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Lois Lane: Rescuing herself before Superman arrives since 1941.

"Um... um... Die!"

"I'm a damsel, I'm in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day!"
Megera, Hercules

You know the Damsel in Distress. She's sweet, innocent, demure, beautiful, submissive, virginal, and serves as The Hero's Designated Love Interest, destined to get kidnapped to create drama. And usually do nothing else but to stand around mindlessly waiting for the big, strong macho-man to pull a Big Damn Heroes and rescue her from this vile realm of torment.


This trope subverts the Distressed Damsel routine so hard it's not even funny. A female character who seems like a damsel in distress, and might even be one, but is still Badass enough that the audience roots for her anyway. Maybe she gets kidnapped a couple of times, but makes up for it by pulling an epic Crowning Moment of Awesome. Maybe she has the appearance and personality of The Ingenue yet also has a BFG on her and mows down 85% of the enemies on the battlefield. Perhaps she's just a Plucky Girl of epic proportions who gets handed a Distress Ball. Or, alternatively, she may never get kidnapped, and could be a genuine Action Girl, but simply doesn't have the tomboyish, athletic appearance and attitude that most people picture when they think of an Action Girl. Either way, you just can't help but love this girl. She may get whacked with a Distress Ball every now and again, but blast it all, she's got skills.

Can overlap with Rescued From the Scrappy Heap, if the girl in question was disliked by the fandom before her CMOA. Can also be a cross between Action Girl and Proper Lady or The Ingenue. Almost Always Female, and pretty much always a Plucky Girl. Be careful, however: this trope may be stretched to the point of dictating that a non-fighting woman has to apologize and make up to others for not being an Action Girl; being kidnapped and possibly subjected to torture/rape/coercion/etc. is already bad enough, so there's no need to mock or devalue someone else's trauma via having them "make up" and "compensate" for what happened.

Compare (as said above) Plucky Girl who as the same spunk but different personality, Badass Princess which tosses aside the damsel requirement for Asskicking Equals Authority, Lady of War for a skillful and graceful fighter, Silk Hiding Steel this trope prime and proper relative, Xenafication for inexplicable badass leveling up, Deliberately Distressed Damsel who enjoys the damsel aspect, and Decoy Damsel for an Action Girl who pretends to be a Damsel in Distress for her own benefit. Also compare Distressed Domina for an Action Girl that falls prey only to the highest-level opposition.

Contrast Damsel Scrappy and Too Dumb to Live. Should not be confused with Badass in Distress, but can overlap with it.

Examples of Badass Damsel include:

Anime & Manga


 Ichigo: The one being rescued doesn't get to complain! You just act the part and stand around trembling and say "Oh, save me!"

