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Handy Shortcoming

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There's this character in a show, named Bob, who is a little different from everyone else. Maybe his personality is a bit quirky, or perhaps he's abnormally short compared to everyone else, or maybe he has a third arm. The other characters wouldn't mention it (or maybe they will), but one episode there comes a time where Bob gets annoyed or embarrassed at his differences. Luckily though, 10 episode minutes later it just so happens that the cast gets themselves stuck in a situation where said difference comes in useful and only someone with said difference actually is able to solve their predicament. Ooh, how convenient.

This trope comes up either for a bit of character development for Bob, or as an Aesop of sorts towards the audience where the lesson is "Be Yourself" or "Don't be ashamed if you're not like everyone else".

Compare Bunny-Ears Lawyer, The Wonka, and "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome. See also Disability Immunity, Disability Superpower, Heart Is an Awesome Power, Necessary Fail, Unluckily Lucky. Sister trope to This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman.


Anime & Manga

  • In One Piece, Usopp's pessimism means that he isn't affected by Perona's Negative Hollows, which send everyone else into a Corner of Woe. He even manages to make the ghosts themselves depressed.

Comic Books

  • Asterix: Cacofonix the village bard's legendarily off-key singing (which can make it rain indoors) means he's often attacked as soon as he opens his mouth, but there are several occasions when he's weaponized.
    • Asterix and the Normans: The Normans don't know what fear is and are looking for someone to teach them (they hear it gives men wings and want to acquire this power). At the end of the story, in recognition for his role he's seated at the village feast while Fulliautomatix is the one tied up.
    • The Mansions of the Gods: To persuade the Romans to desert the Mansions, the Gauls rent an apartment for Cacofonix, telling him that this way, he'll be allowed to practive his singing without the Gauls telling him to shut up, not to mention he'll be surrounded by the refined and cultured Romans. The Romans clear out the next day.
    • In Asterix and the Magic Carpet, an Indian fakir comes to the village after hearing rumors of a man who can cause rain by singing, and takes Cacofonix, Asterix and Obelix back with him to solve the drought of the Ganges.
  • In Benjamin Harper's The Lion And The Mouse And The Invaders From Zurg, Thunder prohibits mice from joining the Alliance because they're small and fragile. He eats his words when he's taken captive by the aliens and only Daisy is small enough to infiltrate their ship and free him.


  • Good Omens: When trying to prevent a computer from starting World War III by launching nukes, Anathema hits on the idea of using Newton's uncanny ability to destroy any electronics he touches by trying to improve them. He looks at the computer, start moving things around so they'll work better, and before long the day is saved.
  • The children's book Betty Lou Blue is about a girl who is made fun of for her very large feet. But when her peers sink into a snowbank, Betty Lou is able to save them because her feet act like a natural pair of snowshoes.

Live-Action TV

Video Games

  • One of the possible backgrounds in Alpha Protocol is recruit, which doesn't give you any of the skills other builds do and 0 action points to spend, but if selected it is discussed in-universe to be the reason the main characters is chosen since, while having potential to improve, he is under the radar of most intelligence agencies thanks to his newbieness.
  • Exploited with non-magical weapons in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal against magic golems, which are invulnerable to magical weapons.
  • In EarthBound (1994), Jeff is the Badass Normal who lacks the use of PSI and instead has to rely on machinery to replicate the effects of it. Since he has no Psychic Points he's completely immune to attacks that drain PP or disrupt PSI attacks, so any enemy that uses one on him will end up just wasting their turn. It also means that, while his machines are never as effective as their PSI counterparts, he can use them as much as he wants for no cost. Duster repeats this in Mother 3, trading machines for a myriad of thief tools that replicate PK moves for free.
  • In Persona 5 Strikers, the party needs to get to a distant city soon, during rush hour, while their usual driver is unwell. In other words, it is Haru's time to shine. (They don't come out unscathed, though.)
  • Project Zomboid allows you spend points to buy positive traits, and gain points by taking negative traits. Depending on your playstyle, various shortcomings can be quite handy when they don't actually effect your gameplay but the free points do. It doesn't matter that a man living in the woods, who will never be indoors, drive a car, or read a book, is an illiterate claustrophobic Sunday driver, but the 13 free points these shortcomings give will be very handy indeed. There's also a few specific shortcomings that aren't nearly as negative as the devs intended:
    • Smoker causes you to become more stressed out and unhappy the longer you've gone without a coffin nail. However, this also means Smokers will reduce unhappiness when they smoke, which non-smokers won't, and Smokers also don't get sick from having a puff. Since the game hands cigarettes out like candy, in packs of 10 and available anywhere, taking the Smoker "negative" basically means "free happiness and stress reduction alongside 4 free points".
    • Prone to Illness makes you get sick quicker, but this also includes the onset of zombification. In other words, you find out if you're going to die from inevitable zombification a lot sooner, and get it over with a lot quicker. You can also combine this one with Outdoorsman to get just the faster onset of zombification as Outdoorsman more than makes up for Prone to Illness's faster sickness onset.
    • Claustrophobic is a largely negative trait as it makes sleeping difficult since you are always panicked indoors, but this has the unintended side effect of preventing boredom when indoors since panic overrides boredom. If you're able to manage it, the free protection from boredom can be worth it.
    • Conspicuous makes you twice as likely to be spotted by zombies, but since zombies will spot you almost immediately once you enter their vision range no matter what, it basically makes no change to the game at all other than giving you 4 free points to put toward a positive trait.
    • Slow Reader makes you, well, read slower. You only need to read books once, and you can fast-forward while doing it, so this one is basically just 2 free points unless you're an absolute Min Maxer with the Life of Living TV shows.
    • Weak stomach makes you get sick from bad food faster, but since avoiding bad food is a necessity anyways (even Strong Stomach doesn't completely protect you from food illness) it's just 3 free points.
    • Slow Healer is coded in a weird way where, rather than slowing healing by 20%, it makes all injuries 20% worse. Since even the slightest cut can kill you anyways, this one is basically just free points, especially since the slowest-healing wounds, broken bones, can't be injured any worse than they already are and aren't affected by this one.


