertain as to whether or not he wants to rescue her. Shiara replies that she had been hoping he was a hero, as one can "talk them into anything".
  • The Exile's Violin: Clay meets Jacquie when she's in the process of stealing from an auction. After she explains herself, he says (paraphrased) "I'll help you." This is because he is bored, but later he becomes genuinely protective of her and she finds this smothering.
  • Played straight in The Faerie Queene. Redcrosse utterly fails at it, at first, but it's his first mission — one doesn't become a Knight in Shining Armor overnight. The Sweet Polly Oliver Britomart demonstrates this for her fiancé, too.
  • Falcon Quinn: Pearl is both a gender-flipped and a platonic example, in that she is only too willing to declare herself the "Sworn Friend" of numerous people she's only just met, and vows that she's willing to give her life defending them. Being Hot-Blooded is part of her schtick.
  • Full Metal Panic!:
    • Sousuke goes AWOL and abandons his post under a hostage situation to recover Kaname from the villains. Granted, she was the VIP he was specifically assigned to protect while the rest of the plane's occupants were not (and he had known her for a bit longer than most examples of this trope), but he was still ordered to stay with the other hostages by his superior officer. As to remove any doubt that he was planning to disobey that order, said officer also states that Sousuke's professionalism means he'll definitely not do emotional things like charging off after the Damsel in Distress.
    • An interesting female version of this is shown with Grace Weissman (a.k.a. Gray). She hardly knows much about Sousuke (who temporarily joined her team in a mission), yet immediately defends him and, in a way, "champions" for him against her skeptical teammates' suspicions about him (who dislike him due to him only being 16, yet being an equal in their mission). Her passionately defending him eventually makes one of her teammates ask her if she's going that far because she has the hots for him. Even till the end when she's killed by Gauron, her last thoughts are for Sousuke not to worry about her, and that she hopes he will be able to return safely. Considering Sousuke's track record, it isn't far off in saying Gray might've had at least some attraction to him.
  • The aptly named Dulcinea Septimus in Gideon the Ninth, thanks to her terminal illness. Gideon feels compelled to protect her from the moment they meet. It also turns out that Palamedes has devoted his life to trying to rescue her from her illness ever since he began trading letters with her twelve years ago. He never even needed to meet her in person to fall in love with her.
  • The Glass Sentence, first book of The Mapmakers Trilogy, presents a gender-flipped example: Sophia first sees Theo as the caged "wild boy" in a sideshow, and she's immediately enchanted and imagining how to help him escape his prison. When they meet again (and Theo proves to be civilized), she wants him to be her ally on her journey to save her uncle simply because she likes him.
  • In The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, the title character first meets his love interest Shira briefly as a boy, and upon finding out she is a girl, is instantly smitten. When she is being threatened an hour later, he shoves her out of the way and angrily tries to defend her honor, despite the fact that she was defending herself quite well.
  • In Heart of Steel, Alistair is willing to do some crazy(er) things for the sake of Julia, whom he barely knows. Justified in that she's the first meaningful human companionship he's had in ten years.
  • Hercule Poirot: Captain Hastings suffers from this a great deal. He will always leap to the assistance of a young lady (especially a redhead), and will generally ignore any evidence pointing to her as the murderer. One such woman is even named Dulcie.
  • The Hunger Games: Peeta Mellark has known who Katniss is since he was five years old, but the first time he actually speaks with her is after the reaping. Still, he's willing to die and kill for her without the slightest hesitation, to the point where their mentor Haymitch realizes there's no point in trying to keep Peeta alive since he's just going to sacrifice himself for Katniss anyway. Even before they both became tributes, he willingly took a beating from his abusive mother so he could give Katniss some bread, when he was just eleven years old.
  • If This Goes On—: John Lyle gets involved in the revolution against The Theocracy for the sake of a girl he barely knows.
  • Inheritance Cycle: Eragon is only too ready to give his life saving a girl he met moments ago, who's spent the entire time he's known her in a coma. All he had to work with was a dream of a beautiful woman being held in a dungeon.
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Bell is going about his business when he sees an unknown woman (Liliruca) being attacked by a sword-wielding stranger. He immediately rushes in to protect her, and when the attacker asks why he got involved in someone else's dispute, he replies "because she's a girl". Even Liliruca is taken aback by this, and asks him "Will you save any woman just because she's a woman?"
  • Ivanhoe has one of these. Ivanhoe champions for Rebecca, a girl who is not his Love Interest. It was a fair exchange since she healed his injuries and was accused of witchcraft for that and for being Jewish. Ivanhoe and Rebecca may not be the Official Couple, but they are very much the Fan-Preferred Couple... even by the author.
  • Played for laughs in the Jeeves and Wooster stories, where Bertie's insistence on gallantry gets him into a lot of trouble. Luckily, he has Jeeves there to extricate him from the soup. In one short story, Bertie even idly hopes while strolling in the park that a girl will pop up and need help with assassins or somesuch. He instead immediately bumps into his fellow Upper-Class Twit Bingo Little and gets dragged into trying to assist the latter's latest doomed romance.
  • John Carter of Mars:
    • In The Gods of Mars, John Carter starts a Gladiator Revolt at the sight of women being thrown to monsters — and most of the gladiators follow him. Largely justified, as it's made clear from the first novel that John's culture and values compel him to rescue any woman from danger. Who they are is largely irrelevant.
    • In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, hearing a woman scream draws Carthoris from his sabotaged airship.
  • Knight and Rogue Series: Subverted in The Last Knight, when it turns out that the apparent Damsel in Distress the hero just rescued from the tower is actually a murder suspect locked in the tower awaiting trial. (There's no indication that the hero is attracted to her; he just considers it his duty to help people.)
  • Many women in The Mark of the Lion wish they had this effect on the gladiators, but Julia is the one to have it (accidentally) on Atretes.
  • Neverwhere: Richard goes out of his way to help a girl he sees for the first time in his life, leading his fiancée to break up with him — although Richard doesn't help the girl because he's in love with her, he helps her because she's lying in the street alone and bleeding. His fiancée breaks up with him because she's upset that Richard doesn't care about the fact that helping the girl would make them late for dinner.
  • Orlando Furioso: Sacripant is in love with Angelica and will do whatever he needs to protect her, and she's self-interestedly using him for protection and unwilling to consider his romantic advances. Orlando himself, who is even more devoted to her, goes all ORLANDO SMASH! when he finds out that he can't have her and that she's not perfect.
