Created By: KJMackley on November 10, 2012 Last Edited By: Paradisesnake on January 17, 2014

Weaponized Weakness

What should be a hinderance turns into a strength

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Nearly everyone has an Achilles' Heel, or some sort of Fatal Flaw that keeps them from performing at their absolute best. At the absolute worst they may even be The Load because of it. The skills they do offer are limited and anything else they exhibit doesn't seem like something that could help in the situation they are in.

But with a little creativity and the right circumstances, what seems to be a severe weakness can be utilized to their advantage. Maybe intimidating the bad guy to do some Power Copying also takes their Kryptonite Factor. Or the forensics lab assistant finds out their minor in Astrology is able to assist the veteran detectives on a case.

Effectively a subversion of the Achilles' Heel. Compare Chekhov's Skill, Disability Superpower, What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?, Heart Is an Awesome Power and This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman.


Examples:

Film
  • In Legally Blonde, Elle managed to get into Harvard Law School because of her excellent grades, but those grades were for a Fashion Degree and not much with regards to preparing her for the legal arena (political science or business degrees are most common). But when allowed to work on a high profile case, she managed to use her knowledge of fashion to poke a massive hole in the prosecutions defense via their key witness.
  • The Phantom Menace: Some people noticed that for all of Jar Jar Binks faults and clumsiness, he often ends up as the perfect Spanner in the Works and becomes his own Person of Mass Destruction whenever an action scene comes his way.

Live-Action Television
  • Used in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, where Ned has a bad habit of procrastination and had a major project due within a few weeks. Mr. White encouraged him to use his procrastination to his advantage by parsing it down into smaller and more manageable pieces, thus being able to do what seems like distracting busy work but is actually moving him somewhere.

Video Games
  • In Halo 4, Cortana had slowly been going crazy via Rampancy, a condition where AI's have been online for so long they are trying to think about everything and can't focus. In the climax Cortana has Master Chief plug her into the computer system guarding the Doomsday Device and she purposely spills out her rampancy into the system to compromise its integrity.
Community Feedback Replies: 88
  • November 10, 2012
    Astaroth
    Also compare Cursed With Awesome

    • In Metal Gear Solid 4, Johnny Sasaki refuses the Nanomachine injections that are given to most soldiers because he's Afraid Of Needles. This makes him considerably less competent on the battlefield than most of the soldiers when Snake first meets him, but when Liquid Ocelot hijacks the nanomachine system and turns the nanomachines against the injected soldiers, Johnny is completely unaffected by it, and gets to spend the rest of the game taking levels in Badass.
  • November 10, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    In Code Geass, Suzaku gets a "live" command hardwired into his brain. When threatened, he is forced to do whatever it takes to survive, whether running away or commiting war crimes. This is a serious hinderence for a warrior - until he learns to exploit it by purposefully putting himself in "win or die" situations.
  • November 10, 2012
    acrobox
    Wreck It Ralph: Vanellope's glitching causes her to randomly shift from one location to another. She later learns to control it into short range Teleportation.
  • November 10, 2012
    captainpat
    All of that spoiler texts makes that Halo 4 example useless. It needs to be removed or have less spoiler text
  • November 10, 2012
    StarSword
    ^The first sentence is hardly a spoiler; Cortana going rampant was covered in trailers, Word Of God, and Halo 4 Forward Unto Dawn already. Put the spoiler on the last sentence only.
  • November 10, 2012
    Earnest
    Weaponized Weakness currently redirects to Depleted Phlebotinum Shells, though it's only used in 9 articles.
  • November 10, 2012
    MiinU

    Web comics

  • November 10, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I agree with Earnest that we're needing a better title; Weaponized Weakness is currently a redirect to Depleted Phlebotinum Shells because it means making a weapon that exploits a character's personal Kryptonite Factor -- a.k.a. to use against them, which is completely the opposite of this YKTTW.
  • November 10, 2012
    MiinU
  • November 10, 2012
    DracMonster
    Shortcomes In Handy

    My pun hand is strong!

