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Ironically Disabled Artist

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Helmut Spargle: You don't understand. Without the distraction of taste, your mind is free to touch the zen of pure flavor. You could become the greatest chef ever!
Bender: I could?
Helmut Spargle: Yes! Just as Beethoven was a great composer because he was deaf!
Bender: Or like how Rembrandt was blind and had wooden hands!
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Fiction loves juxtaposition, and so in fiction, you're likely to come across a character with a disability at odds with their art, like a one-handed pianist, a colorblind painter, or a one-legged dancer.

May be used to show them as Inspirationally Disadvantaged, portraying them as having to work much harder than their abled counterparts to create good art. Previously abled artists who suffer an injury and keep going might be defying a Career-Ending Injury or Dream-Crushing Handicap by relearning and refining their skill despite their disability. Other times it can also be used to show them as a prodigy whose innate talents overcome any supposed hindrance from their disability. It can also be used to show a disabled character's hobby; for example, it is rather common to see Hook Handed characters play the piano.

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Supertrope to Blind Musician (a musician who cannot see) and Deaf Composer (when an artist doesn't have one of the senses seemingly necessary to create or enjoy their art, such as a painter/sculptor who cannot see or a chef with no sense of taste). Compare Genius Cripple, Disability Superpower. See also The Singing Mute, which is for when a speechless character can vocalize nonverbally.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • M78 Love and Peace: Bemstar, a kaiju with hooks for hands (both of them), can play the piano.

    Asian Animation 
  • Flower Fairy: The boy in Season 1 episodes 33 and 34 has an ear disease that impedes his hearing, yet he's very talented at playing the piano.
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    Comic Books 
  • The Flash rogue Rainbow Raider was born with total colorblindness, which meant that he couldn't succeed in the art world despite his technical skill. He resorted to art theft instead.

    Films — Animation 
  • Peter Pan: The obviously Hook Handed Captain Hook plays a melancholy rendition of his own leitmotif on a harpsichord whilst trying to convince Tinker Bell to betray Peter Pan (as pictured above).
  • In Tangled, one of the Pub Thugs has a large hook hand. His dream is to become a concert pianist and demonstrates his talent despite the hook in the musical number "I've Got A Dream." In the epilogue, he is shown to have gotten his dream.
  • Shrek 2, while searching for Puss in Boots, King Harold visits a Bad-Guy Bar where Captain Hook is playing the piano and serenading the patrons in a Shout-Out to the Peter Pan example above. He has a very gravelly voice, and his hook hand remains.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Get Out!: The protagonist, Chris, meets Jim Hudson, a blind art dealer attending the family get-together of his girlfriend's parents. Hudson takes interest in Chris's photography skills and at first seems like one of the few amicable people Chris has encountered during his stay with his girlfriend's family. Cut forward to the climax and it's revealed that Hudson wants to transfer his brain into Chris's body to regain his sight.
  • The 1977 Made-for-TV movie Scott Joplin has several notable jazz pianists assemble for an audition using dueling pianos: two upright pianos placed back-to-back, with a candidate at each keyboard playing their best. The lesser player must cede his place to another candidate. One candidate is named Left Hand of God, named for his lack of a right arm. Nonetheless, one of his peers remarks, "He plays better with one hand than most guys do with two."
  • My Left Foot is a biopic of Irish-born Christy Brown, afflicted with cerebral palsy since birth. Only his left foot is completely controllable, and he uses it to paint with acrylics on canvas, and to pen books of poetry, which are acclaimed by critics. This makes Christy Brown a Genius Cripple who penned his autobiography, which became the basis for the screenplay.
  • The 1996 film Vibrations is about a would-be rock star whose hands are severed in a car accident. He then falls in with some ravers who make him a Daft Punk-esque cyborg suit with metal prosthetic hands and uses them to become a live techno star.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Davy Jones's mutation has turned his left hand into a lobster claw. However, he can still play his pipe organ, because the same mutation has turned his beard into a mass of prehensile tentacles.