    • When at her boldest, Orihime Inoue would also try her hand at this (with various results, not all of them being positive). Some examples are: reasoning with her Hollowfied older brother Sora, standing up for herself an Tatsuki in front of Numb Chandelier, biting a Shinigami whe he tries carrying her away for her own safety and later joining the fight with her Barrier Warrior abilities, de-brainwashing Rukia via a Cooldown Hug in the anime fillers, slapping Ulquiorra when he insults her friends (though this is also a subversion since he was counting on it), and reviving Loly and Menoly after they tried to kill her. Considering how she handled Shishigawara and Tsukishima, later Riruka and Ginjou, and how the last arc has her fully graduating to Combat Medic status to the point of briefly being Ichigo's Battle Couple partner, she later graduated into Plucky Girl status while playing this trope straighter.
  • Kagome Higurashi from Inuyasha would find herself in captivity rather often in the earlier arcs, having not been trained in martial arts before she got Trapped in Another World. Nonetheless, she still managed to help Inu-Yasha out a lot and even talked back at her captors frequently. Then she Took a Level In Badass and became The Archer.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Relena, oh Relena Peacecraft. Sure, she can't fight as well as other girls, but she can talk her way out wonderfully and pulls more than one badass Go Through Me to defend her friends, her Kingdom, or her beliefs. And again in The Movie where she steals the villain's communications in order to encourage the Muggles to stop Holding Out for a Hero and do something themselves.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh
    • Kisara, the White-Haired Pretty Girl that Kaiba's preincarnation falls in love with, is a perfect example of this trope. Seto may have saved her first, but MAN, does she repay the favor in spades. It doesn't hurt either that her soul is the Blue Eyes White Dragon.
    • Anzu Mazaki from Yu-Gi-Oh! also pulled this more than once, specially when she managed to free Mokuba from Malik's henchmen at the cost of her own safety. In return, Kaiba himself saves her later. She also, at times, reveals that she is not that bad of a duelist; beating Mai and the Penguin dude from the Big 5, and at the start of the series beat Joey 5 times in a row.
  • Asuna, Nodoka and Anya from Mahou Sensei Negima aren't halfway bad at this, but the example is actually Ako Izumi. She's the very proof that one doesn't have to be an invincible, smartass and emotionless Action Girl to be Badass.
  • Hitomi Kanzaki from The Vision of Escaflowne bounces between this and Action Survivor.
  • Gentoku Ryuubi, and later Sonken Chuubou in Ikki Tousen. They can't exactly fight (not counting Ryuubi's Super-Powered Evil Side), but Hell if they're gonna abandon their friends because of that.
  • Barajou no Kiss: Yamamoto Anis will not take any of these dimension warping shenanigans sitting down, thank you very much! She may have just been informed that her father intends to sacrifice her to a seal of unknown demonic origin and otherwise make her life hell, but she is not going to just sit around and mope. No. She is going to kick her Knights' collective asses into gear. And you will obey or you will get the rose thorns of doom.
  • Lady Ribi from The Twelve Kingdoms is not an Action Girl, and she knows it clearly. She's just The Ojou in a very dangerous time, which is marked by the intrigues of Atsuyu and his disciple Kouya against the King that she works for and strongly believes in. Will that stop her? Nope. Ribi handles all of this very calmly and cleverly, protects the depowered Enki as much as she can, and in the end she unlocks Enki's powers despite clearly knowing that taking his Power Limiter off will produce a backlash that will kill her. She dies, yes, but she also manages to derail Atsuyu's Xanatos Gambit, and helps to cause his fall.
  • Berserk
    • After the horrors she suffered from the Eclipse that robbed her of her sanity poor Casca's mind was regressed to that of a small child, making her very vulnerable to predation from monsters and humans alike and is in constant need of care and supervision. However, sometimes she finds herself on her own, but in such dire moments we see that Casca's former badass self isn't completely gone. The most prominent example to date was when she ran away from Guts out of fear and ran into some bandits, who then tried to gang rape her... but by the time Guts found her, Casca was naked and covered in her would-be rapists' blood after she slashed all of their throats. She also shows glimpses of her pre-Eclipse agility and acrobatics.
    • Charlotte gets one in the manga when she completely pulverizes her father's face with her feet after he tries to rape her. Pretty impressive for someone who's a distressed damsel most of the time.
  • At the climax of Tiger and Bunny's second cour, the Big Bad decides it's a good idea to take Kotetsu's daughter, Kaede, hostage. She doesn't just rescue herself — she ends up rescuing every other hero. Superpowerful Genetics sure come in handy.
  • Baccano's Eve Genoard. A sweet and polite young lady living in America, who escapes her kidnappers and doesn't hesitate to grab someone else's gun and avenge her father. She may not know about the family bussiness, but she has the same iron will.
  • Sonohara Anri of Durarara seems very distressed all the time, what with perverts hitting on her, ganguro girls bullying her, and the Slasher coming after her. Up until she stops a knife with her arm, tells Niekawa Haruna that her knife is nothing but a child, pulls out the real Saika, and takes over the army of Slashers. Of course, she sometimes seems to need saving afterwards, but this is just because she doesn't want people to know she's the owner of Saika. And not to mention, there's the horrible emotional baggage that the poor girl has in such regards, due to her terrible past as a survivor of Domestic Abuse who saw her also abused mother, Sayaka, completely snap and use Saika to kill Anri's abusive father and then herself... no wonder she's reluctant to take action until there's truly no other option.
  • Ranma One Half
    • Ranma, the resident Gender Bender of the series, gets kidnapped a lot in the manga by men who want to marry his girl side. (Even though Fanon would swear that Akane is the only one who gets captured.) This guy punched out a man with the power of a demigod and has destroyed mountains. Damn straight he'll kick your weakling ass if he's unhappy about you kidnapping him.
    • Whenever she does get captured, Akane tends to play the damsel until she either sees her advantage or someone (usually Ranma) really pisses her off. Then it's clobberin' time, and often even her would-be rescuers don't survive unscathed.
  • Nami in One Piece Film Strong World. When kidnapped by Shiki, she defiantly turns down Shiki's offers to join him and when his guard was down, she managed to escape. She would also later work to sabotage Shiki's plans by destroying the plant Daft Green despite exposure to the plant poisons her. And after that, she feeds his men false information so his floating base gets caught in a giant storm, destabilizing things further.
  • Melfina of Outlaw Star gets this when she stomps on and kills the evil mind-control cactus, force-feedbacking Harry's hacking attempt so damn hard that it blows out his arm, fights back and escapes him when he tries to kidnap her and rejects his advances.
  • Chrome of Katekyo Hitman Reborn frequently gets captured, but she does get awesome moments now and again.
  • Akiko Aoshika of Wolf Guy Wolfen Crest evolves into this. It was already astounding that after all of the brutality that was dished out to her, poor Aoshika-sensei was able to pick herself up again. It was even more remarkable when Aoshika is holding an unconscious Inugami when Haguro's men come in only to find him dead, demanding an explanation. When Aoshika tries to persuade her way through, they threaten to rape her to death in front of Inugami. But instead of being frightened, Aoshika gets pissed. Wow lady.
  • Amue/Romelle from GoLion / Voltron is a sweet princess who isnt a trained fighter and is subjected to ginormous abuse when she's captured by the Galra Empire, but she remains kind and brave no matter what. ie, when Sincline / Lotor hangs her in chains to use her as a bait for her brother and her friends, she repeteadly tells her brother to not give himself up to the Galras. And when she's later rescued by a quite unexpected ally, she graduates to Action Survivor and does her best to fight back even when she cannot pilot a mecha (and manages to help her rather troubled companion too).

