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Obfuscating Disability

"The wheelchair is for respect."
Guy Caballero, SCTV

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, 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.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Examples:

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    Anime & 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.
  • Rachel from Tower of God was supposedly paraplegic after Ho stabbed her in the back and Yu Han Sung prevented any treament 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.
  • 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 much problems, at least for a short time.
  • 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 Ikkitousen'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 .
  • 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.
  • In Red Robin, Tim Drake has faked getting shot through the spine to prove he isn't the title character.
  • 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 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.

    Film 
  • Jason Bateman's character in The Ex. The character needed to use a wheelchair temporarily, and continued to use it years later to gain sympathy from others. The wheelchair allowed him to be a huge Jerkass without people calling him out on it, guaranteed his job security, and made it easier for him to pick up girls.
  • Played for laughs in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
  • Subverted in The Big Lebowski. After the Dude and Walter find out the "Big" Lebowski stole the money, Walter assumes he's also faking his disability. He's not.
  • Also turned up in Theres Something About Mary.
  • This basically applies to Kevin Spacey's character in The Usual Suspects. He doesn't just pretend to be a spineless loser, but even his limp is fake.
  • Sampson Simpson in Half Baked.
  • Willy Wonka's introduction in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As Wonka walks out limping with a cane, he suddenly stops...tumbles forward...and does a somersault. Gene Wilder wanted to do this so that neither the audience nor the characters could completely trust Wonka.
  • An elderly Chinese stage magician in The Prestige is shown doing this. Borden deduces that the magician is pretending to have frail and stiff legs even off stage for the sole purpose of a trick where he makes a fish bowl appear: he carries the bowl between his legs but since the audience thinks he's a cripple, they don't consider the obvious.note  This inspires one of the main characters to do something similar. Not that "being only a single person and not twins" is a disability per se. Also inverted in that the secret twin brothers need to be identical in every way. When one loses a few fingers in a sabotaged stage trick, his brother has to amputate his own fingers as well, so the actual disability is not obfuscating.
  • "Four-Leaf" Tayback in Tropic Thunder.
  • Jean-François in Brotherhood of the Wolf, although the exact motivation for doing so is a trifle hazy.
  • Mei in House of Flying Daggers.
  • In A Very Long Engagement, Mathilde, who has a lame foot due to polio, pretends to be wheelchair-bound in order to play on her uncle's heartstrings and get him to help her investigating her boyfriend's disappearance.
  • This occurs in one of the plots to New York I Love You. It was an actress practicing her disabled character around the outside all along.
  • The villain in the grade-Z James Bond knock-off A Man Called Dagger is another one who spends most the flick in a wheelchair because.. he feels like it, evidently.
  • Jack Teller (Edward Norton) in The Score pretends to be mentally disabled, although the viewer is in on the scam from the start.
  • In Quest Of The Delta Knights, Tee pretends to be a mute while a slave.
  • Billy Wilder's The Fortune Cookie has Jack Lemmon as a TV cameraman who's accidentally tackled during a football game. His Ambulance Chaser brother-in-law, played by Walter Matthau, convinces him to feign paralysis of the legs in order to collect a huge insurance indemnity.
  • Ron Perlman's version of the deformed, mentally disabled hunchback Salvatore in The Name of the Rose is smarter than he seems.
  • Haghi, the leader of the spy ring in Fritz Lang's Spies.
  • Yoda in Star Wars. Don't piss him off. He will PWN you.
  • The eponymous villain in The Alphabet Killer fakes being wheelchair-bound to remove any suspicion that he might be the killer.
  • Played for Laughs in The Ringer. The Johnny Knoxville character, hoping to win big, fakes being mentally handicapped to compete in the Special Olympics. The other athletes see through him immediately, but help him keep up the facade, because they're hoping he can defeat Jerk Jock frontrunner Jimmy.
  • Huey in Nick of Time pretends to be a deaf shoeshiner (complete with a sign identifying him as handicapped), allowing him to listen to Smith and Watson talk about the assassination plot. While Huey really is disabled, his disability is that he's an amputee.
