The Damsel's Journey
What makes a DiD-scene a DiD-scene?

Firmly rooted in the tradition of Melodramatic Action/Adventure (& much older than The Car Chase, or even Blowin' Things Up Real Good), the stereotypical Damsel-in-Distress scenario entails a mandatory DiD-cast performing a series of mandatory DiD-stepsWe will discuss these elements, with an eye towards developing a Unified Theory of DiDs.
Take notes.  All of this will be on the final exam.

 The DiD-cast

                Nell, and Snidely



(Booooo! Hisssss!)

a.k.a. the good guy,
the hunk, "Mr. Right," etc.

a.k.a. the bad guy, the
"despicable cad," etc.



a.k.a. the babe, the skirt, etc.

Classically, the HERO is the protagonist, the prime mover of the plot.  The VILLAIN is the antagonist, the embodiment of the adversity the HERO must overcome to demonstrate his virtue.  ...& speaking of virtue...  The DAMSEL is a mere supporting character romantically linked to the HERO, little more than a means of establishing that mandatory dramatic element of all such dramas—JEOPARDY.  She is also a reward for the HERO's virtuous actions, melting into his manly arms at the final curtain.
Please note that the above is a description of the classical (& sexist) roots of the DiD-melodrama.  I am not implying that the HERO is or should be the focus of the modern DiD-melodrama.  I'm sure almost everyone reading this page is much more interested in the DAMSEL.  I know I am.  After all, would you rather watch some burly hunkazoid trying to get his rescue act together, or something like...
Rated NC-17 (...because of the semi-naked
                tickle-torture scene.)

ANYhoo... MODERN DiD-melodramas are much more diverse, & there are as many variations & permutations on the classical DiD-scenario as there are unproduced screenplays.

To note just a few:
The HERO may be a SHERO, maybe even a Warrior Princess!
The HERO & DAMSEL may be one in the same (i.e. Nancy Drew).
"Charlie, you bastard!!"
There may be a SHERO/DAMSEL CADRE (Charlie's Angels, Charmed, The Golden Girls, etc.) which in a continuing series presents the charming possibility of the Damsel du jour.
The plot may require the HERO to temporarily adopt the role of the VILLAIN & perform VILLAINOUS ACTS (like Indy not untying Marion in the first tent scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark).
"I am *so* worried."
The VILLAINESS may be the DAMSEL (or may be posing as the DAMSEL, or may get herself captured) which case tying up the plot may involve tying up the VILLAINESS/DAMSEL as well!
Etc., etc.  I'm sure you can think of many more. So, we have our cast.  Let's give them something to do. 

 The DiD-steps

IMHO the DiD-dance can be broken into SEVEN MAJOR STEPS.  Of course, any actual DiD-scene may not show all of these steps, but they all have to happen to give us a stereotypical DiD-situation.
I have one set of DiDcaps that quite elegantly captures (so to speak) nearly every step: The Misadventures of Micki the Lovely Nurse (Mareike Fell) from the Deutsche Soap Opera Geliebte Schwestern.

1  The STALK —The VILLAIN prepares to pounce. Micki! Behind you!
The VILLAINESS  is the Shadowy  Figure behind  the curtain.

One of the more "neglected" of the steps, the STALK is often little more than a gloating smile or remark by the villain.  ("I think we should pay Ms. Lois Lane a visit," etc.)
   I see one MAJOR VARIANT:

1a  The SKULK —In which the DAMSEL is the major player... the Nosey Reporter investigating the suspicious warehouse, the Secretary rifling her villainous boss' desk, etc.

2  The CAPTURE —The VILLAIN pounces.
Chloroform: the Villainess' Best Friend.®

Brute(s) force, booby- (so to speak) -trap, a simple grab (with or without a hand-gag), chloroform, kung-fu, lasso, etc., etc., many methods are used, & the DAMSEL's reaction to her CAPTURE varies on a continuum from meek "surrender to the inevitable" to being "dragged kicking & screaming".

3  The RESTRAINT —The DAMSEL is secured.
[Nice undies, Miki.]
[Nice undies!]

a neglected step.  We very rarely get to see the DAMSEL actually being restrained. (For example, in DAMSEL Micki's case, all we see is the VILLAINESS stealing her clothes, stuffing her in the dirty laundry, & spiriting her away.)  Perhaps a better name for this step is The PREPARATION, 'cause it's really just the setup for...

