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"When the hell did Hermione become a ninja?"
Tokezo Tenken on Paradigm of Uncertainty
"Oh Look, Dora brought a knife to the field trip, everyone."
Dora and the Lost City of Gold

The polar opposite of Chickification and a subtrope of Adaptational Badass. We all know Girls Need Role Models and Real Women Never Wear Dresses, so what do you do when you're adapting or sequelizing a work from a "less enlightened" time? Make your female lead into an Action Girl! If you don't feel comfortable putting her in hand-to-hand combat, give her a chase scene on horseback or hand her a warbow, because even a 90-pound waif can easily fire one of those. Her fighting prowess doesn't even have to last the whole movie; one scene will suffice. You don't even have to bother with intelligence or Character Development, everyone knows that Action Girl automatically equals one of those Strong Female Characters™ you've heard so much about.

The title comes from Xena: Warrior Princess, who is not an example but rather the inspiration, being something of a Trope Codifier for Action Girl. Xenafication thus can be defined as "becoming like Xena". At least once, this has been lampshaded by having the character go "AYIYIYIYIYIYI!" before kicking ass. Related to Took a Level In Badass and Adrenaline Makeover. Sometimes a specific form of Adaptational Badass. Not to be confused with Xenofiction.

Examples of Xenafication include:


Multiple Media

  • Maid Marian from the Robin Hood legends is an odd case. She was an Action Girl in some of her original appearances (fighting Robin to a standstill while disguised as a boy in one ballad). Victorian writers turned her into The Chick. Modern writers tend to make her the Action Girl again, with The New Adventures of Robin Hood turning her into a virtual Xena clone. The Outlaws of Sherwood, the novel, has Marian and Robin actually sharing the public role of Robin Hood. Well-handled, but definitely an example.
  • Superman's Lois Lane gets more and more able to KILL YOU TO DEATH with each adaptation. She's not bulletproof or able to go toe-to-toe with most supervillains for long so she still needs Supes in the end, but where once, "Superman, heeeeeeeelp!" would have been immediate, now (in this case, at least since the 1970s in Superman Family)... well, if the Big Bad sends five Mooks after her, you don't wanna be Mook one, two, or three.
    • Although given how many bad guys have sent mooks after her in order to get at Superman through her, coupled with the army-brat backstory she possesses, one would hope she'd learnt some ass-kicking skills by now.
      • Older Than They Think: In all of the early comics, Lois was more than capable of taking care of herself, thanks to the wits that came with her Intrepid Reporter lifestyle. She didn't become a stock Distressed Damsel until the Silver Age.
        • Before they were canned, Siegel and Shuster were even considering having her figure out Clark was Superman, and making her Superman's civilian sidekick, similar to Margot Lane and the Shadow. They even wrote a script, which is floating around on the Internet.
  • Marian, the ladyfriend of the Lee brothers from the Double Dragon video games who gets sucker-punched and carried off in the original arcade game, became a policewoman in the comic and animated adaptation of the series and a female gang leader (who just happens to be the daughter of a policeman) in the movie. The Neo Geo fighting game version influenced by the film followed suit and made her into one of the playable fighters in the game who can stand on her own against the likes of Abobo, Burnov and even the Lee Brothers themselves.
  • The Magical Girl genre got Xenafied by Sailor Moon and the Magical Girl Warrior subgenre it inspired, which today is what most people think of when they hear the phrase "Magical Girl".


