Throwing Off the Disability
Mein Fuehrer... I can valk!
A character who has been disabled for an extended period, often physically or visually, suddenly regains the use of their disabled organ.
Explanations for this tend to fall into five varieties:
- 1. The character can override the disability through Heroic Willpower. This is most believable if it's a short-lived emergency override of a disability that makes normal physical activity very painful and difficult, but not outright impossible.
- 2. The disability was temporary, and rest and/or medical treatment have healed it in time for the plot-relevant moment.
- 3. The character was only feigning the disability in the first place.
- 4. The otherwise incurable disability was miraculously cured through divine means or by Applied Phlebotinum.
- 5. The disability could just disappear for no reason at all, possibly as a Retcon or as Canon Discontinuity.
are inherent in some versions of this trope, if you think about it for a moment
: If fictional characters can "will" their disabilities away, then real people who can't do the same thing must
be too weak-willed or lazy to do the same. Also, if the only happy ending the writers can imagine for the character is to magically lose their disability
, this could be a little depressing for disabled people living in the real world
See also Artificial Limbs
, Beautiful All Along
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Anime and Manga
- In one of the last episodes of the second season of Code Geass, Nunnally overpowers the memory Geass the Emperor had put on her and opens her eyes through sheer force of will, after being blind from psychological trauma for years. (Her legs still don't work, though.)
- Slightly justified in the fact that her blindness is strongly implied to be caused by the Emperor's Geass, and not natural causes
- In the Alternate Continuity manga Nightmare of Nunnally, she is healed of her blindness and inability to walk by the end.
- Appears as a Justified Trope in the second season of Darker Than Black. The heroine's brother is a Contractor who is confined to a wheelchair as part of his Remuneration. Typically of this trope, he suddenly rises from his wheelchair at a plot-important moment.
- In the Final Arc of Steel Ball Run, Part 7 of Jo Jos Bizzare Adventure, After spending the entirety of the Story Crippled, Johnny Joestar can finally start walking again after years of being pinned to a wheelchair.
- This happens to Coco in the finale of Basquash!, as one of the last shots is her getting out of her wheelchair. Considering everything else in the series, it's very likely this was the phlebotinum version.
- In Fist of the North Star, one of the Nanto Roku Seiken, Shuu, recovers his eyesight at the brink of death, for a Tear Jerker moment where his greatest wish, seeing Kenshiro's grown-up face, is fulfilled, allowing him to die at peace, knowing the guidance of his star was not wrong.
- Hayate after Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. In her case, it's a combination of versions 2 and 4, with her paralysis being due to the Artifact of Doom draining her life, and even after they got rid of the magical source, it still required up to six more years of medical treatment before she was able to walk.
- In Alpine Rose (manga) Marie was paralyzed until she met Lundi, and then miraculously rose from her wheelchair to help him, after which he's limping on crutches and she's apparently fine.
- For a character who was just pretending, there's Richard Dragon, a comic book character created by Denny O'Neil. He reveals in an issue of The Question that he actually can walk, and the wheelchair was just to screw with people.
- In the comic The Incredible Hulk Bruce Banner gets ALS, and is eventually cured by Reed Richards. (The issue ends with Banner Breaking the Fourth Wall, saying it's Just A Story and there's no real cure for ALS, encouraging people to donate to the research to Find A Cure.)
- In 52 Ralph Dibny thinks that Dr. Milo is just pretending to be crippled in order to smuggle a magical artifact into the asylum in which he is incarcerated. Said artifact is one of the wheels on Dr. Milo's wheelchair. Horribly subverted when it turns out Milo really is crippled and has no legs. Ralph only realizes this after he had already removed the wheel and Milo was left helpless and crawling on the floor.
- After Tony Stark had his nervous system replaced after a great deal of damage. He had to learn how to move. During that time, he was paralyzed from the neck down.
- Professor Xavier, who routinely goes from paraplegic to perfectly healed and back again.
- In DC's New 52 reboot, Barbara Gordon returned to the role of Batgirl after decades as the paraplegic Oracle. In the story it's been retconned that she was only paralyzed for three years (of Comic Book Time), and she and her family found some "miracle" doctors in Africa that performed the surgery that healed her. In an attempt to shake off the massive waves of fan rage at this casual destruction of a beloved plot element, she has Survivor Guilt and PTSD.
