Faux Action Girl
A supposedly modern heroine who doesn't live up to her reputation. An Action Girl whose "action" aspect is more of an Informed Attribute than anything else. She's established from the very beginning as a powerful, capable hero but never does anything heroic. She has a well-grounded reputation as a strong fighter in her field, but always fails in the line of battle. Her talents and skills are well known to fellow characters, but they're never seen by the viewers, outside of perhaps a Day in the Limelight episode.
Her status only exists as an established reputation and depends heavily on Genre Blindness; she never acts like the modern heroine she's supposed to be. Sometimes, the only way she qualifies as anything more than the Damsel in Distress is if you Take Our Word for It. If the writers are feeling merciful, however, the Faux Action Girl can be relied on to actually defeat her share of Mooks - or, in rarer cases, a female enemy.
The key to identifying a Faux Action Girl is the disproportionate hype - whether she's overrated or under-performing. Also note that context does play a role; for example, in a show full of incompetents who think they're tough fighters, it doesn't matter if a female character behaves the same way. It is also possible to have a female character who doesn't fight or isn't as capable as some others for perfectly justified reasons. She has to be much less powerful or competent than comparable male characters for no logical reason. Strangely, villainesses are rarely Faux Action Girls, but there are exceptions.
Please note that a Faux Action Girl is someone who has a reputation as a fighter. If she is just a girl captured then she's a Damsel in Distress. If she gets rid of the Distress Ball, she's just a Badass in Distress. If she has just started fighting and doesn't have the experience/fame handy still, she's likely Skilled but Naive or a Naive Newcomer, and there's still room to see if she can grow into a real Action Girl or not.
The characterization usually involves a form of Informed Ability: Most of these girls have big reputations and great past exploits. More or less the Distaff Counterpart to Miles Gloriosus and Fake Ultimate Hero.
If much of the show's screentime is dedicated to showing the girl in question training and practicing only to lose when it counts, that's not this trope. That's Hard Work Hardly Works, and it can hit anyone who is not The Hero.
Also contrast with Chickification, in which the producers take a character who is shown to be a legitimate Action Girl and make her incompetent. See also Standard Female Grab Area, the standard weakness of a Faux Action Girl.
Like the Standard Female Grab Area and White Magician Girl, this trope is often caused by writers who want females in their action show, but are unwilling (or not allowed) to show a woman being hit by a man. In many cases, the Faux Action Girl will suddenly develop into an actual Action Girl when faced with a female opponent (because a Cat Fight is just fine), only to return to Faux status as soon as that fight is over.
Anime and Manga
- Burst Angel: Meg is supposedly highly skilled at combat, even though she's usually the dame in distress. Of course, since her partner Jo is a big badass Action Girl, Meg has nothing to worry about.
- Here's a thought for how the writers could potentially improve all of this: have Meg truely be skilled in combat... and have it be Kyohei that keeps getting kidnapped!
- Sakura Haruno. In the beginning of the series she is constantly described as being prodigiously talented and does all kinds of fighting in the opening credits, but actually helps out in less than a half dozen fights in the first part of the show (and loses each one save against Ino, in which the result was a draw). Her affection for Sasuke seems to contribute to this, as she frequently stands around watching him play the Ineffectual Loner. Following the timeskip and the strengthening of both her character and abilities, her infatuation for Sasuke levels off and she is finally able to get off the sidelines... for two arcs (the Sasori arc and the Sai introductory arc), then it's back to being moving scenery.
- Yuugito Nii being a Tailed Beast host should mean being a badass especially when having one more tail than Gaara, but being curb-stomped off screen by Hidan and Kakazu proved otherwise despite being well-respected in her home village.
- Also Anko. And Konan. The list goes on. The closest things to true Action Girls are Ino, Temari, and Tsunade on her better days. For Sakura, Hinata, or TenTen, it depends on whether or not they Took a Level in Badass at the time.
- Lina's first traveling companion, the busty sorceress and long lost princess Naga is a competent-enough mage to get by in fights, but due to her obsession of priding herself as Lina's rival without actually doing anything and her weakness for liquor, she Can't Catch Up. Naga only shows great skill in one of the prequel movies (Slayers Return); otherwise she's hopelessly beaten by Lina or whomever the villian is, or gets subjected to humorously humiliating situations. To make matters worse, at the end of each movie and in some of the OVA's, Lina gets notoriety in some way (such as a statue of her in The Motion Picture or golem dolls of herself in Great), whereas Naga does not. She's still the token Goldfish Poop Gang in the novels, but is much more competent. Fortunately, the nastier implications of the trope are reduced by the fact that Lina is the one she keeps playing second fiddle to.
- Filia the Golden Dragon from the third season of the anime is something of one; she's a dragon with great powers, but flat out refuses to do anything frequently, and during the Final Battle, she almost refuses to take down the emotionally-crazed Big Bad because she feels too much guilt to kill him when her race already wiped out every other last member of his race.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Kaoru Kamiya is a national level champ at kendo, but she gets severely beaten in the first chapter and is then kidnapped several times. The only time she ever beats a non-mook villain is when she teams up with another girl to fight, a crossdresser. The writers Hand Wave it with the idea that all the major characters are underworld fighters who are so absurdly powerful that regular civilians Can't Catch Up. However, Kaoru's 10-year-old male student Yahiko is encouraged to fight underworld assassins on his own after less than a year of swordsmanship training, so we know that's no excuse. It's especially Egregious in RK's setting, where the presence of an Instant Expert doesn't make much sense in a time period where the strongest characters honed their fighting skills through years of hellish war.
- This gets inverted in Watsuki's other animated work, Busou Renkin. Tokiko ends up sitting out all of the fights in the third arc in the anime. This is because the animators decided to rewrite the third arc to emphasize the threat represented by the Big Bad Victor rather than Kazuki's quest to avoid turning into the same kind of monster Victor is. Because of that, all of the fights Tokiko participated in in the manga version of that arc were cut from the script in the anime. Between that and the fact that she had to sit out most of the fights in the first arc due to injuries, she comes across as a Faux Action Girl in the anime when she's anything but in the original work.
