The British army wouldn't let you join 'cause you were too fat.
Look it up, it's a true fact — Wikipedia that!"
The stock drama in which someone's aspirations are impossible because of a physical defect. Used for comedy and dark comedy just as much as it is for drama. This is often a crucial turning point in a story, so be warned that there are spoilers below.
Related to I Coulda Been a Contender!. Subversions and aversions can lead to a Handicapped Badass. Inversions can be Inspirationally Disadvantaged or have a Disability Superpower. If the character gains the defect during their life, then it's a Career-Ending Injury. If they're too much of a Determinator to let their handicap stop them, they may become a Deaf Composer.
- Berserk: Isidro hero-worships Guts and aspires to be just like him. Unfortunately, he is way too short and skinny, so no matter how much he works out, he can never achieve the physique to perform Guts' Lightning Bruiser style and cannot fight using a BFS effectively. Isidro is eventually convinced to accept this and to adjust his tactics to a Fragile Speedster style, making him more effective on the battlefield.
- Asta's dream in Black Clover is to become the Wizard King. Too bad he has absolutely no magic at all. It also doesn't help that his best friend and rival Yuno has incredible magical potential. The only people so far who believe that Asta can overcome this handicap with raw determination (and his spiffy new Anti-Magic) are Asta and Yuno.
- Full Moon: Mitsuki wants to become an Idol Singer but can't because she has throat cancer and to live she'll have to have her larynx removed... she puts this off so she can still sing, but it means she'll die before she's really going to be old enough to achieve her dream. But then she gets to do it via magic.
- Galaxy Express 999 occasionally runs into characters who desperately want to leave their home planet but physically can't, including one couple from the Fog Capital who are so frail they suffer cardiac arrests on takeoff after stealing Maetel and Tetsuro's passes. This is stated to be a trait of people from that planet; their guns barely tickle Tetsuro and he easily breaks floors by jumping around.
- In My Hero Academia, protagonist Izuku Midoriya wanted to be a superhero his entire life after watching a video of his lifelong idol, All Might, save people with a brilliant smile. Unfortunately for Izuku, he was born Quirkless, meaning that he's the Un-Sorcerer when 80% of people on the planet have some kind of superpower, including both of his parents. Luckily for him, he becomes an Empowered Badass Normal when a chance meeting with All Might (who had told Izuku that his dreams were impossible to his face earlier that same day) inspires him to name Izuku his successor and pass down One For All to him.
- Rock Lee wants to continue his career and become a successful ninja. He faces not being able to perform any Ninjutsu or Genjutsu, but gets around it by solely focusing on Taijutsu with Training from Hell.
- Filler character Yakumo wants to become a ninja, but tires easily after routine exercises. She says she wants to become a ninja who can use genjutsu, but Kurenai refuses to let her, as she would have to rely on the Id within her, and seals away her ability to use genjutsu. After Yakumo's Id kills her parents when they try to console her that there are other paths to take in life, she seeks revenge on Kurenai, believing her to be responsible, but the two eventually reconcile.
- Smile Down the Runway: Chiyuki Fujito's greatest dream is to become a runway model. Unfortunately, in spite of her beauty, she is rejected from every agency because she is only 158 cm tall, while models have to be at least 175 cm tall. Eventually, with the help of her friend, the aspiring fashion designer Ikuto Tsumura, she manages to get accepted.
- Viral from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. His dream is to have a family, which we get to see in the Alternate Universe dream sequence, but it is also the one thing that he cannot have because he is a beastman and thus incapable of reproduction, and even if he settles down with a wife, he will eventually outlive her due to his immortal body.
- In Witch Hat Atelier, a boy named Tartar, a young worker in the magic supply shop, has an eye disease that makes it hard for him to see colors. Because of the emphasis on witch education in visuals, he's been unable to become a full-witch.
- Kaori from Your Lie in April loves playing the violin. She is however an Ill Girl. Her illness causes her to lose the ability to use her legs and arms properly. Even with physical therapy she eventually becomes unable to play instruments anymore.
- Marvel Comics's Steve Rogers was classified as a 4-F and denied entry into the US Army because he suffered from various (unspecified) health problems which ultimately left him physically frail. Thankfully, he got better.
- The Flash villain Rainbow Raider is a gifted painter, but is also, unfortunately, colorblind. This isn't in itself a huge handicap that one could get around in any number of ways, but evidently his paintings look gaudy at best no matter what he does.
- Batman villain Crazy Quilt was a great artist (and forger) till a bullet wound to the head left him unable to see anything but blindingly vivid and disorienting colors.
- In Justice Society of America, Nate Heywood's dreams of becoming a football star were crushed when his kneecap was shattered and the injury became infected, necessitating the amputation of one of his legs. Even worse, it's mentioned his leg could've been saved had it been treated properly, and the amputation looks as though, as Dr. Mid-Nite puts it, it was done by a butcher. As luck would have it, an encounter with a supervillain later caused him to become covered in a living metal- the same process also restoring his lost leg- that allowed him to become the reluctant superhero Citizen Steel.
- Doctor Strange was once an amazing surgeon. Then, he got into an accident that badly mangled his hands, leaving him unable to hold a scalpel steadily. He traded the scalpel for learning magic and became the Sorcerer Supreme instead. It's notable that in most modern interpretations, the injury wasn't even that bad and didn't prevent Strange from returning to surgery, but he was such an egomaniac he wouldn't accept even the most minor loss of skill and sunk his entire fortune into trying to be completely healed. The reason he originally sought out the previous Sorcerer Supreme was in the hopes that magic could fix what science couldn't.
