So, there I was, idly flitting yet again through the channels on my satellite receiver when I stumbled across that channel. You know which one – it seems to cater to a select audience, by producing new versions of well know television programs. This time, it opened on a shot of a brick wall, which exploded out of the screen as the title “Mythbusters” appeared, followed by two men in casual clothes. Well, it had never let me down before, so I settled down to see what they were saying this time.
“Good evening, and welcome to Mythbusters, where we tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Tonight, we explore the myth of the damsel in distress on television and movies – and show you just what you need to do to properly control your damsel. Jack?”
“Thanks, Jeff. You’ve seen her in movies and on television – the young lady in the clutches of the fiendish villain, sitting there with that look in her eyes as a piece of cloth covers her mouth and her hands are tied together in front of her.”
As John walked across the screen, a young girl in a flimsy summer dress could be seen, her eyes wide under the fringe of her blonde hair. Her hands were in her lap, held together with coils of cord, while a thin muslin scarf was tied over her lips – in fact, you could see her rouged lisp through the material.
“Now, in the land of illusion that is the cinema and television, this seems to be enough to hold the poor victim still in abject terror. Well, if she was indeed paralysed with fear, then certainly she might not move or speak, but it would take the most abject of terror – like, say, the loaded rifle that we have pointing at this young lady right now.”
The shot pulled back to show the gun that was pointing at the young lady. Jeff took hold of the gun and placed it to one side.
“In reality, of course, that would never happen, because...” The girl opened her mouth and said quite clearly “because this will silence nobody.” She stood up and pulled the scarf down around her neck, before shaking the ropes off her hands. “So just what does it take to silence and hold a damsel in distress? Today, on Mythbusters, we explore the truth – right after this break.”
Well, I for one wanted to see more, so I poured a beer and sat down to watch some more. The young girl appeared on the screen.
“Welcome back to Mythbusters. Let’s look at the first thing about a damsel in distress – is it enough to tie her wrists together to stop her using her hands. Jack?”
“Thank you Jill. Hollywood would have you believe that just wrapping a few lengths of rope around a girl’s wrists is enough to hold her helpless – as if she had been held in Wonder Woman’s lasso. Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case. Jeff?”
“Here in these seats are four women, all volunteers for today.” There were indeed four women, identically dressed in white blouses, jeans and sandals, sitting and smiling at the camera.
“First, Miss Brown here will show the traditional method used in Hollywood.” Jack took a length of cord, and quickly tied them around the brown haired girl’s wrists in several loops, the knot sitting on top of the coils. “This, according to the old films, was all you needed to do – tie her wrists together and she would be helpless. Some more recent films may try a slightly more restrictive approach, as seen here with Miss Red.” Using a second length of rope, this time he doubled it over and passed it around her wrists several times, palm to palm, before using the ends to cinch the ropes between her wrists, pulling the coils firmly around her arms before tying the ends together.
“Now, Miss Red has her hands tied palm to palm, as they say in the trade. With Miss Black here we will cross the wrists, but essentially do the same thing.” The raven haired beauty was so bound, leaving a blonde haired girl at the end of the row.
“For Miss Blonde, we are going to do something else,” Jack said as he took a longer length of rope. He tied her wrists together palm to palm, but also tied her wrists down to her legs as she sat in the chair. “Each girl is also going to get the same thin scarf over her mouth,” Jack said as Jeff applied a thin cotton scarf over their mouths.
“Now, I want each of you to remove the gag, get your wrists free and stand up,” Jack said as he stood by a clock. “On your marks, get set – GO!”
What followed was fascinating. Miss Red simply shook her wrists around, and as the rope simply slipped off she reached up and pulled the scarf down. Miss Red and Miss Black both shook their arms, but then reached up and simply pulled the scarf off their mouths, before using their teeth to undo the knot. Only Miss Blonde struggled as she tried to lean forward and bring her head down to her knees, then bring her knees up, before a combination of the two just about allowed her to pull the scarf away from her mouth. Even then, she had to do some fairly impressive gymnastic movements to try and untie her wrists.
“What this shows us,” Jack said as Miss Blonde finally freed her wrists, “is that the old idea of simply tying the wrists together is not enough, either to hold them together or else prevent the damsel removing the gag. Join us after the break when we see if we can’t find a different way to secure our lovely volunteers.”