- Gundam Seed Destiny: Lunamaria Hawke is set up to be an Ace Pilot like her teammates Rey and Shinn. While she's certainly competent at taking out mooks, she suffers from a bad case of Overshadowed by Awesome and is largely there to provide emotional support to the near Axe Crazy Shinn.
- Mobile Suit Mobile Suit Gundam 00 actually has a dark version of this trope in Nena Trinity. While appearing to be imposing in her Throne Drei, the unit itself is very weak as it was designed for stealth, and the only things Nena ever succeeded in killing were a bunch of people at a wedding, an intensely loyal Hong Long, and Wang Liu Mei. During three battles in the first season, the Throne Drei got easily knocked around, and poor Nena saw it get brutally dismembered by a revenge-driven Louise with her Regnant before being cut in half after saying "This isn't how I want to die!", not to mention in physical combat, Nena was easily stopped by Ali al-Saachez and got punched in the face for her troubles. Of course, her fans in Japan and those on the Ensemble Darkhorse side of the Broken Base in the West like her more for her personality.
- Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit. Her claim to fame? Getting injured in a fight against a mere mook (enough to need Etoh's healing), a few defensive spells here and there, and being held hostage for the whole final third to set up an incredibly elaborate Rescue Romance. Oh, and being clingy to Parn, natch. The producers did fix this in Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. There, Deedlit nearly single-handedly defeats Shooting Star, the baddest of dragons in Lodoss, among other great feats of shamanistic magic. Instant Action Girl!
- Fatal Fury:
- In the games Mai Shiranui's always been Ms. Fanservice and Andy Bogard's Clingy Jealous Girl, but still remains a proud Action Girl and gets the job well-done when needed. In the anime, however, she's all too often used as a hostage to lure Andy out to fight and as an even more blatant Ms. Fanservice; apart of her friendship with Sulia and defeating Panni (another girl) on her own, poor Mai doesn't get to show even a bit of her strength.
- In the King of Fighters games themselves, we have Chizuru Kagura. Shinto priestess, biker girl, businesswoman, one of the three members of the Shingi Troica along with Kyo and Iori... but she's seriously injured by Goenitz in the 96 game (though frankly speaking, she does beat the shit out of you, as a Trick Boss), and in the 2003 one she ends up Brainwashed and Crazy by the Big Bad. For worse, if you finish the game with the Chizuru/Kyo/Iori team, she's completely depowered after Ash Crimson steals her Yata mirror after the last fight, so in the XI game Shingo Yabuki has to replace her. However, Iori Yagami also is depowered in the XI game, when Ash takes his Magatama away and leaves Kyo as the only one standing but still... Poor Chizuru.
- Ninja Scroll: Kagero, introduced as a supposedly deadly ninja who then proceeds to be repeatedly kidnapped and molested. Kagero actually shows herself as being mostly competent in the movie: she holds off the Mushizo's swarm of bees, and even in the scene where she was being molested, if Jubei hadn't alerted Tessai, triggering his ability to turn his skin to stone, she might have successfully killed him with the needle she was hiding.
- Curse of the Undead Yoma has a shrinking violet ninja girl, Aya, whose claim to fame is the big reveal as to how she got her scar during the climactic end battle. It's a paradox. She vanishes at one point and reappears without it. She regains the scar from Maruo's horse tapdancing on her face while she tries to hold it in place with her garroting ninja wires. Not the brightest attack she could have mustered considering it's about 3 times the size of a normal horse.
- My-HiME: The very Badass Natsuki Kuga tended to serve as the Butt Monkey whenever the tone of the show turned comedic. In its Elseworld spin-off, Mai-Otome, that trait was exaggerated into complete Faux Action Girl-ness. Despite supposedly being both The Ace and a Supporting Leader, she never once managed to achieve anything without blundering and spent a good chunk of the series depowered. Lampshaded in the manga, where in Natsuki's first (and only) fight, there is a panel of her crying tears of joy that she finally gets to do something.
- Shakugan no Shana: Pheles is a rare antagonist version of this trope. The way Wilhelmina talks about her before she shows up, you would think she was a Physical God. When she does show up, she descends from the heavens (surrounded by a tornado) to Ominous Latin Chanting, and the main character's expression is a very clear Oh Crap. Cue the heroes taking her down in about 5 minutes. And about an episode later, she subverts Defeat Means Friendship by revealing that she was actually a significantly less powerful doll created by the real Pheles, who is not at all interested in the talk the heroes have just been having with the doll. Of course, this would completely explain why she was taken down so easily by the heroes before. The real Pheles shows up in person very shortly, once again with Ominous Latin Chanting. Cue the Big Bad taking her down in about 5 minutes.
- An in-universe example from Berserk. Farnese leads the Holy Iron Chain Knights, but they never expect her to actually fight. The Knights are traditionally led by a maiden, so she is entirely there for looks and because she comes from a noble family. Not that the men she commands are any better, with a few notable exceptions.
- Final Fantasy Unlimited. Lisa is supposed to be a martial artist and a magic user, but most fights have her using a totally ineffective attack, then cowering with the children she's "protecting" until Kaze shows up and saves everyone with one summon.
- Fist of the North Star: Mamiya, who is supposed to be the leader of her village's defense force, spends more time getting captured or getting cornered by the bad guys, only to be saved by Kenshiro or Rei at the last minute. Reina, from the first Raoh Den movie is supposed to an elite general in Raoh's army, but all she does is get wounded fighting Souther's army. Twice.
- Saiyuki: Yaone is a really good example of this as well as the White Magician Girl. Constantly running around trying to fight off her opponents, she perpetually loses or forgets that's she's supposed to fight against them all together. These days she's just mostly left at home when the boys go out to play.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: We have Bianchi who defeats one opponent in an early arc, but is helpless against the later enemies. She later retreats to the sidelines as a mentor/home tutor.
- Fire Emblem Princess Sheeda, in the anime is depicted as a warrior fighting for the heroes' noble cause despite the fact that she consistently fails to so much as swing (or sometimes even hold) her lance when the fighting starts. She is, however, placed in positions where the heroes need to rescue her, given to helping the manly men around her by returning their weapons to them, and bandaging wounded soldiers despite the fact that she is not a healer, but a Pegasus knight. The most heroic thing she does is step in the middle of a fight between two good guys and convince them to stop fighting with The Power of Love. In the games she's a genuine Action Girl, never gets kidnapped and has a good spot on the Character Tiers.