- While Oracle-gets-better plots have been Fan Fiction fodder for years, it was the sheer handwave that made everyone angry. Typically, these plots involved high magic, Lazarus Pits, or New Genesis with Bats owing an unspecified but extremely large favor to various extremely powerful people to get it done.
- Especially controversial since for the decades of real world time that she was in the chair, the explanation for why she didn't call in favors from super scientists or magic users was that she refused to take advantage of her connections to obtain medical treatment that was unavailable to the general populace.
- An infamous commercial had the late Christopher Reeve standing up and walking away from his wheelchair, while explaining the importance of funding research for the treatment of disabled people. The ad, of course, used CGI to make him walk, and was supposed to engender hope for the future, but the ad mostly got Reeve What the Hell, Hero? reactions from the general public for making it look as though cures for paralysis would be available in the near future, and a few crushed people who were fooled into thinking that he really had been cured.
- One Redwall book has a hare in a wheelchair suddenly regain her ability to walk and spend every night dancing.
- Older Than Feudalism: Happens a lot in The Bible with various miracles. One example that is probably closest to this trope is the story of Samson. Samson was captured and blinded and had his hair, the source of his power, cut off as well. Eventually, the hair grew back, causing his strength to return and allowing him to pull Taking You with Me on his captors.
- An Enderverse example—near the end of Xenocide, Miro, who had been crippled and unable to talk properly, regains the use of his body as it was before the accident that disabled him. Not actually that miraculous, because what really happened was he discarded his old body and created a new one due to being instantly teleported Outside in order to... it's complicated.
- Grandpa Joe does this in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the rest of Charlie's grandparents accomplish it by the end of the sequel. Justified as it never actually says they can't walk, it's just that they're really old and have stayed in bed 24/7 for years and therefore out of practice. All it takes is the right motivation (for Grandpa Joe, the chance to visit Wonka's factory; for the others, being told that if they don't get out of bed, they won't fit into the glass elevator).
- In Jane Eyre, Rochester is blinded by the fire that his wife set in Thornfield - one eye is knocked out entirely, but the other one heals over time. His severed hand never grows back, though.
- In the book Wicked, Nessarose was born without arms, and cannot walk on her own - she always needs someone to steady her. The Silver Slippers, after Elphaba enchants them, give her the balance for independent locomotion.
- In the Lord Darcy mystery short "Murder on the Napoli Express", one man has a pronounced limp when walking slowly, and virtually no limp when walking quickly. The limp is a poorly done excuse for carrying a Sword Cane.
- A Sweet Valley High book had a character paralyzed after an accident. Subverted in that her paralysis was never intended to be permanent in the first place and that her doctors stated she would walk again after rest and physical therapy. However, she remained wheelchair-bound long past her expected recovery time and it is soon realized that she is subconsciously creating her paralysis so that her boyfriend won't leave her. However, when her babysitting charge falls into the pool, she has to jump in to save him. Turns out the kid is a champion swimmer and did it on purpose to snap her out it.
- In Heidi, once Klara's wheelchair is disposed of and other characters help her practice walking, she's soon completely cured.
- In The Secret Garden, it's made clear that Colin was never disabled to begin with, but has been staying in bed out of paranoia and a royal fit of the sulks. For ten years. Once he's willing to try, he slowly gains strength.
- On the other hand, the same characters are eagerly talking about using willpower to cure Ben's back, which really does have something wrong with it... but he doesn't undergo such a dramatic transformation.
- In The Poisonwood Bible, Adah, who has walked with a slant and had difficulty talking all her life due to "hemiplegia," finds out she was misdiagnosed, and that her habits were learned in childhood rather than the results of a medical condition.
- Eragon, of the Inheritance Cycle, has a most egregious one of these, losing the debilitating scar he picked up at the end of the first book. Combines heavily with Deus ex Machina, and as we find out in the fourth book, was the actions of the dragon eldunari who hid themselves in the ruins of the Riders' city.
