Follow TV Tropes



Go To

"This woman - you know, with the long golden braids and a bullet helmet, armed with a huge sword - has arrived to challenge them. She is Freada, shield-maiden daughter of Hrothgar! Now, um, *ahem*, the daughter of Hrothgar is supposed to be Freawaru, which means 'peace weaver' — not 'beater of ass.'"
SF Debris, "Heroes and Demons"

The polar opposite of Chickification and a subtrope of Adaptational Badass. We all know girls will need role models, so what do you do when you're adapting or sequelizing a work from a "less enlightened" time? Make your female lead into an Action Girl!

The title comes from Xena: Warrior Princess, who is not an example but rather the inspiration, being something of a Trope Codifier for Action Girl. Xenafication thus can be defined as "becoming like Xena". Related to Took a Level in Badass and Adrenaline Makeover. Sometimes a specific form of Adaptational Badass. Not to be confused with Xenofiction or Xanafication. Often comes up by default in an Actionized Adaptation or Actionized Sequel. Compare with Real Women Don't Wear Dresses (which can occasionally crop up as a side effect of this trope).


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Parodied in Angry Marine's Ruby Quest. Whereas in the original, Ruby is more of an Action Survivor who is described as having a "girlish figure" and requires the help of Tom to do most of the heavy lifting, here she's a Religious Bruiser with Unstoppable Rage who saves Tom by punching a hole through the ceiling of his cell and escapes the facility by swimming to the surface and then proceeds to flee with Tom to the moon. When questioned on how did she manage all her obviously impossible feats, all the Angry Marine bothers to explain is that she's "guided by the Emperor! All things are possible by him!"
  • Taken to hilarious extremes in ComicsNix's Bella Swan: Pregnant and Furious, which basically treats The Twilight Saga like Thirty Hs treats Harry Potter. Probably justified, since she made a Deal with the Devil.
  • Child of the Storm has the canonical examples of Lady Sif, Pepper Potts (though a more downplayed example, as she hasn't — yet — been infected with Extremis or got her own suit), Wanda Maximoff, and Diana.
    • Wanda takes it even further than canon, favoring a Badass Longcoat and practical shirts and trousers in combat, unlike her canon counterpart's classic leotard and tiara and more recent fancy attire. She also has no aversion to close combat, if it comes to it.
    • Despite the fact that Diana is no older than 12 when the story starts and emphasizes compassion, she's also notably Hot-Blooded, takes down a monster that took the combined efforts of Wanda and Harry Dresden (with an assist from a Tumbler-driving Bruce Wayne) to defeat in a single shot, and goes bare-knuckle with a Dhampyr Peter Parker possessed by Dracula (who's an even match for Thor).
  • Codex Equus: Many female characters in the Codexverse were adapted from all generations of the My Little Pony series and other non-MLP media, and given upgrades in badassery to varying degrees.
    • In G1 canon, Magic Star was the leader and Team Mom of the Dream Valley Ponies, though her toy's backcard implies she has magic powers, too. Here, she's a powerful Archmage capable of wielding powerful sorcery, as well as the greatest enchantress and wand-maker on the planet, though she's skilled enough to have created multiple non-wand artifacts over the Ages. She also re-Ascended as the divine reincarnation of Plasmatio Equus, one of the Thirteen Empyreans, which made her even more powerful and granted her a new domain in Creation which Plasmatio was also a goddess of in life.
    • Melody from the G2 Musical Ponies toyline loved riding and dreaming with her Pony friends. Here, she started off as a mortal Third-Age descendant of the Second Age's Melody who Ascended to godhood and became the Alicorn goddess of Musical Magic, Endurance, and Dreams. And as a result of absorbing copious amounts of Wild Magic while trying to contain the Castle of Music's meltdown, she ended up becoming considerably older and more powerful than a typical goddess her age would've been; her entry explicitly compares her power levels to being on par with that of Belyolen and Temnobog, both of them "Tier IV"-ranked deities.
    • The Virtuous Seven came from My Little Pony Tales, a Slice of Life tv cartoon that focused on seven teenage fillies living ordinary lives in Ponyland. Here, while they do start out normal, they become beloved superheroines and Chosen Ones picked by the Armors of Virtue in the Isle of Pony to wield them. They even helped defeat and kill Queen Dark Crystal, the living embodiment of Tellusian sapientkind's evils and vices, impressing the Grand Primevals. Three Ages after their deaths, the Virtuous Seven would Ascend and come Back from the Dead as Alicorn goddesses and demigoddesses.
    • All of the Mane Six were already badass heroines in canon, but of them all, only Twilight Sparkle became an Alicorn. Here, all of the Mane Six have additional powers and skills that their canon counterparts do not have. And not only does Twilight/Amicitia become an Alicorn, but the rest of the Mane Six Ascend, too.
      • Canon Twilight Sparkle was already a badass mage even before becoming an Alicorn, and after her transformation, she was able to take on Tirek and fight him to a standstill. In the Codexverse, she takes every single accomplishment made in canon and expands on them; before Ascending, she and her friends purified a Disorder Lord (a huge feat especially for a mortal). During her fight with Tirek, it's noted a huge portion of her power came from both herself and Cadence despite being also empowered by Celestia and Luna... and Twilight was just a demigoddess at the time. Even Luminiferous, himself an ancient god, stated her potential is so immense it rivals his when he was at her age. Then she becomes more powerful when she Ascends to true godhood during the "League of Domination Crisis" which saw her becoming the divine Reincarnation of Mana Equus, Equinekind's first goddess of Magic and the one who granted Equinekind the ability to use magic. Since then, she became the Princess equivalent of an Emperor Scientist, spreading friendship while creating (or advocating the creation of) various technologies and spells.