  • In Petes Dragon, Doc Terminus, a quack doctor, comes to the town of Passamaquoddy. Unfortunately for him, the townspeople are well aware of his previous quackery and are getting ready to run him out of town. He gets them to believe him by performing fake miracle healings. They are performed on his assistant, Hoagy, in different disguises; he pretends to need a pair of crutches, Doc Terminus gives him a tonic and Hoagy immediately throws off the crutches and dances in front of the onlookers. He also pretends to be a deaf old woman.
  • The brother of one of the main characters of Bitter Lake gets mentioned twice: Once in the movie and once on the movie's website. Both times he's alluded to as being mentally disabled. Then he actually appears at the end, and it turns out he's actually not retarded in the slightest; his brother just always said he was on account of everyone in this movie is a giant, gaping asshole, and everyone else ever just automatically believed it.
  • In The Good Shepherd, one woman is pretending to be deaf since she needed some way to use a recording device without being obvious, so she masks it as a hearing aid. She gets found out when the main character calls to her from behind, and she reacts.
  • The film version of The Man with the Golden Arm has the protagonist's emotionally-needy wife pretending to be wheelchair-bound from a car accident some years before. (In Nelson Algren's original novel, by contrast, her disability is implied to be psychosomatic rather than deliberately faked.)
  • In Bienvenue Chez Les Chtis the main character tries to get a promotion this way (as he's noticed that disabled people get priority). It fails hilariously.
  • Dr. Meinheimer's double in The Naked Gun.
  • A rare mental disability example with Doofy, the killer in the first Scary Movie.
  • In The Unknown, Alonzo the Armless is a fugitive who masquerades as an armless knife thrower in a circus by strapping his arms strapped to his torso.
  • Played with in the Kirk Douglas/Michael J. Fox film Greedy. Douglas' character feigns feebleness to see which of his Jerkass family really cares for him. In the final scene, after being wheelchair bound for the whole movie, he gets up and walks away.
    • Notably, he was faking two disabilities: he was pretending to suffer from dementia and he was pretending to be wheelchair bound.
  • The villain in the Batman serial Batman and Robin is an old man in a wheelchair who can secretly walk. He can't walk very well or very fast, though, at least not without regular electric treatments. His servant who wheels him from place to place doesn't seem to be in on it.
  • Christopher Reeve starred in a TV movie called Above Suspicion. His character faked having his legs disabled so he could murder his wife while standing so he would be ... well.
  • In Waking Ned Devine, it turns out Lizzie can walk just fine without the scooter.
  • Played with in House of Wax (1953). Jarrod (Vincent Price's character) is caught in a fire and appears to come out of it wheelchair bound and with his sculptor's hands disfigured, but with his face unscathed. Later on, its revealed that he's the perfectly mobile but horribly facially scarred man that has been causing mayhem throughout the film.
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: Randle, who pretends to be insane, but just does this to avoid serving a long prison sentence. And Chief who supposedly never spoke a word in years, but turns out to have been faking his muteness all this time too.
  • Lucky Number Slevin:
    • In the opening, Mr. Goodkat pretends to be confined to a wheelchair to enact a Kansas City Shuffle on a passenger in an airport, distracting him so he won't anticipate Goodkat getting out of his chair and break his neck.
    • Slevin's ataraxia (inability to experience worry in appropriate situations). It's unclear if Slevin actually has ataraxia or if he's just not worried because everything is actually going according to plan. Or both.

    Literature 
  • Deliberately invoked in Encyclopedia Brown: the real thief made sandals out of cement-filled garden gloves to make it look like the guy in the chair had walked on his hands.
    • Another case had a fake blind guy as the culprit.
  • The recruiter in the novel of Starship Troopers deliberately left his prosthetics off when working to scare away gutless applicants. In the film, the actor cast in the role of the recruiter is a genuine double amputee.
  • In The Mysterious Benedict Society, the main villain Ledroptha Curtain travels in a souped-up wheelchair, so it comes as quite a shock to the protagonists when, during the climax, he unstraps himself from the wheelchair and lunges for them. He has no problems walking, but actually uses the wheelchair (as well as goggles) to hide the fact that he has narcolepsy. He uses the same trick to great effect again in the second book in the series, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, this time to fool the police.
  • Liesl in the Young Bond novel By Royal Command pretends to be incapacitated by drugs and needing a wheelchair while she waits for an opportunity to escape her captors.
  • Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series.
