Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Damsel in distress
- What's the plan?
- Rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy, save the world. —The Mummy
- ... A bad gunslinger called Salty Sam was chasin' poor Sweet Sue
- He trapped her in the old sawmill and said with an evil laugh,
- If you don't give me the deed to your ranch
- I'll saw you all in half!
- And then he grabbed her (and then)
- He tied her up (and then)
- He turned on the bandsaw (and then, and then...!) ...
- —Along Came Jones, by The Coasters
The damsel in distress is a popular stock character, perhaps in large measure because her predicaments almost always have more than a whiff of BDSM fantasy about them. The helplessness of these damsels, who are almost always foolish and ineffectual to the point of cluelessness, and their need for male heroes to rescue them, has made the stereotype the target of feminist criticism.
Damsels in distress are not used nearly as often as they were previously, and current depictions of the stock character usually play the role as camp. The stock character did undergo a revival of sorts in Halloween, Friday the 13th, and other slasher films of the 1980s. Here, though, the stock character was played with a twist: there were several young women characters, most of whom were killed by the serial killer villain, but one survived to defeat him. The young woman survivor herself became a stock character counterpart to the damsel in distress, as embodied in characters such as Ellen Ripley in the Alien series. Sarah Connor, a damsel in distress in The Terminator, became the effective survivor type in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Notable damsels in distress
- Mary Jane Watson from Spider-Man
- Lois Lane from Superman
- The Perils of Pauline
- Penelope Pitstop
- Princess Leia in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- April O'Neil from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Sleeping Beauty
- Snow White
- Fay Wray's character in King Kong
- Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Princess Peach from Mario games
- Elaine Marley in the Monkey Island games
- Roll from the Mega Man games
- Krystal in the Star Fox games
- Sandy in Maniac Mansion
- Emily in Frankenstein: The Monster Returns
- Princess Fiona in Shrek
- Jane Porter Clayton in the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Jane Parker in the Tarzan movies)
See also: Princess and dragon
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