    • In Mostly Harmless, Arthur crash-lands on a primitive planet, and realizes how little survival skill he has, and that he can just about make a sandwich. The native tribe that rescues him turns out to be awestruck at the concept, treating it as a mysterious and sacred power, and elevate him to The Messiah. It's basically the last time in the series Arthur gets to enjoy life.
  • November 10, 2012
    MiinU
    ^@DracMonster - that's perfect! 2nding Shortcomes In Handy.
  • November 11, 2012
    Sligh_Br
    Does it counts if they actually create the handcap in question in order to defeat the adversity?

    For example, in Saint Seya, Shiryu blinds himself in order to scape some enemie's power.
  • November 11, 2012
    MiinU
    ^@Sligh_Br - According to the OP, it has to be a pre-existing weakness, or character flaw, that's either useless, or hinders them under normal circumstances, yet works to their advantage, in certain situations only. If the character deliberately handicaps themselves just to overcome an obstacle, it's more likely an example of a Mundane Solution.

    That said, your Saint Seiya example sounds similar to how Nami had to blindfold Makoto, so he wouldn't fall for Galus's illusions, near the end of El Hazard. Which would make both examples of a Mundane Solution, rather than this trope.
  • November 11, 2012
    Stratadrake
    @Miin: Make it Shortcoming In Handy and then we may have a winner.

    In addition to being tangientially relatable to Disability Superpower, it's also comparable to Disability Immunity.
  • November 11, 2012
    MiinU
    ^@Stratadrake - even better.
  • November 11, 2012
    KJMackley
    The only reason Halo 4 is so heavily spoilered is because it is so recent, someone might complain that anything is a spoiler (thus I talk about rampancy in the first line you'll know that it is used to their advantage later). Give it a week and I'll leave the first line unspoiled.

    I am personally not fond of pun-based titles, Weaponized Weakness may or may not be mistaken for Depleted Phlebotinum Shells but I'd rather have something along that line of simplicity.
  • November 11, 2012
    MiinU
    ^@KJMackley - That may be, but Shortcoming In Handy is short and perfectly sums up what that trope is about. Plus, it meets the 'non-dialog title' clause, and there'll be no confusion with the existing Weaponized Weakness trope.

    I honestly doubt anyone'll be able to come up with an alternative name that fits as well Shortcoming In Handy does. Though I'll be pleasantly surprised, if they can.
  • November 15, 2012
    Astaroth
    • Kevin in Ben 10 is limited by the fact that he's a Master Of None - he has Combo Platter Powers, but those powers are 'diluted' and not as effective as they would be if they were 'pure'. When he's forced into an Enemy Mine situation with Ben in one episode, Ben suggests he tries using the powers in combination with each other - he might not have all of Fourarm's Super Strength or XLR8's Super Speed, but he can use both at once to become a Lightning Bruiser.
  • November 15, 2012
    Cider
    Weaponized Weakness and Depleted Phlebotinum Shells really do deserve to be two separate tropes. As you could make a sword with a silver edge to kill vampires or werewolves, but that has nothing to do with shooting guns.

    Similarly, you could make bullets out of a rare metal that can only be found in Alfheim and forged by the dwarves of Nidavellir or the Dark Alfs of Svaratalheim but it may not actually be related to the weakness of anything, just a better all around bullet.

