Save the Princess

Save the Princess

by | Jan 4, 2019

In media, such as film and video games, the view of female characters has long since been an uneven one, with one of the biggest tropes being “Save the Princess”, a misogynistic story type that portrays the “princess” as a helpless woman in need of aid. Wherever there’s a fair maiden in peril, there’s usually an eager young man to step up and save the day. We look at some of the best examples of this dying trope and even some that have turned it on it’s head.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) - Save the Princess

The Original Star Wars film introduced us to Luke Skywalker, a farm boy that heads out into the universe to save a princess from evil forces. Starwars plays with the “Save the Princess” idea, but this plot point is only half of the story. Princess Leigh is not your typical damsel in distress, and her rescue is the catalyst that pushes our heroes into a mission vastly more important than saving a single incarcerated princess.

 

Super Mario Brothers (1985)

Super Mario Brothers (1985) - Save the Princess

The 1985 platform video game Super Mario Brothers introduced us to one of the first video game princess’ in need to rescue. Plumbers Mario and Luigi travel across the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Toadstool/Peach from the antagonist, Bowser. Alongside Princess Daisy in the Super Mario Land games, Peach would find herself in peril many times over in the franchise. However, Nintendo and the game developers realised how unpopular this trope was, and it has since been phased out, with a game even turning the tables on it. In Super Princess Peach, Mario and Luigi are kidnapped and it’s up to Peach to save them.

 

Krull (1983)

Krull (1983) - Save the Princess

The science fantasy swashbuckling adventure film Krull is a classic example of misguided narrative. The film opens with an invasion from an entity known as the “Beast” and his army of futuristic “Slayers”. When Princess Lyssa is kidnapped by the beast, Prince Colwyn takes up arms against him in an effort to save his betrothed. Whilst the mission leads to the destruction of the beats and the saviour of planet Krull,  this is just a side effect to saving the princess. The saviour of the planet really should have been the main focus, but the emotional impact of the love affair between Lyssa and Colwyn is a much stronger narrative device. Misguided, but ultimately stronger for the films story.

 

Double Dragon (1987)

Double Dragon (1987) - Save the Princess

Double Dragon is a side scrolling beat ’em up video game series that puts the player in control of Billy and Jimme Lee. It became one of the more poplar games in the beat ‘em up genre, but shared a similar story line to other such as Renegade and Final Fight, where a kidnapped girlfriend is the catalyst for the games action. In the original arcade game, completing the game in two player mode, would initiate a sequence where the two players would then go head to head for the rights over the kidnapped girl. This was changed for the home console additions, where it was established that the kidnapped Marian is Billy’s girlfriend.

 

Streets Of Rage (1991)

Streets Of Rage (1991) - Save the Princess

Where others game developers were happy to use the “Save the Princess” for their games, Streets Of Rage developers,  Sega disposed of this element entirely, having their heroes fighting to clean up the streets of crime. Blaze Fielding was one of the three playable characters, making her one of the first prominent female fighting video game characters. The sequel decided to even things up a little, but having one of the male characters kidnapped, in need of rescue.

 

Princess Bride (1987)

Princess Bride (1987) - Save the Princess

The Princess Bride is fantasy adventure film based on a novel by William Goldman. it tells the story of a farmhand named Westley, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from a loathsome Prince. Westley is an everyman character, whose adventure is spurned on by his love of the kidnapped Princess, a common trait in the “Save the Princess” trope.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989) - Save the Princess

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had already had a successful turn on television and a huge toy line, when the 1989 arcade game was launched. The cabinet was a four player unit that allowed players to take control of the four Ninja Turtles: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. Despite the many story lines available, the game saw the turtles best friend April O’Neil and their mentor Splinter, kidnapped by the Shredder. Developers and publishers Konami repeated the “Save the Princess” trope, a few years later in the Simpsons arcade game, where Maggie is kidnapped.

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