- Preacher: While in the desert, Jesse runs into a guy who seems to be blowing up the ground at random. It turns out he dreamed of being an astronaut, joining the Air Force and faking paperwork so he could become one. He was kicked out about five seconds later as he was about two heads shorter than all the other candidates, and ever since has been carving out a giant "FUCK YOU" visible from space (and listens in on the astronauts' conversation when they see it). Notable is the man still insists he would have been a fine pilot because of his dedication and desire, not grasping the simple truth he was physically unfit to go into space.
- One pre-Popeye Thimble Theater strip played this for laughs. Ham Gravy, running a shoe store, hires and fires a few assistants because they keep stealing shoes. Eventually, he hires a man with two peg legs on the grounds that since he doesn't have feet, he won't steal shoes. Castor Oyl, hearing this, decides to apply the same logic at hiring an assistant at a hat store.
- Bloom County:
- One strip has the following exchange between Opus the Penguin and the strip's narrator:
Opus: She said that all she needs from a boyfriend is "Lips to kiss and a shoulder to cry on."
Narrator: Aw, that's sweet.
Opus: I'm short on both counts!
- Also Opus in the book and animated special A Wish for Wings That Work.
- One strip has the following exchange between Opus the Penguin and the strip's narrator:
- In Safe Havens Dave kept constantly injuring his left knee, which ended up leaving it too fragile for him to compete in the NBA like he always wanted. The NBA's loss was Florence's gain, though: Dave ended up playing on an Italian basketball team instead and eventually winning Olympic gold for Team USA.
- Cranked Up to Eleven in the parody Raruto, where Ron Li had as a life-long dream to "keep his arms and legs". Later it turns out he had nothing serious, since Sumadre [Tsunade] had misdiagnosed him while drunk, and she wouldn't risk performing a surgery on him with 99% chance of success.
- It's fairly popular in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics for Ditzy/Derpy's ambitions of being a good mother to Dinky to be ruined because of her eye (and sometimes mental) disability. See for example Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.
- Persona EG:
- Vinyl Scratch eventually goes blind, but she defies this trope because she can still operate her DJ equipment without her eyes. The only things she is upset about are that she can no longer drive her Cool Car and she will never see her girlfriend Octavia Melody's lovely face and body again.
- Sonata Dusk's throat was damaged in a car accident and she lost her voice, so she can no longer sing. As the story progresses, she eventually gets her voice back, but for now, she can't speak above a whisper.
- Downplayed with Rainbow Dash. She gets a broken leg early in the story during September, is in crutches for a month and out of her brace by Halloween. However she says she can still feel slight pain in her leg and needs to improve her game if she wants to be a pro. She says she still isn't back to 100% by July.
- The narrator of Equestria: A History Revealed had a mother who told her she could be anything and a paternal example and cutie mark which convinced her she was destined for great things. She applied to Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. As she's an earth pony with a tested IQ of 79, she got back a form letter noting a student would have to be "both gifted and a unicorn". (The "gifted" part seems to have been much more offensive; it's unclear how many of her later notable prejudices, including racial bigotry against unicorns, were already present in her home life.)
- Sailor Moon Abridged, Played for Laughs in Episode 13 & 14:
Peter Phile: There a few ground rules! One: everybody must have legs.
[a bunch of girls]: Yay / whoohoo / all right / yeah / etc!
[one girl]: Aww f[*honk!*]k.
- Lightfur of Little Fires has an illness that makes it very easy for him to get sick. He was retired to the Elder's den before even being made a warrior.
- In Monsters University, Mike's dream was to be a Top Scarer. While he studies hard and learns many techniques, his small and less than imposing figure ostensibly make that impossible. That said, the central plot of the movie sees an entire house full of cuddly, unimposing monsters learn to become scarers, so make of this one however you will.
- In Little Miss Sunshine, Dwayne discovers he's color-blind and can't become a pilot.
- Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon in Stuck on You. Kinnear's character wants to be a movie star despite him and Damon being conjoined twins (And Damon's character suffering from stage fright).
- From Monty Python's Life of Brian:
Stan: I want to have babies.
Reg: You want to have babies?!
Stan: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.
Reg: But... you can't have babies.
Stan: Don't you oppress me.
Reg: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb! Where's the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!
- Played for Laughs in the Black Knight scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Arthur: You're indeed brave, Sir Knight, but the fight is mine!
Black Knight: Oooh, had enough eh??
Arthur: Look, you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left!
Black Knight: Yes, I have!
Black Knight: Just a Flesh Wound!
- The hunchbacked Ephialtes in 300 gets told he can't join the Spartans because he'll weaken the phalanx, as he can't raise his shield high enough to protect the men next to him. Ironically, the movie then violates this premise by having the Spartans break up their phalanx and fight individually, and, in any case, it's never quite explained why they couldn't have used him as a messenger or positioned him on the cliff and let him chuck spears as long as he could. (In the comic book, he just refuses the king's offer to do anything other than stand on the front lines.)
- Rudy; Rudy, you're too short to play football!
- Everest: One of the kids has braces, whose tendency to contract in extreme cold would become a problem on the high altitudes of Everest. As a result, he is sent home.
- Parodied in The Onion Movie. Introduced is the "inspirational portrait of the week", which involves a man with no legs (and then no arms) first declaring that he wanted to do ballet since he was a child. After maybe 15 seconds, what he wanted to do all his life was hockey. A sequence of him follows being tackled harshly.
