Follow TV Tropes


Keeping the Handicap

Go To

"Before I went into that...interrogation center...I asked the Prophets to give me the strength to get the rest of you out of there. And...that in exchange, I...I said I'd give up my life. Well, as it turned out, I was able to rescue you, Shakaar and Lupaza. It's only cost me an arm. I felt the...the Prophets were generous. Somehow, replacing the arm seems...ungrateful."
Furel, explaining why he chooses not to get a prosthetic arm, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

A character might voluntarily choose to live with an impediment, whether magical or mundane. From an outsider's perspective, there's no logical reason why they should remain that way. Maybe he's unable to move or speak. Maybe they're Blessed with Suck. Maybe the cure is rare or expensive but is still within easy reach. So why would the character choose to keep the handicap?

There's a number of possible reasons why. The disabled person might just be accustomed to living with the disability. They might feel that their disability is simply part of who they are or be proud of being disabled. A man blind since birth would have a tough time adjusting to the addition of a fifth sense, and a woman turned into a werebeast many years prior would have long ago become accustomed to a bestial lifestyle. A Deaf person might feel that their culture and the advantages of being Deaf far outweigh any benefit they might gain from being hearing. A neurodivergent person might feel that being neurotypical would fundamentally alter who they are. Ultimately, the disabled character believes that it would be more of a hassle to be abled than to be disabled.


They may also be unwilling to correct the handicap if it makes them more appealing in the eyes of others: for example, for an attractive Love Interest, small imperfections like Sexy Spectacles, speech impediments, or a slight limp would often serve as an additional "turn-on".

The cure could go against their religion or could negate a core principle of their moral compass. Outsiders may claim that Belief Makes You Stupid and the cursed person may have a Crisis of Faith or a Moral Dilemma. They may also believe that they're guilty of something (especially in case of injury-induced handicap) that they believe they deserved it and thus don't wish to have it removed.

Many cases of Reed Richards Is Useless imply this trope, even if it's not stated outright. When a character lives with a disability in an extremely (technically or magically) advanced world, it's quite difficult to believe that no cure was available for them, so it may be inferred that they decided against taking the cure.


Compare Cursed With Awesome, Disability Superpower (the disability/curse has benefits instead of the removal of the disability/curse having detriments), Can't Stay Normal, Freaky Is Cool, Be Yourself, I Choose to Stay, Scars Are Forever and Status Quo Is God. Also compare Elective Mute and Elective Broken Language, for someone who chooses not to speak or to speak in broken language in spite of having the ability to talk properly. Contrast I Just Want to Be Normal.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: Titan shifters are able to suppress their Healing Factor to pretend to be normal people:
    • Reiner deliberately keeps his arm broken so he won't be exposed as the Armored Titan. Once he outs Bertolt and himself, he promptly fixes the wound.
    • After the Time Skip Eren does the same, keeping his leg broken to maintain his cover as Kruger, a shellshocked Marlayen soldier.
  • Cowboy Bebop: In "Black Dog Serenade", Faye questions why Jet doesn't get an organic arm replacement since, in the future of the series, organs can be cultivated and easily replace missing limbs. However Jet opts for the artificial one, largely as a reminder of the day he lost his real arm via a trap the mob and his partner, Fad, who was on their dime, lured him into and not to get too careless as he did in the past.
  • Taken Up to Eleven with Chané Laforet from Baccano!, who basically asked for a handicap. Namely, she asked her father to make her mute, so that she would never betray his secrets.
  • In the finale of the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Ed regains his lost arm and leg, only to give them up again to pull Al out of the Gate. This is in contrast with the manga and Brotherhood, in which he gets his right arm back, but his left leg is still metal and he gives up his ability to perform alchemy in exchange for restoring Al's body.
  • In My Hero Academia, Iida receives a scar and residual damage to his arm after his fight with Stain. Although he could have had it removed with surgery, he decides to keep it as a reminder of his past mistakes until he feels he learned his lesson.
  • Gouda of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a Ridiculously Average Guy before being horribly disfigured in an accident. He chose not to have his face fixed via surgery or cybernetic because his Inferiority Superiority Complex is such that he'd rather disgust people than be forgotten by them.
  • Cinque from Lyrical Nanoha lost an eye in the backstory when she fought and killed the original Zest. She has never suggested the desire or brought up the possibility of getting a replacement, even though the original was already a cybernetic implant. The exact reason for this has never been specified.

