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Elizabeth: What do they want me for?Maid: You're the Governor's daughter!
When a character, very often a young girl, is sought after by various factions due to her background. She may be a rich heiress held for ransom, royalty held hostage, a Barrier Maiden, or... well, The President's Daughter.
Generally, those interested in her will want her not for who she is or what she can do, but who she's connected to or what she represents. Though this is sometimes the case, if the girl is involved in a prophecy or has some extraordinary talent, the various factions will want to possess, control, destroy, or rescue her. It's distressingly common even for the good guy factions to want to rescue her not for her own good but for what she represents. Expect the more cold-hearted white hats to suggest killing her to avoid a worst-case scenario.
Usually, only the hero will see her as a person and ask her what she wants, and even then, it takes bonding through the course of the story for him to care for her.
See also Save the Princess. For more general kidnapping of women, see I Have You Now, My Pretty, Damsel in Distress. Compare Living MacGuffin, when the person isn't kidnapped or otherwise in danger, but (like any other MacGuffin) is intensely sought after. See also MacGuffin Girl, if the girl originally was an inanimate MacGuffin. Expect them to be kept in a Gilded Cage.
Not to be confused with the General's Daughter, whom you are advised not to date.
Anime & Manga
- Shirahoshi in One Piece. Vander Decken wants to marry her so he can use her ability to control Sea Kings.
- Chibi Usa from Sailor Moon.
- Haruka from Noein who is surprisingly the main character.
- Alvis Hamilton from Last Exile, the last descendant of the Hamilton family.
- Melphina from Outlaw Star is relentlessly pursued by every faction, as she is the key to locating the Galactic Leyline.
- Sara in the Sonic the Hedgehog The Movie.
- Karin, in the manga by the same name, is key to preserving the vampire race.
- Platinum from Pokémon Special is the daughter of the Berlitz family, the richest family in Sinnoh, so at one point Saturn hopes to kidnap her and hold her for ransom.
- In one episode of Gunslinger Girl, the Republican Faction plans to kidnap a Senator's daughter and hold her hostage in exchange for some of their members who are in prison. Instead, the government gets wind of this and replaces the girl with Claes, who happens to look similar to the girl in question. Hilarity Ensues.
- Princess Lurichiyo from the second Bleach Filler Arc is this trope combined with Rebellious Princess.
- When Hyuga Hinata from Naruto was a little girl she was kidnapped. She's the heir to the Hyuga clan, one of Konoha's most elite and illustrious families.
- Subverted. It wasn't because she was Hyuga Clan's heir, but because of her Byakugan. Of course, since the Main Head is always expected to be the strongest, Hinata being his daughter was only an add-up, plus the fact she wasn't marked with the Bird Cage Seal.
- Kenran Butohsai has this, very literally. Enora Taft is the daughter of the President of the Earth who plays a more than willing hostage and friend to the crew of Yoake-no Fune (Ship of Aurora).
- From Part 5 of Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure: Trish Una is the recently discovered illegitimate daughter of the local mafia boss. All of the boss's enemies want to capture and/or kill her, so she ends up under the protection of the heroes, thus driving most of the plot.
- Lady Door in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, though she is the protagonist and ultimately saves herself, her enemies consider her a MacGuffin to be destroyed and later captured.
- Layla Miller who was a living MacGuffin in the House of M comics. Parodied as "Layla MacGuffin" in Matt Gardner's House of M parody in Newgrounds.
- Grim Tales from Down Below: Mini. Freaking. Mandy.
- Escape From L.A. had Snake Plissken sent to rescue the president's daughter who voluntarily stole the codes to an EMP satellite to give to her terrorist paramour. Snake is sent to kill her, but can't bring himself to do it after she has a Heel Face Turn, and brings her with him.
- In the first film, Escape from New York, it was the president himself, whom Snake had to rescue.
- Lockout has Maggie Grace as the President's daughter in a very similar situation, trapped on a space prison.
- The Golden Child in The Golden Child is something of a child lama, desired by both sides. He doesn't count quite as a MacGuffin since his own abilities and efforts are conducive (if not critical) to his own escape.