Comic Books

  • Superman. Lois Lane.[1] Full stop. This is a woman who gets caught by villains all the frickin' time, but only because she's Genre Savvy enough to know that if she does so, she'll not only get the scoop on the front page story, but also somehow survive to write it. And not just by getting rescued—if Superman doesn't know/is depowered/is busy, she'll pretend to fall in love with the drug lord who captured her, then blast herself out of their wedding, veil, gown, and all, with a Mook's stolen machine gun.
    Even in the early days, Lois had quite the nerve. In some of the earliest Fleischer cartoons (now public domain) she pulls such stunts as trying to sabotage a getaway vehicle, climbing onto the back of a mechanical monster to see where it was going, blasting away with a submachine gun at would-be train robbers, and disguised herself as a Nazi to warn the American fleet of a U-boat threat (well, it was the early forties).
  • Mary Jane Watson. Well, In the comics anyway. She has beaten villains and would be rapists with baseball bats, took fighting lessons from Captain America! And became the most Badass of any Spidey love interest. There's a reason so many people hate Joe Quesada for One More Day.
  • Batman: Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Batgirl/Oracle can hold her own in fights and if she gets kidnapped, she is defiant to the very end and will some way to lay the smackdown as she escapes.

Fan Works

  • Honorable Hogwarts
    • Anya Warbeck has been kidnapped twice, had her child threatened, been generally threatened/taunted in several threads by the site's first Big Bad, and was recently raped. But through it all, she's managed to very quietly but determinedly kick ass, and has only needed her husband to rescue her twice (the second kidnapping and the rape).
    • A case could be made for Madeline Frost as well, although she's only successfully been kidnapped once, and never raped. One of her kidnappers suffered a compound fracture of the leg before she was finally subdued, and then she told off the Big Bad who had orchestrated the kidnapping without showing any fear.
  • DC Nation: Fauna was captured by some thugs employed by Lex Luthor (the guy who experimented on her in the first place). Once she is able to undo the collar, she's in mid-escape when Black Canary (her boss) shows up to spring her. Thinking Canary is in trouble, Fauna's bestial side kicks in....

Films — Animation

  • Disney's Aladdin had Badass Princess Jasmine. She and Aladdin save each other's skins more than once throughout the course of the movie, making them a Battle Couple.
  • Belle, from Disney's Beauty and the Beast would definitely count.
  • Again, Barbara Gordon: in Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero is the most badass damsel ever. She talks back to Mr. Freeze when he kidnaps her, attacks him with the same chains she's shackled with, tries to reason with him once she learns about his Ill Girl wife Nora (so she'll be able to help him save her without losing her organs and later it turns out her blood is enough), saves his Kid Sidekick, tries to save him too...
  • Shrek has Princess Fiona. She seems to be every cliché about a Princess in need of rescue, until she meets somebody REALLY ANNOYING... One might argue that she was a captive to begin with at the start of the story, though in her defense she was an unarmored woman facing a fire-breathing dragon thirty times her size. Both tropes played and subverted, perhaps, because she goes downright Trinity when she's in a situation that's at all reasonable to handle herself.