- GoLion/Voltron: When Princess Fala/Allura isn't piloting one of the lions, she can barely do anything useful.
- Sengoku Basara: Kasuga shows very little skill for a supposedly skilled ninja. Aside from killing a Mook, her biggest action during season one was trying to protect Kenshin from Nouhime. She failed. And then promptly gets kidnapped by Nouhime a few episodes later. She cut herself loose, completely on her own, but instead of duking it out with Nouhime, she just... ran away. Keep in mind, Nouhime has little hand to hand skill, and usually fights with a gun. The fact that she could easily take a supposed ninja like Kasuga says a lot about her ninja skill.
- Vampire Hunter D: Doris is an extreme example. In the first scene of the movie, she's shooting down supernatural creatures with her gun; but after the eponymous D arrives, she's relegated to Damsel in Distress status and never takes up her gun again, instead getting kidnapped by the Big Bad several times.
- Samurai Deeper Kyo: Yuya is said to be the bounty hunter with 100% sucess rate. Too bad we only see her in action for a few time. Later in the story, she acts nothing more than a "damsel in distress"
- Virtua Fighter the Animation: Pai Chan has her problem in universe. She's not that bad of a fighter, technically speaking... but her ex-boyfriend aka the Big Bad is Genre Savvy enough to know know how to deal with her kicking-based martial art style, and so he trains his mooks specifically to neutralise her and so the poor kid spends most of her time getting beat down by non-mooks and getting abducted.
- Pokémon RéBURST: Miruto has yet to actually let her Pokémon out of its Pokéball and has never actually participated in a battle, allowing the male lead all the action even if he really could've used the help. This despite the fact she is supposedly part of an organization meant for investigating crimes.
- Tiger and Bunny: Karina Lyle aka Blue Rose is an in-series case, and treated rather realistically — she's a conflicted teen trying to live up to her public image as a domineering badass despite poor combat abilities that put a serious damper on powers that are actually rather decent, a ridiculously impractical costume for the sake of the sponsors, and serious misgivings about her job. She still gets stuff done because she genuinely wants to save people, but it's telling that one of her named, publicized special moves, the 'Cutie Escape', involves ducking and running from whatever criminal menace is trying to reduce her to a smear on the pavement this week. She gets better by the end of the series, gaining more confidence and skills to match.
- Vast amounts of Action Girl in Hentai have their problem maintaining their badassery due to the nature of the genre. If they ever win their first fight on screen to show how badass they are, unless there are substitutes for sex scenes, you can bet they will lose and get raped in the very next fight no matter how strong they are. If they're protagonists, only Deus Ex Machina can save them.
- Granted it's Porn with Plot, but Kamyla's "Special Police Force" appear as a whole department of Action Girls and pencil-pushers corrupted by the titular drug, but everyone was already more influenced by the Idiot Ball given they're essentially SVU yet their standard unis are short enough to give panty shots from every. possible. angle and Ageha takes down every Mook in her way backed up by Koyomi and Lily in a hideout until a hostage situation leads to hunting down the Big Bad without even telling her sidekicks "hey, I've been injected with a aphrodesiac that's going to turn me and you into mindless sex slaves." They get (a bit) better by the time of the last chapter, but any belief of their alleged badassery is distant memory at best.
- In Maranosuke, Momoi, a ninja, realizes she's this despite/because being the Big Bad's favorite/a member of the Elite Mooks when facing fellow member, Zegenshi. Her Endaban is stated/proven to be Awesome but Impractical (a mechanical ambush/assassination weapon that she never effectively uses and can't even hunt game with,) a flashback shows that her promotion was invoked the trope just because she was clan's idol (as in supermodel) and spared her from the fate of the other girls that were being harvested for immortality potion. However, she proves to at least be Weak but Skilled in knowledge of ninjutsu and the "training" with her master proved to be a Chekhov's Skill in making her capable of withstanding the title character's libido without passing out like legit Action Girl Mina.
- Zoe from Digimon Frontier only succeeded at beating one opponent on her own over the course of the entire series, and was defeated in every other battle she participated in, even losing to the Monster of the Week in the episode where she got her first Spirit; she had to be saved by Koji, who, along with the rest of her all-male teammates, easily beat the MotW the first time he Spirit Evolved.
- Yuuki Cross from Vampire Knight is initially presented as a relatively competent heroine, and she does try, but it becomes apparent from the very first episode that much of the plot revolves around protecting and rescuing the poor girl. She gets a little better after Kaname re-turns her into a vampire, but that's only for a little while.
- Most of the Pandora from Freezing Who aren't overshadowed by a God Mode Sue. The rest are Put on a Bus for a random amount of time. How much? Between the two female leads of the Unwanted Harem they have only won three fights. 2 over 1 for those keeping count.
- The Fantastic Four: Susan Richards had been a Damsel in Distress in most of the early stories, until rewritten as a far more powerful and effective heroine by John Byrne; however, under later writers, she didn't always live up to this standard, and occasionally degenerated into full-on Faux Action Girl. Doesn't help that her powers are way more inconsistent than everyone else on the team: The Thing is always super strong, Mr. Fantastic can always stretch and The Human Torch can always Flame on!...how many times have you heard The Invisible Woman say something to the effect of "I can't keep this up for much longer"? If her powers actually worked she wouldn't be listed here. It's worth noting that this doesn't always apply—she once single-handedly beat Taskmaster, a villain who could take on all of the Avengers at once.
- To be fair, even in the scenes where she's saying 'I can't keep my force field up much longer', she's saying that because she's trying to block enough incoming damage to incapacitate the entire team if it actually got through her defenses. Ben's actually the offtank of the Fantastic Four -- Sue's the tank.
