While it's true that some people cower, some people fight but are ineffective, and some people fight back effectively, there seems to be no logic in any of those traits belonging to a specific group. Developing characters better would eliminate this as a negative trope and probably eliminate it from movies almost entirely.
The problem seems to arise naturally when dealing with characters who are significantly more powerful than other characters and involves how we communicate the power differential. Interestingly, this issue plays into the concept of "chosen ones" also, judging by the nearby thread on that topic. Weakness and strength may be real issues, the relative disparity may be an important element in the story, but either weakness or strength and the disparity can be drawn in a ridiculous way.
Sometimes, maybe, the power difference is truly ridiculous. Any normal person in an action-filled scene with Superman is simply going to pale in comparison. Unless of course the director throws a block of Kryptonite into the scene, allowing the woman/man an opportunity to save him.
There are some good examples however.
I think that Merry and Pippin in the first LOTR movie, cornered along with the much stronger Boromir, were handled well. Their rock-throwing had some effect, the situation was impossible not only for them but also Boromir, and picking up swords at the end to charge the Uruk-hai may have been ineffectual, but they were limited on options and had a very effective emotional reaction to Boromir's death. (Effective for the viewer, heh.)
The end of Stranger Things worked also, for at least two identical reasons. The monster was already shown to be quite powerful, and the situation was impossible already.
Fortunately, their weak slingshot defense had a more powerful, erm, backup. (Rerverse situation: weakling boys being saved by a strong female character.)
At those moments, I felt dread for the two sets of characters, particular at that moment in Stranger Things. The power differential was absurd, and this made it frightening.
I do think one problem with some other scenarios might be the fact that whoever is the weaker character might just happen to fall into a particular religious or ethnic class, or might be one sex or sexual orientation, or whatever. This could trigger some readers/viewers, and not without cause if the general setup and writing is bad. So being more creative in setting up the characters and situations, while being conscientious, can only be a good thing, I think.