Dudes in distress and the badass women who rescue them

You may  have noticed that in the make-believe world of film, there are specific gender-based rules surrounding who gets rescued and who does the rescuing.It usually looks like this:

  • Men rescue women. A lot!  Pretty much the majority of all rescues. (See: Damsel in Distress trope).
  • Men rescue other men
  • Women rescue other women

The scenario that almost never seems to get any screen action, is a woman rescuing a man. Sure, you’ll find films with courageous women, but as a general rule, women aren’t shown swooping in to save a dude in distress.

Perhaps it’s because filmmakers think  this would somehow compromise a male character’s dignity. Maybe they fear the audience might interpret the rescue as being less a reflection of the woman’s heroism, and more a reflection of the man’s cowardice.

This fear certainly would explain why in those rare moments when a film does show a Woman Rescues Man scenario, it usually comes with a few of the following sexist stipulations:

  1. The man does not cry or scream for help. In fact, he’s usually fighting his heart out to save himself before the woman comes to his rescue.
  2. At some point the man should lose consciousness. This serves to spare the audience from having to see the him looking frightened or visibly shaken about what has happened to him.
  3. The rescue should not in itself be a complete story arc, but instead be contained to a brief scene.
  4. To balance the gender role reversal, at some point there should be a shot that emphasizes the woman’s gentleness. For example, a caress of the cheek or cradling of the man in a way that’s vaguely reminiscent of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus.

While these stipulations often make certain aspects of a rescue scene seem ridiculous, because the Woman Rescues Man scenario is so rarely depicted, I can’t help but smile when I do spot it. Especially when I spot it in a movie meant for children or teens.

So in that spirit, below are a few of the most memorable film scenes showing a woman (or female-like creature) rescuing a man. You can enlarge a thumbnail by clicking on it. Enjoy!

1.  Ariel save Eric from drowning in “The Little Mermaid.”

2 . Buffy saves Pike from vampires in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

3. Neytiri kills Quaritch and saves Jake from suffocation in “Avatar.”

 

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