- Spoofed in Adam Warren's graphic novel Empowered. The eponymous heroine is considerably more insecure than most of the other examples here, halfway between a Faux Action Girl and a pure Damsel in Distress. However, at one point her boyfriend reassures her by saying he admires her guts in continuing to try and fight despite knowing that she'll probably end up getting her butt kicked and captured, as opposed to all the other heroes who have it relatively easy. It's also eventually revealed that when she does maintain her confidence, her powers actually work, such as when she effortlessly rescues said boyfriend early in the story. Also a bit of a deconstruction of this trope, as her poor track record is a major source of misery for her; her self-esteem's pretty much nonexistent and her reputation as a crime-fighter is the exact opposite of what this trope usually calls for: She routinely gets called things like "Useless Lass" and "Captain Kidnapped". In the most recent volume, she shows distinct signs of progress toward full Action Girl status... None of which is acknowledged by her teammates, so we get a side of Inverted Trope to go with it.
- 'X-Men': Jean Grey, in many of the early books is a Faux Action Girl. While later writers greatly expanded her personality, abilities, and role on the team, here she is mostly a damsel in distress whose identity is based on her longing for Scott Summers more than anything else. Men often have to direct her in the most basic use of her powers. When the team trains in the Danger Room, the males are shown battling or facing danger, while Jean threads a string though board with holes in it. Things improved in the later books.
- Avengers: Janet Van Dyne, in many of the early comics, is a Faux Action Girl. In one issue, after she has been absent for the entire fight, she reappears on the last page. When asked where she was she responds that she had to go powder her nose.
- DC Comics:
- As a rule, Black Canary is an Action Girl when appearing in her own title or a team book, and a Faux Action Girl when she appears in comics that have a single main character who isn't her. The Green Arrow comic is particularly bad about having her lose to villains she really ought to be able to beat. She's rather infamous as the zig-zagging example of this trope and genuine Action Girl.
- There is an exception to this; Dinah almost never comes across poorly if appearing in a Batman title.
- Thorn became this in the Harley Quinn solo series, where she was essentially served as a tough-talking superheroine who would be easily dispatched by Harley and Ivy. There was even a multi-issue subplot where the girls got sick of her meddling and just kept her bound and gagged in their apartment so they could torture her for fun. Years later, she was made into a more competent vigilante when she reappeared in her own mini-series and a tie-in storyline in Birds of Prey.
- As a rule, Black Canary is an Action Girl when appearing in her own title or a team book, and a Faux Action Girl when she appears in comics that have a single main character who isn't her. The Green Arrow comic is particularly bad about having her lose to villains she really ought to be able to beat. She's rather infamous as the zig-zagging example of this trope and genuine Action Girl.
- The comic book prequel to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Jarael started out as a pretty Badass Action Girl in the first story arc of the series, to the point of saving protagonist Zayne Carrick from the villains in the climactic scene. Since then, while she's kept the fiery temper and violent disposition, she becomes incompetent dealing with anything other than Mooks, and continuously has to be rescued from Mandalorians, Corrupt Corporate Executives, and rampaging HK assassin droids, among other things.
- One Biggles comic book set in modern times had the all-British hero declaring there's a place for skirts. At the end he recants this sexist statement as his female sidekick has proved her worth. By pushing a single button. Admittedly it was the Big Red Button of the Self-Destruct Mechanism, but still...
- The old Nintendo Power comics of the early 90's gave us a comic based off of the original Star FOX game for the SNES; there the team gained a fifth member, the female fennec Fara Phoenix. She is the leading test pilot in the Cornerian Army and can fly an Arwing well; however when we first meet her, she's hopelessly taken hostage and runs off after being rescued. Later on, she and Fox playfully show off their flying skills, only for her to be instantly shot down by an enemy ship, and doesn't fully participate in battle or much else when officially on the team.
Film -- Animated
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Kida was planned to have some awesome fight scenes, but they were among the many things cut from the movie. The result? An athletic, well-built, seemingly tough Tomboy Princess who is introduced as one of the Atlantean warriors, and yet the closest thing she ever gets to a fight scene is a brief skirmish with a couple of Mooks before getting completely Chickified and put into the Damsel in Distress role.
- Quest for Camelot: Kayley, Kayley, Kayley. So certain of herself as being worthy of becoming a knight like her father. So much time instead she spends running from actual bad guys rather than fighting them.
Film -- Live Action
- In the first Mortal Kombat movie Sonya Blade sticks to the Badass mold at first, and has little trouble slaughtering her nemesis Kano. Later, all Shang Tsung has to do is grab her by the hair and arm and wham, instant hostage!
- Jinx from the James Bond movie Die Another Day is supposed to be a top NSA agent, and in an early scene she does manage to complete an assassination, but thereafter she only manages to get strapped to a laser Death Trap and almost drown in an ice hotel. In the end, she's given a Designated Girl Fight with Miranda Frost by way of consolation prize.
- To be fair, Miranda Frost is the Olympic world fencing champion in addition to being a first-class assassin, so letting Jinx beat the hell out of her in a sword fight is actually giving her a legitimately good showing.
- Van Helsing: Anna Valarious is another lovely example, whose laughable losing record is referenced in this blog post.
- A Kid in King Arthur's Court provides a very ridiculous example of this trope with Princess Katie. In the training sequence she is shown to be an excellent swordswoman, archer and horse rider, thus she should be "of course, able to take care of herself". Except, then she gets kidnapped by some Mooks, in broad daylight and needs to be rescued by Calvin and King Arthur. A fight begins. Now on the good guys' side we have Arthur (a very old man), Calvin (a nerd who fails at baseball and has only trained swordfighting for a couple of days) and Katie (who is young, fast and has trained swordfighting all her life). Arthur and Calvin fight and kill the Mooks while Katie gets kidnapped again. The same film also subverts the trope, however, with Katie's older sister Princess Sarah. The viewer spends the entire movie believing that tomboyish Katie is the tough one of the pair, only to find out that Sarah is the secret identity of the Black Knight, who has been fighting the enemy all along.
- In Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonean, Amelia Earhart continually insists she is able to take care of herself, but isn't seen doing anything remotely Badass except for flying a plane for about two seconds before handing it to Larry.
