Obfuscating Disability

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"Ware the man who fakes a limp."
The Gunslinger, The Dark Tower

Sometimes a person with an apparent disability will be more than they seem. Sometimes they will turn out not to be disabled at all. The reasons for faking a disability vary, but it is usually to cause others to underestimate them.

A particular form occurs in Crime and Punishment Series where one suspect will be obviously be ruled out because they are in a wheelchair and physically incapable of committing the crime. However, at The Summation, the detective announces that the criminal is in fact the paraplegic. This is then followed by the supposed paraplegic getting up and attempting to run. Another variant, commonly used in Courtroom Episodes, involves an Ambulance Chaser lawyer persuading his client to feign injury such as whiplash in order to win a Frivolous Lawsuit settlement. Or the "Flopsy", where the "victim" allows himself to get hit by a car, and does a gruesome-looking but harmless tumble.

See also Faking Amnesia, Obfuscating Stupidity, Obfuscating Insanity, Pillow Pregnancy, Playing Sick, and Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery. Contrast Throwing Off the Disability, when a genuinely disabled person makes a miraculous recovery, and Hiding the Handicap, where a person conceals his disability. A villainous character who actually is disabled is an Evil Cripple.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The first criminal seen in Detective Conan. The villain claimed to have a broken leg and couldn't walk, but a check of hospital records revealed otherwise.
    • In one case, one of the suspects was an old man pretending to be blind. He wasn't the killer though, he was just trying to give himself an advantage at the mystery contest all of the cast came there for; after the case and the contest were over, he happily admits it when Conan points it out.
  • In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Rufus Shinra always sits in a wheelchair and is covered in a long cloak, making him appear to be crippled and highly disfigured. That way Kadaj constantly keeps turning his back to him, which comes in handy in the end, as he can stand, walk, and use guns without many problems, at least for a short time. He is actually sick with Geostigma, but not to the extent that he pretends he is.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Laughing Man went into hiding by hacking the computers of a mental hospital for children and youths and creating a fake identity of being a patient suffering from severe mental disabilities and being almost unresponsive to other people. Which is particularly appropriate as his Calling Card was an image that included the quote from The Catcher in the Rye "I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes."
  • This is possibly what Shiba'i in Ikki Tousen's second season was doing, since in the final episode she gets up and starts running around. It might have been related to her now being the Soul Jar of the Big Bad, but it's never made clear. If she was faking it it's likely a reference to her Romance of the Three Kingdoms counterpart Sima-Yi, who also faked an illness.
  • Saint Seiya portrays at least two examples of this trope:
    • Libra Dohko: an old man of more than 250 years old that walks using a stick (and that's actually an expy of Star Wars Yoda), can be even more badass than any of the younger Saints. Not to mention that he actually hides his young shape intact, shelled inside his old body, ready to use if becomes necessary
    • In the spinoff Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, is revealed that the ancient Virgo Saint, Asmita, is in fact blind. However he absolutely doesn't need sight, as his powers and perception are in the ranges of Pure Awesomeness .
  • In Speed Grapher, Suitengu spends a short time pretending to need a wheelchair after Shinzen shoots him in both knees. He drops the act at his earliest opportunity, as it annoyed him to act so confined.
  • In one chapter of Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo, a rich businessman pretends to have had a stroke and be suffering from dementia, so that he can see how his family members acted when he seemingly wasn't watching. Because of this, he sees his wife work hard to take care of him, their child, and her in-laws, foils a plan to trick him into divorcing her, and leaves her half of his estate.
  • Director Kuramoto from the manga version of Strider suffers from senility, appearing very dispersed and oblivious about what's going on around him. Then, when a group of Matic's men show up with orders to kill him, Kuramoto suddenly stands up and kills them instantly, revealing his condition to be faked as he awaited for Matic to show his true colors.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman comic, Dark Victory has Carmine Falcone's daughter Sofia fake being paralyzed to hide the fact that she's the Hangman.
  • In Red Robin, Vicky Vale was onto the fact that Tim Drake was the title character along with the rest of the Batfamily's identities with the understanding that they are all interconnected, so he engineered an assassination attempt he knew was coming to be at a very public event and used crutches in his civilian identity for months, with the plan being to spend a year realistically and publicly recovering from the shooting.
  • Richard Dragon in The Question.
  • Charles Xavier in Twisted Toyfare Theatre has been shown to do this a few times; like jumping up and running when he was caught using his mental powers to cheat at Blackjack.
  • In one EC Comics story, a woman pretends to be paralyzed in an accident to gain control over her husband. She plays the role flawlessly for three months, then a fire breaks out in her house when she's alone and she learns that her legs have atrophied.
  • Subverted in Daredevil. Just about everyone who suspects Matt Murdock is Daredevil thinks he fakes being blind to throw off suspicion. This is probably because it's a much easier leap to make than "he has some really crazy Disability Superpower action going on."
  • In 52, Ralph Dibny believes that minor villain Professor Milo is faking the need for a wheelchair so he can disguise a mystical artifact as one of the wheels. Ralph then rips off the wheel since he needs it for a ritual that will supposedly revive his late wife Sue. He is horrified when he realizes that Milo wasn't faking his disability. Milo really needed that wheelchair since he lost both of his legs.
  • Rose the bird in Angel Love. She does get injured by a cyclist while Wendy teaches her how to fly but continues to have Wendy pamper her long after her foot heals.
  • Superman and Aquaman character Lori Lemaris used a wheelchair with a blanket on her lap to hide the fact that she's actually a mermaid.
  • The mysterious Blind Chess Player in The Invisibles may actually be Satan, Enoch, or another character in the comic itself, but he definitely isn't actually blind. Positively the reverse.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • There have been a few angles over the years where a supposedly injured wrestler, standing nearby with crutches, will suddenly run into the ring and use the crutches to attack the person he's feuding with. Sometimes, it will be a wrestler returning from a lengthy absence due to an actual injury.
    • This was done in an utterly tasteless manner by WCW when Buff Bagwell used a wheelchair after a major spinal injury. Bagwell called the man who injured him, Rick Steiner, to the ring and forgave him in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming...only to rise from the wheelchair and betray Steiner immediately afterward, turning this into yet another nWo angle.
    • ECW's "Sandman gets blinded" angle. The Sandman was apparently blinded in a match with Tommy Dreamer, and to help sell the angle, stayed at home for a month, never having contact with another human being apart from his wife - his commitment to the angle was phenomenal. Then, he came to the arena to announce his retirement, and when he got to the ring, ripped the bandages off and beat the living crap out of Tommy Dreamer.
  • Doink the Clown earned his first major feud when he faked an arm injury to gain sympathy from Crush, who had been speaking out about the clown's recent string of practical jokes and that they might hurt someone if he isn't careful. Crush agreed to let Doink alone ... until he realized (after waking up at the hospital) that he was suckered into a severe beating with a fake prosthetic arm, leading Crush to vow bloody revenge.
  • An infamous Brother Love show saw him play the part of a charlatan, hiring an actor to pretend he was blind and lame, before ordering him to see and walk on command.