    • In Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, Agatha Christie's last novel starring the Belgian detective, the aged Poirot pretends to be wheelchair-bound, but is in fact still able to walk.
    • In Death on the Nile, a major suspect is ruled out because he had just been shot in the foot a few minutes before the murder and in no way could have limped all the way from the clinic to the murder scene and back in the time he was left unwatched. In fact, he faked being shot, rushed off to kill the victim and ran back, then shot his own foot for real to keep up the ruse.
  • In two points of the X-Wing Series, Wedge Antilles disguises himself as Colonel Roat, an Imperial pilot who was badly wounded and given clumsy, poorly-functioning prosthetics. Imperials are biased against cyborgs, generally thinking that only someone very clumsy or unlucky can be injured so badly as to need cybernetics, and so no one managed to connect him to the second most famous Rebel pilot.
  • In later Mistborn books, the heroine consistently suspects that an enemy warlord is using this. Not on any kind of evidence, solely because of his paraplegia. He's crippled! He must be hiding some enormous powers! Yes, she is a bit of a nutter, why do you ask?
  • The killer in the John Dickson Carr novel The Problem of the Wire Cage uses his recent car accident, and its attendant injuries, to pull off a murder he seemingly couldn't have physically committed. Unfortunately, circumstances turn it into a murder NO ONE could've committed.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Live", Salome tossed the head of a murdered man to a deaf beggar — who proves to be Valerius, who heard that the true queen is prisoner there.
  • Although he has significant mental problems, Bromden in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is not "deaf and dumb." He got so used to people disregarding him that he gave up trying to communicate with them, and finds that being considered a deaf-mute has the advantage that staff are careless about what they discuss when he's around. He throws off the charade partway through the book and - aside from McMurphy - none of the patients notice because they never paid much attention to him in the first place.
  • Claudius exaggerated his stutter, limp and general clumsiness in I, Claudius. This barely kept him alive when he had to work for The Caligula.
  • In the romance novel A Proper Taming, Lady Doncaster is crippled when she falls from a horse. She takes advantage of this to get companions and hopefully find one her son will marry. She also made a full recovery a full year before the story takes place.
  • Chiron from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. We first see him as Mr. Brunner, Percy's wheelchair-bound Latin teacher. Turns out he's a centaur, and the wheelchair is a Hammerspace Hideaway for his horse legs.
  • Norman Daniels in Stephen King's Rose Madder. While hunting for his runaway wife, he shaves his head and pretends to be a paraplegic, to avoid being recognized by the (many) people on the lookout for him.
  • The tactic of a famous magician (Ching Ling Foo) in The Prestige that inspired Borden and is used as a literary device to describe his methods without actually revealing them.
    Borden's Memoir: My deception rules my life, informs every decision I make, regulates my every movement... everything in this account represents the shuffling walk of a fit man.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Free Bards novel The Robin and the Kestrel, the church of the city that the heroes are visiting uses this, among other techniques, in order to enact "miraculous healings."
  • Harry Potter:
    • "P-p-p-poor s-s-stuttering Professor Quirrell!"
    • Barty Crouch Jr., who was impersonating the genuinely one-eyed and one-legged Mad-Eye Moody. But since he was using the Polyjuice Potion, which actually gave him Moody's body, he didn't have a real eye or leg when he was Moody.
  • In The Lawmen of Rockabye County by J.T. Edson, escaped felon 'Crazy Doc' Christopher wears a prosthetic hand over his still functional right hand.
  • In the Nancy Drew book Captive Witness, the plot centers around a plan to rescue 10 children from then-Communist Hungary. The ringleaders of the rescue mission are an elderly professor and his wheelchair bound nephew. It's soon revealed that the young man is not paralyzed and that the rescue plans were hidden in the seat of his chair, knowing that customs officials would not search it.
  • In the Alex Cross novel London Bridges, Geoffrey Shafer uses a wheelchair he does not need as part of his disguise.
  • In ''Michael Strogoff the titular character acts as if he was effectively blinded by the Tartars until he appears in front of the Grand-Duke.
  • A mild version in the Discworld books after Men at Arms. Vetinari walks with a cane because he was shot with the Gonne in that book, but he may not need it as much as he appears to. Being Vetinari, he's found the advantage in people thinking he's weaker than he actually is.