    • Ragyō Kiryūin was already a powerful woman due to her Life Fiber DNA, her Kamui outfits, and her devastating combat skill that surpasses even that of her daughters. Here, Silk Dawn is an ancient, "Primeval"-ranked goddess of Primordial Light, Fabric, and Beauty who is a daughter of one of the oldest deities alive, requiring even the likes of equally powerful, benevolent deities (such as her own children, who betrayed her for her constant abuse of them) to take her down for good.
    • In G1 canon, Glory was a young Unicorn who could teleport herself and others by "wishing", though one G1 comic depicted her using magic comet rays to save Sparkler after the latter was turned invisible by a flower necklace. Here, it's revealed that Glory's magic is fueled by belief — the stronger her beliefs are, the stronger her spells become, which explains how she ended up in a Human kingdom far away from home. After training under Prince Stella Fictor Cahaya, Glory Ascends and becomes the Alicorn goddess of Magic, Belief, and Friendship, though she goes further by turning an eldritch goddess during the "Cosmic Prophet Debacle" thanks to Caelum Filum's influence. She's also a swordsmare whose chosen weapon is a divinely-made rapier named Majestic, created by her friend, Princess Magic Star/Magicum.
    • Rarity of My Little Pony (G3) was a Unicorn filly armed with a Rainbow Wand, which had the power to create rainbows and restore colors. Here, in addition to her canon abilities, Rarity Ascends to godhood under Luminiferous' tutelage as the Alicorn Princess Arcus Unicornia, and becomes one of both Unicornia and Ponyland's major defenders, earning the respect of the Third Age's Old Cryptan Empire. At the end of the Third Age, when the Oceanaiads enacted their suicide gambit, Rarity/Arcus absorbed the entire Rainbow Nexus into herself and miraculously survived, in the process empowering herself so drastically that she is presently equal to Luminiferous in both age and divine power. Of note, shortly after her aforementioned deed, Rarity/Arcus tested her powers and discovered a casual blast obliterated a nearby mountain.
    • Pillow Talk was only featured in one G1 Pony toy set called the "Slumber Party Gift Pack", with not even a backstory card to her name. Here, she starts off as a sleep-talking filly with powerful Dream magic until she killed a Dream Demon while protecting the sleeping foals of Paradise of Estate. Under the tutelage of the Somareia and later Somarenus himself, she becomes a capable heroine who helped her fellow Paradise Ponies combat many threats of the First Age, including the Hydianites. While she was left psychologically broken when the Hydianites captured and tortured her, she was able to bounce back thanks to her friends and family's support, later Ascending to godhood as the Alicorn goddess of Dreams, Sleep, and Protection. In the Third Age, she participated in the "Abyssal Wars" and helped fight the Abyssal Ones, which transformed her into an eldritch goddess due to the Abyssal Ones' sheer eldritch presence and power.
  • In Animorphs canon, Loren has a strong introduction in The Andalite Chronicles, and when she's reintroduced in the main series she risks her life to save Tobias, but then she majorly fades back. Dæmorphing's Loren becomes a full Animorph about halfway through the series, fully participating in their actions.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Elisif the Fair was the grieving widow of Skyrim's former High King and turned out to be an ineffective leader when she tried to take his place, ending up as a mere Puppet Queen to whichever side won Skyrim's Civil War. In Elisif the Dragon-Queen, she takes the role of the Player Character as the Dragonborn and takes several levels in badass as the story goes on. Around halfway through The Wolf Queen Awakens, she kills Ulfric in a Duel to the Death and later goes on to slay Alduin.
  • The First Saniwa does this to Kuzunoha, Abe no Seimei's mother. Rather than the helpless fox demon chased down by hunters before being saved by Abe no Yasuna in mythology canon, she is now a naginata-wielding badass capable of wiping out her pursuers herself, with Yasuna only playing the role of a distraction in the story.
  • Hinata in A Growing Affection. In the first book, she and Naruto become training partners, and Tsunade decides to put them as a pair through Training from Hell. By the middle of book 3, Kakashi acknowledges she is one of the ten strongest Leaf ninjas. She kills Madara towards the end of the last book. With a little help from Sakura.
  • Jasmine in the Pokemon games is a sweet girl who nurtures a sick Pokemon back to health. Jasmine in the Harry Potter: Pokémon Master series? A badass warrior chick raised by freedom fighters who loves knives.
  • Kairi Gaiden does this to Kairi during Kingdom Hearts II. Instead of getting rescued by Pluto and spending the game talking to the Twilight Town trio, she goes on her own adventure, earning her own Keyblade (instead of being handed it by Riku), honing the fighting skills she gained from her time trapped in Sora's body, and fighting a new foe.
  • Daenerys in A Man of Iron and its sequels. By A Shield of Man, she has sworn never to wear a dress again, choosing to wear Dothraki leather and leads her army into battle while wielding fire powers.
  • The Myth of Link & Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Three major female characters adapted from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are given a major upgrade in badassery compared to their canon counterparts.