Comics

  • Wonder Woman underwent this Post-Crisis; while she was already a superhero, the 80's version of the character played up her Amazon Warrior roots and even has her killing some of her foes.
  • The 2011 Post-Flashpoint reboot takes this up a notch by ratcheting up the Amazon warrior aspect even further.
  • A somewhat tame version of this trope occurred with Lois Lane's Post-Crisis reboot. Whereas her dominant characterization had always been typical shrieking helpless damsel despite Bronze Age attempts to make her Take a Level In Badass, her revamped continuity gave her an Army Brat past and made her highly adept at hand-to-hand combat as well as a wide range of weapons and vehicles. The very first post-crisis miniseries in which she appeared had her beating up and commandeering the machine guns of a gang of terrorists holding her and a group of socialites hostage on a yacht, while Superman lets her take care of things as he obligatorily carries the yacht to safety. Needless to say, this pretty much makes him fall for her even harder than he had already.
  • In the Fantastic Four, Susan Storm was originally The Chick of the team with a near useless power of invisibility. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby took partial steps to fix that early on giving her force field projecting powers. However, it was John Byrne who really powered her up by having her nifty new ways of using her powers and learning to get aggressive enough to really use them well. Today, she is now considered one of the most powerful superheroes of the Marvel Universe and even Doctor Doom underestimates her at his peril.


Fanfiction

  • LOTS of characters are susceptible to this in fanfic.
  • Smallville's Chloe Sullivan is a prime example. On the actual show itself, for several seasons, she was a relatively competent scrapper in a fight, but certainly nowhere near expert-level in fighting skill. Not so in the wonderful world of Smallville fanfic, where Chloe (who usually acts as a Possession Sue in these fics) suddenly can trade blows with the best of them, even becoming a sparring partner for Batman in "Chruce" shipper fics. Some fics do make somewhat of an effort to make it seem more natural, by having Chloe start out with her canon level of skill and then undergo Training From Hell to gain her new level of fighting ability, but even these fics often have it happen way too fast, and the reader is treated to a montage of Chloe progressing from a merely competent, average-level fighter to a skilled, dan-grade martial artist in a matter of weeks. Now granted, on the show itself Chloe eventually did Take a Level In Badass and become a very skilled fighter...but by the time that happened it was already Season 9, waaay after most of these fanfics were written.

Films -- Animation

  • Disney's Cinderella III features the classic Disney Princess escaping from a demon pumpkin carriage onto horseback in a tattered wedding dress with her disheveled hair blowing in the wind.
  • Disney turned The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Esmeralda into a street-smart Combat Pragmatist Action Girl who fights with Frollo's Mooks on a regular basis.
    • This may be a subversion. It should be noted that they also made her smarter than the original character, and that the character trait that stands out most about Esmerelda in the adaptation is her moral courage rather than being an Action Girl.
  • The Little Mermaid II completely flipped the roles of Eric and Ariel. In the original film, Eric had to do all the action sequences and save a rather helpless Ariel in the climax. Meanwhile, in The Little Mermaid II, Ariel was so action-oriented when Morganna tried to kidnap her infant daughter Melody, that she actually ripped Eric's sword out of its scabbard while he stood there slackjawed. Eric was mostly useless in the action scenes. Apparently only one member of that couple can be an action team.
    • Ariel was also generally far more adventurous and action-oriented on the television series, which took place before the first film.