  • SmallGods: Vorbis pulls an absolutely chilling example of this as he and Brutha are almost out of the desert.

    Live Action TV 
  • Lori & Bolo tried this at the beginning of Season 6 of The Amazing Race to get help at airports. Luckily, they dropped it quickly.
  • In Angel the demon sorcerer Cyvus Vail appeared reliant on a complex intravenous drip, physically vulnerable and weak. However when under genuine attack his IV was broken and he ignored it, he shrugged off being hurled twice into a wall, and gutted his opponent with a kukri.
  • Arrested Development subverts the trope quite humorously. A female attorney who can actually see claims to be blind in order to get the sympathy of her jurors; the Bluths try to expose her fake disability, but fail spectacularly because (only) on the day that they decided to prove she was not blind, she actually WAS temporarily blind due to an accident. She regained her sight in full the following day.
    • It's even more wibbly woobly when you add the fact that Michael doesn't realize she's (faking) blind at first.
  • An episode of The Brady Bunch had a plot where a man claimed to have received a neck injury in a minor car accident with Mrs. Brady. Mr. Brady proved the man was lying by dropping his briefcase a desk, startling him and causing him to turn his head.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In the last four episodes of season 2, Spike is only pretending to still need his wheelchair.
  • Happened in an episode of Cadfael, when the cripple had hidden his disability-less-ness from everyone including his sister, then tries to collect money after he is "healed" by touching a reliquary. He is revealed when he runs away, sans crutches.
  • In the Castle episode Under the Gun, one of their suspects is an aging ex-con who needs a walker to get around...until he has to get away, at which point he ditches the walker and makes a run for it.
  • Charlie's Angels ("Angels in Springtime")
  • Cold Case: The killer in "Metamorphosis" suffers from cerebral gigantism and uses the fact that people expect him to be mentally retarded to conceal his true intelligence.
  • In Copper, Corcoran uses his badly broken leg as a great alibi. No matter what his superiors might suspect, people are not going to believe that someone in his condition could travel across town, climb up to a second story window, kill two people and then get back to Five Points without anyone noticing him.
  • In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "The Two Mrs. Grissoms", a student pretends to be deaf in order to get a scholarship. And he and his partner in the deception end committing murder in order to keep the secret.
  • Once used by Logan on Dark Angel. He's a real paraplegic most of the time, but an easily hidden exoskeleton allows him to walk.
  • Happened in Diagnosis: Murder, probably more than once, usually discovered by Dick Van Dyke's character.
  • The Colonel in the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn and The Wasp".
    • In the Doctor Who serial "The Rescue", Bennett pretends to have been crippled in the spaceship crash, allowing him to murder the other crew members while disguised as the monster Koquillion.
  • In the Mexican soap opera En Nombre Del Amor, Carlota the head villainess pretends to be paralyzed in order to not go to prison after trying to murder her niece Paloma. Doctors cannot figure out what is wrong with her. The audience may even be fooled. Carlota tries to bribe a nurse in order to get assistance in leaving the hospital- but the nurse refuses. Carlota then hits the nurse with a bottle and steals her scrubs and mask, then places the unconscious nurse on the bed and flees the hospital without incident.
  • Father Brown: The killer in "The Shadow of the Scaffold". Father Brown discovers this when he realises that they could not have seen they claimed to have witnessed unless they were standing up.
  • Funky Squad ("Diamonds Are a Cat's Best Friend")
  • Grand Maester Pycelle on Game of Thrones feigns being a doddering, feeble old yes-man in order to out-maneuver his political enemies. It's an elaborately calculated act that involves pretending to have a hunched back, a chronic respiratory ailment of some sort, rheumatism, dementia, and a general lack of energy. Only once has he dropped the act, when he was certain no one was looking. The second time it happens is in a deleted scene where Big Bad Tywin Lannister calls him out on it and he reveals himself to be a physically formidable man whose real speaking voice is a deep commanding baritone.
  • Used in the two-part Get Smart episode "Ship of Spies". It involves a wheelchair-bound water polo player.
    • Get Smart also featured Leadside, a villain in a wheelchair. He pulls off an impressive infiltration because while he is incapable of walking or standing up, the act of running is still within his power.
  • Tina's stutter in early episodes of Glee.