- Underworld Rise of the Lycans.: Rhona Mitra's Sonja is the leader of the elite vampire "death dealers," but unlike Kate Beckinsdale's Selene, she's almost completely helpless through the entire film. She's introduced while fleeing from werewolves, forcing her werewolf lover Lucian to save her. Later, he has to save her again from being overrun by werewolves. Later still, Viktor imprisons her and uses her as bait to catch Lucian. After Lucian busts her out, she actually manages to best Viktor in a swordfight, but he immediately uses her Standard Female Grab Area to trap her in a classic hostage pose, forcing Lucian to surrender to save her. After all that, she gets executed, while Lucian breaks free and successfully slaughters the castle.
- Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. Roger Ebert noted the incongruity of "a jungle woman who has ruled the savage beasts since infancy [being] pulled along by a television anchorman fresh off the plane." This is out of Sheena's character, considering that in the comics she's a Badass who takes down many savage animals and corrupt poachers.
- The Asylum's movies: Nearly every female lead dresses the part, and we're frequently told how awesome they are, but they do literally nothing in the movie besides move from one scene to the next.
- The Arcee triplets in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, who failed to do any major damage while chasing down Sideways in Shanghai, and end up getting destroyed in the film's final battle. Even their screentime in the film was under a minute.
- Carlie from the sequel also has shades of this. She's simply no Mikaela.
- Audrey in Daybreakers, she gets captured no less than three times, and the men are called upon to save her every time.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Ramona Flowers. Arguably it makes sense, because it can be interpreted as Scott having to get over her past and not Ramona having to get over her own, but we still only see her engage female opponents and eventually has to be rescued because she just can't stand up to Gideon. Being Brainwashed and Crazy may have had something to do with it. In any case, it is explicitly stated that Scott has to be the one fight and defeat the evil X's, and Knives comes off as far more of a true Action Girl by the end.
- Elven ranger Shulana of Mark Acres' Land Between the Rivers Chronicles, who for no explained reason can only kick ass when boytoy thief Bagsby tells her it's okay to go all out, otherwise she'll get trounced by mooks left and right. Really, she's actually more useless than ROLW Deedlit as she HAS shown exceptional skill, it's just that for no reason that ever comes up, she must remain a Faux Action Girl until Bagsby gives the word to whoop ass. Traumatic accidental death maybe? Due to this weird and unexplained character dynamic, the rotund middle-aged farmer woman, Marta, winds up kicking about twice as much ass despite the fact she was never trained for such combat and doesn't know any magic. Welp, someone has to be the Damsel in Distress so it may as well be the pretty one.
- Tallia, from Ian Irvine's first tale in The Three Worlds Cycle, is supposedly a master of armed and unarmed combat. Odd, then, that she so often is knocked out, overpowered, or otherwise comes up short.
- Alistair MacLean's (actually John Denis) Air Force One Is Down goes to great detail describing master thief (now secret agent) Sabrina and how good she is, then portrays her as a classic Damsel in Distress throughout the rest of the book. Most notably in a scene where Sabrina can't lie to the Big Bad because she can't keep her thoughts off her face (and she's supposed to be a former criminal???)
- Alice from Twilight beat her combat veteran boyfriend Jasper in a practice fight in Eclipse. He beat Emmett and tied with Edward, indicating that Alice is the best fighter of the four. However, in a hostile situation Emmett and Jasper are the ones who step up, and Alice's fighting prowess was never even mentioned outside that scene. It should also be noted that she can see the future. This would be a rather useful advantage in battle, though that doesn't explain why she wasn't important in the battle itself.
- Lampshaded by the definite action girl of the episodic morality story What Is This Black Magic You Call Science?
Unlike most heroines in this situation (where the dashing, rich, and studly hero saves her, has them fall in love over the span of five seconds, and they get married or something), Chryseis was not going to be rescued, and she knew this.
- Jaheira in the Baldur's Gate novelisations, to a painful extent. Gee, Mister Abdel Adrian, you think you caught a glimpse of her softer, more feminine side under "her usual tough warrior exterior"? If a fighter/druid can't deal with a spider getting inside her shirt any other way than by having you tear her top off (forced by the circumstances and by no means intentionally, as her husband just died a while ago, after all), then you can be pretty confident something is wrong.
- Vereesa Windrunner from Richard A. Knaak's Novel Warcraft: Day of the Dragon novel (Set in the Warcraft universe). Here we're informed she is just as capable a ranger as her sisters in the first "of the Dragon" book, and in that book and every subsequent one, her grand accomplishments include being kidnapped, marrying Rhonin, and standing around in Dalaran next to her husband leading one of the least active factions in World of Warcraft. In fact, just about every female he's written qualifies.
- Whitley from Wereworld who is supposed to be training as a ranger and who says that she can fight faints at the first sight of Drew in his Wolf form and later is thrown of her horse to fall frozen in fear
- Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter series may well be the poster girl for this trope. All the characters praise her for her bravery and her strength, but she proves rather useless in battle. Despite having even a personal powerful spell (the Bat Bogey Hex), all she accomplished in the last 3 books was: breaking her ankle (book 5), being saved by her boyfriend (book 6), and finally joining Luna and Hermione in the duel with Bellatrix, only to be saved by her mom (book 7). Ginny is sometimes mentioned as doing impressive things, but the reader only ever hears about it second hand. As a result, she doesn't come off nearly as cool as real Action Girl Hermione.
Live Action TV
- In Smallville:
- In the second season episode "Precipice" Lana Lang trains intensely in martial arts. By the end of the episode is able to take down a serious jock. But for the rest of her series run, these skills are never used again.
- Then the creators "listened to fan complaints" about her being this and had her come back in season 8 with Faux Navy SEAL training that she somehow got in eight months or so (this is absolutely impossible to do). That training pretty much gave her Charles Atlas Superpower. Then they made it so she radiates kryptonite so that she could have a reason for leaving the love of her life, Clark. Faux Action Girl to God Mode Sue, all in one season. There's a reason she's a Creator's Pet.
- Yuri and her daughter Megumi in Kamen Rider Kiva are supposedly some of the best Fangire Hunters, but they seldom get in more than two or three blows before the villain begins shrugging off their attacks, and either captures or starts pounding them, requiring them to be saved by Kiva or Ixa. By even episode five, you're rolling your eyes at them for thinking they can do anything, like Mooks Shooting Superman.