- Lai, from The Transporter, serves as The President's Daughter. Other than as a McGuffin, her contribution to the plot of the film is negligible.
- Well, she did convince Frank to stop the human traffickers and saved his life at the end of the movie...
- The female co-star of the third movie actually was the daughter of a world leader, being used as leverage against him so he would sign documents authorizing the Big Bad corporation to turn his country into a landfill.
- Rush Hour has the Chinese Consul's daughter, and a moment of Lampshade Hanging when Chris Tucker's character is on the phone discussing the ransom payment with the girl's kidnapper: "Fifty million dollars? Man, who do you think you kidnapped? Chelsea Clinton?"
- The President's daughter in My Date with The President's Daughter. Very slight subversion in that the President himself ALSO legitimately cares about his daughter's well-being (while the protagonist didn't even know who she was when he asked her out), but the Secret Service is very much treating her like a MacGuffin.
- Similarly, Anna (Mandy Moore) is the literal President's Daughter on the run in Chasing Liberty. She runs away instead of being kidnapped, though.
- The David Mamet film Spartan features a MacGuffin President's Daughter played by Kristen Bell.
- Air Force One has the Villain use the President's daughter to force the President to do his dirty work. And later tries to use his wife. Fortunately, Harrison Ford is the president.
- In Tropa de Elite everything happens because of the Pope's visit to Rio, but the Pope actually never appears.
- The James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough features Elektra King, the daughter of oil baron Sir Robert King, who was kidnapped five years earlier by the Big Bad, Renard. Let's just say that Stockholm Syndrome may have been involved somewhere.
- Elizabeth Swann is chased after in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl due, initially, to being the governor's daughter... but subsequently mistaken for Bill Turner's daughter. In the sequels, she comes into her own and is no longer fought over... until being mistaken for a god in At World's End, when a bargaining session is held on who gets to kidnap her. She manages to negotiate her way into being declared Pirate King as a result.
- Jen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is also literally the governor's daughter and her parents scour the earth for her after Lo "kidnaps" her.
- Ellen Emerson White has the President's Daughter series of books, most of which were written in the 80's and then updated. Meg is not a plot device, but she is the first female president's daughter and in the third book, Long Live The Queen, she gets kidnapped and has her knee and hand smashed to bits. The fourth book, Long May She Reign, deals with the aftermath of these events and is very good.
- Coral, in Roger Zelazny's Merlin saga of the Book of Amber series, especially after she gets her... unusual surgery.
- Redwall: Gabool the Wild intends to use Mariel as a hostage to force her father Joseph to design and build a belltower for him. Things do not go quite according to plan.
- Jack Higgins' The President's Daughter.
- In Frederick Forsyth's novel The Negotiator, it's the President's son. Like a true MacGuffin, we find out that the evil plot really has nothing to do with him, he was just kidnapped to set up a False-Flag Operation.
- In Tom Clancy's novel Executive Orders, the President's daughter is kidnapped briefly by terrorists as part of a bid to demoralize him and draw the Secret Service closer around him so that the final Bodyguard Betrayal will be successful. It isn't.
- Lyra Belaqua in His Dark Materials is the "involved in a prophecy version."
- In Jacqueline Lichtenberg's first Sime Gen novel, House of Zeor, she had to introduce complex biology and historical-political background. To support the worldbuilding, rather than pile a complicated plot on top of a complicated SF premise, she uses a simple MacGuffin plot: The Gen protagonist Hugh's girlfriend is kidnapped by Simes because she works for the Gen government in the department that prints money. (they want to flood the Gen economy with forged currency). We don't even meet her until the climax of the story, and she clearly serves only as devices to force Hugh to infiltrate Sime Territory. The real core of the novel is Hugh's developing relationship with Klyd, the Sime who helps with his mission.
- In Neverwhere, Door spends most of the book being chased by everyone in sight because a) she's Lord Portico's daughter and b) she has the family ability to open doors. This is a lot more valuable than it sounds.
- In John C. Wright's The Orphans of Chaos, the hostages' abilities are extremely inconvenient because their captors want to treat them as this (Amelia deduces they don't come from democracies because of the extent of their hostage value).