- In From Russia with Love, Tatiana Romanova explains that she wanted to be a ballerina, but was rejected for being too tall. In fact, "Too Tall to be a Ballerina" could be a trope in its own right: in Real Life, aspiring dancers are more likely to be rejected for being too short.
- The whole premise of Gattaca. Anyone who is an "invalid" (a human with inferior genes, often natural-born instead of a designer baby) can't get into a number of jobs that are subject to genetic discrimination. The protagonist is an invalid who wants to be an astronaut and passes himself off as "valid" by borrowing genetic material from a "valid" person who is wheelchair-bound.
- As in the comics, the first Captain America movie. In this case the viewers get a laundry list. His father died from mustard gas; his mother was a nurse in a tuberculosis ward and caught it. Displayed on the screen, he has: asthma (enough to get him 4-F'd by itself), scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, sinusitis, chronic or frequent colds, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, heart trouble, nervous trouble, a relative with diabetes or cancer, and is easily fatigued. And that's not even with accounting how small and skinny he is/was. However, these get cured from his dosage of Super Serum.
- Leonard in Memento has lost his capacity for short-term memory and is repeatedly told by the other characters that his going on a quest to avenge his wife's murder is a fool's errand since, even if he does manage to succeed, he won't remember it anyway and thus won't derive any emotional closure from it. As the ending reveals, it's even worse than that. He already did avenge his wife, failed to receive the closure he wanted but kept on hunting anyway until he mistakenly killed someone completely unrelated to his wife's murder. The film ends with him starting his investigation all over again, with the strong implication that he'll kill at least one more person before he's finished.
- In-universe example: in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Chun follows a soap opera where the high school football player loses one of his legs:
Boy: But, I was going to be All-American!
Doctor: Well, now you can be All-American for courage!
- Played fairly straight in Frank Capra's The Miracle Woman with John Carson who was an aviator, but can no longer fly because of an accident that left him blind.
- Night Song: Although still able to play piano, Dans accident (that made him blind) was quite recent, so his depression leads him to stop composing music.
- In Armageddon, Dan Truman, the head of NASA and the one who recruits Harry Stamper to drill on the Asteroid, makes it clear that he would have loved to have gone up to space at some point, but the fact that he wears leg braces, probably since childhood, prohibited him from even applying to the astronaut program.
- A Song of Ice and Fire
- Bran Stark suffers from this in having dreamed about being a knight prior to being crippled.
- Gender roles are a running source of vexation for a number of female characters. Brienne of Tarth is constantly ridiculed for living the lifestyle of a knight. Asha has difficulty being taken seriously as a leader of the Ironmen for being a woman. Arya is always getting into trouble for being a tomboy and must practice fencing under the guise of "dancing lessons". Cersei repeatedly curses being born a woman, which prevents her from ruling in her own right. Each of those cases is ultimately a subversion, though: Brienne is a knight for all intents and purposes, Asha is Captain of her own ship and gets more respect from her father than her brother does, Arya becomes a formidable fighter and assassin, and Cercei becomes the true power behind her easily-led son Tommen. Being a woman makes a lot of things harder in Westeros, but it's not an insurmountable obstacle.
- Jaime Lannister experiences this after losing his sword hand while a prisoner of Vargo Hoat (books)/Locke (TV series).
- In How to Be a Superhero, Captain Eagle breaks into an orphanage to find a kid whose parents were killed by a mugger and might want revenge on crime. One boy seems promising, until one of the other orphans points out "But you've only got one leg, Bobby-Ray!"
- Done backwards in The Scarlet Ibis, where Doodle's brother has his dreams of a sibling he could run/play with dashed when his brother is born disabled.
- No Arms, No Cookies is supposedly an autobiography by a woman who had, well, parents who supplied her with the book title.
- In Warrior Cats this happens twice:
- Jaypaw just wants to be a great warrior, and won't listen when other cats tell him that he can't because of his blindness. He does get the chance to train as a warrior apprentice, but when a patrol he's on gets into a fight and he's easily beaten by an enemy apprentice because he can't make sense of what's going on, he has to come to terms with the fact that he'll never be a warrior. He ends up becoming a medicine cat instead.
- Snowkit is born deaf. His mother refuses to accept that he won't be able to become a warrior, and even tries training him herself. Then Snowkit gets carried off by a hawk because he couldn't hear it coming.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- Nikolai Vorsoisson dreams of being a military jumpship pilot. Miles knows, as Nikki does not, that Nikki carries a genetic defect that will render him unqualified for military service even if successfully treated. He tries to convince Nikki to become a commercial pilot instead, but Barrayar's military-mad culture would regard this as a significant step down.
- And of course, Miles himself managed to flunk out of Barrayar Military Academy's entrance exams due to his ultra-brittle bones, by breaking both his legs at the start of physical testing.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has Uldir Lochett, a boy who dreams of becoming a Jedi Knight and tries to join Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy, only to find that he isn't Force Sensitive. Luke allows him to learn a few fighting techniques and work at the Academy, but Uldir ultimately realizes he won't be able to be a Jedi and goes home. He eventually becomes a Badass Normal hero.
- Elephant & Piggie book "Can I Play Too?". Gerald and Piggie are playing catch and a snake optimistically asks to join them, only to finally concede he isn't physically capable of playing catch. It's subverted when Piggie has the idea to throw the snake between herself and Gerald, thus "playing catch" with him.
