Hiding The Handicap
Having a disability can change the way some people view you as a person. But what if you don't want people to change their image of you? Well, you could try to hide your handicap. Hiding The Handicap is when a character with a disability or other type of affliction chooses to hide that fact. Reasons for doing this can vary: maybe the character in question believes he/she he can't afford to be seen as "weak", maybe they're affraid of being mocked or pitied, or perhaps they'd no longer be allowed to do something if certain people found out. Can overlap with Secretly Dying, if the character has a debilitating mortal injury. Contrast Obfuscating Disability and I Am Not Left-Handed.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- A subplot in one of the prequel series of Legend of Galactic Heroes involves a student at a prestigious Empirial academy who hides the fact that he's colorblind.
- When Miyamoto Musashi meets the infamous Master Swordsman/Blood Knight Ito Ittosai in Vagabond, he notices that Ittosai seems to always be concealing one of his arms. As Ittosai begins goading Musashi towards a fight, Musashi undergoes an entire process of guessing about whether Ittosai is hiding an injury (such as if that hand was cut off) or only pretending to do so in order to catch an opponent by surprise. It turns out to be a bit of both; Musashi's arch rival Sasaki Kojiro had in fact cut off around half of Ittosai's hand in a bout between the two, but Ittosai, no longer able to hold a sword with that hand, has turned to using it for barehanded surprise attacks, as he does to Musashi.
- Matt Murdock of Daredevil fame is openly blind. But as Daredevil, he keeps his blindness hidden from most people.
- Ethan Hawke's character in Gattaca takes on the identity of Designer Baby Jude Law's character as those who aren't are seen as second-class citizens because they can only have the capabilities of an unmodified human - of course, he isn't in peak condition himself, being a janitor for years with bad eyesight and asthma.
- The Greatest Show on Earth: The Great Sebastian (a trapeeze artist) gets severely injured. Later he comes back to the circus claiming he's fully recovered and has a job at another venue, but then the manager pulls Sebastain's coat off his arm (he had had it "causally" draped over his arm as if he's just carrying it around) to reveal that his arm is disfigured due to the bone improperly healing. Sebastian ends up a lowly roustabout at the same circus he had formerlly starred at.
- In Grudge Match, Henry Sharp hides the fact that he's blind in one eye so he can be cleared to box.
- In Just The Way You Are, a lady (Kristy MacNichol) puts her leg in a cast at a ski resort to disguise it's permanently lame.
- In The Longest Day, Brigadier General Roosevelt is trying to hide his arthritis from his commander so he'll be allowed to go in with the assault force. When he meets with his CO, he stashes his cane in the hallway and even lies outright when asked if he's having flare ups. Averted later on - when he lands on Utah Beach, he has his cane with him and has no
- In The Prestige, Alfred Borden wears padded gloves to hide a missing finger, lost during a sabotaged magic trick.
- In the original Total Recall, Benny hid his mutated arm inside a glove.
- One famous joke tells of a ship captain/commander/admiral who wears a red shirt into battle so his crew members won't see the blood if he gets wounded. The punch line comes when he sees a huge fleet of enemy ships and tells his first mate, "Bring My Brown Pants!"
- In Angels In America anti-communist and anti-homosexual lawyer Roy Cohn insists that he's got cancer rather than admitting he's dying of AIDS.
- Played with in Genome: When the protagonist negotiates a contract with a possible navigator, he assumes that the latter is a Spec (genetically engineered for his task). Half-way through the conversation, the navigator mentions off-handedly that he is gay, to which the protagonist hastily replies that he is not prejudiced. The navigator then reveals that he is also a Natural (not genetically engineered in any way)—leaving the protagonist in an awkward position of not being able to break off the negotiations without being accused of Fantastic Racism and hypocrisy.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Ser Jaime Lannister pretends he is still a Master Swordsman after his right hand is cut off, while in reality he cannot even wield a sword properly at first. Most people are simply too afraid of his reputation to challenge him, although a few people figure out he is bluffing. He attempts to learn how to fight with just his left hand and a prosthetic, but his progress is extremely slow.
- In Rose Under Fire, the "Rabbits," who have been handicapped by Nazi experimentation, are all supposed to be executed. They have to hide their disabilities to avoid the gas chamber.
- In Boardwalk Empire, The Commodore suffers a stroke that leaves him severly paralyzed. His wife and son initially attempt to keep it hidden from the outside world, including some close associates; but it gets to a point where trying to hide it becomes futile.
- In the Crime Scene Investigation franchise:
- In the original CSI, Grissom hid his hearing problem for a while, until he opened up to Catherine and got surgery.
- In another original-series episode, a police officer who's accused of shooting an off-duty fellow officer turns out to have been concealing his own night blindness, which had led him to mistake the victim for the perp he was chasing.
- Mac Taylor on CSI NY. He suffered from speech aphasia in the final season, after being shot and badly wounded in the previous season finale. Being naturally stubborn,used to not opening up to anyone and worried for his job, Mac refused to tell anyone what was going on, including his girlfriend. She had to threaten to leave to get him to admit his problem. Jo also tried to get it out of him, but despite their friendship, he just snapped at her and got mad.
- In the original CSI, Grissom hid his hearing problem for a while, until he opened up to Catherine and got surgery.
- In an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman a famous landscape photographer comes to town to take photos, and hides the fact that he's going blind.
- An episode of Sweet Valley High involves a high school student who hides the fact that he's analphabetic.