Web Original

Western Animation

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Everyone made fun of Rudolph for his 'condition' but on Christmas it was his red nose that saved it.
  • American Dad!, "CIAPOW": Director Bullock believes humans are flawed and machines can do a better job. Later though, when the guys have to escape prison their flaws (as Stan puts it) are what saves them.
  • Garfield and Friends: One "U.S. Acres" segment had Sheldon upset that he wasn't as tall as everyone else, but then all the characters get stuck in a silo and the only way to get out is through a tiny hole which only Sheldon fits through.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Irrational Treasure" Pacifica makes Mabel feel ashamed at her silliness, but when she and Dipper try to find out the real founder of Gravity Falls, said silliness helps them follow the clues left behind by said founder (who was an even bigger Cloud Cuckoolander than Mabel).
  • In Sabrina: The Animated Series when everyone ends up inside Harvey's comic book world, Sabrina's power is to make squids shoot out of her hands. It seems pretty useless until Harvey's draw-it-and-it-comes-to-life pen gun runs out of ink and Sabrina remembers what squids are good for...

Real Life

  • This is actually how old-school CRT televisions worked, as humans absolutely suck at seeing things that move quickly due to limitations in our eyes and brains. This is known as "Persistence of Vision" and is basically where something moves so quickly that your brain can't process the information quickly enough and instead "sees" something else. An old CRT tv actually only ever had a single dot illuminated on the screen at any one time, which quickly moved left to right line by line until it had covered the entire screen, and then starts over from the top. Because this happens either 30 / 25 times or 60 / 50 times a second however, the eyes and brains can't process it as being in a single spot at any one time, creating the illusion of a fully "drawn" moving screen. You can even create this phenomenon with a flashlight, by quickly moving it to "draw" shapes in the air as, again, we can't process the visual information fast enough to see the single light in any one spot. In other words, if our eyes were better and our brains were faster we actually wouldn't be able to watch television.
  • "Les dents du bonheur" is a French expression translating to "happy/lucky teeth", meaning crooked, missing or otherwise ugly dentition, dating from the Napoleonic era when soldiers needed good healthy teeth to tear open paper gunpowder cartridges. Being unable to do so because of one's teeth was grounds for being left alone by the recruiters, hence being fortunate to have bad teeth.
  • As people get older, the medical condition of presbycusis steadily sets in. In layman's terms, this means their hearing steadily gets worse and the spectrum of sounds they can hear shrinks. While this does lead to genuine hearing loss as folks reach their golden years, this also means that, by around age 25 or so, you lose the ability to hear a lot of annoying high-pitched sounds like mains hums (that constant annoying hum heard in a lot of older recordings), the whine of lighting, and even makes some shrill but still audible sounds like whistles much more palpable to hear. A company even weaponized this, somewhat controversially, with The Mosquito, an anti-loitering device that produces a steady whine pitched at around 17kHz, which only deters anyone under 25 from loitering around as anyone above that age group simply can't hear the noise.
  • Similarly, humans on the whole have far less sensitive hearing than a lot of pest animals. While this means we can't do impressive things like hear earthquakes before they happen, it also means humans can use what are known as Ultrasonic Pest Repellers, small electronic devices that produce a loud noise pitched at above 20kHz, that humans simply can't hear but pests can. Whether or not they work however is contested, as it's suggested that even if it is able to repel pests, that pests can learn to tolerate the noise or, in the case of smarter pests like rats, even learn to be attracted to it as they learn to associate "annoying loud noise" with "free food".