    • Zelda is a canonical example of this trope already, with her incarnation in the game being the most powerful ever. However, this version of Zelda has Nayru's Love, Farore's Wind, and Din's Fire. She eventually gains control of these powers and thus is a bit of an Action Girl in her own right when she's very much not during this period. Even more, her sealing power is upgraded, where she doesn't just have flashy golden powers, but can transform into an enormous golden owl.
    • Impa was shown to be quite powerful in combat as shown in Age of Calamity, but in the original game, she was a feeble eldery Retired Badass. In this fanfic, she's an Old Master who can fight and kill Yiga members without a struggle. She eventually is deaged back to being 20 years old, and then further gets an upgrade when she gets access to her own powerful spirit animal like Zelda and Link have.
    • Paya in the game is the epitome of The Ingenue and the Shrinking Violet, barely having the mental capacity to even talk to Link. That's how she starts in this fic, too. The Lakna Rokee quest is kept from the original game, and used to give her a motivation to want to learn how to fight. She does, and becomes quite good at it. She then gets even more powerful when Astor's Malice Orb is purified into the Sheikah Orb, and it grants her access to numerous time manipulation powers, including summoning monsters from across different timelines.
  • Aurora from Maleficent is often given this treatment in fanfics, though arguably she had it in her in the original - it's just that there isn't much ass-kicking to be done when you live in a peaceful forest. In Seldom All They Seem by Bemusedlybespectacled, for example, Aurora is a thief, who can kick some ass if needed.
  • If a TRON: Legacy fic doesn't kill off Yori, chances are, they'll end up doing this. Justified as Clu's rule is even nastier than Master Control, that she already fought against Master Control as a pilot and saboteur, and that someone has to be kicking ass and taking names for the Users with her bondmate out of the picture.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Queen Gorgo in 300: Rise of an Empire. In the first movie she was already a strong and courageous queen, but there's no hint she's trained in combat and her only action scene involved her fatally stabbing a courtier who betrayed Sparta and coerced her into sex in exchange for saving her husband. In the sequel she's shown straight-up leading troops into battle (which didn't happen in real life, though it's far from the only example of Artistic License – History in the 300 franchise).
  • Alice in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010), to a smaller extent. She becomes The Chosen One who is destined to slay the Jabberwocky with the Vorpal Sword. She dons armour in the final scene but doesn't do too much fighting (she is still a Proper Lady from Victorian society after all). But she still defeats the beast.
  • Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia series of movies. This is to remedy some Values Dissonance in the original book, where Father Christmas says that "battles are ugly when women fight". Susan doesn't fight in the battle in the first movie, but she is shown to be an excellent archer and kills Jadis's dwarf at the end. By the sequel, she's essentially a brunette Legolas and gets to fight and take part in battles; in fact, Susan gets the first kill when saving Trumpkin from the Telmarines. Lucy avoids battle completely in the first film, attempts to fight Nikkabrik in the second (as well as drawing a dagger when being faced by an army of Telmarines), and properly becomes an Action Girl in the third. This is presumably due to the character being a teenager now.
  • DC Extended Universe: Like most Post-Crisis comics, Diana/Wonder Woman's Amazon Warrior roots are played up, she fights with a shield and a sword and she kills some of her foes, particularly when Zack Snyder directed films featuring her (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League) or had a strong influence over them (Wonder Woman). Director Patty Jenkins deliberately wanted to avert this trope in Wonder Woman 1984, however. She's still an effective fighter in, but not as vicious as in other films.
  • Hermione Granger didn't properly become an Action Girl until the fifth Harry Potter book, and even then she was still inexperienced. In the films she gets Xenafied two stories earlier by riding around on the Whomping Willow (and somehow being able to use its momentum to throw Harry through the hole), being able to throw a pumpkin seed several feet through a kitchen window to break a sugar bowl, blast a cage door open, and perfectly imitate a werewolf's call to save everyone. In the books, the most she does is kick Sirius in the head to get him off Harry (oddly enough the film left that out). Also, her Bitch Slap to Malfoy was changed to a punch.
  • Keira Knightley plays a scantily clad, sharp-shooting Guinevere in King Arthur (2004).
  • Mina Harker in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has this twice over, as in the original novel, Mina despite getting a pistol, only has a supporting role in Dracula's defeat, and in the comics, Mina is The Load and unabashedly and frequently the Damsel in Distress. In the movie, however, Mina actually has vampire powers, making her an Action Girl. She even takes down The Mole.
  • In an attempt to make her an actual character (and cut down on the amount of characters), Arwen from The Lord of the Rings was given a big chase scene on horseback that Glorfindel does in the book. She was originally intended to fight at Helm's Deep as well, in order to allow her and Aragorn to actually interact, but it was cut in favor of sticking closer to the books. By that point, however, fans had already dubbed her Xenarwen. Liv Tyler even comments on this in the extended version's behind the scenes, saying she had done months of swordplay training to prepare for Helm's Deep, before the fans caught wind and dubbed her "Liv Tyler, Warrior Princess", and the idea was scrapped.
  • Evelyn Carnahan in The Mummy Trilogy. In the first film, she is able to hold off most of her attackers (not so much a fully rejuvenated mummy, however), but not necessarily fight back. By the second film, she knows how to use katanas and sais, and aim guns with deadly accuracy thanks to living with an ex-legionaire for ten years and starting to remember her previous life as an Egyptian princess.