- Kaitlin Starr from VR Troopers is made of this. She was occasionally used in a real Action Girl fashion, but unlike her female Power Rangers counterparts (who at least got the chance to save everyone as much as the rest of the team) she seemed to exist only to beat up Mooks and get in trouble. One episode involved her losing her self-confidence because of the Big Bad, and the clips that played to show she wasn't useless were a few examples of fighting Mooks with not even an attempt at showing her against the Monster of the Week.
- Emily Sullivan of Jericho fell under this for most of the first season. Fixed from the Season One finale onwards.
- Kate, in the BBC series of Robin Hood. One of the other outlaws calls her "a good fighter", and she insists that "I can look after myself" even though she gets into trouble and has to be rescued by her male co-stars no less than fifteen times in course of one season. To get a gist of this percentage, keep in mind that there were only thirteen episodes per season, and Kate only appeared in eleven of them. At one stage she was kidnapped by an evil tax collector three separate times in one episode.
- Rose, aka "Sarge" from Cleopatra 2525 completely failed to live up to her supposedly badarse nickname. Routinely kidnapped, captured and tied up, she was pretty much useless. Worst example was one episode where, in trying to save her younger sister, she herself was captured.
- If you thought there were no Dark Action Girl examples, you'd be wrong. The Romulan commander in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Enterprise Incident" is easily duped by Kirk and Spock, and, though explicitly stated to be a soldier, the most badass thing she does is slap Spock across the face in a fit of Woman Scorned fury.
- Emma DeLauro from Mutant X. Frequently described as one of the strongest New Mutants in the world and deemed a good enough allrounder to be included in the Mutant X team and yet she very rarely does anything useful, especially compared to Shalimar Fox, the resident Action Girl. Granted she was also there for her psionic powers but if Adam was wanting a psionic why did he not just use Vanessa, a minor psionic character who showed she, at least, could kick some GSA butt.
- Tasha from Star Trek: The Next Generation. She's supposed to be the Enterprise's tough-as-nails security chief; her main contributions to episode plots include being kidnapped, breaking down in tears, and hesitating just long enough to allow Klingon fugitives to take hostages.
- Marie Gold from Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger (movie only). She is DekaGold, and has time-stopping power. But then, her only screen-time of power display is when she had her transformation sequence INTERRUPTED then poisoned by the bad guys, so the Dekarangers had to hurry and save her.
- Criminal Minds: During season six, Ashley Seaver joined the team for a short while. She was supposedly the best at the academy but did absolutely nothing to prove it. Season six is a season that most fans tend to forget about specifically because of her.
- Bo in Lost Girl is supposed to be the hero of the story, but the number of times she needs to be saved by Dyson starts to seem kind of high, after a while. She Took a Level in Badass in season 2, however, and has held her own/not needed rescuing all that often anymore.
- Isolde from Merlin was presented as a tough, no-nonsense Hot Chick with a Sword. She is injured in her first battle and dies in her second. Likewise, Dark Action Girl Morgana is meant to be a dangerous, volatile opponent with her magic and sword-fighting skills, but even before her Face Heel Turn she consistently failed at almost everything she set out to do.
- Most of the athletic female teams on The Amazing Race come off as this, save for Kisha & Jen, who are the only ones to make the Top 4, then they ended up winning when they returned for Unfinished Business. Generally, the strong physical female teams tend to get eliminated earlier than the ones who rely more on their intelligence.
- Sam & Renae from the Australian version are another exception, also making the top 4.
- A unique case happens in WWE when they are pushing a woman in a feud who has very little wrestling experience.
- The first one to have this happen to her was Sable who had it written into her contract that she couldn't take bumps. In this case she was feuding with Jacqueline Moore who in Real Life could go toe to toe with the men and barely break a sweat. Since Sable wouldn't take bumps Jacqueline had to rely on attacking from behind and using kicks in their matches. Jacqueline won the newly reinstated Women's Championship... when Marc Mero held Sable's feet down for the pin. Sable would only ever do about four moves in total in her match so one Sable Bomb and the supposedly dominant Jacqueline lay limp on the canvas for the 1-2-3. She would recover from this however and become Women's Champion again as well as Cruiserweight Champion while Sable ended up leaving the company.
- Luna Vachon also suffered from this in her feud with, you guessed it, Sable. They were set to compete in a mixed tag match at Wrestlemania XIV and in their training for it, Sable refused to learn how to bump and Luna was warned that she would be fired if she damaged or hurt Sable in any way at all in the match. So in the match Luna had to rely on her partner Goldust to do all the work while she acted as Sable's punching bag.
- A more recent one is Maryse who is a rare villain case. After her return she was immediately pushed in a Divas' title feud and the announcers constantly talked up how menacing and aggressive she was. Her matches told a different story - she would literally have her opponents beat the crap out of her for 90% of the match while the only offence she would get in would be a few slaps and maybe a backbreaker. If she was winning the match then she'd use her finisher. It was pretty hard to take Maryse seriously as a top heel when she only used one move and was never shown actually kicking any ass like the announcers claimed she was.
- Natalya unfortunately went through a rough patch towards the end of 2011. Despite forming the Divas of Doom with Beth Phoenix, Natalya was always portrayed as the inferior one and Beth was the one who got all the wins, while Natalya got all the losses. On the one hand you had the commentators putting over the fact that she was a 3rd Generation Diva and the only female graduate of the Hart Family Dungeon but then you have her losing all her matches and Beth being the one that got the pins when she won. However around the middle of 2012 she got a few wins for herself again and is back to being taken more seriously.
- While Fire Emblem has tons of legitimately badass females, it also has a few Faux Action Girls. Midia from the Akaneia games, for one. She's supposedly a powerful knight, but when we first meet her, she and her squad are in captivity. And she didn't get better in the sequel, when she led a resistance against an evil Hardin... and gets caught AGAIN.
- Lampshaded in the Dreamcast version of Record of Lodoss War. The hero finds Deedlit captured by some wimpy goblins and just had to ask, "How can a High Elf be captured by mere goblins"?