4  The PERIL —The DAMSEL is placed in DANGER!! 
Squeak! / Gurgle-gurgle!
"Sorry Micki, but I used all the hot water washing my undies."

You can't have melodrama without jeopardy.  This can be just the threat of a hostage situation, or as involved as The DEATHTRAP!, in which the DAMSEL is placed &/or abandoned in deadly peril, like next to a bomb, in a burning building, a runaway vehicle,
ye ol' sawmill, or something really elaborate, like making her the victim of an actual torture device (rack, wheel, iron maiden, bathtub, etc.).

5  The GLOAT —The VILLAIN toys with the DAMSEL.
"Oh Micki... is it good for you too?"

An excellent excuse for exposition, character development, for the VILLAIN to explain to the audience exactly what that complicated thing with all the gears, wires, & flashing lights is supposed to do, & that may be why we get to see it so often... not that I'm complaining!   (I really love a good GLOAT.

4, 4, 4...  Lather, Rinse, Repeat...  Writhe, Struggle, M'mpfh...
                    need a new agent.)
"(Does the damn cold water have to splash right there?)"

Very often The PERIL goes on for a while... for a long while... for quite a long while... to build... (wait for it)... SUSPENSE!  (Of course!  Construct & dress a set, pay to have some DEATHTRAP prop designed & built (or in Micki's case, have the plumbing connected), bind & gag the female talent... then NOT do an entire series of shots showcasing the helpless DAMSEL as her hideous demise draws ever nigh??  Get serious!)

6  The RESCUE—The HERO defeats the VILLAIN
"Here I come to save the
"Micki, darling!  (Nice undies!)"

...&/or the VILLAIN's plan.  I see one possible VARIANT (...or not.  It's more of a SPECIAL CASE, actually):

6a  The ESCAPE —The DAMSEL rescues herself.

7  The RELEASE —The DAMSEL is set free.
"My Hero!" {Blink-blink}
"Here, let's get you out of those wet things."

Another excellent excuse for exposition & character development, for the HERO & DAMSEL to decide what to do next, for the DAMSEL to impart information gained from the VILLAIN during The GLOAT, for the DAMSEL to make her feelings known to the HERO, for the HERO to whip out his... cell phone & make a call, etc.

Okay, but choreography alone doesn't make a show.  How does it all fit together? 

 Unified Theory of DiDs

Horny little devil.

  The Devil's in the Details... ...& quite the sexy little devil she is, I must say. 

...& the details are exactly how & with what the DiD-cast are performing the DiD-steps.

Consider a hypervolumetric DiD-space bounded by DiD-dimensions.  Now, consider a system of DiD-variables & DiD-equations... or not.   Let's take a somewhat less rigorous approach. 

Different things may be important to different people, like:
  • Is the DAMSEL gagged?  (In what manner?  With what?  How tightly?)
  • How convincing is the restraint?  Does the DAMSEL really appear to be helpless?
  • Is a favorite position used (wrists behind the back, arms raised, etc.?) 
  • How famous (& attractive) is the actress portraying the DAMSEL?
  • How much struggling & m'mpfhing is engaged in by the DAMSEL?
  • How good is the interaction between the DAMSEL & the VILLAIN?
  • Is the DEATHTRAP clever & terrifying?
  • Is there yogurt involved?  (Low fat or regular?  Fruit on the bottom?)
To further complicate the picture, "favorite" variable(s) of the DiD-equation can be overridden by a favorable conjunction of lesser variables.  (Courteney Cox in marginal bondage with no gag may constitute a nice scene, even for a "gag snob."  Similarly a complete unknown in a tight gag with lots of m'mpfhing imperiled by a hideous DEATHTRAP can ring the chimes of a "celebrity DiD fan.")

So, if different variables are weighed differently by different DiD-aficionados, & the bounds of Optimal DiD-space are complex & interactive... is a Unified DiD-theory even possible?  In a word:  We ain't gonna find a closed form solution for this one.  (...Bummer.)

Hmm... but if we take a Discrete Methods approach & assume linearity...
Hmm2... If Nikki Cox ever appeared as Batgirl, was captured by Musetta Vander as Catwoman, & Nikki was bound, gagged, & subjected to an elaborate rack-like torture device involving feathers, vibrators, & numerous kittens licking heavy cream from her bare feet... would a rift open in the DiD-Space/time Continuum?

''I've designed the
                purrrrfect device for you, 'Bratgirl.'''