- Agnes from Run is blind. In her parents eyes, this means that she won't ever be successful on her own. Agnes' dream, of course, is simply to get out of town and away from her family.
- Subverted in Out of the Dust. It initially looks like the burns on Billie's hands will make it impossible for her to play piano again. It's shown that she can still play, however it's very painful for her. Eventually the physical pain goes away, but the emotional pain brought on by the trauma of losing her mother and unborn brother prevents her from playing. By the end however Billie's recovered enough to start playing again.
- Harry Potter plays this for laughs with Friendly Ghost Nearly Headless Nick, who can't join the Headless Hunt and play Severed Head Sports because, well, he's only nearly headless (with half an inch of skin and sinew the only thing still connecting his head to his neck; during his execution, he was hit forty-seven times with a blunt axe).
- In one Diary of a Wimpy Kid story, Greg decides to be completely honest. This results in him telling a little kid that the kid will never be a basketball player, due to his parents being barely over 5 feet tall, and the kid himself being overweight.
- In Worm Prism is a minor character who triggered when a career ending injury was causing her to slowly lose touch with her family.
- In Griffin's Daughter, Ashinji's true dream was to become a mage, like his mother. Unfortunately for him, in elvish society, magecraft is restricted to women, and despite his aptitude for magic, training is denied him. He has to settle for being a military commander (which, admittedly, he's good at). Ashinji's magic power proves pivital in the story's endgame. As a result, he's allowed to train as a mage. Though it's not made clear if an exception was made for him or if the rules were changed.
- An episode of Baywatch has a wannabe-lifeguard rejected because he wears contacts (and thus had bad eyesight). The plot ends with them changing that rule when the candidate points out the hypocrisy that once you passed the test you never have to retake it and that several of the older lifeguards may have once had perfect eyesight, but now wear contacts and are considered perfectly capable lifeguards.
- Game of Thrones: This happens to Bran, at first. After Tyrion designs a saddle that will allow him to ride, based on Tyrion's own, it gets a little better.
- One of the first episodes reveals in a Flashback Twist that Locke, who is a total badass on the island, was once a delusional armchair explorer, totally oblivious to the fact that people in wheelchairs have trouble exploring. Getting stranded on the island has been a gift for him.
- In a much later episode, an alternate-timeline Locke gets verbally slapped upside the head with this trope by Rose, the manager of an employment agency, and finally listens to reason.
- Parodied in Strangers with Candy: a blind boy decides he wants to join the football team. He finally convinces everyone to let him play... and thirty seconds into the big game, gets tackled by practically the entire other team, sending him into a coma.
- In an episode of Get Smart, the evil guy's assistant can only grunt but wants to be a band singer.
- American Gladiators: On one episode of the relaunch, they have a contestant with prosthetic legs compete. He is okay at the events that don't require much leg strength or agility, like Assault, but it is painful to watch him try to complete the Eliminator.
- When Richard Whiteley set an atrocious time on the Top Gear test track, a blind fan wrote in to say he could do better. And then did.
- One Tree Hill:
- Lucas' dreams of playing in the NBA are crushed when he learns he has HCM, a heart condition that many young athletes die from.
- Similarly, Nathan's near-paralysis from a back injury in Season 5 threatens his own chances at the NBA. He gets better and gets to play with the NBA after all, but not without initial fears that further injury could leave him paralyzed for life.
- Lurch, the giant butler on The Addams Family television series, once revealed that his parents wanted him to be a jockey.
- A Saturday Night Live skit concerned a family called The Psychos, which included a daughter who wanted to be the world's first blind ballerina.
- An episode of CHiPs involves the younger brother of a CHP officer who'd been killed in the line of duty. He started posing as a cop in his brother's old uniform. When caught by Ponch and Jon, he protested that he couldn't join the CHP himself because he was color blind.
- Turk has a hard time finding the courage to tell a young concert pianist who has earned a scholarship to Julliard that he lost use of his right hand in surgery.
- The trope is parodied in another episode, where Eliot is taking on the incredibly unpleasant task of giving such bad news to patients simply so she can get some respect from Dr. Cox (she claims she enjoys helping people deal with such news, but it's really making her an emotional wreck). Cox tests her by asking her to tell a young woman who is a professional dancer and just had her legs amputated, that she cannot have her physical therapy (or recovery) in the hospital; as her medical insurance was through her husband, who just died. She agrees, and asks what room the patient is in. He stares at her, and then admits that there is no such patient, and he made up the most depressing thing he could think of.
- Charles saves a man's leg from amputation, but the man's hand is beyond repair and loses some flexibility. After the surgery, Charles learns his patient is a concert pianist. Fortunately, as a classical music aficionado, he manages to find copies of one-handed concertos that the man can play with just his left hand. The young musician points out that he's not going to have a career playing a handful (no pun intended) of gimmicky pieces from one composer, and Charles agrees that that's not likely — what makes him a musician, however, isn't what's in his hands. Charles himself knows how to play, but he can't make music like this man can: he can write, he can teach, he can conduct, he can still make music the center of his life, even without playing.
- Other episodes dealt with a college football player whose career is sidelined by an amputated leg, and an infantryman whose face is disfigured and attempts suicide rather than go home and face his fiancee.
- Glee: Artie gets moments like this occasionally, for instance when he performs Safety Dance. In season 2 when he is allowed to join the football team and becomes a "human battering ram."
- Used briefly in an episode of Dragnet where Sgt. Friday explains to an applicant to the Police Department that he's too short and therefore could not effectively restrain an assailant.