- A lovely contrast to Pirotess' buzzing about Marmo WITHOUT being captured. Yes, it's her homeland, but storywise Cardice's return is driving the lesser beings completely bugfuck bonkers aggro, so she undoubtedly has been doing her fair share of goblin weedwhacking too.
- In the Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace game, Padmé says she's been trained in self defence shortly before you are to fight through a gauntlet of Tusken Raiders, and proves to be useless, screaming for help and falling on all fours when struck. Strangely, you get to control Padmé as Queen Amidala later in the game and retake the city of Theed with only a few men by your side. The leap from Damsel in Distress to Action Girl was much needed.
- Ratchet and Clank:
- Sasha, Ratchet's Love Interest, was hyped by the creators as "a female Han Solo". Her supposed enjoyment of video games is never seen in the series, apart from giving Ratchet a console so he could play Vid Comics, and she ends up being the Damsel in Distress by the end of the game, despite having command of a very powerful starship.
- Angela from the second R&C title. When she's disguised as the Mysterious Thief, she offers up a very tough boss fight midway through the game, but later on she's captured by one of the villains without even putting up a token resistance, forcing you to come to her aid. Angela might be justified, as she is primarily a researcher, and even as the Mysterious Thief, she left most of the fighting to her robots or hired thugs.
- Soldier of Fortune:
- A rare Faux Dark Action Girl example. The series makes a deliberate point of having enemy female soldiers be weaker than enemy male soldiers. In Soldier of Fortune 2, the female Prometheus soldiers are coded to have worse accuracy and a crappier weapon than their identical-in-rank male counterparts. In Soldier of Fortune: Payback, the female boss character (who's apparently the Big Bad's personal bodyguard) is probably the easiest boss in the entire game.
- Madeline Taylor from Soldier of Fortune 2. She's introduced in the finale of the first game as a worthy replacement for Hawk, but in the second game we don't see her in combat and, what worse, she gets killed halfway through the game.
- Deviant 1 from the same game.
- Neverwinter Nights: Aribeth. She spends the first chapter dispensing rewards, the second and third chapters angsting, and the fourth chapter getting her ass handed to her by the player. Though she does improve in time for Hordes of the Underdark.
- Meryl Silverburgh from Metal Gear Solid started out as a Faux Action Girl, though one who was aware of her limitations and strove to overcome them. And in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, she did.
- Rachel in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden is a supposedly skilled fiend hunter who kills an Elite Mook fairly easily, but then gets knocked aside by a (relatively) easy boss, and later gets kidnapped by Doku for most of the rest of the game.
- Momiji in Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword. The manual suggests that she is a strong ninja, and the player controls her for the first level, which seems to indicate that she might play a role in the action as a secondary player character. Unfortunately, at the end of the level, she loses to the first boss and gets kidnapped, where she is held for the rest of the game. Omitsu is a skilled archer, but Sanji is the one who saves Sakura from Black Spider ninjas with his bow.
- In the original trilogy, Irene Lew, highly-trained CIA agent and the Love Interest of Ryu, suffers from this as she's a Damsel in Distress in the first two games. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (which actually is set between the first and second games) plays with this, as Irene seemingly dies while performing a covert operation, but Irene saves herself from this trope when she pulls a Big Damn Heroine moment to save Ryu of all people. Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox 360 features Sonia, who is also a highly-trained CIA operative. Her story at first mimics Irene's (capture, then saving Ryu's bacon), but she then gets captured again, causing her to fall right back into this trope. However, it's hard to be of any use in the Underworld if you're not a Badass Ninja named Ryu Hayabusa. Perhaps a sequel will give Sonia a chance to redeem herself in the vein of Rachel and Momiji. As the original games have apparently been retconned to follow the Xbox titles (and by proxy, Dead or Alive), there are some theories that Irene and Sonia are one in the same. Crazy, right?
- Mei Ying in Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb is supposedly an intelligent and tough sidekick, but proves herself to be borderline-useless during fights and even manages to get incapacitated and possessed by the Big Bad during the final battle.
- Jayne Magdalene in the Bionic Commando remake. In the prequel comic, she's shown as pretty competent. In the game, all she does is getting clocked, first clotheslined (literally, with his bionic arm cable) by Spencer and then stomped on by the Big Bad.
- The PK Girl actually makes this into a plot point, albeit a somewhat hamhanded one. Action Girl Saffy gets herself into trouble that you have to save her from, causing her to feel that she owes you her life and obligating her to try to save you from your problems... and that coincidentally puts her into more positions you have to save her from.
- It's easy to peg Ken Marinaris from Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner as one of these after you learn that she cannot pilot the Ardjet without an AI. But remember, at the start of the game Dingo tells ADA that he'd prefer to pilot without one and she shows him all of the stats he would need to keep track of to be able to pilot Jehuty, so as it turns out, not even the Ace Pilot can use an Orbital Frame without it.
- A variation, or possibly an Inversion. Amy from Sonic the Hedgehog was supposed to be an Action Girl pre-Adventure. You wouldn't know this though due to her being kidnapped the only times you see her in Sonic CD and her only real action appearance was in Sonic the Fighters. Once Sonic Adventure came though, she fulfilled her Action Girl status, though less aggressive than her, supposed, original AG status.
- Terra in the Ys series. Although she's apparently a Little Miss Badass, she is never seen in combat, and you in fact have to escort her at one point in VI, alongside the Damsel in Distress Olha.
- Anna Richardson in Geist. In fact, the only reason she experiences any action to begin with is because she's being possessed by the ghost of a male soldier.
- An in-universe example in Cave Story: Sue Sakamoto brags that she's never lost a fight with her brother and is convinced that she's a formidable scrapper, but based on the number of times you have to save her (hint: it's the same number of times as she gets into a fight), even her boast is questionable. Definitely an intentional example, though, as Sue is the only one who even brings up her fighting prowess, let alone tries to convince you she has any.
- In The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker Tetra first appears to be one of these, since she's a pirate who doesn't do anything. However, it's all subverted when she is revealed to be Princess Zelda, ironically being Chickfied in the process, but actually helping you in the final battle.