“Welcome back – and this time we look at just how secure the way Hollywood makes their damsels is if we secure their wrists behind their back. Jill?”
“Thanks, Jack. Here are our four volunteers again,” she said as the four women came into view, “but this time we have secured their hands together behind their backs in four different ways. Which one is going to be the most difficult for them to get out of?”
All four were still dressed in blouses and jeans. Miss Blonde, possibly because she drew the short straw last time, was shown to have her wrists simply tied together with cords, while Miss Red had her hands tied together, palm to palm, and the coils cinched. Miss Black had her wrists crossed, but Miss Brown had her wrist tied to her elbows as her forearms were parallel to each other across her back.
“No scarves this time, ladies – just get your wrists free as quickly as possible. In three... two... one... GO!”
Well, this was a sight to behold. It was obvious all four ladies were lithe and athletic, but as I watched Miss Blonde simply sit down and manoeuvre herself so that she brought her bottom through her arms and somehow brought them around and over her feet, I had to stop myself from applauding. Miss Black and Miss Brown stood together, back to back, as Miss Brown used her fingers to probe for and start to untie the knot in Miss Black’s ropes.
Only poor Miss Red was distraught – the box manner in which her wrists had been tied meant she was unable to use her own hand sot untie herself, while I noticed the small ropes that had been tied between her wrists and elbows – a nice little touch. In the end she had to wait for Miss Blonde to untie her wrists with her teeth before coming over to help her.
“Well now,” Jeff said as Miss Red rubbed her wrists, “So far we’ve busted two Hollywood myths. It’s not a good idea to tie your damsel’s wrists in front of her, unless you secure them to something else, and it’s not even enough to tie her hands behind her back if she has a way to get loose, or some help to call on. Miss Blonde was the most secure, but for the villain in a hurry that may be too fiddly.
“So, how do we secure the wrists of a damsel so that she cannot get free very easily? Jack – perhaps you can show us.”
“With the assistance of the lovely Jill,” Jack said as he walked over to Jill, “I shall. First things first – you cannot suppose there is a handy chair or something else to secure her to, so you need to know how to do this without that help. Our friends in the East have a number of other ways of achieving this, but today I’ll show you the traditional Western method. Jill, why don’t you stand with your back to the cameras for a few minutes?”
As Jill turned round, Jack picked up a length of white cord and doubled it over. “First, take your rope and fold it in half, keeping hold of the ends in one hand and the loop in the other,” he said as he walked over. “I’m going to ask Jill to cross her wrists, with the palms facing outwards – this gives minimal opportunity for her to use her fingers to probe for the knot.
“While the way Miss Red is one of the surest ways to make sure your damsel cannot use her hands, we will opt for a simple tie – at first.” With that, he quickly bound Jill’s wrists together, wrapping the rope around her wrists and then passing it between them to tighten the coils, before tying the ends off and making sure the knot was out of reach of her fingers.
“Now, we need to make sure that Jill cannot repeat the way Miss Blonde managed to get free. There are three ways to make sure of this – and we’re going to show all three here. First, we tie the arms more tightly together by using a rope to secure them around her arms near her elbows.”
Jill gasped as he pulled her elbows together, making sure they were secured before turning her round. “As you can see, the ropes have pulled her shoulders back, but it is now impossible for her to pull her arms over her legs.
“She could still use them, however, to grab something to cut the ropes with, so we move to the next stage.” He took a longer length, and turned Jill round to tie the rope between her wrists. He then passed it around her waist, so that her hands were pinned against the small of the back, and tied the ends together in front of her.
“So, Jill, do you think you can get your hands free now?”
“No, Jack, I don’t think I can. What is the third way you mentioned?”
“I’m glad you asked. If we were sitting you in a chair, we would sue some rope to secure you to the back – as we’re not, we will instead use it to secure your arms to your side.”
It only took a few minutes for him to pass a rope around her arms and chest, above and below her breasts, and pull the coils together behind her back before tying the ends of the rope down against her wrists. He turned Jill round, saying “There now – our damsel’s arms are totally secured. Jeff?”
“After the break – how do they stop the damsel running away? Back in a few minutes...”
I was entranced by the sight of Jill – her lacy bra was visible through the thin summer dress, and her breasts had been pushed out so that the first few buttons on the top half had come undone. She genuinely looked as if she was not going to get out of that one without help – but they were right, she could run away at any time.