    Comic Books 
  • This is a recurring plotline in Daredevil. The main character, Matt Murdock, lost all vision after a childhood accident but obtained Super Senses (including a radar sense) in exchange. In a number of plotlines, his eyesight is restored by some means or another, but Matt loses his enhancements and ends up incredibly disoriented and incapable of fighting. In one story, he outright begs the alien who returned his sight to him to take it back.
  • In Love and Rockets, Casimira lost one of her arms below the shoulder in a childhood accident. Despite having a wealthy sister who has repeatedly offered to buy her a functional prosthetic arm, Casimira stubbornly clings to her old prosthetic long after it ceases to serve any use.
  • Barbara Gordon aka Oracle, The DCU's Mission Control and Knowledge Broker extraordinaire, had access to several potential cures to her paraplegia because of her association with superheroes. However, she refused to use these as she felt it was unfair that she could use these technologies and normal people couldn't. In the New 52, Barbara gets surgery to fix it and becomes active as Batgirl again.
  • Sometime before the beginning of Rainbow Rowell's Runaways, Victor Mancha's head was separated from the rest of his body in the hopes of salvaging him after his evil sister-in-law ripped out a chunk of his chest. After being revived, he refuses offers to have a new body built for him because he feels he deserved being beheaded for accidentally killing his nephew. He eventually changes his mind after getting tired of the increasingly-embarrassing ways that his friends devise for getting him around (at one point, they tape his head to Chase's shirt.)

    Fan Works 
  • The Great Alicorn Hunt: The doctors at Windy City firmly believe this is a good thing and attempt to persuade others that it's the way things should be. Rainbow Dash and others, on the other hoof, are utterly disgusted with the idea, viewing handicaps as problems to be fixed rather than something to be proud of.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alita: Battle Angel, Alita manages to stab Gruwishka in the eye before he retreats to his masters. When asked about why he won't have his eye fixed, he says he wants to feel the pain.
  • Doctor Strange: Initially, Strange intends to learn magic to heal his permanently damaged hands and work as a surgeon again, just like Jonathan Pangborn who used his magic to walk again despite a complete spinal cord injury. However, in the end, Strange decides against it and leaves his hands as they are.

  • Played for Laughs in Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody. The blacksmith Zed has, on several occasions, offered to make Barry a set of prosthetic zinc eyeballs to correct his vision problems. Barry always refuses on the grounds that Zed is crazy and it's a bloody stupid idea.
  • In the Discworld series, the Librarian was turned into an orangutan many years ago. While it has slightly reduced his intelligence (Word of God is that he can no longer even think in human languages), he has steadfastly refused and/or sabotaged any attempts to change him back, because he's found his new orangutan body beneficial to his job. To name a few examples, climbing bookshelves is much easier with feet that can grasp like hands, being a 300-pound ape who can pick people up by their ankles and bang their heads against the floor tends to encourage library patrons to be quieter and be more careful with the books, and he can read the tomes that contain Things Man Was Not Meant to Know since he isn't technically a man anymore.
  • Michael Corleone of The Godfather initially chose to keep his jaw wounded by Police Brutality, distrusting the doctor he lived with in Sicily and, even after, wanting to keep his image until his wife Kay convinces him otherwise.
  • Inheritance Cycle:
    • Eragon is left with a nasty and painful back scar from his fight with Durza. He decides against having it removed at first, feeling like it's become a part of him. Ultimately, it's removed when Eragon is enchanted by the Agaeti Blodhren.
    • After she wins the Trial of the Long Knives, Eragon offers to heal Nasuada's deeply scarred arms. She declines on the grounds that she needs to keep the scars to prove that she won and is worthy of being ruler.
  • In Malazan Book of the Fallen, the Revenant Zombie Shurq Elalle refuses to become a living woman again, since she would then grow old and ugly then, while as a zombie, she can remain beautiful forever.
  • In Messenger, after Matty discovers his power of Healing Hands, he offers to heal his friend Kira's lame leg. She refuses because her disability is intrinsic to who she is.
  • Risa, in the Unwind dystology second book, could have regained the use of her legs with a replacement spine; but since it would come from an unwound teen, she refuses it.
  • In The Wave And The Flame, Dr. Megan Levy wears glasses in an age where defective eyesight can always be corrected by surgery and glasses are considered obsolete, so that she can look disapprovingly at her students over the top of them.
  • The Will of the Empress: When Ishabal brings up the possibility of Tris using her magic to correct her vision at need:
    Ishabal: If you may correct your vision as you like, why do you wear spectacles?
    Tris: Because I like them. Because I have better things to do with my magic than fixing my vision when ordinary glass will do.
  • In Wings of Fire, Darkstalker offers to use his animus powers to cure Starflight and Tamarin's blindness, but they refuse, feeling that they don't want to make a habit of solving their problems the easy way out with magic.
  • Tenel Ka in Young Jedi Knights loses apart of her arm due to rushing her lightsaber's construction and having it explode in her hand. She eventually refuses to get a replacement prosthetic like her teacher Luke Skywalker did as a reminder to not let her pride get the better of her, citing it was Luke's choice to do so as her grandmother is trying to force the artificial limb on her, until Tenel Ka "forcefully" destroys the prosthetic to affirm her decision.
  • In Needful Things, Polly goes to Leland Gaunt's magical shop to find a cure for her crippling arthritis, but eventually she realizes his evil ways and refuses the cure:
    Polly: That was what I wanted, but I don't need it to be gone. I can love you and I can love life and bear the pain all at the same time. I think the pain might even make the rest better, the way a good setting can make a diamond look better.