    I know that is a talk for the repair shop but I am not sure this trope page should be the one to take the name weaponized weakness.
  • November 16, 2012
    KingZeal
    In Robotech, the SDF-1 has a Force Field that is proven useless early on because it overloads and expands out to a several-hundred mile radius, destroying an entire town by accident. They refrain from ever using it in combat again . . . until they're forced to battle against a massive alien armada where they're vastly outnumbered. Fighting their way to the center of the swarm, the SDF-1 activates their barrier one more time, and . . . you can guess what happens from there.
  • November 16, 2012
    MasterheartsXIII
    In Avengers, when Iron Man gets zapped by Thor's lightning bolt, Jarvis informs him that his suits power level is at 200%
  • November 16, 2012
    Stratadrake
    That doesn't sound like an example, at least not without describing why a sudden jolt of lightning should normally be a weakness to Iron Man (thus, the example deriving from Thor's lightning bolt acting otherwise).
  • November 18, 2012
    KJMackley
    @ Cider- I agree on that as there is a difference between using specifically crafted gun rounds (a subtrope of Abnormal Ammo) and crafting a special weapon with materials that is a weakness for someone/something. Now that I think about it, I might have suggested Weaponized Weakness for what became Depleted Phlebotinum Shells.

    Anyway... I'm not sure about the snowclone but maybe "Chekhovs Weakness."
  • November 18, 2012
    MiinU
    ^@KJMackley - Even without the snowclone issue, I'd say Chekohv's Weakness would still be an unsuitable name for the trope.

    For one, it would require that attention be called to the character's shortcoming, for the express purpose of it being beneficial to them, later. In such a way that it sets up The Reveal of how and why it actually works for them, in specific circumstances. Which would make this a more specific version of Chekhov's Skill.

    Whereas the trope, as it's described now, is simply about what would usually be a character's shortcoming turning out to be beneficial, under the right set of circumstances, or in a specific instance only; usually in unforseen ways. Which is the exact opposite of anything Chekhov's related.
  • December 19, 2012
    MiinU
    bump
  • December 19, 2012
    Larkmarn
    Compare Heart Is An Awesome Power, where a power that's considered useless (but not detrimental) is put to great use.
  • December 19, 2012
    McKathlin
    Hmm...the Legally Blonde example currently included isn't so much a weakness coming in handy, as a strength formerly considered irrelevant coming in handy, more like Heart Is An Awesome Power.
  • December 21, 2012
    KJMackley
    It kind of fits both, as it says in the description her training in Fashion did not prepare her for law school and the entire movie she was out of her element. The chance to use her skills was a lucky break that made her the right person for the job and that is what the trope is about, not just being clever enough to show how a power/skill can be useful.
  • December 21, 2012
    Larkmarn
    I'm with Mc Kathlin, that's definitely still Heart Is An Awesome Power.
  • December 21, 2012
    MiinU
    ^@Larkmarn - Agreed.

    Training in fashion is hardly a weakness, it'd simply be irrelevant to her career as a lawyer, under normal circumstances. More to the point, it doesn't hinder her in any way, so it can hardly be considered a shortcoming. It'd be different if, say:

    If it was something like that, then it would be an example.
  • December 21, 2012
    KJMackley
    I would have to say re-read the description, it isn't necessarily about full-out weaknesses but also about skills that are seemingly irrelevant to the situation, yet when applied creatively can be useful in those circumstances (which admittedly could be made more clear but that's part of what YKTTW is about). In this case Elle had a knowledge base that put her behind her peers and besides the lucky break at the end of the movie it wasn't something that was going to give her an edge now.