- In Richard Hoyt's Japanese Game, the Vice-President's young daughter and a friend are kidnapped during a trip abroad, with the intent to sell them off as sex slaves if the VP doesn't cooperate. Or maybe even if he does ...
- Human Target, episode "Victoria", the Queen's daughter is targeted as she wants to drop her husband for an EMT, which would bring great shame to her family.
- Zoey Bartlett was kidnapped in The West Wing's Season Four finale. She's rescued in the second episode of S5 with next to nothing revealed about who kidnapped her or why.
- Unlike many examples, Zoey was a legitimate character long before any kidnappings.
- And her being kidnapped was foreshadowed/feared by characters in the show all the way back in season 1.
- Unlike many examples, Zoey was a legitimate character long before any kidnappings.
- 24 uses this, including a literal kidnapping example with Islamic Republic of Kamistan President Hassan's daughter
- River Tam from Firefly. Seems like everyone and their local mob boss wants to get their hands on her.
- Battlestar Galactica Reimagined used this with Hera, the first successful Cylon/Human hybrid. She was kidnapped by both sides, fought over, hidden from her parents and even "killed" in the service of filling this trope.
- In the Seinfeld episode The Pool Guy, the plot of the movie with in the show Chunnel involves the President's daughter being kidnapped.
- In Connor Undercover, Connor is given the responsibility of looking after the daughter of the (fictional) Cordoban president.
- In an episode of Merlin Lady Morgana is ambushed and captured, knowing that she is the beloved ward of King Uther.
- The Decemberists' The Perfect Crime (from the album The Crane Wife) has "the mogul's daughter in hog tie". We don't learn much more about her than that, but the "crime" is very much in this genre.
- Creature Feature's "Bound and Gagged".
- Rui, the girl from Pokémon Colosseum who can identify Shadow Pokemon by sight.
- Well, Eagun seems to lead Agate Village (her grandfather). She's one of only two (Megg and maybe Secc) who has parents. Yeah, Orre's a Crapsack World.
- Resident Evil 4 had Ashley, the president's daughter. Unlike most examples, the bad guys had a pretty good reason for picking her.
- In Monkey Island, Elaine Marley, the governor's daughter of Melee Island, gets kidnapped by a ghost pirate with a prehensile beard.
- Except that she's also the governor herself--of three islands. So this trope may not apply to her.
- Princess Peach in earlier Super Mario Bros. games.
- Princess Zelda from several The Legend of Zelda games, most notably the original. She is usually the key to saving the world and is kidnapped by the Big Bad in order to give him whatever power he needs for the game's plot. Traditionally, this is her segment of the Triforce, but not always.
- Zelda herself lampshades this in Spirit Tracks, saying that being a distressed damsel is a family tradition.
- Both Dynamite Cop games have the President's daughter as a MacGuffin, who -being a somewhat "handsome" young lady- also seems to have been borrowing Karl Malden's face during her two ordeals. Yeesh.
- "There's been a kidnapping! It's Rachel, daughter of the President of Sercia!" Ahh, Time Crisis.
- The Indigo Child from Fahrenheit (2005 video game)/IndigoProphecy.
- Estelle from Tales of Vesperia.
- Fon Master Ion from Tales of the Abyss is a male example.
- Subverted in Inazuma Eleven 2: There's an Alien Invasion using soccer to demonstrate their power. Prime Minister Zaizen and his daughter Touko both like to play soccer. But the aliens ignore Touko and just kidnap the Prime Minister himself, while Touko turns out to be an Action Girl who joins up with the protagonists to help defeat the aliens.
- In Modern Warfare 3 the damsel in distress is the Russian president's daughter.
- An episode of Totally Spies. Though that President's daughter was more of a little girl--and a Spoiled Brat--than a young woman, like Ashley.
- In the "Corey and Corey Save the World" sketch from the Robot Chicken episode "Federated Resources", Corey Feldman and Corey Haim are sent to rescue President George W. Bush's daughters.
- Sasha in Titan Maximum, who is a spoiled bitch whose father feels little more than barely restrained rage towards her.