  • Pepper Potts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Pepper in comics rarely got any kick-ass moments and her specialised Powered Armour has no offensive functions. In the movies, Pepper not only kills the first Big Bad, but also briefly becomes superhuman with the Extrimis Virus, killing the villain again, and in the battle for earth, Pepper gets her own fully armed Iron Man suit and fights alongside Tony as a Battle Couple.
  • Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean was never actually weak or passive in the first movie, and even fought alongside Will in the final battle. However, in the sequels she ditched the dress, grabbed a sword, and Took a Level in Badass. It was partially explained for the second movie, with her telling Jack that Will taught her how to sword fight.
  • Daphne in the Scooby-Doo movie banks on Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy the Vampire Slayer fighting moves to make her tougher. The trope is lampshaded when the gang meets up after a long time apart and she reveals that she studied martial arts because she's so sick of always being the Damsel in Distress.
  • While Irene Adler has gotten an expanded role in Sherlock Holmes adaptations for a long while, in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, she becomes a definite Action Girl, which is showcased in a Mugging the Monster scene. This probably has to do with the fact that the film also emphasizes Holmes and Watson's (canonical) fighting prowess. In the sequel, Mary seems like she's getting this treatment as well - as she threatens an assailant with a gun. But she's not in the thick of battle for the rest of the movie (though she does prove integral in the climax).
  • The Three Musketeers (2011) makes Milady a Dark Action Girl who can take down a half-dozen men while wearing a Pimped-Out Dress. In the original book, she had all her fighting done for her by minions, with her, the narration and other characters all saying that she had to have others do the fighting and killing for her, because she, as a woman, was simply incapable of being physically violent.
  • Pan:
    • The film makes Tiger Lily an Action Girl who fights with Peter against Blackbeard.
    • In the book, Peter's mother was a standard Victorian woman. In this version she was a fairy who led La Résistance.
  • An in-universe example in the live-action Peter Pan film. Wendy's version of Cinderella swashbuckles with pirates trying to steal her glass slippers and gutting any pirate who dares to call her "girly".
  • Snow White & the Huntsman (pictured above in comparison to the Disney movie) has Snow White donning knight's armor and leading a rebellion against the Evil Queen. In this version of the story, she hasn't just been forced to scrub floors, she's been locked in a tower for eight years. Like the Esmeralda example in the "Films — Animation" folder, this is downplayed. In this case, Snow White's strength as a character comes from her kindness and courage and is about her journey to become The High Queen. The only fight scene she has is with Ravenna. The Evil Queen now becomes a Big Bad who uses her powers to conquer entire kingdoms, technically making her an example of the trope too.
  • Also occurs in 2012's other Snow-White adaptation, Mirror, Mirror, with the seven dwarves training Snow White to be a Combat Pragmatist Action Girl.
  • Dracula's brides in Van Helsing. In addition to getting names and characterisation, they also get plenty of fight scenes and are a lot more competent than the supposed heroine. They're also given the handy little power of turning into harpy-like creatures whenever they feel like it.
  • The 2003 live action Thunderbirds film reveals that Lady Penelope is quite a capable Action Girl when she and Parker are ambushed on Tracey Island. She kicks ass while wearing her pink pantsuit and high heels and uses a Parasol of Prettiness as a weapon.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory does this to Violet Beauregarde. In the books, she doesn't appear to be particularly strong; here, her Establishing Character Moment sees her take down two fully-grown men, and she's shown to be aggressive when it comes to competitions in general (likely to better contrast her with the more feminine Veruca).
  • Wendy: Here unlike in most portrayals Wendy's a tomboy Action Girl who's feisty as all of the Lost Boys, Peter included, since she's One of the Boys and an outdoorsy gal.

  • This is the whole point of The Princess Series by Jim C. Hines. Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty — all Distressed Damsels in the original tales — form a Charlie's Angels-esque Action Girl Power Trio who kick ass throughout the fairytale world. Other alumnae include The Little Mermaid — who is the homicidally insane warlord and ruler of the merfolk — and Little Red Riding Hood, who is a psychotic serial-killer/professional assassin.
  • Nancy Drew is another example like Lois Lane of this going in the opposite direction then swinging back with a vengeance. In the original stories of the 1930s, she was definitely more headstrong than a typical teenage girl of the time period, but her greatest strength was being stubborn and clever instead of being strong. After a near Orwellian Retcon of the stories in the 1950s, she became quite a bit more ladylike, with a lot more "smiling sweetly" and "asking nicely." However, after the Feminist Movement rolled around and the stories changed publishers in the 1970s, Nancy became a full fledged Action Girl. The Spin-Off series "The Nancy Drew Files" gave Nancy martial arts training and made the already-tomboyish George an accomplished athlete. The most recent series "Nancy Drew: Girl Detective" is a more partial example: They're not quite to the level they were in the "Files," but they have gotten a bit more clever, George is still athletic, but also a computer whiz, and the normally timid Bess is now a full-fledge Wrench Wench.
  • The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel features plenty of mythological and historical Action Girls such as Scathach the Shadow and Joan of Arc, but it applies this trope to several others. Perenelle Flamel becomes one of the most powerful sorceresses known to mankind, and Virginia Dare gets similar treatment.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cursed:
    • In this take on the Arthurian Legend, Guinevere or the Red Spear as she's known here goes from a noblewoman to a Viking raider, with an aggressive personality to match.
    • Similarly, the Lady of the Lake becomes a sword-wielding Magic Knight who leads a resistance.
