1. Dawnless Sky
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    Dawnless Sky Member

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    Damsels in distress... is the world tired of this?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Dawnless Sky, Sep 22, 2013.

    In a story I'm writing, I have 2 main protagonists. One male, one female.

    In the 2nd act, the female is potentially rescued by the guy.

    I know a lot of movies and books now try to portrait females as strong and independent but is the concept of "damsels in distress" a big no no now?

    I'm thinking of change it but this creates more holes in the story than I care for.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    From my particular feminist point of view (I can speak for no one else): it'll be centuries before the love interest male rescuing his love interest female loses its fantasy appeal. Just don't write the female as helpless or with the sole quality of beauty, and give her more abilities than just the quality of altruism.
     
  3. Uberwatch
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    Uberwatch Active Member

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    Why not have a heroic female rescue a male in distress?
     
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  4. Dawnless Sky
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    Dawnless Sky Member

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    That's not the question. There's tons of stuff I could make them do other than rescuing each other. I'm more looking for input toward the impact on having the female be rescued in case I decide it is my best option according to the events and setting already established in my story.
     
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  5. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Frankly, I'm seeing the whole "heroic female" trope becoming no more than just another cliche these days. Every single heroine now has to show some signs of typically macho heroism - in fantasy they go uber-amazon, wearing scale armor and kicking orc ass, in modern urban milieu they are all Halle Berry "strong women" etc...

    I think the whole "damsel in distress" has a lot more to offer than simplistic role reversal - maybe one could look into mythological, cultural and historical background of it, dwell into its ritualistic and religious, and psychological roots, and come out with something forgotten but fresh...
     
  6. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Yes, I personally don't mind it, but a lot of these types are only "pretty dolls who sit docilely". Give her a trait that makes us like her. Make her a character before a damsel. Make her a kind girl, make her a talented sewer, make her a sorceress, make her something first.
     
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  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If the woman is a strong character and realistic and likeable and you give her strengths - eg. treating her like any other good main character essentially - and if her needing rescue makes perfect sense to the plot, then I don't see anything wrong with it. It's only annoying when the damsel in distress also happens to be brainless, clueless, a coward and a whole host of other things that renders her a cartoon. If she's written like a real human being, I think you'll be fine. Men or women, sometimes we get ourselves into a pickle and need rescuing.

    And personally, I do find the damsel in distress concept rather romantic sometimes - what's so bad about a handsome knight in shining armour rescuing you? :D In itself there's nothing wrong. It's the character as a whole that could give you problems when put in combination with this trope.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's been around for about as long as there's been two genders of humans, so don't expect it to fade out... ever...
     
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  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @mammamaia .

    Also, there is nothing inherently wrong with one person rescuing another. People sometimes need help from other people. That's part of the human experience. If you write well-rounded characters with their own agency there is no cause for anyone to complain.
     
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Pfft, go for it. :)
    That's life. Sometimes you are saved by a man, sometimes by a woman. Art imitates life and all that...
     
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  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's fine to have the male rescue the female. If the female is always being rescued, always buffeted along by the story without doing anything useful, if she has no direct impact on the plot (direct meaning that _she's_ doing things, rather then people doing things for her sake or her favor), then that's a problem. One rescue? Fine.
     
  12. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I talked about this with a friend of mine who makes video games. We came to the conclusion that it'd be fun to just flip it around for his next game, make the guy into this helpless pacifist poet whose main function is to look pretty, he's abducted for reason X, and then it's up to his girl to rescue him from the bad guys. It's been done before, but not nearly enough to level the playing field against all the damsel in distress-games. Sometimes it's fun to do stuff like this just because you can.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Make us care (a lot) about both of them, and you'll have no problem!
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Even a strong character can need rescuing sometimes.

    Write with honesty, not fear.
     
  15. Dawnless Sky
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    Dawnless Sky Member

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    Thanks for all the input, guys!

    This is MUCH appreciated.
    I'll ponder on this some more :D
    This opens a lot of doors!
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have a pet theory that some tropes are older than AMS*. I think the damsel in distress (a.k.a., male wins female by proving his skill to protect) is written somewhere deep in the limbic brain, not the neocortex.

    *Anatomically Modern Sapiens
     
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  17. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Wreybies, I agree, based on observing my own instincitve reactions when witnessing non-serious accidents: see a girl who's fallen over with a scooter and is just starting to get up after the tumble? Pull over and offer help. See a guy who's crashed into a shrubbery with his BMX and is wriggling out of the bush? "Should I stop? Nah, he's a guy, he can take a hit." Is it equal and politically correct? More like a prime example of double standards. Is it instinctive, i.e. the very first thing you feel upon witnessing the scene? Yes.

    According to my observations, this holds true with at least some women, except in reverse. Lizard brain FTW.