  • A variation: in a flashback in How I Met Your Mother, Barney pretends Ted is deaf to make him appear sympathetic to a woman. Little does he know that both that both the woman and Ted know sign language (while Barney does not), and Ted simply tells her, in sign language, that Barney is lying and to give him a fake phone number.
  • The Hustle episode "Picture Perfect" has an art forger who is pretending to have suffered a stroke to avoid having to stand trial for forgery.
  • Roy ends up doing this on one episode of The IT Crowd to avoid getting in trouble for using the disabled bathroom stall.
  • In the JAG episode "Yesterday's Heroes"; retired navy diver Artemus Sullivan (played by Ernest Borgnine) is avenging the death of his grandson by a drug dealer. When meeting Harm & Mac at first, Sullivan pretends to be in a senile vegetable state of mind.
  • On Justified Johny Crowder really is disabled. He was shot in the gut with a shotgun and it did major damage to his body. He spends most of his time in a wheelchair and people tend to assume that he is a paraplegic. In fact he can walk on his own but it is painful and tires him out. When two men come to kill him they are surprised to find that he just walked out the back door and left his wheelchair behind.
  • Elliot's brother Donnie from Just Shoot Me! pretended to be mentally disabled for most of his life in order to avoid responsibility.
  • In several episodes of Law & Order and its spinoffs;
    • Law & Order: Criminal Intent had a Stephen Hawking expy who still had more mobility than he let on.
    • Another episode had a man who stole a woman's identity and pretended to be deaf to excuse not being able to speak.
  • The obscure TV movie Lifepod featured a killer who faked being blind. The game was up when someone thought to simply shine a light into his eyes.
  • Played for laughs in Little Britain with Lou and Andy, Lou being a bumbling social worker helping Andy, who uses a wheelchair and is possibly mentally retarded. However, Lou always manages to turn his back, at which point Andy gets up from his chair and does something amusing and dramatically ironic.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Nellie Olson faked paralysis after falling off a horse so her parents would give her presents and Laura would be her slave out of guilt.
  • One episode of Lois and Clark centered on a slacker whom Superman saved from an explosion; the slacker faked nerve damage to a broken arm to sue Superman for injuries he supposedly sustained while being rescued. When Superman prevented another bomb from taking out the courtroom, the slacker attempted to play up his "injuries" again, only for his put-upon girlfriend to blow the whistle on his charade, moments before dumping him.
  • A M*A*S*H episode has Radar apparently hitting an elderly Korean villager with a jeep. When the uninjured man demands $50 not to report Radar to the MPs, a visiting officer susses out that he's a well-known con man known as "Whiplash Hwang".
    • In the episode where Hawkeye is temporarily blinded when he tried to fix the nurses' heater, even though he can't see them, some of the nurses still want him out of the tent as they change. Later, when he over-emphasizes that, due to a relapse, they can go ahead and take off their clothes while he's there, one of them tosses a cup at him, which he catches. Busted!!
  • On The Mentalist Jane knew the Perp Of The Week was the guy in the wheelchair because Jane checked his shoes; they were scuffed (but for the record, this is total BS; a wheelchair user's shoes get just as scuffed as everybody else's, believe it or not).
    • In another episode the killer was pretending to be mentally disabled. The killer came up with this dodge when caught stealing a car at 18, and kept it going because it rendered him effectively invisible.
  • There's one Midsomer Murders episode where a guy who is always seen in a wheelchair is in fact revealed to be able to walk (when no one's around, possibly collecting disability benefits). However, the scene is a !red!herring, as he is neither the killer nor a victim.
  • Regularly done in Mission: Impossible as part of a mission. For example, in "A Game of Chess", Rollin pretends to be a deaf chessmaster, so he can receive moves from a chess computer offstage. He soon gets discovered by the mark, but that's part of the plan.
  • An early Monk episode has Monk realize that the assassin is not really a cripple because his shoes are heavily scuffed, something that would not happen to a man who had to use a wheelchair all the time (again, not actually true-see above). This revelation does not come in time and the assassin manages to get away.
