[REPOST] Why I Like Damsels in Distress

Some bad guys make off with a lady. It’s up to the (male) hero to stop them.

NOTE: This is a repost of an article I did for The Ralph Retort.

The damsel in distress is one of the most criticized tropes in the modern era. It is considered the ultimate misogyny, and creators often apologize for using it by claiming that the damsel is “strong” and “not a helpless woman,” or by making the damsel match or outclass the male hero in some skill. Creators often avoid this trope to establish their modern, 21st-century street cred.

Well, I’m here to say that I’m a great fan of this supposedly evil trope, no matter how it is done. It pains me to watch creators squirm whenever they’re attacked for writing damsels; they should stand by their work.

But why would a modern, 21st-century man like me admit to liking damsels in fiction? Clearly I need to be re-educated in proper ideology! Such tastes are unacceptable; after all, it’s the current year! Well I’ll explain why, and if you can’t stand it, that’s on you.

I like damsels because:

They trigger a protective instinct, regardless of the woman’s abilities. When a male viewer sees a woman in danger, reason and ideology go out the window; the viewer simply gets angry at the bully menacing her. It doesn’t matter whether the woman is a housewife or a superhero – seeing her peril makes you mad. The anime Sword Art Online exploits this to great effect; I consider it one of the best uses of the trope that I have ever seen.

The rescuer shows the woman how much they care. The act of rescue reinforces the bond that the hero and the damsel have, and it shows that the hero would move mountains for the one they love. The film Deadpool is a good example of this; the merc with a mouth, in spite of all his wisecracking, actually gives a damn about his girl.

You get a sense of justice after the rescue is done. Seeing the villain get what’s coming to them is a satisfying experience, and it feels even greater when an attractive woman is freed in the process. The movie Taken is the clearest example of this; the ending leaves you with a sense of triumph over insurmountable odds.

The heroic male/rescued female dynamic shows great sexual polarity. A masculine man in a masculine role with a feminine woman in a feminine role just creates an emotional electricity that is hard to match otherwise. Accentuating sexual differences in an artistic work pulls you in that much deeper.

Damsels in distress are not some embarrassing relic; they are a trope like any other, useful in getting readers and viewers to care. Art should make people feel, and all tropes are valid when doing that. There is no reason to stop using a trope just because feminists hate it.

Also, pick up Sword & Flower, my novella. It has a masculine male and a feminine female in it.

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4 Responses to [REPOST] Why I Like Damsels in Distress

  1. There is nothing that you’ve written here that I disagree with. I also don’t think it is misogynist to like or even prefer this trope. If you have a dragon facing a man and a woman, and let’s say they both wielded the same heavy sword and had on the same heavy armor, which one of them would stand a better chance of survival, or, at the very least, take longer for the dragon to kill? I say heavy sword because who uses a toothpick to fight a dragon?

    If it was modern times and they both had, let’s say, a “dragon gun.” Then, I’d say, fine. The better shot will win.

    The fact that men are physically stronger and faster and more durable than woman lies at the heart of this trope and is why we, in general, like it, which is where your statements above comes in.

    I don’t know why this is perceived as problematic or why it would even be considered sexist or misogynist. I’m open if someone to someone educating me.

    • Rawle Nyanzi says:

      Glad you like the post. The “damsel in distress” trope is often disliked by feminist types because it allegedly devalues women and makes them passive, rather than active. The butt-kicking babe exists in such large numbers mostly to counteract this trope.

      There’s no need to be ashamed of liking this trope, of course.

      • My apologies for the typos. I wrote that in a hurry while getting the kids ready for a school sporting thing.

        Counteracting the damsel trope I get, it just seems rather silly to argue against it and for very obvious reasons. Besides, there is enough space for both tropes to coexist. Each have their respective reader segments anyway.

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