- The soundtrack to the arcade version of Double Dragon came with a liner notes that explained the game's backstory, which revealed that Marian used to be a martial arts instructor in Billy and Jimmy's old school prior to the nuclear war. However, the game itself doesn't do much of a good job of showing Marian's martial arts skills, since she is knocked unconscious by a single blow to the stomach and carried off by a mere Mook at the game's own opening sequence.
- The Neo-Geo fighting game version gave Marian some legitimate fighting skills in order to make her into a playable fighter, although the game barely has anything to do with the original, save for the names of some of the characters.
- Zoe in Bully, by way of game mechanics: her profile info says she likes to fight and makes a formidable opponent, but good luck actually getting to fight her. If the trouble meter maxing out for touching her doesn't get you first, it's more likely that she'll just run away. This is because the programming for the girls is all the same, and the rest are generally nonviolent except sometimes against each other.
- Trish from the Devil May Cry series. Apart from throwing a motorcycle at Dante (an attack which is easily brushed off), slaying some minor demons off screen, and getting into a catfight with Lady, she never does much that would qualify her as an legitimate Action Girl. Her most impressive feat yet is arriving in the nick of time and helping Dante deliver the last blow to Mundus... after Dante beat him into a crumbling mess with the Sparda sword to begin with.
- Although, she was under demonic control for most of the game, so it's forgiveable. She becomes much more capable in DMC4 and the animated series.
- Momohime of Muramasa. The game got a lot of hype for having a male and female lead, but she's possessed by the spirit of a man for most of the game. When she's properly herself, she's an ordinary doll-like princess.
- Star Fox: Krystal. You'll find her either off-screen or under fire and begging you to help her half of the time.
- In the original James Bond game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, CIA agent Mya Starling is your contact in the New Orleans mission, and it can be reasonably assumed that she can handle herself at least as well as the more actiony Bond Girls. You have to meet up with her in a certain amount of time before her cover is blown. Fair enough, but once you get there, her cover is blown anyway and her entire role in the New Orleans mission is Damsel In Distress.
- Rosechu in Sonichu is a blatant example - while the author constantly insists that she's a true Action Girl and she's allegedly as powerful as the main character, most of the time she doesn't do anything and gets captured as a Damsel in Distress.
- Lita in Jack had dedicated her whole life training to be able to defeat her monstrous father. When she completes her training and goes to Hell to face him, not only is she too weak to win against even nameless male souls and hellspawns, gets captured and nearly raped, but she also gets constantly saved each time by males like Cliff and Jack. And yet she's described as among the strongest female characters in the series.
- Brutally deconstructed in Sidekick Girl. Superhero Illumina does practically nothing to fight crime and takes all the credit while her sidekicks do all the work. She has gone through several of them before the comic started. One of her former sidekicks got fed up with her and left, turning to a life of crime, one wound up in a mental hospital, and another died trying to save her. She has been labeled as a sidekick deathtrap due to her track record.
- The Batman: Detective Ellen Yin spends most of her time being saved by Batman, one step behind Batman, or getting her hand held through mysteries by Batman. A borderline case, as she is competent when the writers realize they have no other choice other than solidifying her slide into full-on Damsel in Distress. However, she is promptly written out at the end of the second season in favour of Commissioner Gordon (thanks to the Law of Conservation of Detail) and replaced by Gordon's daughter as the only female protagonist on the series. (She did get a Shout-Out in a season 4 episode, though she didn't actually appear; apparently twenty years down the road she becomes police commissioner of Gotham.)
- The Batman the Brave And The Bold version of Batwoman fits this. She's a cocky, snarky Anti Heroine who thinks she is all that, but ends up screwing up and nearly killing a group of civilians in her only on-screen case, and then gets kidnapped during her subsequent mission to kill the Riddler. She ultimately ends up as a Damsel in Distress who needs to be saved by Batman and his allies, and is then sent to prison for kidnapping and attempted murder.
- Alanna in "Mystery in Space!" The men (Batman, Aquaman and her husband Adam Strange) get in trouble early in the episode, but get out of it without her help. Nevertheless she insists on coming along on their next mission, since they obviously can't stay out of trouble without her...and she gets kidnapped by the villain and needs them to save her.
- Raven, Jay and Lark, the Penguin's Bodyguard Babes from The New Batman Adventures fit this. Despite supposedly having martial arts training, the three women were frequently bested in combat by individual opponents such as Batman and Roxy Rocket. The final episode even had them dispatched offscreen and Bound and Gagged by an assassin. This is fixed in the movie, where they curbstomp Batwoman with little difficulty.
- Roll started out as this in the Mega Man cartoon, but by the time season 2 rolled around she'd developed into a proper Action Girl.
- Pepper Potts in Iron Man: Armored Adventures thinks she's cut out to be an agent for SHIELD. The same Pepper Potts whose usual role is to be a Damsel Scrappy 24/7. Somewhere Whitney Stane must be laughing up a storm.
- In Transformers G1, Arcee is pretty much a faux action robot chick. She fires her gun a few times, but spends much more time running away or getting cornered by male robots. Female robots got tougher after Beast Wars, getting into trouble only about as much as a single male robot is expected to, with Arcee herself varying depending on the series she's in.
- A villainous example would be Shimmer from Young Justice. She's first introduced as Kobra's supposedly badass bodyguard, only to end up incapacitated by Robin before throwing a single punch. The exact same thing happens near the end of season one, and in season two, she's ambushed and dismissively knocked out by Miss Martian so that the latter can steal her identity.
- Kitt Wonn in Dragon Booster. She is only useful in Darkness Falls, in which she uses a Blocking Stick and a makeshift martial arts kick to knockout a 10 Foot Long, 20,000 pound dragon, for God's sake!!!!!
- The Legend of Korra has Avatar Korra herself for most of the first season. We are shown that she mastered three out of four elements at an early age and she proves to be a Badass when fighting crooks and in the pro-bending arena. But then she starts getting her ass handed to her by chi-blockers of the Equalists, and nearly every fight she takes part in ends with her beaten, knocked out, or incapacitated in some way. Part of this might be due to her inability to master the spiritual side of being the Avatar, but when she's been built up as an experienced warrior since childhood, there's really no excuse for her string of failures. Thankfully, she gets better by Book Two.