Fortunately, they had that covered...
“Welcome back!” In the background, Jill was sitting on a stool as Jack and Jeff came forward. Before the break, we had Jill as our damsel secured and unable to use her arms – but she could still run away, so how do we stop that? Once again, in Hollywood simply typing her ankles together is the way, but is that really enough? Let’s put it to the test. Jack?”
“Here are our four testers, and we’re going to try three scenarios out first. Number one – how should the ankles be secured? Miss Brown has the traditional manner – feet together, rope around, no cinching. Miss Red has the same, but with cinching, while Miss Blonde has her ankles crossed. As for poor Miss Black – well, take a look.”
Miss Black has indeed drawn the short straw. She was sitting in the lotus position, with rope securing each ankle to the knee of the opposite leg.
“All four will pretend their hands are bound, behind their back – but who will be the first to get out of the ropes? In three... two... one...”
Well, it was no contest – but surprisingly, it was not Miss Brown but Miss Red who was first, as she managed somehow to wriggle one foot out from the ropes around it. Miss Red was soon after, while it took a few minutes for Miss Blonde to twist her ankles so they were side by side, using the slack she gained in doing so to get out. Only poor Miss Black was left to struggle as the klaxon sounded.
“So, the Hollywood method is not the most secure, although Miss Red did score points for ingenuity – she didn’t get totally free, but free enough. Now, having assumed they could not get free, how easy is it for the four women to move when their ankles are tied as they were? As Jeff re-secures our three volunteers and lines them all up, let’s take a look at some classic clips of times when rope was not the binding material of choice.”
There followed a compilation of classic films, such as Three Days of The Condor, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, and others where tape, ties and scarves were used. Eventually, we came back to the four women sitting on the floor.
“Ladies – first person to manage to get to the telephone on the table is the winner. On your marks, get set... GO!”
Miss Brown pushed her body up so that she was standing on her feet, and began to shuffle forwards. Miss Red took a similar approach, but as she realised she could not even shuffle her feet she started to hop in short bunny hops. Miss Blonde began to do a “bump and grind” as she used her feet to pull her bottom forward, while Miss Black began to try and shuffle herself along – only to fall over onto her side as she over balanced.
As the other three reached the table, Jack reached down and pulled the telephone away. “So, we have shown that the Hollywood method is not only the easiest to get out of, but also the easiest to circumvent as it does not really prevent walking. It looks like Miss Black drew the short straw, but as a gymnast she could cope with such a position – something the average maiden may not be able to do. Jill – which would you prefer?”
Jill had been watching all this with a growing look of concern. “Well, I’m not that supple, so definitely one of the other three. If it had to be secure, I’d go for Miss Blonde.”
“Well, Jill, we’ll see how it goes in a minute, but first we have one more myth to look at. Is it really true that it is more difficult to properly secure a damsel’s ankles if she has something covering them other than trousers or a skirt? Jeff has a little test to find out.”
Jeff had joined the four testers in a different part of the studio. All four had changed into identical short dresses. Miss Brown was bare foot, while Miss Red was wearing a pair of those thick fabric short boots – ‘Ugg’ boots I think they’re called. Miss Black had on a pair of dark brown patent leather knee length boots, while Miss Blonde had on a pair of black fabric pull-up boots. As they sat side by side on a long couch, Jeff quickly secured the ankles of each of the ladies together, side by side, and cinched the ropes so that they held them together as if they were a pair of rope cuffs.
“Now, we want to see if the footwear impedes any attempt to escape. To do that, we’re going to ask each girl to try and twist their ankles round and see if they can get out. We start with Miss Brown, who will provide the benchmark. You have thirty seconds – go.”
Miss Brown struggled mightily, but could not get free. A counter at the bottom showed how much she twisted. When it came to Miss Red, there was an unexpected issue – she managed to work a foot free from the boot!
“Actually, we have heard that these boots are incredibly difficult to secure on a damsel’s feet without being dangerously restrictive,” Jeff said with a smile. Miss Black also struggled mightily, the squeaking impressive from her booted legs, but to little avail, while Miss Blonde tried hard but only saw her boots crumple as they fell down her legs.
“With more time, she may have got free, but we do not have that luxury. So, Jack, back to our damsel Jill. What have you done to her?”