- Gillian Grayson, in Mass Effect: Ascension, was established as having high-functioning autism that clearly has a serious impact on her thought processes and the way she relates to the world. By the end of the novel, when she's off Cerberus-provided experimental chemicals and wearing an environment suit, she's seen as being in somewhat better shape, but not remotely "cured". In (the Canon Discontinuity that is) Mass Effect: Deception her autism isn't mentioned; she had been an "unstable" twelve-year-old with a "temper", implying that she was in and got over an adolescent phase.
- Corwin in the Chronicles of Amber is blinded and imprisoned after a failed bid for the throne. He gets better. Corwin ( and the people who blinded him) kind of expected that this might happen... his family is all-but-immortal and they tend to heal rather quickly (though in this case, it took years).
- A modern sequel to A Christmas Carol called Mr Timothy posits that this eventually happens to Tiny Tim; better nutrition and medical care after Mr Scrooge got some much-needed attitude adjustment have reduced his disability to a barely noticeable limp and twinges in his knee if he has to walk long distances, and he describes with some relish the day when he broke his old crutch up for firewood. It doesn't really come up much for the rest of the book, which has very little to do with its predecessor, except when his bad leg picks the most inconvenient (or rather dramatic) possible moment to start acting up.
- Subverted in The Dresden Files. Midway through the twelfth book, Changes, Harry breaks his back, paralyzing him from the waist down. He makes a Deal With the Queen of Air and Darkness to fix himself up and gain a level or two in Badass. In the fourteenth book, Cold Days, he briefly renounces her terms for the fix and promptly crashes to the floor, revealing that the Winter Mantle didn't heal him, it merely suppressed his injuries.
- In Season Two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike is in a wheelchair for a couple of episodes after a cathedral falls on him, then reveals that he has healed and is just making Angel think he's still crippled so that he can surprise him later. (Not the good sort of surprise. Or the dirty kind, either.)
- Wesley on Angel had been shot and was confined to a wheelchair for a few episodes. During that time, he (literally) rose to Cordelia's defense in order to intimidate Angel. It's a subversion, though, because as soon as Angel left, Wesley collapsed back into the wheelchair and told Cordelia to drive him to the hospital to fix his busted stitches.
- John Locke on LOST used to be in a wheelchair before he came to the island, where he regained the ability to walk.
- Rose's cancer was cured by the island, as was Jin's infertility.
- In the flashsideways, Jack operates on Locke and fixes his paralysis in the series finale.
- Inverted in Heroes, as Daphne's disability comes back during the eclipse, when her powers are turned off temporarily.
- Played straight in the first season, when Mr. Linderman heals Nathan's wife, who was paralyzed from the waist down, as a "gift" to her and Nathan.
- There's also Claire, whose power is cellular regeneration and hence, immortality. When her powers are stripped away during the eclipse, her lack of immune system leads to her swift death from multiple infections and diseases. Luckily, as soon as the eclipse ends, her powers come back and she returns to life.
- One of the few high points of WWF's Invasion angle was when Vince McMahon brought in the legendary "Classy" Freddie Blassie to give the WWF roster a pep talk. Blassie rose from his wheelchair to give an impassioned speech about the history and legacy of the WWF, imploring the gathered wrestlers to not let the forces of the Alliance destroy what took so long to build.
- In an episode of The Incredible Hulk David Banner gets paralyzed from the chest down; when he Hulks Out at the end of the episode Hulk is at first paralyzed as well, but eventually recovers due to his Healing Factor, which heals Banner too.
- An episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ended with an apparently wheelchair bound woman being pushed into a swimming pool by her angry husband (who the detectives had just made realize had only her word that she was still disabled). She was indeed faking and the episodes ends with the detectives, perhaps a little too smugly, informing her that she'll now be going to jail.
- Parodied in a famous Saturday Night Live sketch which billed itself as an alternate ending to It's a Wonderful Life. George and the townsfolk think that Mr. Potter is pulling the Obfuscating Stupidity version and throw him out of his wheelchair. Sure enough, it turns out he's faking his paralysis as well.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp", one character who uses a wheelchair turns out to be faking it.
- the first character to rock a wheelchair in Who was actually one of the good guys — Dortmun, one of the leaders of the anti-Dalek resistance in "Dalek Invasion Of Earth." Dortmun is confined to a wheelchair due to one of his many failed attempts to devise an anti-Dalek explosive. And not coincidentally, he's a terrible leader whose super-explosives never do what they're supposed to. But then Dortmun finally redeems himself, confronting the Daleks and buying time for the others to escape — by climbing out of his wheelchair and standing to face the Daleks at last.