  • In Peacebreakers, Jackson kills Kiera's stalker, gets her sober, and dies to save her from zombies after knowing her for a few months and dating her for two.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy is awfully quick to label friends he met a few days ago as "family". This is because they ARE family (in a twisted, mythical not-exactly-blood-relations kind of way). Virtually every major character in the stories is the descendant of one of the ancient Greek gods, who are themselves one big dysfunctional family. The series puts a lot of emphasis on the tragic flaws of heroes, so you might have an example of this trope show up, but it's explicitly stated that Percy's flaw is that he can't make sacrifices when it comes to his friends (male or female), even for the greater good.
  • Planet of Adventure: Anacho calls out the protagonist Adam Reith on this in the first novel, pointing out that he's oblivious to all the other suffering that's going on in the world, yet he's risking all to save a single pretty girl, who is just one prisoner in a caravan of slaves. Reith can only give a shamefaced grin and say that one man can't do everything, so he may as well start with the Damsel in Distress.
  • The Rainmaker: Rudy Baylor does this even to the point where he tells himself in the first stages of his relationship with Kelly, the Love Interest, that doing so is a bad idea.
  • In Re:Zero, Subaru practically invokes this after getting Trapped in Another World; being Wrong Genre Savvy, he figures he must be there to protect some cute girl, and after seeing Emilia searching for her insignia, he figures it must be her and decides to help her. The trope doesn't truly kick in until the two of them are murdered by Elsa the Bowel Hunter, triggering Subaru's Return by Death for the first time, at which point Subaru becomes determined to (and eventually unhealthily obsessed with) helping and protecting her. Ram and Rem come to feel that Subaru is acting like this towards them but in their case, they have only known him for a day, but Subaru (and the audience) has actually known them for quite a bit longer. This being a Deconstruction, he's called out on this trope at every turn, even by Emilia herself, and ends up going through absolute hell.
  • Sherlock Holmes: This was clearly a reasonable thing for Holmes to expect, if the woman was English like himself. Thus, it's proof that nationalism was a lot stronger in the 1890s: if a character in 21st-century fiction drops everything to help out a random stranger who happens to be from his home country, nobody would buy it.
  • Slayers, as with so many others, lampshades this. When Gourry first meets Lina, he proclaims it is his duty as a knight to escort and protect Lina, despite knowing nothing about her (largely in part to his own lack of awareness).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Robert Baratheon's relationship with Lyanna Stark. 15 years later, she was the love of his life and he went to war for her. Her brother Eddard says that for all his talk, Robert barely knew her, and Lyanna had acknowledged before her death that being married to her would not change Robert's womanizing ways.
  • In Sorcerer to the Crown, Prunella mentions how Zacharias is exactly the kind of gentleman who could be easily manipulated into helping a woman who plays the role of a damsel in distress. Prunella actually needs help but exaggerates for effect as she doesn't know Zacharias (who would help her anyway).
  • In the Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, Torin warns Ragnar that the conversation he overheard may have been to induce him to assassinate a lord to protect a young woman — and that the woman may have been part to such a plot.
  • Stardust is an Affectionate Parody of chivalry. Tristran Thorn goes on a quest to find the fallen star and prove his love to the village beauty, Victoria Forrester, who seems extremely uninterested in him. He ends up realizing that he's not interested in her, either.
  • In Summer Celebration, stoic robber Misha Barkhasid sends away everyone around him to listen to Miriam Helen’s story about how notorious criminal Woldarski seduced her and tried to blackmail her into prostitution. He agrees to help her, despite her story being just one of many stories about Woldarski, and eventually fights him and takes a knife to the lung and narrowly escapes death for her.
  • Sword of Truth:
    • In Wizard's First Rule, Richard's entire quest starts when he sees some random lady running off in the distance, then sees a group of armed men stalking her.
    • In The Law of Nines, a modern-day "reboot/continuation" of the story, the book ends with the main character being asked by an ally to tell him how the whole conflict started.
      "Well, I guess it all started when I met this girl..."
      "Doesn't it always?"
  • The Twilight Saga:
    • Edward knows Bella as a person and not prey for maybe a month before he wants to spend the rest of his (non)-life protecting her from every other vampire in the world.
    • The plot of the latter half of Breaking Dawn is to rally up vampires to protect this one child who none of them even know. All of them agree to put their lives in danger for Renesmee the second they see her, without any logical reason as to why they even should endanger themselves to protect someone they only just met. Word of God says that vampires are extremely apathetic and, especially those that drink human blood, feel no affection for other vampires other than the one or two that travel with them.
  • The Unwomanly Face of War: Several women note that on the frontline male camarade would risk (and loose) their lives for the female recruits.
  • Warlock Series: In Storm Over Warlock, Shann, seeing a Wyvern lose control of a forktail, leaps to fight the monsters. This is not from a romantic interest, as established in the text.
  • In the Whateley Universe, Stalwart declares his undying love for Fey only seconds after seeing her. To make it extra-uncomfortable, he does it in the middle of the Whateley Academy quad, while Fey's father is standing right there. Fey throws him across the quad, but he doesn't give up. His Dogged Nice Guy behavior eventually saves Fey's life, and he gets several dates with her.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Gareth Bryne's chasing down Siuan might count as this trope. He certainly believes he does at first, lampshading that he's too old to be chasing after pretty girls, much less when he can't figure out the reason (beyond the money/service she owed).
    • In a gender inversion, the members of Rand's harem are all inextricably in love with him at first sight, though their reactions differ (Min plays this straightest, while Aviendha tries to run in horror).
    • In Shienar they have a saying: "A man who is not willing to give his life to save a woman is not a man."
  • White Trash Warlock: Played with. At the beginning of the first novel, Adam uses a dangerous spell that uses his own life and he wasn't even sure would work to save Vic, a cute guy he had just met earlier that day. When a Reaper questions why he is doing it, Adam jokes that he just thinks Vic is hot. That said, when Vic himself pushes this question again, Adam admits he would have saved anybody in that situation, because he thinks nobody should have died then.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: In "Billy", Angel turns up at Lilah's door to confront her about the consequences of her evil actions. He kicks down the door and threatens her — until she steps into the light, and he sees that she has black eyes and is covered in bruises. Suddenly, Angel turns from threatening Lilah to saying he's going to go have a talk with the man who did this to her. Played with, as Lilah calls him out on it, pointing out that this sudden change of tone and outrage on her behalf is coming from someone who she knows hates her and came to see her with rather violent intentions himself.