    Radio 
  • The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: In "The Case of the Baconian Cipher", Holmes realises the man pretending to be his wheelchair-bound uncle is a fake when he notices fresh dirt on the soles of his shoes.
  • Troll Cops: The Nefarious and Notorious Mr. Pupa uses his wheelchair to lull his foes into a false sense of security, before escaping on his fully functional robotic legs.

    Theater 
  • Used as early as Henry VI part two, when Gloucester proves that a man who claims to have been divinely cured of blindness is a charlatan.
  • Some stage versions of And Then There Were None place Judge Lawrence Wargrave in a wheelchair, leading to a dramatic reveal of the murderer.
  • Used in We Must Kill Toni by a character in a wheelchair. Although he is injured, he exaggerated his injuries and can walk a few steps.
  • In Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The Maniac wears an eyepatch despite having two functioning eyes. He pretends to lose a Glass Eye as a distraction several times.
  • In The Man Who Came to Dinner, Whiteside's doctor pronounces his injuries fully healed by the end of the first act, but he insists on keeping his recovery a secret so he won't have to leave town. So he stays in his wheelchair for a while longer.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Ace Attorney Investigations's Quercus Alba. Ironically, faking his need to walk with a cane has given him an actual bad back. (You try walking stooped over for that long!)
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Machi Tobaye is not actually blind, but Lamiroir, who is thought to be sighted, is.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Armie Buff actually was disabled for a time following a fire that claimed her mother's life and left her crippled, but she regained the use of her legs a few months prior to the events of the game. She stayed in her wheelchair because she was too scared to go outside, having developed an overwhelming fear of fire. Thanks to Apollo and Athena, she gains the courage to stand on her own two feet again.
  • Peter Stillman in Metal Gear Solid 2 who faked his disability to avoid facing the families of the victims of a bomb he was unable to defuse. By claiming to have been seriously injured himself, he's seen as another victim, not the guy who fucked up.
  • Belger, the final boss in Final Fight, is in a wheelchair at the fight's start. He does this to lure his victims into a false sense of security before he shoots them with his crossbow. (It also makes it easier to use Jessica as a Human Shield.) Partway through the fight, the player smashes his wheelchair and Belger continues the fight on foot.
  • Colonel Dijon of The Colonel's Bequest was apparently wounded and rendered unable to walk during the Spanish-American War. You can see him stand and/or walk under his own power at two separate points in the game.
  • Possibly with Swain in League of Legends; as a joke, his /dance has him check to make sure no-one's watching before tossing his cane away and dancing, and alt skin that makes him the Noxxian high general has no limp.
  • Played for laughs in the non-canon after-credits end to Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Woods, who is in a wheelchair because his knees were shot out during the story line, jumps up out of the chair when M. Shadow asks if he's ready to rock. Menendez (the guy who shot Woods' legs) asks, shocked, "What the fuck?" Woods' response? "Oh, that shit? Nah, I'm just fuckin' lazy."
  • Gehrman, the First Hunter, from Bloodborne is a one-legged old man who mostly comes off as senile and spends most of the game in a wheelchair. Then comes the end when he offers you a chance to leave the dream. If you refuse, you'll soon learn that the loss of his leg is no impediment.
  • Monaka from Absolute Despair Girls is revealed to be this at the end of the game (her Room Full of Crazy is only reachable by ladder). She did have her legs broken by her abusive father and brother in the past, but acted as though she'd lost complete use of them to make herself seem harmless and more easily manipulate others.