    Live-Action TV 
  • America's Got Talent: Drew Lynch explained in his appearance that he got a stutter following a sports injury and entered stand-up comedy in order to make the most of a negative situation.
  • Angel: Perennial arsehole Lindsey lost his right hand to Angel, and everyone cheered. Only later on did we see him preparing for the day ahead and looking longingly at a guitar in his closet. Sympathy ensued.
  • Crosses over with Hidden Depths in Breaking Bad when Skinny Pete, despite being a meth-addled junkie and one half of Those Two Guys, is shown to be a talented classical pianist, playing Solfeggietto by Bach before being interrupted by his far less talented but equally enthusiastic friend.
  • Dancing with the Stars has occasionally featured amputee contestants, all of whom participate in the dance challenge of each episode:
    • Season 18 runner-up and Paralympian Amy Purdy lost both of her legs to a bout of meningitis as a teenager.
    • Season 20 third-placer Noah Galloway lost his left arm and leg in the Iraq War and refused the use of a prosthetic arm throughout the show.
    • While not an amputee, Season 25 fifth placer Paralympian swimmer Victoria Arlen developed two rare conditions known as transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis which combined lead to her losing the ability to speak, eat, and move for years. She eventually re-learned to do all of those again, including walking, but she still cannot feel her legs.
  • M*A*S*H: One episode had Charles treat a soldier who was a trained pianist, but his right hand was badly injured. Charles obtains sheet music written specifically for pianists with only a left hand (including the Ravel concerto), and spoke at length about Wittgenstein (see "Real Life" section below). The episode fades to black on the soldier very aggressively playing the opening solo of the Ravel, on the Officers' Club piano.
  • A Running Gag on Saved by the Bell. The English teacher was hard of hearing, the art teacher was visually impaired, and the basketball coach was 3ft. tall.
  • The Netflix A Series of Unfortunate Events series gives Count Olaf a comedic Villain Song. One of Olaf's usual minions, the Hook-Handed Man (whose two hands have been replaced by hooksnote ), plays the piano. Badly.
  • Utopia Falls: Tempo, a musician, becomes deaf from being hit by the shield. He can play piano and the drums regardless though, feeling their vibrations.

    Music 
  • Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt suffered a burn on his left hand which greatly limited the mobility of his ring and pinky fingers. He continued playing and developed a new style more conducive to two-finger fretting, so his later music includes plenty of fast arpeggios and expressive string bends.
  • Scatman John was a talented pianist and vocalist who spent his whole life struggling with a severe stutter. He incorporated this into his music by including a lot of scatting, which includes a lot of repetitive sounds.
  • In The Who's Tommy album, the album's title character is deaf, dumb, and blind, but nevertheless the song "Pinball Wizard" discusses how he plays pinball better than the bystanders watching and hearing him play, and they're amazed by his skills and wonder how he does it.

    Roleplay 
  • In the original Dino Attack RPG, Finister recalls a scheme in which he performed a piano concert (with two Hook Hands!) while his henchmen stole goods from the audience. This trope was removed in the Director's Cut, although coincidentally 10273 Haunted House's lore reveals that it's actually canon for his present-day self.

    Tabletop Games 

    Toys 
  • The LEGO 18+ Creator set 10273 Haunted House features the Organ of Catarino in Manor von Barron, home of the LEGO Adventurers villain Baron Samuel von Barron. Although Baron von Barron has a Hook Hand, he ordered the custom-built organ and is rumored to have played TV show theme songs with it.

    Video Games 
  • Meathook in Escape from Monkey Island. It started as a dark joke about his Dream-Crushing Handicap: In the first game, he tells the tragic story of how in youth he was a virtuoso painter until he lost both hands in an accident. In this game, he has rediscovered his art through the method of impaling colored candles on his hooks and dripping wax onto a canvas.
  • Hinako Shirai of Blue Reflection wants to be a ballet dancer, but suffered a permanent leg injury that keeps her from doing so. One of her motivations in becoming a Reflector is the hopes that when the day is saved, she'll get a wish to have her leg fixed.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Clover: Love, Hope, Faith & Luck: In "Still Dancing", Brenda pursued her dreams as a dancer but was suddenly struck with paralysis which would gradually spread from her legs to the rest of her body. Her daughter helps her find other ways to dance; with her arms, then with her voice, then in her head as the disease got worse, helping Brenda remain hopeful even after she succumbed to her disease.