  • In an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a boy gets sucked into a pinball game where he has to battle a witch and crown the princess. The princess is represented by a woman he had met at the mall only five minutes ago and who only spoke to him because he was standing in for a repair shop owner. And yet the guy comes to her rescue with the zeal of someone fighting for his true love. Admittedly, he was probably also fighting with all the zeal of someone who just got sucked into a killer pinball machine. He didn't even get to escape in the end.
  • Bones: In the episode "The Finder" (a Poorly Disguised Pilot for the series of the same name), Walter, the title character of the episode, becomes obsessed with finding out who killed a woman he only talked to for one night.
  • Chuck has a gender-inverted example. It may be Sarah's job to protect the Intersect, but her feelings for Chuck provide the motivation for just how seriously she takes his safety. In Season 3, she admits she fell in love with Chuck "sometime between his fixing her phone and defusing a bomb" when they first met.
  • In an episode of the '90s version of Cupid, a nutcase who thinks he is Don Quixote singles out a bewildered sex worker as literally his Dulcinea.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Steven sees a young woman, Anne, getting chased by guards in the first episode of "The Massacre of Saint Bartholemew's Eve" and becomes immediately fixated on saving her. When the Doctor leaves the time period without doing anything to prevent the massacre, he focuses most of his grief on the fact that they'd left Anne to die.
    • In "The War Machines", Ben's brooding is broken up when he sees a man is being a nuisance to Polly. When the man starts a fight, Ben does not back down. (Then, he's brooding because he's on a shore posting, so there may be a touch of In Harm's Way to it.)
    • In "The Evil of the Daleks", the Daleks' plan relies on Jamie being prepared to risk his life to rescue Victoria, whom he hasn't even met at that point. He does.
    • In "The Girl in the Fireplace", the Doctor nearly gets himself Trapped in the Past without the TARDIS defending Reinette from the clockwork droids, when he's only known her for the length of a party.
    • In "The Night of the Doctor", it is revealed that the Eighth Doctor's death and eventual regeneration was caused by him choosing to risk his life for a cute girl he met five seconds ago, whose name gets mentioned dramatically at the end of his list of companions as if it is the most special one of them all. It's justified in that the Eighth Doctor is one of the most innocent, optimistic and All-Loving Hero incarnations of the Doctor, so it serves as a decisive Break the Cutie for him.
  • Dollhouse: Victor's feelings for Sierra are just as much about this — he tries to save her and take care of her even in personalities that don't know her. However, just like Echo and Paul, they eventually fall in love and turn out to be just right for each other.
  • The Expanse: Detective Miller is assigned to find Julie Mao, the runaway daughter of a major Star Helix stockholder. He quickly becomes obsessed with her and even thinks he's in love with her despite their never meeting, while she's alive and/or human anyways. Its even lampshaded; "Dulcinea" is the title of the pilot.
  • Heroes:
    • Peter Petrelli often fulfills this trope, given his quest to prevent a viral apocalypse in the second season is really more about saving the life of a girl he knew only briefly.
    • Matt Parkman risks his life — several times — to save a super-villainess he just met yesterday, all because he had a psychic vision of them being married in the future.
    • You may be forgiven for thinking that "Hiro Rule" in the page quote refers to Hiro Nakamura. He goes through an awful lot of effort for Charlie, whom he hadn't known for a long time. Then again, this is pretty in character, given that he seems to view life as a comic book. Also in his case, it may be more a case of simply wanting to save her, because he wants to save EVERYONE (it's what heroes do, after all), and it's only in the process of trying to save her that she becomes more than just another innocent civilian that needs saving. While the Dulcinea Effect is falling in love (lust) and then helping, in Hiro's case, he was helping and then fell in love. He followed much the same pattern with Yaeko as well.
  • Played with in the Highlander: The Series episode "Chivalry". Richie falls for Kristin, a beautiful Immortal who becomes murderously jealous when jilted, as Duncan knows from past experience. As she plays the weak and helpless damsel when defeated, neither Duncan nor Richie can bring themselves to take her head. That doesn't stop Methos:
    Methos: [to Kristin] Pick [the sword] up.
    Kristin:: Who the hell are you?
    Methos: A man who was born long before the Age of Chivalry. Pick it up.
  • House:
    • Lampshaded when Thirteen points out to Foreman how foolhardy he was to risk his medical license on a two-week-old relationship. She was the proverbial Dulcinea.
    • Wilson was unbelievably devastated by the death of his girlfriend, who he had known only for four months, and dated for a few weeks. He asked his best friend of many years (House) to risk his life for her. He's still devastated by her death about a year later because she was the only person he had "loved in a long time". Season 4 was shortened, and if it had gone as the writers intended, they would have been dating for 6 months or so. Also, Wilson deeply attaches himself to girlfriends with pathological ease.
  • In The Lone Gunmen, John Byers gets hit with this hard when he sees Suzanne Modeski. He ends up throwing away his career, his respectability, and most of his illusions about the country he loves in the process. The other two Gunmen see Modeski as little more than a Femme Fatale. The truth is... somewhere between the poles.
  • In Lost, Jack barely knows Kate for a couple of days before he's growing protective about her safety and looking out for her. This includes trying to convince her she shouldn't come with him (or anyone else) on treks into the jungle because it could be dangerous, despite her seeming no less capable than the others (and more so than some). This continues in the third episode, even when he sees her mug shot in the possession of a police officer - who keeps ranting about how dangerous she is!
  • Masters of Horror: In "Valerie on the Stairs", Rob is rather drawn to Valerie, the woman who begs him to save her from a monster, even though he knows nothing about her. This is later explained to be because they're both fictional characters who were written that way. Valerie specifically has no personality attributes beyond her status as a damsel in distress because she's defined solely by her relationship to Rob.
  • Merlin (2008): This is in full effect in the episode "The Lady of the Lake". Merlin merely glimpses Freya and instantly decides he must risk everything to save her. The fact that she's being persecuted for magic use might have something to do with it, but it still fits the straight version.
  • The Punisher (2017): In Season 2, Frank Castle has a clean slate from the authorities who have wiped his record, but risks throwing that away to help a teenage girl being attacked by Pilgrim's mercenaries. However when they discuss this trope afterwards, with Frank claiming that he wouldn't have helped her if she was a man, she suggests this is a lie and he was just looking for an excuse to get into a fight.