  • Game of Thrones: Although she's not much of an Action Girl herself, Ellaria Sand is portrayed here as vengeful and war-mongering, commanding the Sand Snakes, personally killing Princess Myrcella and Prince Doran, sitting in on war councils and sailing with Yara Greyjoy's fleet. This is a stark contrast to the books, where Ellaria is characterized as a gentle person who wants to avoid violence, trying to dissuade the Sand Snakes from their revenge plots.
  • In Happy Endings this happens mildly to Jane during Krav Maga and then much more dramatically to Penny after Jazz Kwon-Do. Jane is already kind of a violent, action ready person, but Penny is a very girly, Large Ham type of woman.
  • The The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power's version of Galadriel begins the story without her ring of power and Fights Like a Normal, wielding a sword and wearing armour. In the books she is Action Girl and Lady of War too, but relied mostly on her potent magical powers. Tolkien indeed described her being "of Amazon disposition" in his letters.
  • In Lost in Oz, Princess Ozma is mentioned as having been trained from birth to fight the Wicked Witch, and is apparently in her 20s. It's actually a subversion, as by the time the heroes rescue her she's lost all fighting capabilities and has been enchanted to be an eight-year-old.
  • Merlin (2008): Morgana is portrayed as a skilled swordswoman in the first series and brags that she used to beat Arthur in training. After her Face–Heel Turn, she becomes an extremely powerful Evil Sorceress, one of the few opponents to consistently challenge Merlin (until he utterly curbstomps her in the final episode).
  • In The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Marian is a full-blown Xena clone, even down to her outfit and whip.
  • Once Upon a Time has a long tradition of this:
    • Snow White in particular is an extraordinary Action Girl more than willing to fight anyone who tries to keep her away from Prince Charming (at one point planning to snipe the Evil Queen with a magic bow and Instant Death Arrow). In this case it's fully justified as, after the Huntsman spares her, she becomes a forest bandit to survive. Season 5 reveals that she got her start as a teenager, with help from Hercules.
    • Little Red Riding Hood also kicks copious amounts of ass, though in her case, it's because she is the Wolf in this adaptation—the trademark red cloak is an enchanted item that keeps her from transforming, and once she finds out the truth, she uses her wolf form to help her friends—after making sure they get far away from her first.
    • Ditto for Red's grandmother. Far from being eaten by a wolf, this one stands guarding all night with a crossbow and is able to shoot a gun out of someone's hand when her granddaughter is threatened. Never Mess with Granny indeed.
    • A smaller case with Princess Anna from Frozen. It's established that she knows how to swordfight, a skill she didn't display in the film (not that she was ever in a situation where she would need to demonstrate it). She and Kristoff become a Battle Couple once or twice, and she was the one who trained Charming. She explains that she learned from her soldiers after the film.
    • Implied with Maid Marian, as she's shown drawing a weapon to help fight a snow monster. However the monster is quickly destroyed by Regina's magic - and Marian is not in any other battle scenes. Also, she's not really Marian, but a glamoured Zelena.
    • Regina the Evil Queen, although downplayed: on top of being a Lady of Black Magic, later seasons reveal she learned to fight with a sword.
      • A spell of sorts brings everyone to a parallel universe with role reversals: Regina becomes a Snow White expy (and vice versa), thus a bandit, archer, sword fighter and so on, enforcing this trope in full.
    • Downplayed with The Blue Fairy. She's a pacifist most of the time, but does lead an attack against Regina in the war.
    • Tiger Lily also becomes an Action Girl who is also a former fairy and therefore force for Big Good.
    • If you mess with Tinkerbell here, don't expect her to act by proxy via the Lost Boys or the mermaids: she'll knock you off and pin you to the wall with a knife or a poisoned stick at your throat.
    • The Spin-Off series does the same with Alice in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, wherein our female protagonist is able to take out a number of asylum orderlies all by herself. The second episode shows her being taught by her love interest in a flashback.
    • Both iterations of Cinderella: the first is a Princess Classic mostly played straight, until she picks up a shotgun and apparently goes after her stepmother and stepsister; the second is as much an Action Girl as Snow White, what with sword fighting in a ball gown, infiltrating the ball to try and assassinate the prince, joining La Résistance and so on.
  • As mentioned above, Maid Marian from the BBC's Robin Hood had a secret identity as the Night Watchman, a masked and hooded vigilante who was giving alms to the poor long before Robin came up with the idea. Despite Marian having a reputation as an Action Girl in the original ballads, the Night Watchman was clearly an attempt on the writers' behalf to have a "strong, modern take" on Marian, an idea that (in the context of the show) was somewhat unnecessary for several reasons: a) Marian already had a vitally important role as the spy and informant within Castle Nottingham, b) the concept was stuffed full of Fridge Logic (why didn't anyone notice that the NWM had breasts? Why did Marian need the guise in the first place considering taking food/money to the poor was hardly illegal? Where did she get her combat skills in the first place?note ), and c) despite being presented as a skilled fighter, the writers often had her thrown into the role of Damsel in Distress anyway (and most of her best badass moments were done without the disguise). For the most part, the writers get away with it considering their Marian was a three-dimensional character in her own right, and the idea fitted in well with Marian's rebellious attitude, but often the Night Watchman just felt like an excuse to have their lead female do an occasional back-flip or karate chop.