- In Smallville a freak of the week, Justin, is a talented young artist who was a victim of a hit-and-run that horribly maimed his hands, which meant he can no longer use them to draw. He goes on a murderous rampage following his recovery after spontaneously developing telekinesis.
Justin: But that didn't replace what I'd lost. Because nothing could ever do that.
- Star Trek:
- In an episode of Star Trek, "Is There in Truth No Beauty?", viewers learn that a blind person is not allowed to pilot the Enterprise, even with the aid of assistive technology - the idea that she isn't a qualified pilot in the first place seems to have slipped everyone's mind. The blind woman, an assistant to the maddeningly ugly Medusan ambassador, also proves envious of Spock's ability to see the ambassador—even though doing so drives Spock insane.
- Of course, in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a blind man is not only piloting the ship but a member of the main cast. Then again, the assistive technology that Geordi uses is considerably more sophisticated than what was available in the original, so the rule may well have changed in response to those technological advances.
- By Voyager, there is an option to switch a console to tactile feedback, allowing a blind person to at least man a tactical station. However, Voyager hardly has the manpower to rotate people out (they were in especially bad shape for that two-parter) and also has a lot of technical innovations made by the crew over the course of the series, so it's unclear if this is standard Starfleet technology or something that the Voyager crew rigged up out of necessity after Tuvok was blinded.
- No Ordinary Family seems to be trying to avert this with the son's super-smarts canceling out his learning disability. His teacher has a particular awkward moment where he repeatedly calls him too stupid to have passed a quiz without cheating. Although the jury is still out on whether using a power that reveals the answers to you is cheating.
- Father Ted: Played for laughs: when the theft of a whistle is pinned on Ted due to a misunderstanding with Dougal, Ted tries to justify stealing it by improvising a story about a boy who is paralyzed except for his eyes, and needs the whistle to achieve his lifelong dream of training horses.
- Kamen Rider Kiva: Wataru's best friend Kengo, an aspiring rock guitarist, sustains injuries that render him unable to play anymore in his attempt to be a Fangire Hunter. This, among other things, leads to Kengo becoming a badass while treating everyone around him like crap. He gets better.
- Grey's Anatomy: A patient who was a gymnast loses her ability to walk.
- JAG: Harmon Rabb, Jr. was a Military Brat that longed to fly planes for the Navy ever since he could think of it. He did managed to enter the Navy and become a pilot... except that he got into an accident that damaged his eyes and gave him night blindness. As a result, he was drummed out of fighter duty and almost totally out of the Navy before he decided to become part of the Judge Advocate General.
- "Frank's Not in the Band Anymore" by Worm Quartet describes a man who desperately tries to keep drumming despite loss of limbs.
- "Still Dancing" by OR3O for the conceptual album "Clover" is about this. The singer, Brenda, is a renowned tap dancer who gets struck with a disease that paralyzed her legs. Brenda's daughter defies this trope and encourages her that if she can't dance with her legs and feet, she can dance with her arms and hands. Once the disease got worse and Brenda lost use of her arms, her daughter encourages her to dance with her voice instead, and after that goes, she can dance in her mind. When Brenda finally succumbs to the disease, she dances as a ghost, unhindered by paralysis and death.
- An episode of Adventures in Odyssey has a boy who uses a wheelchair come into the class saying that his aspiration is to become captain of the football team. He didn't mean it seriously; partly he was being bitter about the wheelchair thing, and partly he was fed up with being made to introduce himself to his classes, as teachers often make you do when you're a new kid. Also, besides saying he wanted to be captain of the football team (or possibly soccer), he also said he wanted to break the school's high jump record. He managed to mortify just about everybody, including the teacher.
- Exalted has a few examples, given that the setting has hardwired rules about what certain Exalts can or cannot do, and a steady subtext of, "...but feel free to ignore it if you want and do the impossible." One of the more frightening examples, though, is Raksi. She's one of the most skilled Lunar sorcerers in all of Creation — but as a Lunar, she's inherently limited to the first two circles of sorcery, and not the top circle that's reserved for the Solar Exalted. But she's got her hands on a book that covers all three circles, and she's been spending centuries trying to find some way to unlock the third circle... no matter who she has to hurt to do it. Anyone who knows of her ambition devoutly hopes she never achieves it, considering that she's completely out of her mind.
- One of the most famous sketches from Beyond the Fringe, "One Leg Too Few," has a one-legged man (Dudley Moore) auditioning for the role of Tarzan. The man is enthusiastic and optimistic and, as the casting agent (Peter Cook) admits, is perfect for the role except for one niggling little point of detail - he cannot help noticing that the actor pitching for the part is a unidexter.
I like your right leg, it's a lovely leg for the role. That's what I said when I saw it come in, I said, "Lovely leg for the role." I've got nothing against your right leg. [Beat] The trouble is, neither have you. You fall down on your left.
- Bagon wants to fly, despite not having wings. However, this trope is only in effect until it finishes evolving, at which points it becomes a Salamence, an extremely fast, part-flying dragon.
- In the Sinnoh games, there is a guru who evaluates your Pokemon's friendship with you based on the way it walks and leaves footprints. He complains if you show him a Pokemon that doesn't have feet... and then does his best to give you a reading anyway.
- Makai Kingdom:
- Overlord Zetta confines himself into The Sacred Tome to avert the total destruction of his Netherworld. Anyone with sufficient Mana can write a wish in The Tome and it will become reality. Zetta has the Mana for it, but being a book, he no longer has arms to write with. Oops!