 Fiona: Hold the phone!


Films — Live-Action

  • Older Than Television: In the 1940 film My Little Chickadee, Mae West's gorgeous, fancily-dressed character, Flower Belle, is on a train when Indians attack. An arrow lands two feet from her, and she nonchalantly pulls it out of the wall, goes back to filing her nails... and when a second arrow hits, she responds by mowing them down with revolvers akimbo taken from a passenger who wasn't so lucky and a shotgun borrowed from the only other person defending the train... all while uttering one-liners in her signature alluring, devil-may-care voice.

 Flower Belle: There he goes, in a shower of feathers!

Gunman: Nice shootin'!

Flower Belle: I almost broke one of my fingernails.

Though it is a comedy film (starring W.C. Fields, no less), so Values Dissonance may apply here — the scene was probably meant to seem unrealistic.
  • Modern versions of Cinderella often turn the heroine into this, subverting her original Princess Classic / Purity Sue characterization.
    • Danielle of Ever After averts the "alas, I am but a pitiful female" personality pretty well throughout the movie, but Took a Level In Badass near the end when Monsieur Le Pieu has essentially kidnapped her, and is getting rather creepy. She threatens him with a sword, and has quite successfully rescued herself by the time Henry arrives. That whole spiel she delivers during said scene was just a Moment of Awesome. Also when she punched her wicked stepsister in the face.
    • Ella, from Ella Enchanted. Despite her gift of obedience, she manages to escape her Finishing School Of Horrors and then again from ogres who plan to eat her. Finally, she has to break her curse on the sheer strength of her love for Char, so she doesn't destroy his life by marrying him.
    • Ella Brown from Just Ella, who realizes being engaged to Prince Charming isn't all it's cracked up to be, and ends up breaking herself out of a dungeon.
  • Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean is like this in the first movie. In the second and third, she graduates to Action Girl.
  • Star Wars
    • Princess Leia in A New Hope. Luke and Han come to rescue her, the rescue doesn't quite work out, so she blasts a hole in the wall, proclaiming "Somebody has to save our skins!" Not to mention, she did what she could to keep the secret of the rebel hideout and had lots of guts when facing Darth Vader. Too bad Alderaan still got blown up despite her efforts.
    • This trope is also in full force in any of Barbara Hambly's novels. Two things you can absolutely be sure of: 1. Leia will be kidnapped by the Villains of the Book, and 2. She will make their lives pure hell before skewering them with a lightsaber near the climax.
    • Her own mother, Padme, was also like this in Attack of the Clones. As she faces execution alongside Anakin and Obi-Wan, she gets out of her handcuffs before the two Jedi and begins fighting back!
  • Spaceballs: What happens when Princess Vespa's hair is caught in enemy crossfire? She grabs a laser gun and mows those suckers down!

 Barf: Not bad...for a girl.

Dot: Hey, that was pretty good for Rambo!

  • Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough escapes her kidnapper by shooting three men and then proceeds to manipulate her kidnapper into suffering reverse Stockholm syndrome going so far as to even die for her scheme.
  • Diana Palmer, the main female character in the 1996 film version of The Phantom. She's not quite what we'd think of as an Action Girl (she's not the main character, and does get kidnapped twice in the course of the story), but she is anything but weak and frightened. A wealthy treasure hunter with a taste for adventure in the Indiana Jones mold (and, in fact, she's living in the late 1930s, just like Indiana), she also shares Indy's penchant for getting into sticky situations and then coolly working her way out of them, or at least playing more than a fleeting role in her own rescues. Even when the chips are down, it seems, Diana never gives her foes any satisfaction. When she's kidnapped for the first time, for instance, she is not scared but very angry: assuming she's being held for ransom, she declares that "you'll not get a red cent" from her family.
  • There's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark: If you look closely as they disembark from the submarine you'll notice that the Nazi soldier guarding Marian is heavily bandaged and he has an arm in a sling.
  • A non-physical version in the fourth Die Hard movie. John has been running around killing bad guys, but they have his daughter, and put her on the radio to beg her father to give up. Instead she says "Now there are only four of them" before they can yank the radio away, giving him some much-needed intel.
  • In the Live-Action version of Scooby Doo, Daphne has a moment where she's being held and fights her way out by beating up the one guard that's supposed to guard her.