  • Lucy Lane in the comics is best known as Jimmy Olsen's stewardess love interest (though she did become Superwoman for a while). In Supergirl (2015) she's a Military Brat who has become a major by the time she debuts in the show. She even assumes control of the DEO at the end of Season 1.
  • The Walking Dead: Carol was an anti-social Shrinking Violet who was too afraid to fight zombies and other enemies, but from Season 3 onward she becomes a Cool Old Lady One-Woman Army who slaughters hordes of walkers and Ax-Crazy humans alike and is willing to make the harder choices that others are too afraid to consider. Then she completely lays waste to a cannibal base holding her friends hostage, annihilating an entire armed group of sociopaths.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Maid Marian from the Robin Hood legends is an odd case. She was an Action Girl in some of her original appearances (fighting Robin to a standstill while disguised as a boy in one ballad). Victorian writers turned her into a Damsel in Distress. Modern writers tend to make her an Action Girl again.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Noticing that most wrestling promotions of the USA were only giving women five minutes to wrestle, Penny Banner and Tom Randolph opened PGWA in 1992 where women would be able to wrestle for fifteen to thirty minutes. A match with Lexie Fyfe under the banner is credited with getting Angelica, who was primarily known for managing otherwise, a wrestling role in the WWF.
  • Jacqueline was originally brought into WWF to feud with Sable, but due to the latter's contract saying she couldn't take bumps, she came off looking rather weak. About a year passed and Jackie was able to show off her true ring skills, often getting in matches with men and even briefly winning the male Cruiserweight title.
  • The WWE "Divas" as a whole got a big boost from 2001-2004 when David "Fit" Finlay came on board and was placed in charge of the division. More time and effort went into matches, storylines and pushing women who could actually wrestle. The Divas got to wrestle in rougher matches as well such as hardcore matches, tables matches and even a steel cage match. After Finlay went back to being an active wrestler, they quickly went back to the bikini models, short and tedious matches, and girl drama formula once again. Things slowly turned in their favour again in The New '10s, with WWE themselves dubbing it the 'Women's Revolution'.
  • Trish Stratus is the wrestling queen of this trope. She came into WWE as a manager with an athletic build, but little actual fighting ability of her own, was shown as a submissive type for most of her early tenure, and then stepped up her in-ring work in a BIG way. She's now remembered as fondly for her impressive matches as for her impressive looks, and is in WWE's Hall Of Fame.
  • Dutch Mantel was to TNA's knockouts what Fit Finlay was to WWE's divas, taking them from valets who occasionally fought to giving them their own division where they sometimes wrestled in Impact's main event. Likewise, the division got a lot less time and importance once he was no longer a factor.
  • Women wrestlers often debut as valets or managers to male superstars, before eventually making the transition to in-ring competitor. Naomi, Summer Rae, Carmella and even further back with Jacqueline mentioned above all debuted as valets but became wrestlers full-time.

    Video Games 
  • Fitting with the Alice in Wonderland example in Film, Alice takes several levels in badass in American McGee's Alice. Justified as it's a Battle in the Center of the Mind.
  • Yuri of Art of Fighting. A Damsel in Distress in the first game, but by the second has been taking up Kyokugen herself, much to her family's reluctance, and becoming an active fighter in that game and many more to come, mostly in the King of Fighters series.
  • Jennifer Parker got hit with this trope very hard in Back to the Future: The Game. In the film trilogy, Jennifer was a useless, emotional Satellite Love Interest to Marty, but in an alternate timeline in the game she becomes a rebellious bad girl stirring up trouble for the Citizen Brown Regime and actively assists Marty in taking it down.
  • Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite Burial at Sea Episode 2 now wields the shotgun and other firearms effectively due to her inability to use Tears which no longer makes her a Squishy Wizard.
  • The Dynasty Warriors series does this for pretty much every female character, ditto for Samurai Warriors. Sun Shangxiang is a borderline example as she was known as something of an Action Girl by the standards of her time.
  • Terra from Final Fantasy VI gets this in Dissidia Final Fantasy. In FFVI Terra while very powerful (especially in her Esper form) is pretty meek and tends to dislike violence. In Dissida Terra is an unbridled Lady of War who’s more than willingly throw it down against Kefka and Sephiroth with her magic and swordplay.
  • Yuna in Final Fantasy X-2. She goes from being a White Mage/Summoner (Both of which are stock 'female' jobs in that franchise) to being gun slinging Action Girl who thanks to the metagame Dressphere system, can be any of several 'boyish' jobs such as Warrior, Dark Knight and Berserker.
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake:
    • Aerith reverses the Chickification she got in The Compliation in the remake. All the pluckiness she had from the original game that was largely absent in Crisis Core, is dialled up to badass levels. Instead always needing to rescued, Aerith can get herself out of trouble—best seen when she takes out Don Corneo‘s goon with a chair. There’s also the Final Battle where saves Cloud from Big Bad Sephiroth with her magic and even insults him like it’s nothing.
    • Downplayed with Tifa. Gameplay-wise, she’s always been a badass fighter, but the original game and other media focused more on her gentle qualities being the Team Mom and Living Emotional Crutch to her Love Interest Cloud. Tifa’s only cutscene fight in the original game was a girly slap fight with Scarlet and in actual bouts she tends to get clobbered (e.g her fight with Loz in Advent Children). In the remake, Tifa’s martial arts badassery is much more apparent. In various cutscenes, she pulls of all kinds of crazy feats like sending Eligor flying with her Super-Strength and can destroy Shinra mechs with a single punch.