    Heart Is An Awesome Power is about someone apparently given a Blessed With Suck superpower only to discover that with some creativity they have really gotten the Superpower Lottery. With only a few odd examples (which should probably be trimmed) it is not about "mundane" skills the individual trained for or about situational usage.
  • December 22, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Yu Gi Oh:
      • One of Yugi's most famous battles depended on this trope: Yugi has a relatively weak monster that has no chance of defeating the enemy monsters. Yugi then draws a card that allows him to repeatedly attack the enemy player (bypassing the monsters entirely) if the attacking monster has a sufficiently low attack as long as you keep drawing a monster card. And thus the "DORO! MONSTAH CAHDO!" meme was born.
      • An oft-seen tactic in the anime is to use monsters with very high defense and low attack, then play a card that switches the two stats around.
  • December 22, 2012
    Bisected8
    Contrast Disability Immunity, where a weakness protects someone.
  • March 12, 2013
    MiinU
    bump.
  • March 12, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • Cielo in the first Digital Devil Saga game has weakness to Standard Status Effects, and mediocre Stats, making him The Load for most of the game. Then comes the skill Null Sleep, which lets the character evade everything while asleep. And then the Bonus Boss, which has an unblockable, 9999 damage attack (your max HP is 999) that will obliterate your entire party...unless Null Sleep is in effect. Suddenly Cielo's "weakness" is now a godsend.
  • March 12, 2013
    sgamer82
    • An example from the Iron Man film was the Iron Man suit's tendency to ice up when it reached too high an altitude. Tony made use of this during his fight with Stane, whose suit was based on his own, by getting the suits as high as he could.
      Iron Man: So, how did you solve the icing problem?
  • March 13, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Sometimes Superman uses his own weakness to Kryptonite as a weapon against someone pulling a Grand Theft Me/Freaky Friday Flip on him.
  • March 13, 2013
    ACarlssin
    There was also a storyline where Superman went to Dr Fate to try to find a "cure" for his weakness against magic. But then a situation arose which was too great for Superman to deal with. Dr Fate used his magic to temporarily increase Superman's strength so he could take care of it. Afterward, Superman told Fate he no longer wanted to lose his weakness against magic, because if he was immune to magic, Fate wouldn't have been able to increase his strength.
  • March 13, 2013
    ACarlssin
    In Futurama, Fry has a rare genetic disease that alters his brain chemistry. This makes him immune to the (gaint floating brain things whose names escape me at the moment, but any good Futurama fan will be able to fill it in)
  • March 13, 2013
    KevinKlawitter
    Contrast Never Needs Sharpening, where (usually) a product's weakness is spun in order to make it appear to be a strength.
  • March 13, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    • In Wizards Of Mickey, Donald Duck's magic tends to be useless because it works with a delay, so when his spells activate the situation is already over. Mickey uses this to his advantage in his fight against the Phantom Blot by making Donald cast an Attack Reflector spell on him. Donald's spell activates just when Phantom Blot is about to give the decisive strike and turns his magic against him.
  • March 13, 2013
    MasterShizzle
    In SouthParkBiggerLongerAndUncut Cartman's V-Chip, which hinders his cussing, turns out to be a superweapon against the armies of hell. I think this qualifies, since Cartman did just about nothing useful for the entire movie up to that point.
  • March 13, 2013
    MiinU
    ^@MasterShizzle - Examples Are Not Arguable, either it counts, or it doesn't. If you're not sure whether an example qualifies, ask the OP, or other contributors. Sadly, I can't say whether it counts or not, since I'm not a fan of South Park.
  • March 14, 2013
    KingZeal
    In Crysis 3, the Alpha-Ceph temporarily gains control of Prophet, the last wearer of the Nano-suit and keeps him neutralized long enough to attack him, Michael (Psycho) and Claire. Michael, who had been forcibly stripped of his own nano-suit prior to the game, but is still very much a Badass Normal, is the only one who can still fight and save the others.
  • March 14, 2013
    sgamer82
    For context re: the South Park example: The V-Chip simply electrocutes Cartman whenever he says a cuss word. However, in the course of the movie it gets short-circuited and culminates in Cartman being able to shoot electricty when he swears, giving us the above-mentioned superweapon against the armies of hell.