 Daphnie: Who's the damsel in distress now?

Guard: (whimper) Me.

Daphne: Straight up. (knocks guard through a vent)

  • Dana in True Lies is in the end saved by her father, but before that, she steals the key that the terrorists need to detonate their nuclear bomb.


  • Holly Short in Artemis Fowl. In the first book, when she was captured by Artemis, she uses a cot to smash through concrete, plants an acorn she snuck in, uses a loophole in an eye-to-eye command to go around the house, neutralizes Juliet with the mesmer and punches Artemis in the face.
  • The unnamed "maiden fair" in the ballad The Outlandish Knight. The knight convinces her to run away with him, then tells her he's going to drown her in the ocean, as he's done to six other maidens. Then, she convinces him to turn his back on her. "Six pretty maidens have you drowned here/And the seventh has drowned thee.
  • Escalla in Paul Kidd's trilogy White Plume Mountain, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Sure, she gets captured a couple of times in the first book (once by the HERO, even), and gets her ass handed to her at one point in the last book, but mostly she's somebody you don't want to mess with. She's the one who actually kills Lolth, the goddess of the Drow, permanently. That's right kiddies, she's a GODSLAYER. She finishes the last book by running an insane Indy Ploy against a GOD to get her best girlfriend back from the afterlife.
  • Aliena in Pillars of the Earth. Plenty of distress for this damsel, but girl fights back. And even builds her own successful business from nothing.
  • Zula in Reamde.
  • Any High Lady in the Codex Alera is there at least in part on account of how unbelievably badass she is with Furycraft. Kitai keeps having to remind Tavi of this. Even when she's pregnant. Bad. Ass.
  • Murphy of the The Dresden Files. She's five-nothing, petite, has earned her way to the head of a sub-department of cops known for its turnover rate, and works with Harry on a regular basis. She's chainsawed a demon, led more assaults than is entirely fair, it's implied that she's a suitable candidate for being a Knight of the Cross, has instagibbed a living god, has served as the mouthpiece of capital-g God, raided Arctis Tor with Harry... in fact, when she subverts this trope at all in any way, it's because she's sending Harry a message that she's playing the part, and not actually cowed. Harry has a chivalrous rush-to-women's defense impulse. It nearly gets him killed a number of times. He does get a bit genre savvy, eventually.
  • The Sword of Truth. Despite the latent mysogeny of, well, pretty much everyone in that world, the Confessors, Sister of the Light, Sisters of the Dark, Mord-Sith, various other magic-imbued women... lampshading this, Richard has to lose his protect-women impulse, because they're just as much a threat to his life as men.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's heroines often have their moments, being brave and able to endure hardship, and sometimes even wading into the fray.
    • Tara in The Chessmen of Mars fights off a rapist.
    • Virginia in The Monster Men turns the machine on the attacking pirates; she and the elderly Chinese cook fight them off alone.
  • Towards the end of In the Heart of Darkness, Belisarius' wife Antonia realizes the Malwa spies she has been feeding (false) information to had decided to kill her and even works out how they would do so with maximum discretion, but what could a diminutive thirty-something ex-courtesan do with such knowledge? Try setting up a counter-ambush that leaves seven street thugs dead, one maimed, and one frightened soul keeping her at bay with a club as he screamed for backup.