    • In the original FFVII, Jessie was a clumsy chick who bordered on being The Load for AVALANCHE. In the remake, she’s a spunky Demolitions Expert who can hold her in own in a fight with her grenades. Unfortunately, the Whispers of Fate distract Jessie as she’s about to take down a Shinra helicopter and she gets killed as a result.
  • Fist of the North Star-branded spinoff Ken's Rage does a similar thing for Mamiya, taking her from The Load to a tricky and technical character capable of going one-on-one with the other powerful martial artists in the series.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Kairi, who progressively goes from being a standard Damsel in Distress to a full-fledged Keyblade wielder. In the first game, she spent 80% of the story inside of Sora's heart, with her body an empty shell. In II, she acquires a Keyblade and is able to kick plenty of ass to save Sora, Donald and Goofy from an abnormally large swarm of Heartless (plus, in the manga, she saves Sora from Xigbar). Dream Drop Distance reveals that Kairi is one of the Seven Guardians of Light, necessitating her to train with her Keyblade. While III downplays this transformation, Re𝄌Mind revels in it and then some, as Kairi goes toe-to-toe with Xemnas and nearly manages to win (whereas Roxas and Xion both struggle to even land a hit on him), as well as teaming up with Sora to defeat Master Xehanort for good.
    • While Ariel in The Little Mermaid franchise qualified as an Action Girl, she was made into a guest party member in Kingdom Hearts and kicked more ass than she did in the movie or TV series (though neither of them had Heartless so who's to say she wasn't already like that?). Way before Kingdom Hearts, the The Little Mermaid for the NES cemented her status as this.
  • The Legend of Zelda
    • The titular Princess Zelda has progressively become more active in the games as the series went on. Originally just a classic Damsel in Distress, in Ocarina of Time she gained the badass alter-ego Sheik, who admittedly didn't do much against the actual Big Bad. But in the later games, starting with Wind Waker, it became her schtick to fire Light Arrows at Ganon during the final battle, and in Spirit Tracks she even helps Link push his sword into Malladus' head. Skyward Sword has her spending most of the game entombed in crystal and serving as a Damsel in Distress again at the very end, but the first part has her getting all the way through one and a half major areas by herself before getting caught and needing Impa's help for bodyguard services, not to mention her backstory.
    • Predating Ocarina of Time are the much less well received Wand of Gamelon and Zelda's Adventure, which reverses the roles and has Zelda rescue Link. In these games, Zelda is made a straight up Action Girl with the exact same weapons and combat abilities as Link.
    • Hyrule Warriors pulls this off with a lot of characters. Zelda goes to battle in full battle gear, Sheik becomes a Musical Assassin, and the likes of Ruto and Fi along others become Promoted to Playable. Since this is a Dynasty Warriors spinoff, each of them deal with Mooks by the thousands.
    • Impa undergoes a similar development to Zelda; in her initial appearance she's an elderly servant, but later games turn her into an Amazon Warrior who acts as Zelda's bodyguard. Since Ocarina of Time, her role varies from game to game between the two archetypes, but Skyward Sword includes both of them thanks to Time Travel shenanigans.
  • Ōkami features the goddess Amaterasu, who is not a fighter in the original mythology as an action heroine taking the form of a Noble Wolf.
  • Oriental Legend 2 gives this treatment to Chang-er, the Goddess of the Moon from Chinese myths, who went from a benevolent, kindly, motherly figure to an asskicking heroine who slays demons with her Parasol of Pain.
  • Resident Evil:
  • The mythological Amaterasu ran and hid in a cave after her brother Susano'o vandalized her belongings, and then ran from her other brother Tsukuyomi when he murdered a servant in front of her. However, when she appears in Smite, she flips those usual portrayals around: she's a warrior goddess decked in Samurai armor and her play style - including debuffing and using her Mirror of Yata to actually harm her enemies - involves hacking and slashing her enemies with Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, which can create a Sword Beam that also debuffs enemy hits. Basically, she becomes a Frontline General that leads her team by literally fighting the best she can in front.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Amy Rose was kidnapped in her first video game appearance in Sonic CD. She was given a Piko Piko Hammer in Sonic the Fighters and Sonic Adventure, and was more than capable of taking care of herself. Prior to that, her Informed Ability of being a spunky tomboy who could fend for herself started coming into light with the Spin-Off games. Though she's gotten less tomboyish over the years, this trait being passed to newer female characters like Blaze and Sticks. Sonic Superstars would retroactively have Amy go on adventure with Sonic and his friends sometime before Adventure.
  • Soulcalibur — Soul Edge had Sophitia's sister Cassandra as an offscreen character who led a normal life. In Soul Calibur II she became a playable character who took up the weapons to rescue her sister.
  • Chun-Li in Street Fighter II was only fighting to avenge her father's death. If she wins the tournament she spends the rest of her life as "an ordinary girl." Subsequent rereleases show that she got tired of that VERY quickly and became a police officer. Then Street Fighter Alpha retconned it further, showing she was a member of Interpol long before the Street Fighter II tournament. At some point she does retire, only to come out to rescue the children she adopted before Street Fighter III.