- Glee: Type Three: In "Wheels", Tina reveals to Artie that she's been faking her stutter to avoid people, and wants to stop. The actually-disabled Artie takes the news quite badly, pointing out the Unfortunate Implications of pretending to have a disability.
- Star Trek gives us Captain Christopher Pike, who's stuck in a wheelchair and unable to express himself other than by flashing a light "Yes" or "No." Captain Pike's mind is still alive in there, but nobody's figured out a way for him to use Morse code, or translate his brain activity into speech. So Spock takes matters into his own hands, risking his own career and Captain Kirk's command to help Captain Pike return to Talos IV, the planet of the obscene craniums. There, Captain Pike can live in a kind of dreamworld for the amusement of the sterile Talosians, but at least he'll be perfectly healthy.
- A Taxi episode has Louie taken to court by an old lady who he hit with his cab. When he learns that the woman is a notorious scam artist with a history of phony lawsuits, he decides to "prove" she's not really hurt during the trial by shoving her wheelchair toward a staircase so she'll jump out. Unfortunately for him, it turns out that in this particular case he really had injured her.
- An episode of Wings plays with this too. After Helen deliberately smashes her Jeep into Joe's office, he sues her when she refuses to pay. When she shows up at court hobbling on crutches and with her head bandaged, an infuriated Joe assumes she's pulling a Wounded Gazelle Gambit and proceed to kick the crutches out from under her, causing her to fall, then prods her with his foot, demanding that she get up. Only for Brian to show up and reveal that Helen had been in an accident on her way to court, meaning that her injuries are real and Joe just made himself look like a borderline abusive ex-boyfriend.
- In an Easter episode of The Waltons, Olivia is stricken with polio and for a while confined to her bed or a wheelchair — until she hears her youngest child crying out in a nightmare, and in her half-sleeping state gets up and walks down the hall. Apparently the cure for disability is to forget you're disabled.
- Subverted in the BBC series Sherlock: army doctor John Watson returns after being wounded in Afghanistan, now walking with a limp and cane. But, as pointed out by others, the limp and pain are not constant, and disappear when he is occupied with something dangerous, exciting, or curiosity-inspiring — letting them conclude it's mostly psychosomatic. They are right, and during the first episode it happens more and more often for extended periods until the limp and the cane disappear entirely. We later learn that he was wounded in the shoulder, not the leg.
- Averted on Picket Fences for realism's sake, when the older brother recuperates after getting shot. The gradual reduction of his spinal cord's swelling, that restores his ability to walk, takes up a good part of that season, and his getting out of his wheelchair is preceded by episodes where he regains a sense of touch in his feet and the ability to urinate without a catheter.
- Eureka: Due to an incident involving time travel, Kevin loses his autism. This gets handled about as well as one would expect given the prevalence of Throwing Off the Disability.
- Although given that his mother actively tried to thwart their attempts to return to their correct timeline, as she prefers him this way, might lend itself to some Unfortunate Implications.
- Temporary paralysis is a frequent version of Hollywood Healing seen on Soap Operas. Usually, the character snaps out of their paralysis in order to save themselves or another character from a life-threatening situation.
- Seven Days: Wheelchair-bound Dr. Ballard is given a chip that allows him to walk again. Unfortunately, said chip contains an alien consciousness that makes him homicidal, forcing Parker to back-step to prevent him from receiving the implant, leaving him in the wheelchair.
- Lionel Luthor in Smallville. He is inflicted with genuine - albeit temporary - blindness, and eventually regains his sight. But, Lionel being Lionel, he turns this into Obfuscating Disability.
- Played up, down, back and forth by Arrested Development, with a lawyer who fakes blindness in order to get jury sympathy. Michael figures this out and throws a book at her to prove it - unfortunately on the one day when she had been temporarily actually blinded. For unrelated reasons, she is also faking a pregnancy.
- Olivia does this in the second season of Fringe after seemingly fruitless rehabilitation with Sam Weiss.
- On Downton Abbey, Matthew is told he'll never walk again after a bomb blast in the WWI trenches. A few episodes later, he starts feeling tingles, but is told it's just psychosomatic. He finally bolts up out of his wheelchair to grab Lavinia when she falls.