  • Robin Hood: Much takes one look at Kate and is instantly in love, even though she treats him with mild contempt. All of a sudden, Kate is the centre of Much's universe (and all the outlaws, thanks to the Always Save the Girl principle). Oddly though, in a mid-season episode Much laments the fact that Kate has been captured and says: "I'd do anything for her." Yet he doesn't stop what he's doing in order to go and rescue her, so this is a subversion.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Requiem for Methuselah", Kirk goes down to a planet where he only has four hours to obtain some material for a vaccine. He promptly falls so in love with the girl he meets down there that Spock is forced to erase her from his memory when he's left too heartbroken to go on after being forced to leave her. Even for the notoriously womanizing Kirk, this is a severe example.
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Qpid", Q insists that Picard is still in love with Vash, a woman he knew for one day a year earlier, and proves it by trapping them in a storyline where he has to rescue her. Picard brushes off his claims, pointing out that he'd try to rescue anyone in danger.
    • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Rogue Planet", a race of shapeshifters is being hunted like animals. A member of this race transforms into a beautiful woman, meets with Captain Archer, and begs for help. Captain Archer immediately agrees to drop everything he was doing to help her and her people, acting like a man in love. T'Pol lampshades Archer's behavior by asking if he would be so eager to help if the shapeshifter came to him in the form of a man. Later, everyone finds out the alien read Archer's mind and transformed into his image of the ideal woman that he imagined when he listened to the poem "The Song of Wandering Aengus" as a child. When the day is saved, the "woman" thanks Archer and turns back to her true form, which looks like a giant slug. Archer is shocked, but they part on friendly terms.
  • In Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, private detective Lionel Whitney is prone to this with the Girl of the Week. It's worth noting that a key reason he gave up his job as a stockbroker to become a detective was to live out his longstanding fantasies of being "Mark Savage", the 1940s-style private eye protagonist of the pulpy novels he devours. This trope gets him into particular trouble in "Savage Says: There's No Free Lunch" because that week's Dulcinea is actually The Vamp. Even better? The novel he's working his way through at the time sees Savage similarly deceived, but it isn't until Lionel's recovering in the hospital that he finishes it and realizes how strong the Plot Parallel was.

  • The song Dulcinea by Isis is about this, hence the name.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In some versions of Arthurian Legend, Sir Gawain takes a knightly vow to be a protector of ladies to atone for having accidentally killed a woman in his youth. Thus the fact that they are strangers to him is irrelevant.
  • The original Princesse Lointaine story dates from the 12th century and describes the Troubadour Joufre's passionate love for the Countess of Tripoli, whom he has only heard described. He eventually journeys to the Holy Land and arrives dying and expires in her arms. She then enters a convent - over a man she meets briefly and when he is NOT at his best (since he was dying and all). Joufre and Hodierna Countess of Tripoli are historical - the rest of the story not so much.
  • A rare guy on guy version: in the Ramayana, Hanuman devoted himself to Rama after their first encounter.
  • In The Little Soldier, the titular little soldier finds a beautiful woman in a fireplace, who has the body of a serpent. She begs him to retrieve various articles of clothing for her and he readily does so, even though he must fight through monsters to get to them and has never seen this girl before in his life. This bites him in the ass big time when the princess turns out to be a horrible person who drugs him so she doesn't have to marry him, steals various magic items from him, and mocks his attempts to woo her. He gets over her and ends up with the fisher-woman who helped him out.
  • In Greek Mythology, Perseus had no idea who Andromeda even was when he saw her shackled to a rock and about to be Fed to the Beast, or who had done it to her, or why. (He got explanations after rescuing her.) Part probably came from that he was a hero and feeding helpless people to giant monsters is wrong to do.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A not-uncommon scenario includes a heel diva's male manager, friend, boyfriend, tag partner, or stable attacking a face diva and subsequently being driven away by an otherwise mostly unrelated male face. The rescuer may be in a feud with the male attacker, but the point remains that he's interfering to protect the girl.
  • Also common is the heel wrestler blaming his diva manager for a series of losses and attacks her. This leads to his face rival coming to her rescue and she gets an automatic Heel–Face Turn.


  • In The Magic Flute, Tamino sings his main aria to a picture of the heroine her mother has given him as an incentive to rescue her.
  • Man of La Mancha parodies this trope (as does the classical novel Don Quixote, upon which it was based) when the self-proclaimed knight Don Quixote falls instantly in love with a beautiful damsel (in fact, a barmaid moonlighting as a prostitute) and refuses to be convinced by any means that his lady "Dulcinea" (a name he gave her, because her real name, Aldonza, was ill-fitting for a lady of her splendor) was anything less than the beautiful and virtuous lady he imagined her to be. In this particular musical, Don Quixote's high (if misguided) opinion of Aldonza eventually causes her to realize that she is not living up to her potential, and makes it her business to take more pride in herself and become her own Dulcinea.

    Video Games 
  • Agarest Senki: Leonhardt plays this so straight, the first time he does this, he gets killed (curiously, the first time he did this, the girl in question is not a Love Interest seeing as she's just twelve years old). He recovered, though, and does this trope again to two women.
  • In the first mission of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, after fighting through a cartel compound only to find the girl they were hired to rescue dead, Rios opts to save another girl they find, while Salem just wants to leave.
  • Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia: Lyner has no hesitation in helping any Squishy Witch of the Reyvateil race, which only consist of girls. Lyner's keeping up with this trope so much that he will have no hesitation in "saving" a Big Bad in the final battle, who appears to be an over-abused Reyvateil.
  • Baldur's Gate allows a justification of the trope, where you find a drow woman being pursued by a member of the Flaming Fist (a mercenary company that acts as law and order for the region). He says she is accused of murder, and he's going to kill her... without the messiness of a trial or any of that because she's a drow. She is evil and may well be guilty, but your character can protest that the law should be obeyed. The mercenary comes after you for it, and you get to fight him (with no loss of reputation, as would happen if you killed any other Flaming Fist soldier in the game). You do, however, lose 2 reputation points if you let her join your party.
  • The Bard's Tale: The female shows up as an unreal owner of boob, so he immediately works for her although his tasks mess up his life severely. Later we "find" out that she is a demon.
  • Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean has a Double Subversion. When the player character sneaks into Rodolfo's mansion, it can suggest saving Xelha, but Kalas just gets annoyed with you if you do. After exploring a bit, he finds a gate he can't figure out how to open, but Xelha can.
  • Bravely Default:
    • Tiz agrees instantly to help Agnès in her journey despite a military coming after her because she's a Vestal and she made the vow to seal the Great Chasm (restoring Tiz's hometown Norende to normality).
    • It's played straight with Ringabel, who joins the party because he feels an intense and inexplicable urge to protect Edea. It is hinted during the game that Ringabel subconsciously helps Tiz, Agnès, and Edea because he wants to avoid them dying at the hands of Airy like the previous cycle. Then again, Alternis has a huge crush on Edea anyway...
  • Chrono Trigger opens this way, when Crono follows Marle through the mysterious portal triggered by the malfunctioning telepods, after meeting her that day. Although after she disappears, the game prevents you from leaving the scene any other way, so it's forced. Lucca says it best: "Crono! You brought her here, you get her back!" And she's kind of got a point; what sort of person would bring a new acquaintance to something that goes terribly wrong — and then just abandon them to who knows what?
  • Disgaea:
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The quest "In My Time of Need" involves a group of Alik'r warriors looking for a Redguard woman they claim betrayed her family and a Redguard city to the Aldmeri Dominion. The woman herself claims she spoke out against the Dominion who hired the Alik'r to hunt her down an assassinate her. The player can either play the trope straight by killing the Alik'r or defy it by luring Saadia outside Whiterun where the Alik'r will capture her.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy IV: A very short time after Cecil finds Rydia, and witnesses her summon a monster that appeared to kill his best friend Kain, he immediately throws away his career to protect Rydia by killing the troops sent by his king to arrest and execute her. This can be considered a Justified Trope, as he was already suffering a crisis of conscience against his kingdom of Baron due to the immoral acts the king had ordered him to commit, which included unwittingly destroying Rydia's village by delivering a deadly item there.
    • Final Fantasy IX has Zidane, who is trying to kidnap the princess at the start of the game. Then he becomes her escort for the rest of it. This is even part of his skill-set. He has the in-game ability 'Protect Girls'. If there's a female in the party who gets attacked, Zidane will jump in front of her and take the hit. This does not, however, prevent him from grabbing the princess's butt while climbing a ladder.
      Zidane: Ooh, soft...
    • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, talking to Zidane on the world map at one point has him say that collecting the crystals is a pain and he wouldn't do it if Cosmos wasn't hot. He says that he's joking, but Squall doesn't believe him.
    • Final Fantasy VI: Locke is very quick to pledge his unfaltering protection to Terra and later Celes, two complete strangers who had once worked for the Empire. The reason for this is tragic. He lost the love of his life, Rachel, in an Imperial attack that he wasn't there to protect her from. Terra's amnesia hits especially close because Rachel contracted amnesia as the result of a trip he took her on. Rachel's amnesia and death are his greatest failures, and so he vows to protect Terra and Celes because he refuses to fail another woman like he did Rachel.
  • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War: Played straight with Sigurd and Deirdre (or Diadora, depending on who your translator is). Gender-swapped in the same game...with Deirdre and Sigurd. Yes, they both immediately fall madly for each other. It sadly doesn't end well, in part due to Deirdre's status as a Living Macguffin and the schemes of the main antagonist.
  • In Gemini Rue, Azriel Odin/Delta-Six has this for Saiyuri/Epsilon-Five. Even multiple mindwipes don't stop him from instinctively trying to protect her, nor do they stop her from trying to do the same for him. It's implied that she was someone important to him in the past.
  • Deconstructed in one of Guilty Gear's Radio CDs; Ky Kiske charges into a group of Gears in an attempt to save a woman. He dies horribly, starting a chain of events that lead to a Bad Future. And the woman, a time-hopping witch, was counting on it, and laughs in his face as he dies.
  • ICO: A childish innocence is the driving force because Ico and Yorda are kids. The game's minimalism leaves a lot open to interpretation, but Ico clearly cares for Yorda, who implicitly trusts Ico with her life. It helps avoid any cliche by the fact that the game is so well done that the player comes to love both Yorda and Ico as much as they love each other. It also helps that A) One of the first things Ico sees of Yorda is her ability to open locked doors; doors which surround the castle they're trapped in there's also one at the end of the giant bridge, assuming you don't turn around and try to jump back for Yorda the second the queen tries to capture her, and B) he has a vague idea of why he himself was trapped in the castle, and knows it's a bad idea for anyone to stick around there.
  • Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel does this to Alisa after both them and their future classmates fall through a Trap Door on their first day in class. Rean goes out of his way to save her and ends up getting a chest in his face. It also a subtle way to introduce Rean as a Martyr Without a Cause.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Several games in the series fall under this trope, as they show Link going off on a quest for Princess Zelda after knowing her for only a few minutes or, such as in the original The Legend of Zelda game, never having met her at all. Although, given that she's his sovereign ruler, it's probably illegal for him not to quest or something, and if he ever did say no, she'd probably just keep asking him.
    • In Oracle of Ages, Link goes and saves Impa from some attacking monsters (while he does know Impa, he doesn't seem to know her when he saves her). He then accompanies her to find the girl Impa was looking for. Once they find said girl, it turns out that Impa was actually possessed by an evil sorceress, the girl was the Oracle of Ages, and the sorceress has now possessed her. Well done, Link.
    • Ocarina of Time subverts this as the dying Great Deku Tree explicitly tells Link to take the Kokiri Emerald to Hyrule Castle and speak to Princess Zelda. Once he gets there and past the guards, Zelda gives him the details about the sorcerer who cursed the Great Deku Tree to die (aka Ganondorf), explains her own prophetic dreams about Ganondorf's plans obtain the godly power of the Triforce to Take Over the World, and finally ropes him into her plan to stop Ganondorf from getting the other Sacred Stones in order to enter the Sacred Realm and get the Triforce.
    • The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess mostly avert it. In Wind Waker, Link starts his quest because his little sister was taken by a giant bird, and finishes Because Destiny Says So. Twilight Princess has Link trying to save the kids from the village; at first, he's helping Midna because she's helping him. Those first 3 dungeons are by no means short (especially the third one), so by the second half of the game, he and Midna have had time to bond. Ganondorf just happens to know how to push Link's Berserk Button at the end.