    • "Mr. Monk Goes to the Circus" - an unliked ringmaster is shot and killed by a masked acrobat at a restaurant. Monk immediately suspects the victim's ex-wife, Natasha Lovara, but Natasha had broken her leg in a fall from a trapeze weeks ago. Monk initially assumes that this trope was in play and Natasha faking her injury, especially when he finds out that as a Romany Gypsy, she doesn't believe in doctors and had set the bone herself. However, a quick trip to the hospital reveals that her leg was indeed "smashed." Monk eventually realizes that the doctor's evidence confirmed that her leg was broken but not when she'd broken it. She had faked the injury from the initial fall, then after the shooting, had an elephant crush her foot so that the X-rays the police demanded would show a broken leg.
    • Mentioned in season one episode "Dale the Whale." Dale, a massively overweight crime boss, is accused of killing a judge against him, but he's so fat he can't get out of bed. He quickly disproves any theories that he is faking his weight by lifting his bedsheets to them. Sharona even vomits. Played straight by the ending. The judge was killed by a thin man in a fat suit who knew that suspicion would fall upon the boss, who could not be proven guilty.
    • Another early Monk episode has a perpetrator who is supposedly blind. Cue the streaker.
      • The woman who was pretending to be blind actually was blind since a drunk driver hit her as a child, killing her parents. She regains her sight when she slips in a store and pretends she's still blind, so that she can shoot the man and then have the cops rule her out as a suspect.
    • A Tie-In Novel subplot in Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop (an insta-solve file that is only mentioned in one page) involves something with a man smuggling secrets from a helicopter company factory to a rival by using his wheelchair to remove documents.
  • In one episode of Murdoch Mysteries, the killer turned out to be someone who pretended to be a stroke victim so he would avoid suspicion.
  • New Tricks: The killer of the week in "Magic Majestic" has pretended to need a wheelchair for his entire adult life, referencing Real Life magician Chung Ling Soo. This allows him to escape from custody at the end of the episode.
  • A Night Gallery episode had a con man faking being crippled to collect a fat settlement visiting a shrine in Mexico with reputed miraculous healing powers visited by sick and infirm pilgrims - he intends to get "cured" and walk out scot-free in front of an insurance investigator. As he saunters out, a miracle does occur - he's miraculously stricken blind.
  • Poirot ("Double Sin")
  • In a season 2 episode of Pushing Daisies, there's a brief flashback to Emerson Cod's childhood. His mother faked putting him in danger to expose a man who had made fraudulent insurance claims. She pushed a stroller with a baby doll in it down a flight of stairs- the allegedly wheelchair-bound man with a neck brace and a broken arm ran from his wheelchair to catch the baby with both hands.
  • Happens several times on Quantum Leap
    • Sam leaped into a blind piano player and had to pretend he was blind. The mother of the leapee's girlfriend caught him, though, and thought the character was really pretending; but when he was tested by her later, he was blind, temporarily, due to a camera flashbulb.
    • He also leaped into the body of a legless Vietnam vet. To one "unfortunate" sadistic orderly, Sam looked like he was floating above the ground when he got up and walked.
  • The "Lost Ending" to It's a Wonderful Life as seen on Saturday Night Live showed Mr. Potter was faking.
  • Used by Guy Cabellero, the owner of the TV station, "for respect" in SCTV.
  • Happens a few times on Seinfeld:
    • In "The Butter Shave", George has to walk with a cane due to the injuries he received in "The Summer of George". He goes to a job interview and the cane makes his new employer think he's disabled. George is about to clear things up when the guy mentions that George would be getting a private bathroom because of his disability. George then fakes being disabled to keep the bathroom as well as getting a number of other perks, like having a secretary carry him to his office.
    • In "The Jimmy", Kramer does this by accident when he meets a man who is organizing a charity dinner for the mentally challenged. He ends up as a guest of honor because the Novocaine he was injected with at the dentist made him slur his speech, and he's wearing strangely shaped training shoes, so the man thinks he's a shining example of a mentally challenged person able to live on their own.
    • In "The Lip-Reader", Elaine fakes being deaf so that she doesn't have to make conversation with the driver of the car service. It doesn't work for very long. To quote Elaine, "he caught me hearing".
