Your Plot Device is Turning Me On – Part 2

Your Plot Device is Turning Me On - Part 2

This one is my favorite tropes to deal with and reference. It is one of the LONGEST standing tropes in literature and by proxy in video games and in comics and in – well, every form of media that there is.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “Damsel in distress” as, literally – “Young woman in trouble.” We are all familiar with it the trope. Think about it – Zelda, Mario, even going back as far as Donkey Kong. It has been featured in just about every major franchise in some way, shape, form or fashion, and likely will continue to do so for much time to come. Why? Because it is an effective plot device that works really well.

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Your Plot Device is Turning Me On - Part 2

As a plot device, this trope gives our hero something to fight for. Some kind of beautiful, usually blonde or red headed prize to be claimed at the end of the battle. All the obvious issues with this aside – this has been something that has been used as a storytelling device since well before the dawn of video games and comic books.

Some of my favorite Video Game Damsels are (of course) Princess Zelda, I grew up playing Mario games so Princess Peach has a special place in my heart. I love Yuna from the Final Fantasy series, and Kari from Kingdom Hearts. The list goes on. These are simply a few of the characters I happen to really love.

I have a really strong belief that the media we consume has a direct correlation with things we ultimately find attractive, and moreover – what we sexualize. Hence the entire premise of Rule 34. For those of you just joining us and not familiar with what “Rule 34” is – it simply states that if it (whatever it is – anything) exists, there is porn of it.

I chose this particular trope for this part of the series because it happens to be one of my favorites to discuss, and in some of my earliest sexual fantasies – I can remember imagining what would happen if I were the one to “Save the princess”. Keep in mind – I’ve known I was attracted to both men and women pretty much since I figured out I was attracted to anything. It wasn’t so much confusing for me, as it was overwhelming. I found myself both being attracted to the hero (except in the case of Mario because – well, that just doesn’t do it for me) and the damsel.

Your Plot Device is Turning Me On - Part 2

As a woman, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are inherent problems with constantly representing women as weak, in need of saving, and incapable of defending themselves – but I believe that it is necessary to both enjoy the media we consume, and be critical of it.

I remember some of my most vivid fantasies involving saving the princess/damsel, and seducing her in some sort of scene befitting an after hours “Skinimax” type movie. Scenes playing through my head that belonged on the covers of romance novels you find in the dollar store – or plastered across the sides of vans from the 70’s (There’s no accounting for taste here. I was all of thirteen).

Some of these earliest fantasies have impacted me in ways I really didn’t consciously think about until I started writing this series. The thoughts of fighting my way through the monsters to steal a forbidden kiss – the thoughts of what may come after. All of these things have subtly influenced me in ways that I am just now coming to embrace.

Your Plot Device is Turning Me On - Part 2

The damsel in distress trope takes a lot of heat – and sometimes rightfully so. I can see all the blatant issues with it both as a writer and as a woman. I am not weak, I do not always need a hero to charge in and save the day – to get me out of my own prisons so to speak. I would, however be lying out of my lie hole if I didn’t admit that the idea of charging up those stairs to find a beautiful woman waiting for me (perhaps with some shackles in a cell) didn’t turn me right the hell on.

We play these games because in many ways we all long to be the hero. To save the day – be it from the dragon, the monster or, hell, even our own over drawn bank accounts. The questions people often ask when discussing these tropes are things that have to do with moral standing – is this right, is this wrong…that is not the purpose of this article. This article is to discuss how exposure to this has affected you, and even subtly – has it awakened some kind of urges in you that lead to other things?

I’ve told you my naughty little secrets, I’d love to hear yours. As always, I will respond as the comments come in. I’d love to see this discussion.

– Lexxx ~ Bio

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8 Responses to “Your Plot Device is Turning Me On – Part 2”

  1. DevilSugar says:

    Ah, one of my favorite missions in AC: Brotherhood was rescuing the lovely Caterina Sforza from the tower. Especially dumping her in the hay. But can we blame Ezio? Who WOULDN’T want to roll in the hay with that beauty?

  2. glcorp says:

    I would have to say my favorite save is Zelda as well, just because she has changed over time and is not always quite the same.

  3. Cetra Blues says:

    Nowadays, this trope seems really dated and (for some) maybe even sexist. It’s a shame in a way… but I can see it from both sides of the spectrum. I’ll admit I’ve loved stomping my way through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Peach or trekking through Dracula’s castle to save my fiancé… but with all the variety in today’s gaming world, I think it’s time we mixed it up a little.

    That’s not to say we should abandon the ‘damsel in distress’ role entirely… but I think we could benefit from downplaying it a bit. That, or switch up the roles. Dudes in distress. What was ever wrong with that?

  4. Scond says:

    While the Trope is still prevalent in games, for me i wasent just set on saveing a princess, like Zelda for example, im not saving saving the world. i think the sassy, winking Windwaker version of Zelda aka Tetra, was a great idea, she isnt just a helpess plot device(until she is later, grr) shes a bad-ass pirate captain who at every chance, takes a jab at you with witty humor. Now then for the underline topic of has it effected me, in a way yes. its lead me to value strong female characters, and women in general much more, sometimes theyre oversexualizd, sometimes they are over hyped sacks of hot air. So when i meet women who accutally have fucking substance or see a character in a game with that same substance i like to focus on them, and as far as the real women i meet who optimize strength and character, i dig it. So, in conclusion, i belive the trope has caused me to look for women that arent the helpless plot-device, but someone who will have your back, and could likely kick my ass. so long story short, the trope has lead me to be interested in the oposite kind of woman that is presented within it.

  5. ANystrom0 says:

    Can someone please forward this and all contained images to Anita Sarkeesian? Thanx

  6. Lexxx says:

    Hey guys – I’m sorry that I’m a bit late on answering you all –


    @ GL – Watching Zelda evolve and grow and even become playable has been one of my favorite parts of the game series.

    @Cetra – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I’d love to see a game that turns this trope on its head and not in a condescending way. Seriously. I long for the day when the woman saves the dude…actually – my next in this series is about just that so KEEP READING.

    @Scond – Love that response buddy. Keep looking for the women who will tell you like it is and fight their own battles.

    @ANystr0m – Yes I did use her analysis as a template. You caught me – but we are looking at things differently. I’m looking at it from the point of view of arousal and what media does to the sex drive – she’s looking at it from the POV of “Is this healthy to be repeatedly showing to girls?” Two VERY different questions.

  7. Musical Anti Hero says:

    I think that the trope itself is tried and true, but it does firmly walk the line of sexism and gender misrepresentation. We’ve seen some girls who are rescued because they can’t escape on their own (Zelda in Twilight Princess, Kairi in Kingdom Hearts, etcetera) but then there are the times where a female character is totally destroyed for the sake of a DiD (Uncharted 2, Saints Row 4, etcetera). It has been used well in the past, but lately it’s becoming a plot to stick in when there’s no other blatantly obvious direction to take.

  8. Zenkitty says:

    Another awesome/thoughtful article from Lexxx! I was also big on the JRPGS (Final Fantasy III / 6, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound) in all three you do have to rescue a damsels in distress but they also join the team and become awesome fighters.