    • If you look at the gender-flipped version for Twilight Princess, Midna rescues Link from Zant's dungeon, after seeing him for five minutes. It turns out that she only did so because it was foretold that he'd help her overthrow Zant, and she later apologizes for this.
    • Skyward Sword averts this completely, as Zelda and Link are best friends who have actually known each other for years in that game.
    • Breath of the Wild subverts this. Assuming you select the more proactive dialogue options in the opening Great Plateau section, it can seem like Link is perfectly willing to follow the lead of the unfamiliar woman's telepathic voice that greets him when he wakes up in the Shrine of Resurrection. But it turns out that he had become good friends with Zelda before losing his memories, and he's so willing to fight for her without them due to Amnesiac Resonance.
  • Hiro from Lunar: Eternal Blue is the smack-bang-in-the-centre example of the videogame version of this trope. It's even the Trope Namer in The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés, as seen at the top of this page. One might think that he only did this for Lucia because she's a mysterious beauty who he's clearly smitten with at first sight, but the manga Lunar: Younenki no owari shows that he will literally do this for any girl he met 5 minutes ago, making his more of a case of Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Snake devotes himself to saving Meryl when she's only around for one boss battle before she gets shot. It isn't one-sided, either — when the two finally meet up, Meryl tells Snake that she had been given psychotherapy to destroy her interest in men, and then not ten minutes later the boss from that one battle before she gets shot is telling Snake with his dying breath that he has "a large part" in her heart.
  • Neverwinter Nights: The 'good' responses during most of Aribeth's dialogue in the first chapter suggest a male hero is falling victim to this trope. A male hero of Hordes of the Underdark can fall victim to this as well, with either Nathyrra or Aribeth.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2:
    • Most of the 'good' dialogue with Elanee or Neeshka suggests a male character is acting under the Dulcinea Effect. Especially the decision to help Neeshka in her feud with her former partner, leading to the question: Why, if Neeshka didn't tell the player that if he came to Neverwinter with her he would likely be the target of assassination attempts, does he still trust her?
    • The player can use this trope with regards to Safiya in the sequel as well, despite the fact that she is of a sect of wizards noted for their brutality, political scheming (read: assassinations and shadow wars), and immorality. Yet the player can completely trust her from the outset (not like you have any choice).
    • A male player in the Neverwinter Nights 2 community module Dark Avenger can behave like this towards Contessa Mignet. Her being madly in love with a Casanova character who is trying to get rid of her for being too clingy doesn't help.
  • 2B from NieR: Automata forms a close bond with 9S in the middle of their first mission, to the point of not minding pulling a Heroic Sacrifice with him (granted, Death Is Cheap for YoRHa androids, but even then she had no idea if she'd even remember 9S afterwards due to thinking her memories during the mission weren't backed up.) This is justified later on with the revelation that this was far from her first mission with 9S. It's just the first one the player is privy to, and due to 2B being tasked with regularly rewriting 9S' memories, it's the first one that he remembers.
  • Ōkami: Obviously, given that you're the omnibenevolent sun god and all. Issun tends to be more cynical than Ammy but is also a huge sucker for a pretty face. The same goes for the sequel Ōkamiden. Your first partner, Kuni, actually believes that it is his duty as a swordsman and son of Susano to help out any damsel in distress he sees, despite initially being too afraid of demons to face up to them. Kurow also seems to display this, despite his Establishing Character Moment showing him to be a bit of a jerk and possibly a criminal.
  • The PK Girl: The Protagonist just came into the mall for some ice cream. Before he knows it, a girl he's never even met has been kidnapped, and her sister, whom he's also never met, begs for his help in saving her.
  • Psychonauts: Raz goes down into the lake, fights the Lungfish, enters its mind to bring it back from being brainwashed by Oleander, and also fights Oleander while there, cures all four asylum inmates to collect pieces for his costume so he can get inside the tower, climbs that hellish tower. All so he can get up to the top and save Lili. It's both downplayed and justified as Raz has multiple reasons for wanting to get up the tower and the game never explicitly makes any of them the only reason.
  • Leon in Resident Evil 2 goes out of his way to escort and protect Ada no matter how many times she tries to ditch him. Even when Ada is being shot at, he takes a bullet for her!note  After Leon hears Ada is a spy for the Umbrella corporation, he refuses to believe it until Ada confirms it herself (in scenario A anyway). Since then, Leon and Ada have a "it's complicated" relationship in later games where Ada will help Leon when she can, but she will still hinder his progress if she is ordered to (though she won't harm him).
  • RuneScape: Invoked during the "Death of Chivalry" quest as you come across a woman named Dawn, who is held captive by the Black Knight faction under the control of Captain Dulcin. It is later revealed that Dawn has secretly killed Dulcin long ago in a plan that ultimately has the Player Character and/or his companion Sir Owen complete a series of tests of chivalry so that she may obtain an artifact of power.
  • In the online tie-in game for the movie Salt, the player is led to believe that Salt is being set up by the bad guys and she needs your help to clear her name. In reality, she is a Soviet mole and is using you to eliminate some loose ends. She later betrays the player to his (it's always shown as a male player) bosses in the CIA.
  • The main plot of Sands of Destruction kicks off this way: Kyrie is ecstatic when Morte decides to drag him around the world in order to convince him it's an awful place mere moments after breaking him out of the Sky Gaol and soon promises to help her in whatever she needs, including ending the world. He's obviously not thinking clearly at that moment.
  • An instance of this is optional in The Secret of Monkey Island. If Guybrush completes the "Trial of Thievery" last (stealing the Idol of Many Hands from Elaine's mansion), he gets up from attempted drowning by Fester Shinetop (LeChuck in disguise) to see LeChuck's ship disappearing and being informed by the Lookout that Elaine has been kidnapped by LeChuck. Guybrush then proclaims his love for her, even though he mumbled incoherently towards her just prior. If Guybrush doesn't complete the "Trial of Thievery" last, Guybrush and Elaine profess their love for one another and Guybrush still vows to rescue her when she's eventually kidnapped, averting this.
  • Star Fox Adventures: Fox gets a few psychic message things from Krystal and sees her suspended in the Krazoa Palace and he's more than willing to do everything he can and risk his life to save her.
  • In Star Ocean: The Second Story, Claude winds up on an alien planet where he's absolutely not allowed to use his superior technology. The first thing he does is use that technology to save the cute blue-haired chick from a monster.note 
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Justified in Knights of the Old Republic by having the girl the player has never met being his commanding officer and possibly the key to winning the war with the Sith.