  • Lionel Luthor of Smallville uses this. In the beginning of Season 2, a life-saving surgery left him temporarily blind. He eventually regained his sight, but neglected to mention it and faked being blind for a few more weeks because people let their guard down around someone they thought couldn't see. Street-wise Lucas Luthor, however, sees through the ruse immediately upon first meeting him; Lionel pours himself some water and doesn't put his finger inside the glass to know when it's full. Lucas tests his theory later by signing "BITE ME" on an important contract instead of his name, and when Lionel can't hide his reaction, Lucas forcibly throws a billiards ball at his head. Lionel reflexively dodges and is fully exposed.
  • In So Little Time, Riley goes to school in a wheelchair to get the attention of a paraplegic whom she has a crush on.
  • In season 5 of Sons of Anarchy, Clay suffers a gunshot wound to the chest that damages his lungs and gets him put on an oxygen tank. Midway through the season it is revealed that he has completely healed and in perfect health, but he continues to wear the tank and pretend to be weak and frail.
  • Subverted in a Taxi episode: an old lady sues Louie for hitting her with his cab, and he learns that she's a scam artist with a history of phony lawsuits. When he tries to "prove" his innocence in court by pushing the wheelchair-bound woman out the door and toward a staircase in the assumption that she'll jump off, he discovers that in this particular case she wasn't faking it.
  • In Trailer Park Boys, Ricky's dad, Ray, pretends to be in a wheelchair to receive disability money. He only gets out of the chair when he's around Ricky or close friends. In season five he's finally caught and sent to jail.
  • The TV movie What The Deaf Man Heard is this trope in spades. A child whose mother was murdered sits in a small town diner waiting for his mother who will never arrive. The townsfolk think he's deaf and mute since he just sits there and doesn't react to anyone. For twenty years he decides to maintain this charade, because everyone drops their guard around him, so by the end of the movie, when he reveals that he can hear and speak, he's got plenty to talk about.
  • Happens in one episode of Whodunnit!. When the host called on the real murderer to please stand up, one of the policemen dropped his notebook. The man in a wheelchair next to him stood up and handed it back to him.
  • The villain of The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Brain" starts out in steam-powered wheelchair, but it is then revealed that he uses it because he he believes that literally every ounce of a person's energy should be devoted to thinking.
  • The X-Files: "The Amazing Maleeni." When a stage magician who made his head rotate 360 degrees as part of his act turns up decapitated, Mulder and Scully quickly believe his bank manager brother could have been his double-but the bank manager proves that couldn't be the case, as he lost both his legs in a car accident. That is, until later, when Mulder tumbles him out of the wheelchair; he's got both legs, because he was the stage magician and was pulling off an illusion.
  • On Game of Thrones Grand Maester Pycelle puts on a cunning facade of being feeble and senile. He's actually quite spry and sharp-minded for his advanced age. One deleted scene with Tywin makes it particularly explicit.

    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 attack the person he's feuding with with the crutches. 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 storyline 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.

    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'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!).
  • 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 Colonels 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 2. 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."

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Fillmore! had an exciting chase sequence when a wheelchair-bound suspect got up and ran unexpectedly. She claimed without much remorse that she never told anyone that she NEEDED the wheelchair, she just preferred it (having two fake leg casts helped). Unfortunately, she had spent so long in it that she didn't get very far.
  • One Hey Arnold! episode had Phoebe taking advantage of Helga's niceness when she broke a leg and kept the cast even after it healed.
    • There's also the episode when a prank from Arnold left Helga temporarily blind, and she decides to keep up the charade so a guilt-ridden Arnold would stay at her side and help her at anything (obviously, she secretly did enjoy having him all for herself too).
  • One episode of The Simpsons has Bart pretending to be blind so he and Homer can pull off confidence tricks.
    • On another one, Bart had gone temporarily deaf as a result of a flu vaccine. When Marge is trying to explain this to principal Skinner, he claims that he has heard it before, and proceeds to pull photos of Bart with several fake disabilities.
      Skinner: And my personal favorite: pregnant Bart!
    • In another, Homer goes into the Springfield Retirement Home and starts using a wheelchair as an excuse to slack off.
    • In "Little Big Mom", Marge gets injured and lands in the hospital. But since she doesn't have to do housework for the first time in her life, she fakes it after she's healed.