  • Super Mario Bros. :
    • Princess Peach actually goes through this a lot when she's not the Damsel in Distress, generally keeping her girliness unlike other adaptations. While she's on the receiving end of a kidnapping a lot in the main series, save for those times when she's playable like Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Run (after rescuing her), and Super Mario Bros. Wonder, partaking in the action. In spin-offs, however, she shows herself as a very strong and capable fighter. The Mario + Rabbids games has her actively fighting alongside the Mario Bros with a literal shotgun and cannon equipped Parasol of Pain and even gave her a Big Damn Heroes moment where she saved her allies from being frozen and in Super Mario RPG, while she is captured for a portion of the game, as soon as you rescue her, she joins your team and quickly proves to be a vital asset to the party with her healing magic and status effect attacks as well has her signature Frying Pan of Doom, Combat Hand Fan and brutal Glove Slap. The Paper Mario series tends to make her a helpful character even when captive, causing trouble for Mario's enemies as a Spanner in the Works and helping from afar in the final battles with her magic and she's even outright playable in Super Paper Mario where she is portrayed as a Deadpan Snarker Action Girl. In Super Smash Bros. she is an exceptionally powerful fighter for her weight class and odd fighting style. The biggest version of this however, would be in ']Super Princess Peach'' (her first starring role) where as soon as she learns that Bowser had taken over her kingdom again and captured the Mario Bros. and her subjects, she goes into a fit of rage and solos Bowser and his army with nothing but her magical Parasol of Pain, her butt and her new-found power of emotion, ending up saving her kingdom all by herself. Not bad for being the Damsel in Distress.
      • On an interesting note, one scrapped concept for the Skylanders SuperChargers amiibo hybrids had Peach going full Xenafication with a suit of knight armor and a sword. The idea was rejected by Nintendo, however, who considered these changes too extreme and favored Donkey Kong and Bowser.
    • Princess Daisy. When she was first introduced in Super Mario Land, she was actually portrayed as a Damsel in Distress where she is kidnapped by the evil alien Tatanga, and Mario had to defeat the alien to save her. Now, she's a Tomboy Princess who appears in various spinoff games alongside Peach and prefers competing in sporting events more. She would make her first playable appearance in a mainline Mario platformer in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, capable of kicking butt like the rest of the heroes.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: In the original '87 TMNT cartoon, April O'Neil was often a victim who needed to be saved, with the tie-in video games following suit. However, some games are exceptions to the rule and have her receive fighting skills that are on par with the Turtles, especially in the wake of later adaptations with more badass incarnations of her.
  • The Walking Dead: Clementine was just an innocent little girl who liked to play and have fun, but as soon as the zombie apocalypse comes down on her and the death of her best friend/surrogate parent Lee she graduates to a full on Action Girl defending herself and outsmarting people bigger than her.
  • WWF No Mercy decided to make the female wrestlersnote  playable competitively at the expense of realism and moveset accuracy. Trish Stratus, for example, used the koppu kick, rolling senton and choke w/bodyscissor in this game, even though at the time the game came out she was still in her "so bad she can botch a catfight" stage. They were also given enough stats to be competitively played rather than minimal stats like female wrestlers usually are in WWF/E games. Lita in particular was given a High Flying stat of 4, which made her not just competitive but fairly dangerous.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Legend of Zelda (1989) cartoon, Zelda got xenafied. She could use all of Link's weapons except his sword, and favored, of course, the bow and arrow. Her fighting ability seemed to swing wildly from episode to episode, from only nominally competent to almost as good as Link himself. In fact, there's several episodes where Link's Chronic Hero Syndrome and general stupidity get him into trouble, and Zelda needs to rescue him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • Daphne from Scooby-Doo received this treatment as the series crawled into its later years. In the 1980s, Fred and Velma had completely disappeared, but Daphne had returned along with the mystery format, and assumed the primary roles of the former two. By the time of the 2000s, What's New, Scooby-Doo? and the direct-to-video movies portray her as entirely capable in athletics, combat sports, and MacGyvering. All said and done, the revelation of her being a kick-ass martial artist in Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword doesn't exactly come out of nowhere.
  • Hilariously in The Simpsons, in "Desperately Xeeking Xena" Lucy Lawless herself gets this. She saves Bart and Lisa, then beats up the Comic Book Guy, before flying the Simpson children to safety—and not in a plane.
    Lisa: Xena can't fly!
    Lucy: I told you, I'm not Xena. I'm Lucy Lawless.
  • Tangled: The Series: Rapunzel is suddenly a fearless athlete capable of keeping up with the kingdom's most deadly warriors who have fought and trained for years, when in the movie it was established she is afraid when people attack her, and while capable of defending herself, she's far more likely to run away.
  • In the original Thunderbirds Supermarionation series Tin-Tin Kryano is sometimes involved in missions and is an excellent pilot, but is mostly Jeff Tracy's secretary or Brains's lab assistant. In the CGI Thunderbirds Are Go, "Kayo" Kryano is Tracy Island's head of security, and has her own stealth Thunderbird vehicle.
  • The Cutie Zoey from Total Drama starts as a Damsel in Distress, but goes into Heroic Safe Mode in "Eat, Puke, and Be Wary", turning into a Cute and Psycho Action Girl in the process. The Power of Friendship later gets rid of the psycho part, but keeps the Action Girl part.
  • DuckTales (2017): Glittering Goldie. In the Barks/Rosa comics she was a rich, elegant, and manipulative lady from Scrooge's past, who later fell on hard times in her old age. In the show, she's still young, and a pants-wearing badass adventurer who serves as a respected rival to Scrooge.