    • Gender-inverted in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords with Visas and the Handmaiden if the player is male, and played straight with Atton and the Disciple if the player is female. Though certain later events put it in a new context.
    • The Force Unleashed II plays this trope straight but with an added gender-inverted example. Starkiller and Juno spend quite a bit of time together in the first game but their mild flirtations never seemed all that serious and were closer to crush status than genuine love. Then in the next game, without having spent any more additional time with each other, both characters are throwing themselves in front of buses to try and save the other — Starkiller more than Juno, but she does some crazy shit too (like trying to stab Darth Vader with a lightsaber!).
  • Tales Series:
    • Mixed with Jumped at the Call in Tales of Destiny 2. As soon as Reala emerges from a giant Lens, Kyle is determined to become her hero and pursues her across the continent to do so. This is often lampshaded by his adopted brother, Loni, who is also roped into the adventure as a result.
    • A rare female-regarding-male example crops up in Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World — Marta is infatuated with Emil from the moment he "saves" her — so infatuated, in fact, that she sets an ancient guardian monster to stalk him for several months, and when she does reunite with him, offers to hand herself in to be executed in order to spare his village (and his guilt). All for a guy whose name she had learned only an hour or two ago.
  • White Knight Chronicles: Leonard had only met the princess, Cisna, once before, when they were kids (and she wasn't even interested in him, but in the butterfly on his head), but he falls in love with her the moment he sees her again (and she with him) and is willing to rush off and confront a hostile nation searching for destructive lost technology after they kidnap her (dragging his Unlucky Childhood Friend and the Heroic Mime with him).
  • Subverted in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, where you meet an elf girl accused of luring town guards to their death. When you do the investigation, it turns out that she was completely responsible. If you defend her, as "thanks", she'll lead you to an ambush.
  • Xenogears gets away with this by turning it into a part of a larger plot point: the hero not only leaps unreasonably to the heroine's defense, but he also shouts her name in the process before he's told it. Dun dun DUUUUN! They'd been lovers over several incarnations, the latest being the one we see in-game.
  • Ys: Most of these women save Adol Christin's life in the first place because he is almost always shipwrecked at the start of games. Then he spends the rest of them protecting them.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright is a sucker for Damsels in Distress in general, male or female, whether or not they have any way of paying for his services.
    • Phoenix first meets Maya next to a dead body and immediately takes her case when she's accused of murder, though it's justified, as she is the younger sister of his recently deceased mentor.
    • He does the same for Lana later on (taking her case right after meeting her) and keeps defending her even when the culprit starts personally threatening him.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations case 5, there is no evidence that Godot had ever met Maya before risking life and limb to protect her. He had a pretty good excuse, though: she is his dead girlfriend's sister, after all. That, and the one after her was essentially his girlfriend's arch-nemesis, who was responsible for ruining Godot's life too. At the same time this is also horribly Deconstructed. Godot actually learned of the plot well beforehand, but rather than alerting her to the danger, he jumps at the opportunity to try and make up for being unable to protect Mia and causes a chain of events that culminate in him killing their mother. By the end he admits he was more driven by his own selfishness than any real desire to protect Maya.
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney's backstory, it is revealed that Phoenix adopted Trucy quickly after meeting her.
    • Justified and averted in two instances in Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney. Phoenix is more than willing to defend Espella from accusations of witchcraft even though he's known her for less than a week, but he'd been given fake memories of knowing her for five years. And the second instance: when Maya is accused, Luke Triton is more than willing to testify against her.
  • Invoked in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: Makoto Naegi has this with regard to Sayaka Maizono, who he has been pining for her since childhood, and he is willing to do anything to protect her during Monokuma's game of High School Life of Mutual Killing. It turns out that she's using the DE as a way to frame him for murder when she tries to kill Leon so she can escape from the school, but Leon kills her before she can do so.
  • Ever17: The Kid fell in love with Coco at first sight. He then spent the next 17 years of his life learning to imitate his role model Takeshi as exactly as possible. He does this based on a story that You tells him involving the personification of the perception of time. He doesn't even get the girl because by this point he looks 20 and is actually 32 while she's 14, acts about 8 and considers herself to be the girlfriend of said personification. The Drama CDs show that after the incident, he got over Coco, got a job, and ended up with Sora, so it seems he's all right.
  • This trope is deconstructed in Fate/stay night with the character Emiya Shirou, who is a deeply damaged individual who is incapable of valuing his own life above those of others. No matter which route, he gets near-fatally injured trying to save Saber the very night he meets her.
  • Sasuke from Ikemen Sengoku briefly met the female main character just before they got flung back to Japan's Sengoku era by a wormhole and got separated for four years. Despite that long period of time after their first meeting and them being total strangers who barely said three sentences to one another during that meeting, he never forgot about her and vowed to find her and do anything needed to ensure that she'd stay safe and be able to return to their original time. The MC even notes on his route that while he's a Nice Guy, that alone doesn't explain his complete devotion to protecting someone he had only about ten seconds of interaction with four years ago. However, it turns out there's a better reason for his devotion to her than just Chronic Hero Syndrome or Love at First Sightduring their first meeting, she pushed him out of the way of a lightning bolt strike and while it happened so quickly that she forgot about it, he never forgot that he would have been dead if not for her quick and brave action and he vowed to repay her for it.

  • There is a same-gender, Platonic example in Anecdote of Error. Luntsha decides to rescue Zeya from prison, after meeting her just once when Zeya tried to kill her and her friends, because she doesn’t want to be responsible for Zeya getting executed. She does this despite knowing that, if caught, at best she’ll be expelled and at worst she’ll be killed.
  • Broken Saints: When the male heroes find Shandala sealed away in the back of Mars' strip club, naked and helpless, the first feeling each of them has is one of profound shock and despair. None of them have met her before, but they recognize her from their visions, and they recognize her aura immediately. It doesn't matter that they have no idea who she is or where she's from, they take her home with them and (by way of a mushroom-induced, Back Story-revealing Dream Sequence), they awaken her from her Heroic BSoD.
  • In a strange variation on this trope, Isaac from Crystal Heroes decides to join the expedition into a dangerous dungeon immediately after Garrett volunteers to join, on the grounds that he's "so hot." So, rather than risking his life for the sake of aiding someone he just met and finds attractive, he risks his life just to spend time with one of the other party members who he just met and finds attractive.