- Defied by Babylon, who, when about to write, warns everyone not to ask about how he can write without hands. He should really get around to telling Zetta how he does it.
- The main character of Brass Restoration suffers from this after a train accident causes him to lose his arm, failing to become a professional drummer.
- Coach Oleander in Psychonauts. A memory vault flashback shows him denied entrance into multiple branches of the military due to his short stature.
- In Stardew Valley, if you get to know the town doctor Harvey well enough, you'll learn he wanted to be a pilot in his youth, but it never happened because of his bad eyesight and fear of heights.
- Averted in Katawa Shoujo. Shizune is deaf/mute, yet through an interpreter is a ruthlessly efficient class president and Student Council President, and Emi has no legs below her knees, but is the fastest and most dedicated runner on the track team. The best example is Rin, though; with merely atrophied stumps remaining of her arms, she is a gifted artist who through creative use of her feet and mouth can accomplish many everyday tasks.
- In Ciconia: When They Cry, Gauntlet Knights, One-Man Army soldiers with all kinds of superpowers, are the dream job of A3W society (with the most commonly cited reason for wanting to become one being their power of flight). However, operating a Gauntlet requires intense multitasking ability, which usually requires training from a very young age while one's mind is still developing. If you did not get such training early enough, you will simply never be good enough to use a Gauntlet.
- Homestar Runner : Li'l Brudder, a character created by Strong Bad, can never be a quarterback when he grows up, because he's a one-legged puppy. His theme song calls him "king of the dregs", which, presumably, are Tenderfoot the two-legged elephant, a parrot who apparently lacks any limbs at all and has his lower half bandaged up, and a mole with a human nose instead of a face.
- Mr Square: in which Mr Square gets a limbless dog that lives a perfectly happy life...except the also limbless Square is unable to open its food.
- Cyanide & Happiness, here. "I'm sorry, Joey. Your legs just don't work" was originally suspected of influencing the trope name.
- One of the basic concepts behind Warbot In Accounting is the titular character's tragic (yet hilarious) inability to perform many of the functions of daily life because he's a huge freaking robot with claws instead of hands.
- The Pigs Ear does this multiple times in one arc — it's always one of these that keeps the Barkeep from hiring the applicant of the week until Gwen shows up. They include:
- A black double-amputee with hooks instead of hands, who tries to play the race card when Barkeep says it's just not going to work out.
- A gorgon who turns both Barkeep and the customers to stone. Who has, yes, made a second appearance and calls him a racist for this grievance.
- A slime that Barkeep is completely sold on until he gets sucked down the drain.
- And a giant the size of the pub itself. Who also tries to play the race card.
- Zigzagged in Homestuck with Tavros, the paraplegic troll. Early in his story he's almost unable to progress through the game, not because of the monsters but because Vriska deliberately built him a path made mostly of stairs. Made even worse because she's responsible for his state in the first place. He eventually manages to escape by upgrading his wheelchair with rocket boosters and becoming more or less a Handicapped Badass. He did dream of joining some sort of beast-riding lancer squadron, if he wasn't culled for defects first.
- A common trope in Zombie & Mummy. There are a lot of things the eponymous characters just plain can't do, on account of them being decomposing undead, so they have to settle for something else.
- Silver Age Spinnerette wanted desperately to join the Women's Army Corps and fight in Vietnam, but was refused entry, even after being imbued with Dr. Universe's experimental spider venom serum, because of the WACS minimum height requirement of five feet. So she became a superhero instead.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: In early Adventure II, Reynir gets interested in a career path that would let him use his magic to fight Plague Zombie monsters. Unfortunately, this is one of the jobs that are only for mages who are also The Immune and Reynir isn't immune.
- The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is an Internet-based service which provides bots which are designed to waste the time of telemarketers and other unwanted callers. One of these bots, Ox-Gut McGee, tells the caller that he could have been an Olympic figure-skater, but one fall and that was the end of his dreams.
- Family Guy: Kid in Iron Lung: "I'm gonna play baseball!"
- VeggieTales opening; note, all the characters are fruits or vegetables, none of them with hands, arms, or legs:
"Why don't you play the guitar?"
"Bob, I don't have any hands."
- Which works by Rule of Funny as they can play instruments, as Larry does play the guitar.
- In an audio-only Christmas special, Larry brings along his friend Manuel to play the maracas, because he's got hands. Listeners never find out what Manuel is, but Bob sounds very bitter about him having appendages.
- In The Simpsons, Lisa can't become a saxophone virtuoso because of her stubby fingers. Negative Continuity takes care of this issue, but she's been stymied from becoming famous as a jazz player in other occasions.
- In American Dad!, Francine vows to find out what happened when Stan and Roger went to Atlantic City. Klaus offers to help and she responds with "How can you help? You're a FISH!"
- In Futurama, Bender's inability to taste has often been cited as a handicap to his aspirations as a chef, not that he lets that stop him from trying (one episode sees him receive training from an experienced chef who speculates that Bender's lack of taste would allow him to concentrate on the essence of pure flavour). This is not to say he's a bad cook, having made an elaborate cake among other things, but he's terrible when it comes to improvisation.
- In "The Bots and the Bees," Bender's son Ben wants nothing more than to be a bender unit like his father. Unfortunately, that kind of software is passed down mother-to-son, and Ben's mom didn't even have arms, being a vending machine. Poor Ben can't even bend a drinking straw. He's ultimately able to get a bending program installed, but has to sacrifice his memory card to do it since he has only one disc drive. This means he loses all of his prior memories.