- This is treated somewhat realistically, for a number of reasons:
- The 1915 medical technology wasn't sensitive enough to detect his chances of recovery.
- The doctor is revealed to have known there was a small chance, but didn't want to give false hope, which is consistent with his depiction as medically conservative.
- Matthew sits down again immediately and has to undergo a long recovery, using a cane for most of the remainder of the series.
- CSI NY borderlined this with Danny, combined with some Hollywood Healing. It was uncertain in the season 6 opener if he'd regain feeling in his legs after being shot. There are about four eps where he's in the chair, but by the end of the fifth ep, he's standing just fine.
- House's limp is all over the map. Partly this is due to treatments (of varying degrees of bakedness) that he tries over the course of the series, partly it's due to how much Vicodin/Methadone/Ibuprofen/whatever he happens to be taking at the time. It's implied that a substantial fraction of the pain may be psychosomatic.
- Ana Guerrico of Padre Coraje, who began in a wheelchair. Her recovery is a miracle (reading "miracle" not as an expression of something completely unlikely that happens in defiance of the willing suspension of disbelief of the audience, but an actual miracle with the associated religious controversies between the characters).
- In Dick Tracy, the Mayor's invalid wife pulls off the 'Heroic Will' version: rising from her invalid bed to shoot Mrs Pruneface and save her daughters.
- Homestuck has two examples, the first being Tavros and the latter being Terezi. For Tavros, it's actually fixed via his legs being sown off and replaced with robotic versions (Vriska even taunts him with his missing legs). The latter is somewhat of a Deconstructed Trope: she initially didn't want Aranea to fix her eyes, but during a downward spiral of self-loathing she ultimately agrees to it. This only makes it worse, due to Terezi's regret over the decision. Because of her current self-loathing, she saw her blindness as the "only cool thing about her".
- Dr. McNinja parodies the Incredible Hulk example above. One of the doctor's old friends has a Hulk-type power, which is the result of his totally-not-Stephen-Hawking father's experiments to try to cure his own paralysis. His father can hulk out too. Yep; he stays paralyzed, even when he's big, muscly, and purple.
- Occurs in Hanna-Barbera's Heidi's Song, with an invalid girl gets out of her wheelchair in order to defend her pet kitten against a Hawk.
- Used a couple of times in South Park:
- In "Krazy Kripples", Christopher Reeve regains the ability to walk (among other things) by sucking the stem cells out of an embryo.
- In "Bloody Mary", attending an AA meeting convinces Randy that he is powerless to overcome his drinking problem, and starts using a wheelchair for some reason. When sprayed with the blood of the eponymous Mary, he triumphantly stands up and throws his drink to the ground. Justified, of course, because he was only ever disabled in his hypochondriac mind.
- Peggy in King of the Hill had to go through this when her muscles had atrophied after being released from her body-cast due to a skydiving accident. In this case she chose to forgo normal physical therapy for Cotton's method, where he purposefully got her angry in order to provoke a response. It was still a long and involved process, though.
- An episode of Fillmore! included a computer game reviewer who was in a wheelchair with both her legs in casts. When Fillmore and Ingrid try to bring her in for questioning about a stolen game system, she flees in the chair - then, when the chair gets stuck on uneven ground, she opens the casts, gets up, and runs away. After being caught and questioned, she haughtily points out, "I never said I couldn't walk. I just prefer not to waste the excess energy." Fillmore is unimpressed: "You let people believe you were seriously injured. You don't just fake a double leg-break!"
- Family Guy: Bonnie flies to Paris to have an affair, and her wheelchair-bound husband Joe finds out. To save his marriage he pulls the "heroic will" version and walks across the room... except it's actually Quagmire, tied to Joe's back, doing all the walking.
- Another episode taking place during the winter has Joe suddenly regain the ability to walk... and during his celebratory dance his son Kevin accidentally knocks Joe over with a sled and Joe is crippled again.
- Subverted by Professor X in Wolverine and the X-Men. The first time you see him in the future, he stands up and runs out of the Cerebro chamber. However, it quickly becomes clear that he is wearing robotic leg braces and he is later shown to be unable to use his legs without them.