- In the pilot episode of The Powers of Matthew Star Matthew - named David here - is cared for by an older man who, we learn towards the end, has a robotic hand with only two fingers which he hides in a glove at all times. Had this version of the show continued we'd've learned about why he had this robot hand, but in the show as broadcast Matthew has a different guardian who doesn't have a robo hand.
- On House, a patient who was in training to become an astronaut pleaded with the doctors to conceal her diagnosis so her health history wouldn't get her disqualified for space flight.
- This is a core trope of the American series Boss. Thomas Kane is diagnosed with dementia, but refuses to let go of his power and so hides his disease from everyone.
- Redbeard Rum had no legs, and nobody, let along Edmund Blackadder, knew it, until he agreed to take Rum on to sail him to the Cape of Good Hope.
- Woozie from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is blind, but won't reveal this to CJ until CJ has done several missions on his behalf and earned his respect. CJ however had already been informed of Woozie's disability by one of his subordinates.
- Joker in the Mass Effect series has Vrolik syndrome, which makes his bones exceptionally brittle and makes it difficult for him to walk without assistance. Joker keeps this hidden from most people because he doesn't want anyone to think he's had any special favors to earn his current position, and Shepard only finds out about it when he accidently lets it slip during conversation.
- Ace Attorney:
- Richard Wellington from "The Lost Turnabout" neglects to mention that he is nearsighted until an error in his testimony prompts Phoenix to confront him about it.
- A case in ''Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice For All'' features a witness whose icy demeanor hides the fact that she is codependant.
- Godot from the third game has a rather peculiar visual impairment (he cannot see the color red when it's displayed on a white background) which he's too proud to acknowledge.
- Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney has an example of this that goes hand-in-hand with a case of Obfuscating Disability: Famous singer Lamiroir is blind, while her musical companion (a 14-year old boy named Machi Tobaye) is not. Their management decided that the story of a blind, young musician would be much more marketable, so they made Lamiroir hide her blindness while having Machi pretend to be blind.
- In CLANNAD, the protagonist, Tomoya Okazaki, got into a fight with his father and ended up injuring his right arm, preventing him from lifting it above shoulder level. He generally hides it and makes excuses to avoid getting pity from other characters.
- In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
- The fact that one of the characters suffers from prosopagnosia yet chooses to keep that fact hidden is a plot point.
- Zig-zagged in regards to Snake. He's open about his blindness, but hides the fact that he has a prosthetic arm.
- Mecha Maid from Spinnerette has ALS and can barely move without the neural amplifiers built into her armor, but doesn't want anyone else to know. She gets more comfortable sharing the info as her friendship with Spinny progresses, though.
- Flejj Hillmover in Goblins came from a clan of dwarves who practised eugenics and would kill any disabled members rather than waste resources keeping them alive. Flejj himself was deaf, but was able to hide his secret for years by being a very good lip-reader.
- Played with in Ensign Sue Must Die, wherein the titular Ensign Sue claims to have done this her whole life with the dreaded "pedal transient paresthesia." (Given that that's a fancy term for her foot being asleep, it probably didn't take much effort.)
- On Pelswick, the title character gets set up with a girl who a.) doesn't know that he's in a wheelchair and b.) loves dancing, prompting him to use a machine to fake leg movement. Naturally, it malfunctions.
- Wrestler Kerry von Erich lost his foot after a motorcycle accident and managed to hide it for years by wearing a prosthetic foot under his wrestling boots, never taking his boots off when someone could see him, and always organizing his matches so he could hang onto the ropes as much as possible without it looking weird.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt kept his polio-caused partial paralysis hidden from the public by giving public speeches and presentations either sitting down from his desk, standing behind a podium and using it to support his weight, or by using a walking cane to support himself. Eventually it became so severe that the secret eventually came out, but he served the majority of his 4 terms as President keeping it hidden from the public.
- It is not unknown for highly motivated men doing advanced military training to conceal injuries that would otherwise have them washed out of the course, or worse still, back-squadded after medical intervention to do the whole gruelling thing again from scratch. There is a recorded case of a Royal Marines recruit who slogged his way to the end of basic training and passed out with the green beret, only to discover the leg injury he'd been covering up for wasn't just a sprain, it was in fact a broken bone. The Parachute Regiment and the SAS can boast similar stories. Tragically, men undergoing selection and training for elite Army/Marine units have died rather than confess to "weakness" and seek medical attention. For obvious reasons, the British Army now discourages heroic doggedness of this sort and is more proactive about checking for injury or potentially life-threatening medical complaints.
- Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991, but kept it hidden until 1998, when his symptoms had worsened, semi-retiring from acting in 2000.
- James Doohan had lost the middle finger from his right hand during the D-Day landing in 1944, so on Star Trek: The Original Series and its subsequent films, his right hand often got obscured on camera.
- Likewise, Gary Burghoff has a congenital deformity of three fingers on his left hand, so in M*A*S*H his character "Radar" O’Reilly would often hold a clipboard in his left hand or otherwise hide his hand on camera.
- Matthew Perry of Friends has the tip of the index finger on one of his hands. This is barely noticeable as he's always shown with his hand obscured or waving it around enough that it's not clearly seen. One episode possibly refers to this, as Chandler is missing the tip of a toe due to Monica dropping a knife on it.
- Longtime Kansas Senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole was usually seen with a pen in his right hand. Dole lost the use of that hand due to injuries suffered in World War II.