- This trope is often the entire premise behind The Oblongs.
- In King of the Hill, Hank Hill was rejected from the military because of his narrow urethra, which means it takes him over twenty minutes to urinate. This holds up the restroom and would leave him vulnerable in the field. His dreams of professional football were also dashed when he snapped his ankle during a critical play in a State Championship game.
- Played for laughs in the first season finale of South Park, when Cartman suspects Mr. Garrison of being his father, only for Garrison to point out that literally every man in the town has at some point had sex with Cartman's mother. A guy then pipes up and says that he hasn't slept with Mrs. Cartman, but Mr. Garrison says "You don't count, Halfie, you don't have any legs!"
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- The show strongly implies that Scootaloo has a disability that prevents her from flying. "Flight to the Finish" directly states that she should have learned to fly at her age, and earlier episodes have shown much younger Pegasi take to the air. When she does use her wings, she can only flutter a few inches off the ground. In "The Fault in Our Cutie Marks", she is determined to help the griffon Gabby to get her Cutie Mark despite her not being a pony since "[she] know what it's like to want something that's out of reach", which is probably the closest the show will get to acknowledge that it is supposed to be a handicap. When she's on her scooter, however, she can use her wings to pick up speed.
- In "The Washouts," when Rainbow Dash tries to convince Scootaloo to look up to the Wonderbolts again, Scootaloo screams that she'll never be a Wonderbolt because she can't fly. Made worse since Rainbow Dash is always trying to convince Scootaloo to be the best she can be—and Rainbow Dash explicitly sees the Wonderbolts as the best of the best. Scootlaoo snaps that this means she'll never be good enough. Rainbow Dash clearly never realized what she was implying.
- It's outright confirmed in Growing Up Is Hard To Do and The Last Problem where not only do we never see the adult Scootaloo fly, but her wings are clearly undersized to the point they apparently haven't developed past what they were when she was as a filly. Word of God has since confirmed on Twitter that yes she is disabled, but that fans are free to interpret it differently if they so wish.
- There's also Sunburst, a unicorn who gained his Cutie Mark in magical theory, but doesn't have the power to back it up. He's so embarrassed by it, he hid out in the Crystal Empire until his old friend Starlight Glimmer comes along in the season six premiere "The Crystalling".
- There's an extremely downplayed example in Derpy Hooves, if one looks closely at a Meaningful Background Event: in "Parental Glideance", a flashback shows Derpy taking part in a series of flying competitions. In the first one, she wins, but places progressively worse and worse... as her infamous Fish Eyes become more and more pronounced. Notably, she starts out ahead of several ponies (including Rainbow Dash) who ended up being Wonderbolts, implying that Derpy could've been one of the best flyers in Equestria if not for her eye problems. Adding to this is a brief flashback shot in "Where the Apple Lies" showing her with a bandage over her eyes, implying that she tried and failed to have her eyes fixed at one point. It's also a rarely positive case as, in spite of it, she's not only shown to be one of the happiest and contented characters in the series, but her popping up in the V.I.P. section of the Grand Galloping Gala, being present at the Royal Wedding, and being shown among an image of Canterlot's elite implies she's led a pretty successful life.
- Played for Drama in Steven Universe—in season three, Amethyst learns that she has the Gem equivalent to a birth defect, and that she is actually supposed to be as tall and muscular as Jasper. While initially believing that she has to defeat Jasper alone to prove herself, she gets repeatedly Curb Stomped, and Steven eventually convinces her that they actually need to work together and beat her with The Power of Friendship.
- Played for laughs in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Sponge Who Could Fly", where a fish mentions that he used to dream of being a concert pianist before realizing that he didn't have any fingers.
- In The Dragon Prince Callum wants to be a mage, but refuses to learn Dark Magic, and as a human lacks connection to any primal arcanum, making him incapable of casting spells without an external power source. Subverted when he succeeds in creating a connection to the storm arcanum quite quickly when he refuses to accept this limitation in the second season. With the introduction of Aaravos, an elf who can use all six forms of primal magic instead of just one, it seems the idea one must be born with the connection is simply a false belief that stops most people from trying.
- Fairly OddParents: Parodied in "Miss Dimmsdale'' when Mr. Turner's dream of entering the Miss Dimmsdale competition is stymied by him... well, being a man. He insists that this is discrimination and that he intends to prove that "men can be beautiful too!" Ironically, he actually ends up winning, if only to keep a cheating Vicky from winning by default after crippling all the other contestants, and is crowned the first male Miss Dimmsdale.
- Supermodeling. You could be the most attractive person in the world but you must be above 5ft 8 ins. There are some exceptions, but most supermodels below 5ft 8ins are something else as well like an actor, dancer, or singer. Also, you usually can't be above a certain weight (this is changing as concerns about anorexia are brought out more).
- In some cases, sperm donation. Clinics receive so many requests for tall donors that men under 6 feet are turned away.
- In 2011, the world's largest sperm bank, in the United Kingdom, started turning down redheads. Apparently nobody wants ginger kids.
- In a more conventional sense, any hereditary disability or health condition will bar a person from sperm or egg donation. In some cases (like being an asymptomatic carrier or gene mutations that don't manifest until later in life), the prospective donor may not become aware that they have a prohibitive condition until they undergo the pre-donation tests.