Live-Action TV

  • Uhura of Star Trek the Original Series can be quite intimidating when she chooses—one notable moment being when Mirror Universe Sulu is making advances, and she pulls a dagger on him.
  • Sam Carter, Vala Mal Doran, and Tela Eymaggan are some of the more obvious examples from the Stargate Verse franchise. However, let us not forget the other ladies. Such as Doc Langford, Doc Fraiser, and Elizabeth Weir; sure they're not trained in combat, but they can be just as Badass.
  • White Collar: Elizabeth Burke, as of the season three midseason premiere. She concocts a brilliant escape plan with nothing but a dog bite, thermostat, diamond ring, and some crazy chair swinging skills.
  • In Dai Sentai Goggle Five, for some reason the enemy seems to love targeting Miki Momozono/Goggle Pink to be attacked or sorts, causing her allies to knock the attacker for her, and even worse, she isn't exactly one with the highest constitution as she was fatally wounded in earlier episode and got her capabilities as a warrior questioned. But on the other hand, she usually can take care of herself and even proves her smarts in outwitting the enemies (in the mentioned episode, despite being wounded, she still insisted on fighting anyway), culminating in a Crowning Moment of Awesome where she got off from a Death Trap of a burning book... alone.
  • Guinevere from Merlin probably has the highest amount of kidnappings and captures on the show, but (as actress Angel Coulby has said in interviews) is also the strongest emotionally. The writers have also admitted that she's got the most common sense. Her ability to keep her wits around her, whether by bluffing her captors or keeping track of what's happening on a battlefield, has kept her and others alive more than once.
  • Djaq and Marian from Robin Hood. Everyone on this show gets captured at least once; in their case they are rescued by friends and/or love interests, but not before making several nearly-successful attempts to escape on their own.
  • Firefly: River Tam spends a significant amount of time in serious danger, between the villagers threatening to burn her alive, Feds putting guns to her head, and the Hands of Blue. But then remembers she can fight back.
  • In Doctor Who, quite a few companions fit this to varying degrees due to the fact that juggling the Distress Ball is in the job description. Jo Grant is essentially this, lying in the middle between Damsel-in-Distress and Action Girl.
  • Lily Bell from Hell on Wheels kills the Cheyenne warrior who killed her husband by stabbing him with the arrow that was stuck in her shoulder, then is able to trek over several mile and sew up her wound before getting rescued by Joseph Black Moon and Cullen Bohannon .
  • Abby the Lab Rat, from NCIS, once she's at the bad guys' lair.

Puppet Shows

  • Lampshaded in Fraggle Rock. When Mokey is putting on a play with Red in the Distressed Damsel role and Gobo, who's supposed to rescue her, doesn't show up Red proposes a rewrite:

 Red: Ha! I'll rescue myself!


Video Games

  • Elaine Marley of the Monkey Island series. She frequently needs rescuing from LeChuck, but most other times, she can perfectly take care of herself.
  • Final Fantasy
  • Colette Brunel from Tales of Symphonia is also sweet, ditzy, frail, and gets whacked with a Distress Ball more than once. She's also a Glass Cannon who can pull off some lovely combos in battle, and even fights back against Dark Action Girl Pronyma when she tries to kidnap her.
  • Estelle from Tales of Vesperia. A gentle, noble personality and sweet but sheltered disposition, light pink hair AND the party healer? You'd never expect her to also be a Hot Chick with a Sword, and with such willpower she's willing to abandon her comfy life in the castle just to travel the world and help anyone in danger.
  • Gender Flipped in Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice with Almaz and Princess Sapphire. He might be able to hold his own as a swordsman, but he's still been made Mao's slave, is slowly turning into a demon and is generally in over his head. The Princess is, however, rather protective of him.
  • Super Mario Bros: Princess Peach. Despite being the most famous Distressed Damsel in video games, she's been proving herself capable in combat since Super Mario Bros 2.
  • Princess Zelda is probably second only to Peach in the "getting kidnapped by the Big Bad" department, but she's proved herself more than capable of kicking ass in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, the Super Smash Bros series, The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks. She even has one ass-kicking moment in Twilight Princess, and in The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword she manages to do quite a journey all by herself. Although the latter happens off-screen. Not to mention that she's been doing this since the original The Legend of Zelda! She was able to elude Ganon and shatter the Triforce of Wisdom and secure each piece all across Hyrule in dungeons that are difficult to traverse even with an arsenal of weapons and tools. She does this without any help from you and only after she finishes does she get captured by Ganon. Badass Damsel indeed.
  • Fire Emblem
    • Princess Lilina of Ostia from Fire Emblem 6 starts as this, as you find her locked in a room of her own castle. As soon as Roy meets up with her, though, he hands Lilina a Thunder tome and tells her to fight with him... and she does so without any hesitation. It gets even better when she's promoted into Sage, then she can potentially become the most powerful magic user of the whole game.
    • Princess Tana of Frelia serves a similar role in Fire Emblem the Sacred Stones (although she only starts out captured in Ephraim's route), and like Lilina, she's the best in her class (in this case, Falconknight/Wyvern Knight, although on the latter she might have competition from Cormag for that title).
    • Nanna of Nodion from Fire Emblem Jugdral also keeps her cool when she and her friend Mareeta are kidnapped, to the point of openly telling Leaf to not give himself up to the Empire when in a Hostage Situation. When freed, she joins the group to be their mounted White Magician Girl, and can upgrade to a Lady of War.
  • Mass Effect
    • When Commander Shepard first meets Liara T'Soni, she's completely immobilized and pleading for help. Then you recruit her, and she starts crushing huge robots with her mind. Then in the sequel, she fights through a Wretched Hive to save you, EVEN AFTER YOU'RE DEAD.
    • Shepard also finds the other female squadmates in Mass Effect 1, Ashley and Tali, in conditions of substantial distress, but they're still entirely badass. Ashley is possibly the most combat capable squadmate you have, and you rescue her after the rest of her squad has been wiped out by alien robots. Tali can do some serious damage in combat with her tech abilities, after you rescue her from being betrayed by the galaxy's most powerful information broker.
    • From Mass Effect 3, Eve full stop. The mission she's introduced in, she spends the entire time in containment with you escorting her and Mordin/Padok through numerous Cerberus assaults. When Wrex/Wreav gets her out of containment, the first thing she sees is two Cerberus troopers running at them. Without even hesitating she pulls the shotgun out of Wrex/Wreav's hands and blows them both away, with one hand.