    Web Original 
  • Seanbaby:
    • One of the articles from his first website has him reviewing a video by MUSIGN, a hearing-impaired dance troupe. According to him, whatever they were doing to stay in step with the music they couldn't hear, it wasn't working all that well. Towards the end, he remarks that their Inspirationally Disadvantaged status was the only reason they ever had any meaningful success, letting them be held to much lower standards than dancers with normal hearing.
    • Another article from that period, Junk Mail Charity, has him talking about various charity groups for which he had received advertising in the mail. One of them is Mouth and Foot Painters, a charity for disabled artists. He remarks that with the artistic skill they displayed in the postcards they were selling, they shouldn't need charity.

    Web Video 
  • Jacob Andrews of Drawfee is colourblind, and has stated in one of the extra videos that due to this he has to remember colour positions in the art applications he uses because he tends to unwittingly go towards green when colouring yellow.

    Western Animation 
  • Bender in Futurama wants to be a chef despite being a robot with no sense of taste or need to eat.
  • Peter Pan & the Pirates: Multiple episodes contain scenes of the Hook Handed Captain Hook playing his harpsichord.
  • South Park: Jimmy has a pervasive stutter and stammer, but his main pursuit is stand-up comedy, meaning his jokes often take a little while longer to deliver. He's also a bard in the game South Park: The Stick of Truth, and has the same issue when singing.
  • Tangled: The Series: "The Brothers Hook" reveals that Hook Hand (who wants to be a concert pianist) has a one-legged brother who aspires to become a dancer, and takes steps to do so over the course of the episode.

    Real Life 
  • There are a good number of notable one-handed pianists. The Other Wiki actually has a whole page dedicated to one-handed pianists, including:
    • Géza Zichy, who lost his right arm in a hunting accident during his teenage years, but went on to become a successful concert pianist and a composer.
    • João Carlos Martins, who lost the use of his right arm following an attack that damaged his skull and brain. When failed reconstructive surgery left him with even more damage to his hand, he continued to play piano using only his left hand and one finger on his right.
    • Paul Wittgenstein note , who had his right arm amputated after a gunshot wound in World War One. Undaunted, he commissioned several prominent composers to write pieces for one hand; the most famous was Maurice Ravel's "Piano Concerto for the Left Hand."
  • Carl Herman Unthan was a German violin virtuoso who was born without arms. He could not only use his feet to play the violin, but also replace and tune strings with his toes.
  • Def Leppard's drummer Rick Allen lost an arm in a car accident but continued drumming with a specialized drum kit.
  • Joni Eareckson Tada was injured in a diving accident in 1967 and rendered quadriplegic; in spite of having no use of her hands, she became an accomplished painter by holding the brush with her teeth.
  • Rabindranath Tagore took up painting while being red-green colorblind; as a result, many of his paintings have an unusual color scheme.
  • Kiera Brinkley, from Portland, Oregon, was two years old when she contracted pneumococcal sepsis, a bacterial infection that cut off her bloodstreams and forced doctors to amputate both sets of her limbs. Despite having no arms or legs she went on to become a trained dancer and the subject of the documentary Soar.
  • Sarah Biffin was a 19th-century painter born without arms or legs who learned to write and paint via her mouth and was famous throughout Europe for her miniature paintings and portraits.
  • German calligrapher and artist Thomas Schweicker was born armless so he would sit on the floor and use his feet to paint and write.
  • After German pianist and composer Ludwig van Beethoven became completely deaf at the age of 44, he continued to compose for a full decade after losing his hearing. During this time, he produced several significant works, including his 9th and final symphony.
  • Andre de Toth was a film director who worked from the 1940s to the late '70s and is probably best remembered for making House of Wax (1953), one of the biggest and best of the 3D movies of the '50s. De Toth only had one eye, and therefore was incapable of seeing or appreciating the 3D effect.
  • Charles R. Knight, the artist of many iconic early Dinosaur paintings, was legally blind and also couldn't see out his right eye.
  • Fritz Lang, legendary film director with a propensity for daring visuals, had a rapidly-deteriorating eyesight. By his final film he was functionally blind. Not coincidentally his films often had a eye motif and themes of seeing or being seen.

Alternative Title(s): Hook Handed Pianist

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