Films -- Live Action

  • Rather than being a meek non-violent pre-schooler, the Dora from Dora and the Lost City of Gold is a tough teenage treasure hunter who fights armies of bad guys single-handledly rather than go "Swiper No Swiping".
  • In an attempt to make her an actual character (and cut down on the Loads and Loads of Characters), Arwen from The Lord of the Rings was given a big chase scene on horseback that Glorfindel did in the book. She was originally intended to fight at Helm's Deep as well, in order to allow her and Aragorn to actually interact, but it was cut in favor of sticking closer to the books. By that point, however, fans had already dubbed her Xenarwen. Liv Tyler even comments on this in the extended version's behind the scenes, saying she had done months of swordplay training to prepare for Helm's Deep, before the fans caught wind and dubbed her "Liv Tyler, Warrior Princess", and the idea was scrapped.
  • Hermione Granger was plenty proactive in the Harry Potter books, but a lot of it was mental work that apparently doesn't "count". The films, Prisoner of Azkaban especially, have made her into what fans call the "Pink Power Granger", thanks to the infamous pink hoodie she was wearing as she demonstrated this trope. Though to be fair she did get action scenes in the book even if they weren't as over the top as in the films.
  • Daphne was played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the Scooby Doo movie. That just about says it all.
    • Though that was given some reason (she was sick of being a Damsel in Distress) and years passed while she gained her skills. Plus, she retained a lot of her valley girl ways.
  • Susan Pevensie in the Chronicles of Narnia series of movies. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she has a scene devoted to training, while she's never seen fighting in the book (despite being stated in "Prince Caspian" that she was already trained in bowmanship). In fact, when she is given her bow by Santa Claus in the book, she is expressly told not to use it, because "battles are ugly when women fight". Also, in the scene when the wolf attacks, she gives herself and Lucy time to escape by throwing a blanket at it. In the book, she just climbed up a tree and nearly fainted -- though it's understandable, because would you be super coolheaded when a Big Badass Wolf who doubles as The Dragon is chasing you? Surely you wouldn't, kids.
    • In Prince Caspian, we have a horseback scene, though that is just a sample of her badassitude, as she was basically transformed into a brunette Legolas. Although Susan was an archer Action Girl in the books, too, it wouldn't have been as visually impressive because she disliked fighting, while the movie character didn't have a problem with it.
    • Arguably justified, because when they returned to Narnia, they regained the fighting skills they had after years of royal training. Peter was able to defeat the Big Bad.
      • Susan was also already trained as The Archer in the real world, whereas the much younger Lucy picked up her archery skills in Narnia itself. On the other hand, she was trained as archery as a sport than as survival means - which explains why she panicked horribly when Fenris was around, since until then she only had used her archery skills to point at blanks and not at living beings, much less wolves.
  • Keira Knightley plays a scantily clad sharp-shooting Guinevere in King Arthur. Arguably partially justified in this case, as the Celtic peoples from which the Arthurian legend is derived were known to occasionally have female warriors (as well as much freer notions of sexuality), in contrast to the later Saxons and Romans. Roman historians were known to use this an example of how "barbaric" Celtic culture was. Battle dress from the period, however, typically consisted of a simple belted tunic.
    • Although the movie producers most likely just wanted a badass Ms. Fanservice; most of the other members of Arthur's entourage, the knights, are depicted as soldiers (well, mercenaries) of the Roman Empire, even the ones whose names and legendary origins are Celtic themselves.
    • There's also the little tidbit that in the older pagan celtic versions Guenwifhar (Guinevere's original name) was a total Badass.
  • In The Terminator, Sarah Connor is just an ordinary waitress who just happens to be the mother of the future savior of the world. By the time of Terminator 2, she'd learned how to kick ass. Unusually for this trope, this is both explained and deconstructed, as her knowledge of the future apocalypse seems to have driven her over the edge and she has become almost like a human terminator as a result. This even gets some Foreshadowing at the end of the first film, as, after the terminator is defeated, she drives down to Mexico to hook up with a gun runner. By The Sarah Connor Chronicles, she's up to Jack Bauer's Badass tier.
  • Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean was never actually weak or passive in the first movie, and even fought alongside Will in the final battle. However, in the sequels she ditched the dress, grabbed a sword, and Took a Level In Badass.
    • It was partially explained for the second movie, with her telling Jack that Will taught her how to sword fight. It's justified in the third movie, since she's been aligned with pirates for quite some time and presumably had no choice but to toughen up.
      • You can see by the end of the second part, she already started to toughen up.
  • Alice in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.
  • While Irene Adler has gotten an expanded role in Sherlock Holmes adaptations for a long while, in Sherlock Holmes, she becomes a definite Action Girl, which is showcased in a Mugging the Monster scene. This probably has to do with the fact that the film also emphasizes Holmes and Watson's (canonical) fighting prowess.
  • The Three Musketeers 2011 appears to be making Constance and Milady into Action Girls, despite their roles in the original novel.
  • In-universe example in the live action Peter Pan film. Wendy's version of Cinderella swashbuckles with pirates trying to steal her glass slippers and gutting any pirate who dares to call her "girly".
  • Snow White and the Huntsman has Snow White donning knight's armor and leading a rebellion against the Evil Queen.


