I don’t actually hate the damsel in distress character in fiction. I dislike when that’s the only woman in the story, and when the hero is always a man, and they always fall in love. But I don’t think it’s wrong to be rescued, or to need help sometimes. To my mind, we all have inside us damsel, heroes, and villains.
There will be times we can stand valiant and strong against our own dragons and the curses that torment others. Like a mythic hero, we may find ourselves uniquely enabled to fight the beasts that plague our lands. We can be heroes to ourselves and each other some times, but not all times.
At other times, we will be weak and broken, struggling to survive and unable to escape. Like dragons and witches in fairy tales, abusers try to keep their victims locked away, incapable of calling for help. In moving beyond the damsel trope, we should take care not to make needing help a vice.
We also hold within us the capacity for villainy, for cruel words when a kind one would do, for malevolent pettiness. I believe this villainous nature comes when our heroism is tainted with disdain for those we save, and when our own saviors never come to rescue us. Bitterness, resentment, and contempt corrupt and pervert survival into a competition.
It’s important to be a hero, but also to let yourself be a damsel or lad or whoever in distress. To recognize that pain is not sin, and that needing rescue says nothing bad about a person. It feels better to be the hero. There is more public honor in it. I’m glad to see more heroines in media. Now for characters of all sorts in distress.