- Color-blindness is a showstopper for any professions in transportation. You cannot become a truck or bus driver, railroad engineer, airline pilot or a ship's master if you are color-blind.
- Epilepsy is a major deal-breaker for a large number of jobs. No matter what skills or capabilities you have, any unpredictable lapse in concentration will instantly doom any career that involves driving. This extends to careers in medicine, law enforcement, or fire emergencies. If you should have a seizure on the job and it might put you or others in danger, you will be considered unfit. And there are more jobs like that than you think.
- If you want to be in the Rockettes, you can't go being too tall either; dancers must be between 5ft 6in and 5ft 10in. In The '90s, when a Las Vegas revue featuring the Rockettes was hosted by singer-actress Susan Anton (who's 5ft 11in), she lampshaded this with the interstitial song "Too Tall".
- To train at certain world-class ballet schools (perhaps most notably the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St Petersburg), young dancers have to fall within a certain height range (goes rather low for girls, and quite high for boys), as well as to maintain a certain build and body-weight (especially the girls, who also have to stay quite flat-breasted). Trouble is, most kids enter ballet training before they've reached full adult size and proportions, so a kid can sometimes get in only to fall into this trope later. Proportional measurements and X-rays help the panel make a guess at how much a kid is going to grow before they stop, but it's still a bit of a gamble.note
- Even in amateur-level dancing, e.g. ballroom, things will be considerably easier if your partner is a good height match, otherwise you'll have to adjust your hold and step length, and probably won't be considered to look as good at it.
- The American military:
- They reject people for having certain disabilities, such as deafness. The very rare exceptions usually have some necessary or exceptional ability, such as the WWII Army soldier with a punctured eardrum. He'd grown up as part of a Japanese-American family and spoke the language fluently.
- Though not quite within the limits of the trope, there are a LOT of mental disorders that will completely bar you from service, no ifs, ands or buts.
- Transgender people were also barred from service, until June 30, 2016. They can now serve openly, though the enlistment had been obstructed on-and-off again since 2017.
- The United States Air Force only trains pilots who stand between 5'4" and 6"5". Because they don't make fighter jets in more than one size. Fighter pilots also must have perfect vision without correction (glasses or contacts); flight officers, the ones who control the onboard weapon and navigation systems, can have corrective lenses, but their vision must be correctable to 20/20.
- The Old Guard (3rd US Infantry Regiment) has a strict height range for those serving as honor guards at Arlington Cemetery (these are the ones you see at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and funeral duties).
- Previously, people with color blindness were highly sought after in the military. Most forms of human-constructed camouflage depend on color effects, which people without normal color vision can usually see through without difficulty. Modern imaging systems and photography have largely eliminated the need for this, as it allows anyone to have abnormal color vision.
- Romantic-era composer/performer Robert Schumann did this to himself: he designed a machine to help extend the range of his right hand. Instead he damaged it forever, thus ending his public performance career (he continued with the compositions, though).
- Blue Man Group requires its performers to be between 5'10" and 6'1" with an athletic build.
- Defied by Jim Abbott, former MLB pitcher who was born without a right hand. To get around this, Abbott would rest a right-handed thrower's glove on the end of his right forearm. After releasing the ball, he would quickly slip his hand into the glove, usually in time to field any balls that a two-handed pitcher would be able to field. Then he would remove the glove by securing it between his right forearm and torso, slip his hand out of the glove, and remove the ball from the glove, usually in time to throw out the runner.
- In his final year, he played in the National League for the first time, which meant he had to hit occasionally. How'd he do? 2 singles, 3 runs batted in, and 3 sacrifice bunts. One handed. That's better than a lot of two-handed pitchers can do.
- Defied by Rick Allen, drummer of Def Leppard, who lost his left arm, but continues to drum for the group using a combination of rapid armwork and a custom drum setup to let him play the snares with his left foot.
- Defied by Oscar Pistorius, who doesn't have legs and yet competed as a sprinter and relay runner in the 2012 Summer Olympics (among many other events for both able-bodied and disabled individuals).
- Defied by Douglas Bader who lost both legs in a flying accident, was told he would never fly again, flew again, became an RAF ace, made 20 confirmed kills, was shot down over occupied France, escaped from POW camps several times, and was finally imprisoned in Colditz where he remained for the rest of the war (despite several further escape attempts, including taking off his prosthetic legs so that he could fit in a very small box). It's safe to say that his paraplegic condition didn't slow him down at all.
- Laveyan Satanism (really more of a common sense philosophy with ritualistic elements added) makes use of this trope as one of its core principles, the "balance factor." You are supposed to feel free to accomplish anything you want, as long as you don't infringe on the rights of others to do the same; but assess yourself honestly to make sure your goals are realistic. If your dreams cannot happen because of something that really cannot be changed, put your energy into other dreams you can accomplish, maybe in the same field. And, as with the "defied" examples, make sure your dreams really can't work out before you give up. You may surprise everyone.
- Defied by Jennifer Bricker, who fell in love with gymnastics despite being born without legs. She couldn't compete in artistic gymnastics (the most popular form in the United States and the one that first inspired her) due to her disability, but became a champion power tumbler, a discipline that allows for wider variation than artistic gymnastics, and later went on to a successful career as an aerialist and acrobat.
- There would've been three Manning Brothers in the National Football League in the 21st century if Peyton and Eli's oldest brother Cooper, who was an all-state wide receiver during his high school days in Mississippi and was considered a hot prospect recruit for Ole Miss, hadn't been diagnosed with a spinal condition that ended his playing days.