 Eve: I can handle myself, Wrex.

Wrex: Women.

  • Knights of the Old Republic: There's also Bastila, who takes a while to lose the Distress Ball, but when she does? Overrides a neural disruptor, kills her guard, uses telekenesis to break her way out of the cage and helps mop up whatever Vulkars are dumb enough to hang around after that using the dead mook's double-bladed sword.
  • Siskier of Blaze Union is extremely devoted to Garlot, has a terrible fear of heights, and is generally cute and perky with a bleeding heart. She's also a scarily competent shot with her crossbow, has an uncanny ability to sense the presence of enemies, and gets hit with the Distress Ball exactly once in the whole of the game.
  • In Escape from Horrorland, Lizzie gets captured twice, but is still one of the bravest of the characters and is the one devising and setting all the traps and leading the way in the game.
  • Belle pulls this trope off again in Kingdom Hearts II when Xaldin kidnaps her and the rose, and forces Beast to choose. She elbows Xaldin in the gut and grabs the rose before running back.
  • Persona
    • Rise Kujikawa from Persona 4, The Chick of the Five-Man Band, is the one who needs less time to rest and recover after the battle against her Shadow, and immediately takes Teddie's Mission Control spot with her Persona, Himiko.
    • In a similar case, Fuuka Yamagishi from Persona 3, pre-getting her Persona, manages to survive several days being stuck in Tartarus avoiding Shadows, and then awakens to her Persona (Lucia) and like Rise, she and Lucia immediately take over as Mission Control.
  • Callo Merlose from Vagrant Story. She's kidnapped just before the first boss, and remains captive for the entire game; since she's there to investigate the antagonists anyway, she takes advantage of this situation to learn as much as she can. On one occasion she almost entirely reverses the power balance between herself and her captor. Heck, when she's first kidnapped, she straight up tells Ashley to stay on task and not bother about rescuing her!
  • Cassima from King's Quest 6 spends most of the game locked up in the tower, but give her a dagger...
  • In Dragon Age Origins, the player can be one if they choose the female city-elf origin.
  • Elena and Chloe from Uncharted.
  • In World of Warcraft, a dwarf named Fanny Thundermar is captured by ogres during an Alliance-side quest chain in the Twilight Highlands. When you go to rescue her, you find her surrounded by dead ogres who had tried to cop a feel.
  • Lili de Rochefort once was kidnapped for ransom by The Mafia. She struggled so hard, she managed to get free unscathed and even pull a badass Unflinching Walk as she got away from her beaten up kidnappers and an exploding card.