    Of course, common sense and reason will quickly take over and override the initial instincts, but that doesn't change the reality of what you feel in that instant when you first comprehend what has just happened.
     
  18. lasm
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    lasm Member

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    Might help if the damsel somehow contributes to her own rescue--like the knight charges into the high tower after her, but the whole rescue thing would fail if she didn't kick her guard somewhere sensitive at the right moment. So that both the characters are active in the process.
     
  19. EmmaWrite
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    Strong female characters can still mess up and need help. As long as you don't characterize her as weak (i.e. make her seem generally needy, dependent) that's fine. One rescue in itself wouldn't make her antifeministic.
     
  20. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    On the surface this may sound sexist, but bear with me...

    It's pretty much normal biology that women like strong men. No different than most animal species; the female will mate with the strongest male in any group to advance the species. Humans complicate this process somewhat with free will and the ability to over-analyze everything. ;) In doing some study of sexual fantasies, one of the most common is women (even very strong willed women) desire to have a dominant male either rescue them or be very 'alpha' and pretty much tell them what to do. Relinquishing power (at least during sex) is a very base, animal desire for many women. So, this also applies to readers. Since the people you most likely fear dismissing your damsel in distress as hokey would be women, you're likely to be wrong. Most women will wistfully see themselves as the damsel being rescued, and provided it is written well, will empathize with your damsel character.

    Rabid feminazis will, of course, hate your book. :p But then, they usually hate everything that has a man in it that isn't a bumbling idiot (as many men are now portrayed...think Everybody Loves Raymond).

    Lastly, I'm doing a female lead character right now that is tough on the surface, works in a male dominated field but is the MC's love interest. She's got mental baggage from the death of a prior love interest. The two characters complement each other as they both work through their issues, i.e. they are in essence 'rescuing' each other from their own emotional problems as they stroll through my back story. Your damsel could be rescued, but she also could provide some other form of 'rescue' to your male MC.
     
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  21. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Not downright disputing, as I could never see myself with a feminine guy who's shorter than weaker than me, so yeah, I'm a dick that way, but I'd like to see some research if you know any? Out of interest.

    Was this the colored mechanic with perfect buttocks? (this question will come off totally random to you in case you weren't the guy who was writing that character, lol). 'Cause I have this char who's a mechanic and has a load of dead ex-lover baggage! (great minds think alike or how did it go).
     
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  22. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you for saying this! In my opinion, this is the key to making the damsel in distress plotline work. The two characters should have some effect on one another, otherwise, she's just an object. If rescuing the princess plays out the same as "rescue an attractive sack of flour" something has gone awry.
     
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  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    When you see thousands of examples in the animal kingdom, you can probably trust intuitive knowledge that selection processes in evolution would favor human female attraction to a strong male.

    It doesn't mean every female would define that attractive male the same way. I'm also one who finds steroid muscles ugly while I find intelligence and education attractive.

    As for the rescue aspect, having seen women rescued in movie after movie, book after book, TV drama after TV drama my whole life, I can't say if there's anything beyond cultural saturation to the rescue fantasy. All I can say is it needs a cultural C change and while I don't reject it, I will do my best to re-write that fantasy with a stronger more capable female.
     
  24. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    "Research"...afraid I'm unable to readily produce anything for you. I didn't really save anything, but just Googling "female sex fantasies" (it was research, I swear!) should give you plenty to read. Completely unrelated to a popular book trilogy with "Fifty" in the title, I was trying to learn about BDSM. It was fascinating the number of otherwise dominant women who preferred to be submissive in the context of bedroom play. It's all about control, but I think it also speaks to the human-animal instincts I suggested earlier.
    My mechanic character (she works on motorcycles) is indeed the steel blue eyed, black haired (she's Italian, so no dye), lovely-to-walk-behind-when-wearing-jeans gal I hinted at in another thread. Bizarro-land fun fact: totally by accident, on the internet I found a photo of a young girl in a motorcycle shop whose face is nearly identical to what I envisioned my character would look like.
     
  25. Dawnless Sky
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    Again, thanks for all the comments :)

    ddavidv Katrian, you're spot on. I totally agree.
    I could never take interest in full role reversal where the weakling male would be rescued by the strong female. If he's so weak and pathetic, why should I feel like rescuing him at all? XD I'd just let him rot in the dungeon and go to the nearest tavern and find some strong loud mouthed barbarian! :D

    My fears came from Ania Sarkeesian's video "Topes vs Women in Video Games". I could not even finish watching the first video as I strongly disagreed with her. She actually made me angry. But skipping to the comment section, I saw I was mostly alone in my views.

    On a side note, I've seen many comments mentioning both characters as love interests. This isn't the case for my story and I guess it's my bad for having been so vague in my first description.
    They are just childhood friends teaming up together to save the world :-D
    I actually refuse to write them as love interests since this is what most people expect when two main protagonists are of the opposite sex.
     

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