“Well, Jeff, we’ve crossed her ankles and tied them together as we saw earlier, and for added security we have also tied her legs together above and below her knees.” That was true – there were bands of ropes around Jill’s ankles, calves and thighs just below the hem of her skirt, the bands digging into the nylons she was wearing.
“Very nice. Jill, how does it feel?”
“Tight, but if I wanted to I could still escape by hopping or scooting on my bottom.”
“Very true – unless we secured you to something, like a chair, that might be possible, if it was not for Jack’s little pig trick. Jack?”
Jill looked over her shoulder in surprise as Jack forced her off the seat and down onto her knees, then passed some rope around her wrists and fed it through and around her ankle bindings, leaving her wrists with a short length of rope connecting them to her ankles.
“The use of a hogtie can make it more difficult,” Jack said with a smile, “especially if the damsel is on her stomach.” As he helped Jill to lie down on her front, Jeff walked over.
“Well, it looks as if our damsel is well secured - but she could still call for help, so how can you properly silence her. Join us for that, and more, after the break.”
Now, I was wondering when they were going to release poor Jill, as the camera zoomed in on her struggling on the floor. I opened another beer – I could guess what was coming as the next myth, and I wanted to see if I was right.
“Welcome back. So far, we’ve explored and exploded some of the myths around how a damsel in distress is restrained in movies, but what about silencing her? Can a scarf tied over the lisp really be enough? Let’s find out. Jack?”
“All right – for this experiment, we are going to see what is needed to truly silence our damsel with a scarf – or two. For this task, we’ve asked Miss Red, out loudest tester, to be the damsel. Are you ready, Miss Red?”
“I’m ready, Jeff,” the red haired beauty said as she sat in a chair. “Right then – we’re going to use several ways of silencing you, and each time I want you to say ‘I’m All Right, Jack’ as loudly as you can. Ready for the first cloth?”
Miss Red nodded as Jeff pulled a chiffon scarf over her mouth, the outline of her lips visible as he tied the ends tightly together at the base of her neck. “First, the traditional movie over the mouth gag. Miss Red?”
“I’m all right Jack,” she said clearly through the thin cloth. In fact, the movement of her mouth made it slip down and over her chin. “Well, that didn’t work – let’s try something else. Perhaps if I pull the scarf into your mouth, it will silence you.” This time he waited as Miss Red opened her mouth and pulled the rolled up scarf between her lips, with her closing them over it as he tied the ends together.
“M all right jack,” she said as she moved her lips. “All right – the band has held her tongue down, but she is still fairly audible. Perhaps a thicker scarf would muffle more – let’s use this rolled up bandana instead.”
Removing the scarf and using a red patterned bandana, Jeff rolled it into a band and pulled it into her mouth, tying the ends tightly off. “Well, Miss Red?”
“M al rght jck.”
“Hmmm – more muffled, but still not enough.” He removed the scarf and picked up a black bandana, rolling it into a band and tying a knot in the middle. “What we see is the more the mouth is filled, the more muffled the voice. Right, Miss Red?” He pulled the knot into her mouth, her lips closing around the material, and tied the ends together.
“M l rt jk”
“Jack, I think we have our answer.”
“We do indeed Jeff – to effectively silence a damsel, you need to fill her mouth. The slip of cloth over her lips is not enough. Isn’t the right, Jill?”
“Js u dot – gt ths ut f m mth.”
The camera showed Jill lying on her side on the floor, the edges of a cloth clearly visible between her lips. Jeff knelt behind her and tied a plain blue silk scarf over her mouth to keep the gag in place.
“So there we have it ladies and gentlemen – to really secure your damsel, you need to be firm, it needs to be tight and it needs to be silent.”
“That’s right Jeff,” Jack said as he walked over, “But in this show we’ve only looked at restraining your victim with rope and silencing her with cloth. There are other questions to answer – what’s better, tape or cloth? Can a tape gag ever be removed? Finally, just what do you do with the damsel once she is restrained?”
“I think the girls have some ideas, Jack,” Jeff said as in the background the four testers picked Jill up and carried her away, squirming and screaming all the time. “Anyway, join us next time for the answers to these and other questions on Mythbusters!”
As the closing credits came up, I did what I should have done the other times – fixed the channel on my box. I wanted to see how this was going to be covered next time...
Return to the DiD Channel index
Return to the main index