    • In "Bart Gets Hit by a Car", Mr. Burns hits Bart with his car, and Lionel Hutz calls in Dr. Nick for a "second opinion" on Bart's minor injuries. Everyone played along, except for Marge:
      Marge: He seemed a lot more concerned about wrapping Bart in bandages than in making him feel better.
  • An episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers had Dale fake a broken toe to get out of doing work, and get spoiled by Gadget. Later in the episode, Dale saved the day, breaking his toe for real, and got his comeuppance when he had to miss a party because of it.
  • The Rugrats episode "Angelica Breaks A Leg" has Angelica pretending to break her leg by shoving a bowling ball down the stairs in an attempt to garner tons of attention. It's even compounded by the fact that her doctor got her X-rays mixed up with a football player's. It comes back to bite her when her mom really does break her leg.
  • An episode of The Garfield Show has one where Nermal fakes that he broke his leg to get sympathy from Jon. Every time Garfield and Odie try to prove he's faking, they get in trouble with Jon. At the end where they unravel Nermal's foot, Jon believes Nermal's injury was healed. To make matters worse, Garfield and Odie were actually injured, but instead of getting rightful sympathy, they were put in full body casts and not able to eat anything while Nermal gets the last laugh. The whole episode was one large Karma Houdini.
  • South Park:
    • In the episode "Up the Down Steroid", Cartman fakes being mentally challenged in order to enter the Special Olympics and win the $1,000 prize. During the actual events, it becomes apparent that he spent more time on his efforts to appear disabled than actually training for the Special Olympics. In the end, Jimmy outs Cartman as a cheater, then realizes that he cheated too with his use of steroids. After Jimmy apologizes publicly, Cartman claims that he only faked his disability to teach Jimmy a lesson on steroid abuse.
    • Done completely unintentionally by Randy in "Bloody Mary".
  • Even though Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender is actually blind, thanks to her Disability Superpower she is a good deal more aware of her surroundings than her sighted friends. She pretended on more than one occasion to be helpless because of her blindness, in order to get what she wanted from someone. So much so that for most of her life, her parents believed she would never master Earthbending... While she was secretly the all-time champion of the Earth Kingdom analogue to Professional Wrestling.
    • Toph's parents always treated her like she was incapable of doing anything; she just learned to play it up since people underestimated her anyways because of her blindness.
  • In King of the Hill, Bill was told by a doctor that he had diabetes that would take his legs away within a year, so in order to prepare, he started making all his movements in a wheelchair and seems to have forgotten he could actually still use his legs until he was drunk in a bar and stood up, shocking and majorly pissing off the wheelchair-bound basketball players he had befriended.
  • Nigel, the Card-Carrying Villain cockatoo of Rio takes advantage of this: at first he looks just as an old and sick bird being treated at a birds rehabilitation and research centre in Rio de Janeiro. Later, after taking active part in Blue and Jewel kidnapping, he shows himself as really is: a very dangerous sadistic janitor with cannibalistic tendencies.
  • The Cleveland Show: In "Beer Walk", after Donna broke her leg, Cleveland had to do all of her chores. However, since Donna finally has her husband do some work, she fakes her injury after she's healed. It took a Batman Gambit to snap her out of it.
  • Taz-Mania: In "Nursemaid Taz", Digeri Dingo fakes having a broken leg in order to get the Tasmanian Devils to wait on him hand and foot. Digeri really didn't think this one through.
  • Invoked in What's New, Scooby-Doo?, by the villain of the day, Avalanche Anderson, to prevent anyone from knowing that he was behind the Snow Creature.
  • In the 1933 Classic Disney Short "Old King Cole" the three blind mice smell cheese and look at it from behind their glasses.

    Real Life 
  • Faith Healers will often supply crutches and wheelchairs to audience members that have trouble walking so as to make them appear more disabled than they actually are, before telling them to throw away those same crutches or to get out of those same wheelchairs and walk.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 retardation, 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.


Not-So-Harmless VillainMore than Meets the EyeObfuscating Insanity
Neurodiversity Is SupernaturalDisability TropesOrgan Dodge
Not a MaskDisguise TropesOverly Stereotypical Disguise
Not This One, That OneInfauxmation DeskObfuscating Insanity
Obsessed Are the ListmakersJust for PunOlympus Mons
I Hate Past MeImageSource/Newspaper ComicsWhat's New? with Phil and Dixie

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