    I don't think this is an example since the nature of what the V-Chip does changes. My impression of the trope is that the weakness itself never changes, it's there either way it's just that a situation arises where the character can use the weakness to his advantage instead of it being a hindrance.
  • March 14, 2013
    KJMackley
    Correct, the main difference between this trope and others like Heart Is An Awesome Power is that it never stops being a weakness after it is used, it just proves to have some sort of situational advantage. Cartman's V-chip ends up giving him a Shock And Awe superpower.
  • March 18, 2013
    willthiswork
    The Futurama example is good, but mention that Fry's lack of alpha brainwaves is implied to be why he is so dumb.
  • March 18, 2013
    Guyven
    Seina Yamada (from Tenchi Muyo! GXP) has cosmicly bad luck. He suffers continuous bodily injury and no computer system (or concrete structure) in his vicinity seems immune to extreme performance decay. The entire universe seems at times attempting to murder him.

    This luck is used by a few savvy GP decision makers to put him on his own ship to act as decoy for the entire fleet (as he inevitably draws fire from every pirate in the solar system he happens to be in). Once the power of his luck becomes apparant to the pirates they assemble a 'good luck' fleet (outfitting ships with goodluck charms from all over the universe). They have spectacular success until they meet him directly in battle and their various charms desintegrate in his presence.
  • June 16, 2013
    KingZeal
    Is this ever going to be updated?
  • June 16, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Judging from the edit history the draft was last updated mid-March, which makes it Up For Grabs. Unfortunately I already have my eye on a couple of other drafts after the ones I'm already sponsoring.
  • June 16, 2013
    surgoshan
    • Reaches perhaps its apotheosis in Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, when Brutha confronts Om, his God.
      OM: I Could Destroy You Utterly.
      Brutha: Yes. I am entirely in your power.
      OM: I Could Crush You Like An Egg!
      Brutha: Yes.
      OM: [Beat] You Can't Use Weakness As A Weapon.
      Brutha: It's the only one I've got.

    Personally, I think that would make a good page quote.
  • June 16, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    Battlestar Galactica Reimagined: the obsolete Vipers on display as museum pieces are initially the only fighters not crippled by the Cylon virus, being too crude to be vulnerable.

  • June 17, 2013
    MrThorfan64
    The Weeping Angels from Doctor Who could be considered this. They can only move when nobody is looking at them, when that happens they become a statue. However you can't kill a stone.
  • June 17, 2013
    Larkmarn
    That's not so much a weakness as the entire point of their turning to stone.
  • October 25, 2013
    DAN004
    Armed Achilles Heel? :P

    Between Cursed With Awesome, Disability Superpower and Disability Immunity... I think I need a distinction. Somebody?
  • October 25, 2013
    dalek955
    • In The Order Of The Stick, Durkon hits the Linear Guild with a Holy Word, which causes all evil creatures in range to be deafened, blinded or worse. In the ensuing melee, Nale tries to use Suggestion to make Belkar turn on Durkon...only to find out that being the Token Evil Teammate, Belkar was deafened too and can't hear Nale's orders.
      Belkar: WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU! HEY ROY, I THINK THEY CAST SOME KIND OF SILENCE SPELL!
      Roy: It's not a bug, it's a feature.

    Actually, Roy's line might make a good page quote.
  • October 25, 2013
    PsychoFreaX
  • October 25, 2013
    PsychoFreaX
    ^^^ Cursed With Awesome: The trait is disliked, doesn't necessarily make it a weakness. Disability Superpower: Another strength counteracts the weakness, the weakness itself isn't really utilized. Disability Immunity: Would be a related trope.If we're going by the laconic, this would be the parent trope.
  • October 25, 2013
    kjnoren
    The name must be changed. Weaponised implies the weakness is used as a weapon, which is not the same ting as that it becomes a source of strength.
  • October 25, 2013
    DAN004
    ^^ Thanks, sounds clear enough. :)

    Again, Armed Achilles Heel. :P
  • October 25, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ... how does this have five hats? It shouldn't have any at the moment, since the examples list isn't namespaced, there's discussion on the title, most examples haven't been added, etc.
  • October 25, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Italicized, namespaced, and sorted the examples by media.
  • October 26, 2013
    DAN004
    Is this Up For Grabs yet?
  • October 27, 2013
    Arivne
    ^ The OP KJ Mackley hasn't posted here since March, so yes this is Up For Grabs.
  • January 3, 2014
    dalek955
  • January 4, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    Shortcoming Handy sounds less awkward to me. can't see anyone beating this(cept for Big Green Banner) one anytime now.