Live Action TV

  • In Lost in Oz, Princess Ozma is mentioned as having been trained from birth to fight the Wicked Witch, and is apparently in her 20s. It's actually a subversion, as by the time the heroes rescue her she's lost all fighting capabilities and has been enchanted to be an eight-year-old.
  • Nicely Averted with Guinevere from Merlin. It would have been easy for the writers to simply give her a sword and have her display unlikely physical prowess in battle ...but she never does. Instead her worth is founded on her kindness and intelligence, and she's managed to get herself out of several dangerous situations by using her wits or stalling for time until she's either rescued by other parties, or manages to escape by herself. On the odd occasion when she does wield weapons in self-defense, she's portrayed as a competent but hardly skilled fighter. As such, she's something of a Base Breaker in fandom, with half appreciating her as a strong female character whose strength does not lie with the ability to swing a sword, and the other considering her a case of Real Women Never Wear Dresses.
  • As mentioned above, Maid Marian from the BBC's Robin Hood had a secret identity as the Night Watchman, a masked and hooded vigilante who was giving alms to the poor long before Robin came up with the idea. Despite Marian having a reputation as an Action Girl and Badass in the original ballads, the Night Watchman was clearly an attempt on the writers' behalf to have a "strong, modern take" on Marian, an idea that (in the context of the show) was somewhat unnecessary for several reasons: a) Marian already had a vitally important role as the spy and informant within Castle Nottingham, b) the concept was stuffed full of Fridge Logic (why didn't anyone notice that the NWM had breasts? Why did Marian need the guise in the first place considering taking food/money to the poor was hardly illegal? Where did she get her combat skills in the first place?[1]), and c) despite being presented as a skilled fighter, the writers often had her thrown into the role of Distressed Damsel anyway (and most of her best Badass moments were done without the disguise). For the most part, the writers get away with it considering their Marian was a three-dimensional character in her own right, and the idea fitted in well with Marian's rebellious attitude, but often the Night Watchman just felt like an excuse to have their lead female do an occasional back-flip or karate chop.
  • Once Upon a Time does this for a lot of female fairy tale characters. Snow White in particular is an extraordinary Action Girl more than willing to fight anyone who tries to keep her away from Prince Charming (at one point planning to snipe the Evil Queen with a magic bow and Instant Death Arrow). Little Red Riding Hood also kicks copious amounts of ass, though in her case, it's because she is the Wolf in this adaptation--the trademark red cloak is an enchanted item that keeps her from transforming, and once she finds out the truth, she uses her wolf form to help her friends--after making sure they get far away from her first.


Professional Wrestling

  • Jacqueline Moore was originally brought into WWE to feud with Sable and due to the latter's contract saying she couldn't take bumps, she came off looking rather weak. About a year passed and Jackie was able to show off her true ring skills, often getting in matches with men and even briefly winning the male Cruiserweight title.
  • The WWE Divas as a whole got a big boost in 2002-ish when more time and effort went into matches, storylines and pushing women who could actually wrestle. The Divas got to wrestle in rougher matches as well such as hardcore matches, tables matches and even a steel cage match. These days they tend to hover between this and how they used to be.
  • Trish Stratus is one of the more famous examples, being just a model when she was hired and eventually honing her ring skills to become one of the best female wrestlers in history.
  • In general the majority Diva Search contestants and models who were hired by WWE trained down in developmental and a lot of them evolved into good in ring workers. Michelle McCool is one of the more notable examples but others include Layla El, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox and Kelly Kelly.
    • They have to be. Women wrestlers are far more expendable than male wrestlers in the WWE. This is because management believes that, unlike men, a woman wrestler's marketability fades with her looks.


