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"I will jump in and take out Loki and his subordinates. Then, I will go home and prepare dinner."
The Action Girl is a female Badass who can go toe to toe with her male counterparts without breaking a sweat. Distressed Damsel? Not for this babe. She doesn't sit around waiting to be rescued. She's headbutting her jailer and breaking herself out. She proves, with her very being, that girls aren't only not helpless, they kick ass.
But not just "any girl with a fight scene" can be considered an Action Girl. An Action Girl is accompanied by Rule of Cool, and routinely and reliably gets in on the combat. And what's more, she wins.
Because of Double Standards, true Action Girls are less common than male Badasses. If you want to get more into the why of that, check out the Gender Dynamics Index or our very own Action Girl Analysis. The short version however, is the concept that Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty and women should Stay in the Kitchen. For a very long time, women who did much but wait around for their hero to come rescue them were unusual and rare. Even now, women aren't automatically assumed to be able to fight and protect themselves the way men are. Society has progressed since then and Action Girls are popular and more common than ever, but women still aren't completely given equal esteem with men when it comes to expectations in media, hence the continued existence of this trope.
With the popularity of the Action Girl increasing, alas one must watch out for the dreaded Faux Action Girl, as creators are trying to slip them in for more appeal and political-correctness, without actually giving them a chance to show themselves off. The "Action" part of the character is left as an Informed Attribute, with characters constantly playing up how much of a badass she is, and yet when it comes to facing the music, she proves otherwise by being a Damsel in Distress or suffering the effects of being on the wrong end of a Curb Stomp Battle, assuming she gets any action at all. Basically she can talk the talk, but she can't walk the walk. Oh, and if she's on the right end of a Curb Stomp Battle, she's a Dark Action Girl. Sometimes overlaps with Distressed Domina, who's a genuine Action Girl (sometimes the most ass-kicking and feared fighter in the story) but nevertheless winds up a bit in over her head against, usually, the Big Bad or his main henchman.
Compare the Action Girl with her Evil Counterpart, the often far-more-aggressive Dark Action Girl, and the more mundane versions You Go, Girl! and Plucky Girl. Not to be confused with Affirmative Action Girl, who is just a girl added to the cast in an adaptation or new season to balance out the gender ratio, no matter what role she actually plays (though, often, the girl is an Action Girl herself). See Real Women Don't Wear Dresses for when people think that every female character has to be an Action Girl to deserve something similar to basic respect.
Not to be confused with Action Girl, a comic series about an action girl.
Subtropes of Action Girl:
- Boobs of Steel: When girl's power is measured by the size of her chest.
- Little Miss Badass: Very young Action Girls who are notable for skills and abilities other than, or in addition to, physical strength.
- Lady of War: Adult Action Girls who are noble and graceful.
- Action Mom: Adult, and works with a group of younger people whom she considers her "children" (whether blood-related or not).
- Pregnant Badass: If she's capable of fighting while pregnant.
- Mama Bear: Adult, and only becomes an Action Girl when her children are threatened. However, sometimes Mama Bear was already an Action Mom, in which case threatening her children is likely an effective form of suicide.
- Never Mess with Granny: Senior citizen; may also be an Old Master.
By preferred weapon or method of fighting
- Black Magician Girl or Magical Girl Warrior or Lady of Black Magic: Prefers magic.
- Hot Chick with a Sword: Prefer swords.
- Kick Chick: Prefers to fight unarmed, specifically with her feet rather than her hands.
- Small Girl, Big Gun: Prefers a BFG.
- Action Girlfriend: She's the Main Character, her Sidekick is not also an Action Hero.
- Violently Protective Girlfriend: A girlfriend who kicks your ass if you harm her boyfriend
- Amazon Brigade: More than two Action Girls who consistently work together with no male teammates.
- Badass Family: Everyone in her whole family is an Action Hero.
- Battle Couple: An Action Girl and her equally action-y boyfriend, husband, or girlfriend.
- Lovely Angels: Two Action Girls who work together as a consistent team.
- Useless Boyfriend: When there is a male hero (who works with the female one) who, despite being presented as strong fighter/s, is utterly useless as anything other than a meat shield.
By preferred weapon and teammates
- Guys Smash Girls Shoot: A female who uses a ranged weapon, paired with a male who is a melee fighter.
- Sword and Sorcerer: Similar principle, but replace "ranged weapon" with either "sword" (if she uses weapons) or "magic" (if she's the magic user instead). Her partner uses the other one.
- Badass Damsel: You'll find out that kidnapping her was a bad idea
- Badass Princess: She's a princess.
- Biker Babe: Often related to her job, but a hobby just as often: this girl loves riding bikes.
- Ninja Maid: Her official job is as a household servant or employee: maid, butler, babysitter or nanny are the most common.
- Pirate Girl: She's a pirate.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Something gentle and lady-like.
- Valkyries: Work for Odin as choosers of the slain. They have an awesome theme tune.
- Combat Stilettos: Impractical-looking high heels seem to rarely impede an Action Girl's fighting ability.
- Designated Girl Fight: A lot of the time, female characters end up fighting with other females.
- Distressed Domina: An Action Girl that only the absolute best of the best can take down.
- Effortless Amazonian Lift: Girls show their strength by lifting or carrying other females or even males.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Other women admire her strength, have her as a role-model, and have girl-crushes on her.
- Feminist Fantasy: Often includes Action Girl-type characters (although not all works including Action Girls are Feminist Fantasy)
- Girls Need Role Models
- Girls with Guns: Subgenre focusing on Action Girls who use firearms.
- Girly Bruiser: The Action Girl happens to be incredibly girly as well.
- Hot Amazon: Swooned over because of her strength and fighting abilities more than any good looks.
- I Was Beaten by a Girl: Losing a fight to an Action Girl is often a blow to a male opponent's ego.
- More Deadly Than the Male: If she wins fights by looking like the exact opposite of an Action Girl, and then being cunning and cutthroat.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: If she's presented in-story as undesirable because of her strength and fighting abilities.
- Samus Is a Girl: The fact that she's a girl is not immediately revealed.
- She Fu: Action Girls tend to use lots of flips and cartwheels in fight scenes.
- Vasquez Always Dies: Less-feminine women tend to get killed off.
- Waif Fu: For when a small woman has to fight a much larger man.
- World of Action Girls: For works dominated by this character type.
Please list examples in the appropriate subtrope pages. Examples of Action Girls who don't fit into any subpages may be listed here:
- Animated Films
- Fan Fics
- Live Action Films
- Live Action TV
- New Media
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Comics
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- The "d'Arc" thing was a misunderstanding. This is why she is not from Arc.