Web Comics

  • Most Dozerfleet heroines are this at some point, a few even going so far as to play the Trojan Prisoner to achieve their objectives.
    • Candi, when captured by Hebbleskin-loyal border patrol in Sodality, calmly slips herself and Dolly some Remotach pills to swallow, realizing that they are about to lose their heads. Yet, she uses this to plan a way for the girls to use the Remotach powers to re-attach their heads and escape. Being drugged with a high dose of Bezeetol, Candi knows she will have to wait for some of that to wear off before she can simply fight her way to freedom. So instead, she opts to cheat death. Works out even better than planned, when Navyrope arrives. (Though, not in time to prevent her beheading.)
      • Candi tends to get captured / sent to prison an awful lot. She's usually pretty calm about it, all things considered.
    • When Candace from Camelorum Adventures gets in trouble and is arrested while on her initial quest to rescue her father, she mostly manipulates her captors into achieving her objectives for her by confusing / annoying them into compliance. She even routinely saves other Girls Behind Bars from bullies, often by acting the part of the Karmic Trickster.
    • Dolly is frequently very defiant toward her captors. Even when it doesn't turn out so well for her.
    • Mingmei encourages Shing to not come to her rescue, so she can manipulate the situation behind the scenes. It works. She is able to return to him later on, and they are able to settle down together. She also engineers Keet Kabo's means of escaping from SWCC, just to get rid of her because she found Keet annoying. Doing this made her the "Team Mom" of her prison block, as nobody else liked Keet either.
    • Keet not only obliges Mingmei's offer, but then goes out of her way to infiltrate SMCC and aid Evan in his own escape.
    • Kayla Tarington in Volkonir repeatedly finds ways to turn the tables on anyone who would seek to hold her captive. Even when Volkonir comes to rescue her after Hiktomoph hijacks the prison where she's being held, she finds badass ways to dispose of Hiktomoph's minions. And with no powers, even holds her own in a fight against an exposed Hiktomoph himself until Volkonir can get there and send Hiktomoph running. This, in spite not one single other inmate at the prison doing anything other than hiding in their cells to avoid Hiktomoph and the Treaders.
    • Stephanie Barrin uses her incarceration over "involuntary arson" as an opportunity to get into the workshop, where she can work on her inventions devoid of harassment from Icy Finger terrorists. It works. She is able to hold so much sway over the guards, that she Might as Well Not Be in Prison At All. In fact, it isn't until her brain damage from a conflict from years earlier leads to a cyst on her brain that she starts feeling and acting in any real way distressed. And when she starts hallucinating, they merely transfer her to a mental hospital. (They even let her keep the talking ceiling fan!)

Western Animation

  • In Superman the Animated Series there is one episode where Superman is being beaten by a non-kryptonite holding villain, Lois Lane shows up, grabs a metal rod and joins in the attack.
  • In the Looney Tunes short The Dover Boys, Dora Standpipe beats up the villainous Dan Backslide as she calls for help. By the end it's Backslide who calls for help.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
    • Rarity is one of the girliest ponies on the show, a prissy fashion designer with an extreme dislike for physical work, dirt or getting her mane even slightly mussed. Put her in a fight however and she doesn't handle herself too badly. This is best shown in the episode "A Dog and Pony Show", where she gets captured by a group of dogs who want her to dig up gems for them by hoof. She spends the rest of the episode driving her ponynappers insane in a calculated manner with constant nit-picking, complaining, and the worst whining sound you will ever hear. When our heroes finally reach the ponynappers, they are more than happy to let her go. In the second episode of the series, Rarity immediately jumps up and kicks a manticore in the face. It turns out that it just had a thorn in its paw and Fluttershy just needed to pull it out, but still, can you imagine the nerve of a tiny white unicorn to kick a screaming hellbeast five times its size IN THE FACE?
    • Fluttershy also counts here, another girly pony (in fact, Rarity's best friend), a Friend to All Living Things, has considerable fashion knowledge herself, apoloplegic, very polite, and recognized in-universe as graceful. She has tamed monsters like the aforementioned manticore, a cockatrice, and a dragon; and she also snapped the neck of a bear! The last one was only for a massage, but it shows she has the strength to mow anyone down when she has to.
  • Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda animated series actually preceded all the above-mentioned game installments in this department. There were more episodes featuring her battling alongside Link wielding a bow and arrow than there were of Link rescuing her—and she actually had to save him in one.
  • One appears in the obscure Disney feature Mars & Beyond as part of an outline of how Mars is depicted in pop culture. After being kidnapped because Mars Needs Women, her reaction upon meeting the martian behind her abduction is to kick him in the mouth. After enduring a series of nightmarish tests, she escapes on her own, hijacks a saucer and flies back home—all without her egghead boss noticing she was missing in the first place!
  • Minnie Mouse is sometimes portrayed like this, particularly in the 1933 short Building a Building" and the 1995 short Runaway Brain.
  • Roll from the Mega Man cartoon gets captured a couple times, but usually manages to make trouble for her captors—and she's an Action Girl in combat.
  1. the Post-Crisis (1987) incarnation anyway