  • Dept Heaven Apocrypha features the gender-reversed version, albeit with a bit of time lag. Even though she's only known about his existence for a few weeks (if that), Meria is still ready to protect Fia's demon from the rest of the school if need be. Her excuse is that he can't entertain her anymore if he's dead, but the demon just acknowledges her for the Knight in Sour Armor she is. (Cue massive flailing and embarrassment on her part.)
  • Gil from Girl Genius is an interesting case. First time we met him, he jumped on Agatha to save her from an explosion. Later, he is revealed to have rescued Zola many times in Paris. But Gil has absolutely no romantic interest in Zola. His initial rescue of Agatha likely was because he was a nice guy who felt sorry for her (she was clearly upset by everything that just happened). His later decision to bring her along to the airship was because he suspected that she was a Spark, and from there, his desire to keep her around was because he liked having someone his intellectual equal to work with.
  • In Gnoph, Abbey and Will are traveling through a forest when they come across a soldier pursuing a young woman. Abbey is not at all surprised that Will decides to intervene on the woman's behalf, and pointedly refuses to help him in the ensuing fight. In a subversion, it is the soldier who ends up joining the heroes, while the woman is never seen again.
  • When Lance from Gold Coin Comics first meets Silvia, they encounter a wolf-boss. He is willing to stand in front of Silvia to protect her, even though they met a few minutes earlier.
  • In Looking for Group, there is a Playing with a Trope example. Cale is revived by a priestess (Benny) after being incinerated by Richard the warlock and almost immediately devotes his life to her. While this sounds like I Owe You My Life, he was pretty inclined to risk his life for her before being revived (she was being ganged up upon by some thugs and Richard and Cale's ashes watched as she fought them off). This ultimately leads to the forming of the group and their ultimate coupling. It had less to do with protecting the girl and more to do with his view of ultimate pure good and wanting to help everyone and everything and saving those who save him.
  • Commander Badass explains this (combined with his nesting drive) as the reason he can't stay single in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things.
  • Fred from Molten Blade seems perfectly willing to drop everything and break into a government facility on behalf of a girl whom he'd known for less than a day, on the word of Chris, another person who was a total stranger to him twenty-four hours earlier.
  • Gender-reversed in The Order of the Stick. Therkla is a ninja assassin who is ordered to kill Hinjo and his guards, yet when she encounters Elan (on whom she quickly gains a massive crush), she ends up helping him slay some sea trolls that had attacked the fleet. She ends up helping him several more times, the last of which results in her death at the hands of her master.
  • Parodied in RPG World. Hero meets the thief Cherry in the middle of a robbery and beats up Cherry's helpless, cowering victim after mistaking him for the robber, apparently solely on the grounds that a pretty girl couldn't possibly be a bad guy. Even Cherry can't believe it.
  • In Thistil Mistil Kistil, Coal can give no very coherent account of why he rescued Hedda.
    Coal: I followed her voice. She was calling for help.
    Loki: So?
    Coal: So I... had to save her.
    Loki: Why?
    Coal: Because... she was calling for help. She wanted to live.
  • In Wake The Sleepers, she is trying to distract the assassin from him, and Locke has to go and intervene.
  • This is quite common in White Dark Life, with several couples starting out this way. The backstory also has Brendan and Nino, Lindsay's grandparents, getting hitched this way, and Lindsay's parents, Lloyd and Lyndis, and her aunt and uncle, Linus and Esther, have their relationships start like this. Linus notably nearly got himself killed Cement Shoes-style.

    Web Videos 
  • Demo Reel: Tacoma hears about Rebecca's Rape as Backstory and she cries against him when she's high, so from that point he tries desperately to protect her. One problem? She's a badass Gun Nut with Nerves of Steel, and he's the one who gets beaten up by the bad guys.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots plays this a little obviously, as the character involved is literally named Dulcinea. For bonus points, she's revealed in the finale to be a Tulpa, which means like her namesake, she is imaginary (albeit in a slightly different way).
    Puss-in-Boots: She... fascinates me. And she needs my protection!
  • Lampshaded in South Park: Jimmy is aware that Leslie isn't even human, but she's enough of a manipulative Fille Fatale that he starts thinking that he should save her from her captors anyway.
    Tom: Jimmy... you're thinking with your dick.
    Jimmy: I am not thinking with my dick!
    Tom: Yes, you are.
    Jimmy: No, I just think that she's a—
    Tom: Put your dick away.

    Real Life 
  • In the military and domestic settings:
    • A study on gender-integrated combat units suggests this trope. Seeing a female squad member injured would often see the male soldiers going a bit... berserk in response. Though given that communist nations have been using women in combat roles dating back to at least the Communist Revolution in Russia without having serious problems, it suggests that the issue might be more due to the cultural idea that Men Are the Expendable Gender than anything biological.
    • The Israeli army had to confront this issue when they found that for integrated squads, the casualty rate for men was unusually high. The men were throwing themselves into danger to protect their female comrades, entirely for chivalry's sake.
    • When men are aroused, it's supposed to release a hormone that makes them crazy protective/territorial of the object of their desires. (Which is probably the human trait Rescue Romance dawns from and why it's such an appealing fantasy for men and women.)
    • It's alleged that in demos during The Troubles, police would pick on women in a group attempting peaceful protest in order to make the men... less peaceful, so they could justifiably be arrested.
    • The notorious Stasi used it as late as 1989, during the riots on the evening of the 40th anniversary of the GDR, as shocked western observers noticed. The horrible police brutality led many undecided bystanders to a decision TO JOIN THE PROTEST MOVEMENT in accordance with this trope.
  • Dante Alighieri only saw his "beloved" Beatrice twice in life, probably for a length of time spanning less than an hour, and likely never spoke to her. Yet in his most famous work (in fact, all his famous ones), she serves as his spirit guide, muse, etc. At the time of writing, Dante was married to a different woman and had kids by her, yet none of these loved ones merit any mention in his work.
  • Engaging in this practice on an Internet forum (or wiki) is derisively called "white knighting". Doing it is particularly laughable due to most net denizens being aware of G.I.R.L..
  • According to some accounts, the Stonewall Riots exploded when a woman, having already been hit by a police baton, shouted "Why don't you guys do something?" to a crowd of onlookers just before being roughly thrown into a paddy wagon.

Alternative Title(s): Dulcinea Effect, Guy Protects Girl He Just Met