    though i'd like to suggest Situationally Useful Flaw for the Pun-blind fungus among us.
  • January 14, 2014
    PsychoFreaX
    I think Useful Flaw alone sounds better.
  • January 14, 2014
    PsychoFreaX
    Ooh, how about A Weakness Is An Awesome Power? Because you know, it's kind of related to Heart Is An Awesome Power? Just an idea, can be expanded upon.
  • January 14, 2014
    DAN004
  • January 14, 2014
    MiinU
    I'd say Shortcomes In Handy.

    It's short, it's catchy, and aptly sums up the trope.
  • January 15, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Nah, it's not really clear...
  • January 15, 2014
    TrustBen
    Just want to voice my support for Shortcoming In Handy.
  • January 15, 2014
    UncleSumer
    ahhh - So, "THIS Is where the Magik Happens", is it? . . . Shortc[C]omings In Handy - indeed!!!
  • January 15, 2014
    Niria
    Yes! Shortcoming In Handy is a great name. What I love about it is that it both summarizes the trope and is witty, whereas I think lately wittiness in trope names has been undervalued.

    The trope is really low on examples as I write this, though. Right now it has four. If there aren't more examples than that, it may be too rare to be worthy of inclusion.
  • January 15, 2014
    PsychoFreaX
    I'm cool with Shortcoming In Handy just that more ideas has more chance to suit a wider ranger of people... somehow.

    I'm not sure if this example fits, maybe depending on how we name it, seems to go well with Shortcoming In Handy though. Anyway, Jo Jo's Bizarre Adventures had a fight where the ripple was the one thing stopping Joseph from being absorbed by Santana thus letting down his ripple makes him vulnerable. So Joseph let down his ripple to be absorbed, but only halfway before activating his ripple again to tear Santana apart from the inside.
  • January 15, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    still want the shorter Shortcoming Handy. same thing only shorter.
  • January 16, 2014
    PsychoFreaX
    Kind of defeats the purpose of being witty.
  • January 16, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ "in handy" is whole and gives meaning. You can't just have "handy".
  • January 16, 2014
    dalek955
    ^^^^^ There are way more than 4 examples, it's just that the OP hasn't been updated to include them.
  • January 16, 2014
    PsychoFreaX
    Well, Shortcomes In Handy courtesy of Miin U maintains the wit along with being shorter, if anyone's interested. I'm cool with it and Shortcoming In Handy. So anyone want to take over and add the examples?
  • January 16, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Dunno, don't think this is Up For Grabs yet.
  • January 17, 2014
    PsychoFreaX
    It's tagged up for grabs.
  • January 17, 2014
    Koveras
    Would this count?

    • In Kingdom Come, Captain Marvel/Shazam abuses the fact that every time he calls out his magic word, a magical lighting is shot at him to turn him to his younger persona—by dodging the lightning bolt and making it instead hit the opponent his is currently fighting, Superman, who is notably weak against magic.
  • January 17, 2014
    Arivne
    ^^^ The OP KJ Mackley last posted on March 14, 2013, about 10 months ago. Up For Grabs says that anyone can take over and launch a YKTTW 2 months after the last post by the OP, so this is indeed Up For Grabs (and has been since May 14th 2013).
  • January 17, 2014
    DAN004
    I'm not gonna grab this tho.
  • January 17, 2014
    PsychoFreaX
    Watch out, someone untrustworthy might take over.
  • January 17, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ You? :P
  • January 17, 2014
    PsychoFreaX
    You get a cookie! Well at least I can't take the responsibility for this trope at the time being, needing to focus on some personal issues. I might come back to it at some point so, you know. :P
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