Video Games

  • The Dynasty Warriors series does this for Zhen Ji, Yue Ying, and Diao Chan. Sun Shang Xiang is a borderline example as she was known as something of an Action Girl by the standards of her time.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Amy Rose was kidnapped in her first video game appearance in Sonic CD. She was given a Piko Piko Hammer in Sonic Adventure (well...Sonic Fighters) and was more than capable of taking care of herself.
    • Prior to that, she had a mild form of this. Her Informed Ability of being a spunky tomboy who could fend for herself started coming into light with the racing games and Sonic the Fighters.. Though she's gotten less tomboyish over the years.
  • Kairi in the first Kingdom Hearts game spent 80% of the story inside of Sora's heart, with her body an empty shell. In the second game she acquires a Keyblade and is able to kick plenty of ass to save Sora and the others.
    • While Ariel in The Little Mermaid franchise qualified as an Action Girl, she was made into a guest party member in Kingdom Hearts and kicked more ass than she did in the movie or TV series (though neither of them had Heartless so who's to say she wasn't already like that?).
  • Yuna in Final Fantasy X 2. She goes from being a White Mage / Songstress / Summoner (All the stock 'female' jobs in that franchise) to being gun slinging Action Girl who thanks to the metagame Dressphere system, can be any of several 'boyish' jobs such as Warrior, Dark Knight and Berserker.
  • Princess Zelda has progressively become more active in the games as the series went on. Originally just a classic Distressed Damsel, in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time she gained the badass (though male) alter-ego Sheik, who admittedly didn't do much against the actual Big Bad. But in the later games, starting with The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, it became her schtick to fire Light Arrows at Ganon during the final battle, and in The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks she even helps Link push his sword into Malladus' head. The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword has her spending most of the game entombed in crystal and serving as a Distressed Damsel again at the very end, but the first part has her getting all the way through one and a half major areas by herself before getting caught and needing Impa's help for bodyguard services, not to mention her backstory.
  • Princess Peach goes through this for every spinoff game. In the main series, she rarely does more than get kidnapped by a turtle, but in other games she tends to be a very strong and capable character. Most notably in Super Smash Bros, where she is a very powerful fighter for her weight class.
    • Super Mario 3D Land has Peach become strong enough to actually escape Bowser's Lair on her own. However, she is not competent enough to get away before recapture. Still, A for effort.
      • Paper Mario actually allowed the player, as Peach, to sneak around the captured castle and help Mario by gathering information, sending him useful items and badges, and essentially causing trouble for Bowser and his minions. She also gives Mario the power needed to finally beat Bowser in the final battle.
      • And in Super Paper Mario, Peach becomes a fully playable character who escapes Castle Bleck without outside help, argues with a nerdy chameleon (and breaks his date mod), and duels Mimi near the endgame. In short, this once frequently-kidnapped woman now kicks some serious ass.
    • On a similar note, Princess Daisy. When she was first introduced in Super Mario Land, she was actually portrayed as a Distressed Damsel where she is kidnapped by the evil alien Tatanga, and Mario had to defeat the alien to save her. Now, she's a Tomboy Princess who appears in various spinoff games alongside Peach and prefers competing in sporting events more.


Western Animation

  • In The Legend of Zelda cartoon, Zelda got xenafied. She could use all of Link's weapons except his sword, and favored, of course, the bow and arrow. Her fighting ability seemed to swing wildly from episode to episode, from only nominally competent to almost as good as Link himself.
    • She did use Link's sword while his spirit was split from his body, which effectively rendered him useless. However, she wasn't very good at it and still proved she needed to be saved....twice. This is not including all the other times throughout the animated series that she had needed to be saved.
    • Although, while she did need to get rescued quite a few times, she still managed to be fairly competent at saving herself. Plus, did you see the recoil on that sword beam? Thing fires like a shotgun.
    • Prior to the cartoon, or really around the same time in Japan, the first manga made Zelda into an Action Girl. She also seems to have aged a bit, not being an eleven year old like in the games.
  • While Princess Allura wasn't completely frail and helpless in the original Voltron, her Legendary Defender incarnation was a competent and self-assured member of the team from the beginning, even before she became a Paladin. When Blue chose her following Shiro's disappearance, she adjusted to her new role rather quickly and could more than hold her own in battle alongside the others.

Notes

  1. She claims her father had her trained so that she "would have choices", but given that Sir Edward spends the entire show fretting over her and forbidding her to do things means that this explanation makes even less sense
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