    Web Animation 
  • In Bionicle (2015)'s online animations, the Protector of Fire appears as a hunched, robe-wearing elder walking with a stick. When he decides it's time to start Tahu's training, he throws off his robe, straightens up, and reveals that his "hump" was in reality a shoulder-mounted gatling gun tucked under the robe.

     Webcomics 
  • Rachel from Tower of God was supposedly paraplegic after Ho stabbed her in the back and Yu Han Sung prevented any treatment to stop Baam from climbing the tower. Then she stands up and pushes Baam down the "The Wineglass", the lake their test takes place in. This is only the beginning of the Wham Episode.

     Web Original 
  • In the Super Mario Logan episode, "Bowser Junior's Broken Leg", Bowser Junior breaks his leg and spends three weeks in bed waiting for it to heal, with Chef Pee Pee bringing him whatever he wants. After it heals, he pretends his leg is still broken to continue to get free stuff from Chef Pee Pee, despite a warning not to from the Brooklyn Guy. This comes back to bite him two weeks later, when Doofy the Dragon hosts a meet and greet at the mall, which Junior wants to go to. After Junior admits to Chef Pee Pee that he's been lying about his leg for the last two weeks, Chef Pee Pee beats him up, breaking his other leg.

    Real Life 
  • Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, was completely deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other. She would play it up to get what she wanted by forcing people to repeat themselves until they said what she wanted to hear. Considering the barriers women had to face in 1912, this was probably a huge asset in the early days of the organization.
  • Likewise Princess Alice of Battenberg, late mother-in-law to HM The Queen. She really was deaf, but could read lips. During World War II, she lived in Greece, hiding a Jewish family from the Nazis...despite her house being literally yards away from Gestapo headquarters. She was brought in for questioning several times, but pretended that she couldn't understand anything they asked her.
  • Similarly, Winston Churchill would obfuscate deafness to irritate or bring off fellow politicians and aides with whom he did not agree.
  • Not Always Right:
    • This woman on Not Always Right, preferring to order an usher to remove a cinema seat (something they point out they cannot do as they are bolted to the floor) rather than get out of her chair or use one of the designated handicapped seats in the theater, even though she shows herself soon after to be entirely capable of that level of movement despite her earlier claims.
      Me: I thought you couldn’t get out of your chair?
      Customer: I can, but I don’t want to!
    • Subverted here: the customer decided the barista (who usually wears contacts but was wearing glasses that day) was wearing fake glasses to be "cool" or something.
    • Also subverted here when a customer assumes an employee is wearing an eye patch as fashion statement and finds out the hard way that it isn't when she forcefully removes it.
    • This customer, who, when she doesn't get her way after throwing a (rather racist) tantrum, throws down her crutches and stomps out the front door.
  • At the 2000 Paralympic Games, the Spanish team got dragged into a scandal for allegedly winning 5 gold medals with non-disabled athletes, primarily to get bigger sponsorship deals. Of most prominent note was the Spanish intellectually disabled basketball team, who was caught Obfuscating Stupidity and got stripped of their gold medals. Only two of their twelve members ended up being eligible, intellectually disabled athletes.
  • Zip the Pinhead, who was an early 20th century sideshow performer known for his oddly shaped head and supposed mental disability, has also become suspect of "faking his handicap". According to an interview with his sister, Zip's last words to her were: "Well, we fooled 'em for a long time, didn't we?"
  • American comedian Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers fame played a mute character on stage, in his films and kept this image alive during public appearances. Though the general public never knew it and to this day you'll find a lot of people unsure about it, Harpo could in fact speak. Still, so far there's only one audio recording of his voice available.
  • An obscure inter-war American blues singer called Ben Covington had his nickname changed from Blind Ben Covington to Bogus Ben Covington after it was discovered that he was faking the blindness.
  • Twitch gamer Angel Hamilton (better known as ZilianOP) notoriously stood up from his wheelchair during a Diablo III webcast.
  • Israeli musician Haim "Zino" Zinovich was a fusion rock musician who spent much of the '90s making music without much recognition in his country, and he disappeared without a trace at decade's end. In 2000, however, a new singer named "Hasaruf", the Burned Man, surfaced on the nation's music scene. He was a former Israeli soldier who suffered third degree burns across his entire body and was put into a wheelchair. He got prime-time news coverage all across the national media, and revealed himself to be Zinovich. The Israeli audience that was once indifferent to him were left in awe at his brilliant marketing gimmick, and ran out to buy his CD, which became one of the best selling in the nation's history. Afterwards, Zino and his friend Tomer "Tommy" Bilan started to get Hollywood deals, getting their music in media like The Sopranos.


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