"I'm the bad guy. I don't save the day, I don't fly off into the sunset, and I don't get the girl."
This often happens in "good-versus-evil". The the conflict swirls around the damsel. Every once in a while, she gets dragged into the swirl, and then she stands in the center, grinning and pulling the strings.
Maybe she doesn't realize she's doing this, but she is the one thing the villain needs to lure the hero; she is the one thing that the hero would do anything for; her decisions influence the decisions of both the hero, the villain, and other key characters.
Lets apply this premise to the new Dreamworks film 'Megamind'. Roxanne is actually a secondary character, but she is a heroine in her own right. She is smart, witty, and brave. Let's examine her character a little further. She is so often kidnapped that she doesn't really mind anymore. As for Metro Man, "he was never really my type," she says, but she certainly does love him in other ways. She's also not afraid to make it clear to Megamind that no one takes him seriously.
She's the pretty girl that brings Metro Man to the rescue. She's the bright reporter on all things Metro Man. She's Hal's coworker and secret crush. She's Megamind's inspiration.
In the start of the movie, Roxanne is set up to be, firstly, a reporter. She is first heard and then seen through the lens of a news camera. Then she's defined as a Metro Man fan: "It's time to get into the Metro Man day spirit!" Then Hal reveals to us that she's the damsel in distress that Megamind uses to lure Metro Man into traps. The audience is then left to assume that Roxanne and Metro Man have a kind of relationship, as you might expect. Almost immediately after, we find out that Hal has a crush on Roxanne, and furthermore that Roxanne is so obviously not interested in him.
As the movie progresses, she quickly turns into a would-be heroine. With Metro Man gone, she decides someone has to stand up to Megamind. Of course, Megamind is actually on her side - not in the way she thinks and, that is, she doesn't even know its him. But she, unwittingly, plays an inspiration to Megamind. Because of her optimism, he realizes he can "create" a hero to battle him, although Roxanne wasn't thinking on such an extreme level.
But Roxanne is inspiration for more than one man - and she's quite unaware of it. Hal, now Titan ("Tighten"), thinks his new powers will lure her to his side. But he makes the tactical error of being far too forward - not to mention trying to woo her just after she realizes Megamind's plan. She realizes that Titan is Megamind's creation and, still being completely uninterested in him, she tries to warn him - to no avail. And because of her rejection, he ditches the good side.
She then dumps Megamind (just after he lost his best friend in a fight) through a twisted turn of fate, leaving two men hurt and lost. Without a reason to be good, both Titan and Megamind have only one backup plan - be bad. However, Megamind is about as good at picking up hints as Titan is. While its true that he convinces Titan to battle him, Titan is still sincere about being evil.
Then Roxanne reluctantly agrees to help Megamind find a way to defeat Titan. In the process, they discover a startling revelation - Metro Man is still alive.
Now that Metro Man - the last hero - is proved to have run from the job, there are no heroes left to look up to. Metro Man hints that its Megamind's turn to be the hero, but it seems Megamind doesn't think it's possible for him to be the hero.
"I'm the bad guy. I don't save the day. .... And I don't get the girl."
Megamind has failed. Time and time again. He's lost every battle. None of his plans have ever worked - including the one he had thought took out Metro Man. He lost his best friend. He lost his girl. He created a villain more dangerous than Megamind ever was. Everything has gone wrong.
Megamind turns himself back into prison. Meanwhile, Roxanne makes one last attempt to be a heroine, but Titan's not interested in negotiating. As Megamind flips through the TV stations in his cell, Titan's face appears on the screen. "Megamind, we have unfinished business! .... Go on, Roxie, call for your hero to come rescue you!"
"Megamind, I don't even know if you're listening, but if you are - you can't give up. The Megamind I know would never have have run from a fight, even when he knew he had no chance of winning. It was your best quality! You need to be that guy right now! The city needs you. I need you."
Roxanne is the damsel in distress. She's the one who gives the hero a reason to fight. Although she's rather self-dependent, in the end, she plays this role well. She was the ultimate reason Hal wanted to be a hero and then turned evil. She was the reason Megamind created Titan, the reason Megamind stuck to being bad, the reason he turned good. She was the reason good won.
Behind every hero is a girl. This isn't just some cliche - it's never stopped being true.
(Additional thought: Why didn't Metro Man have the inspiration to stay a hero?)