Glad the title caught your attention. If you want a quick answer, they are both annoying. I’m kidding. Please continue reading. It took me a great amount of time to reflect on this subject. Hopefully, you will learn something because I did.
I don’t hate the damsel in distress. I think some of them are quite intelligent and resourceful like Elena from Pandora Tower (Nintendo Wii). What she lacks in physical strength she makes it up with brains. She balances out the protagonist pretty well. Contrary to what most people think of the damsel of distress, it’s not her timid personality or lack of backbone that bothers me, although that can be equally as annoying when she expects everyone to rescue her. However, it’s her unwillingness to help herself sort out her emotions is what I don’t like. My definition of the damsel in distress might look very much like the character, Juno, from the anime Beastars who barks and demands things to go her way. Why does she need to prove herself to society? She is already on top of the food chain. She is strong. So why does she need a man to protect her unless she doesn’t feel that she is enough? Another example is Aelinore, the queen from Dragon Dogma (PS3). I remember one quest called the Duchess in Distress, I had to carry her because she doesn’t want to get her feet wet! It’s so off-putting, and it must be a joke to the ambitious men who will do anything to climb the hierarchy class. I get the humor. I remember I laughed. However, as a woman, assisting Aelinore was twice the work, twice the burden. No reward other than me being closer to a dead weight myself.
Surprisingly, the same thing can be said about male characters, the bad boy type. The guy needs a woman to help him navigate through the world because he can’t rationalize and reason with himself to see the world in a better light. He needs a woman to save him from his wrath. These types of men were typically raised by strong women when the father figure is on the passive side or completely absent from their lives. I sympathize with the situation. However, they can’t possibly expect the woman to save them from their short falling, do they?
In video games (mainly Japanese games), I rarely see games played from the perspective of a woman, and not having male traits with a woman’s body like 2b from Nier Automata does not justify a solid woman’s character. Well, duh…she is an android. So, it’s hard to pull an example from video games on what bad boys are like when you’re always playing from a guy’s perspective, and if you are a guy, you always think you are right. Take Ryo Hazuki from the Shenmue franchise as an example, he travels to Hong Kong so he can kill the guy who has murdered his dad! That doesn’t seem like a good guy’s trait! But he is surprisingly a nice guy who just needs a little guidance. Don’t we all do?
But if you want to analyze the bad boy on a deep level, you’d find more of them in books written by women. Think of Beauty and the Beast as an example. Unlike the damsel in distress, the bad boy doesn’t seem to be a burden. Instead, he brings out the nurturing side of the woman, and thus it elevates her. Have you ever wondered why so many intelligent women end up with the wrong guy? Well, it’s a classic tale. By saving the bad boy–she feels as if she has won a trophy that set her apart from other women. Sadly, she is mistaken. It’s an imbalance relationship dynamic. When the story is told from a woman’s perspective, the bad boy trope is the same as the damsel in distress when we flip the script. It’s a one-sided relationship when one partner is objectified to make another feel superior while the other is being used because the partner feels incapable of helping him or herself. It’s nothing more than a self-centered relationship for both parties, the more I look at it.
So, what do these two have in common? Well, other than the fact they need constant saving, they are tropes used to mask the rescuer’s deep-rooted insecurity which is self-worth. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. The rescuer loses his or her self-worth when there are no more people to save. It may be a noble characteristic, but a detrimental one, especially when one is being used by the cry of distress. Now you know why I don’t like these tropes. Their distress may very well be just another form of control (a.k.a. emotional abuse). Sadly, it’s the rescuer who becomes the victim, not the distress.