    Live-Action TV 
  • My Name Is Earl: Little Chubby allows his genitals to be smashed by a pitching machine in order to be a better person. Subverted in his next appearance when he has them repaired because he's not good at his job when he's nice.
  • Person of Interest: Harold Finch walks with a limp due to an injury. He chooses not to have the damage repaired because he believes the pain is appropriate punishment for choosing to ignore the irrelevant list.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: One of Kira's Bajoran friends, Furel, lost his arm while a member of the Resistance. He says that he prayed to the Prophets prior to a rescue mission, offering to exchange his life for those of his captured friends. He feels that surviving with only a missing arm is an act of mercy by the Prophets, and getting a new arm would be ungrateful. Of course his girlfriend Lupaza is quick to joke that he refuses to get a new arm just to avoid having to put in a full day's work.
    • We've seen multiple Klingons in Star Trek with eye patches, even though cloned implants are generally available. Martok in particular refuses Bashir's offer to replace his missing eye. This probably plays into their honor system, i.e. their "victory" would mean less if they could get back what it cost so easily.
    • An officer from a low-gravity world chooses to remain as she is, rather than be permanently acclimated to normal gravity. Though from her perspective, she isn't choosing a handicap because she is normal for her species.
    • Played with when a genetically enhanced woman who was made non-verbal by her enhancements is cured. She fakes her original condition returning because she is intimidated by life as a functioning adult.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Q tempts Riker by giving him the Q's godlike powers. He uses the power to grant some favors to the crew, such as giving the blind Geordi normal eyes; but they all ultimately refuse the gifts, saying that the price is too high.
    • During the second season, Dr. Pulaski offers ocular implants to Geordi as she has experience with that sort of surgery. He declines at the time, saying that he's not sure the technology could equal what his VISOR can do. He does eventually get them in Star Trek: First Contact, after his VISOR is used in the previous movie to help the villains destroy the Enterprise.

  • Welcome to Night Vale In the climax of the StrexCorp arc, Kevin tries to turn Steve Carlsburg to his side by saying StrexCorp can "fix" his paraplegic daughter. Steve vehemently shouts that she is not "broken" while suplexing Kevin into a dimensional portal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer: Wulfrik the Wanderer was cursed for his arrogance by the gods (he drunkenly boasted of being the best fighter in the world, of having killed every kind of monster in the Chaos Wastes twice and having personally boxed the ears of at least three emperors) into abandoning his former life as a clansman and forcing him to wander around the world at their bidding, challenging the deadliest champions and monsters he could find. While at first he deeply resented this curse and tried to rid himself of it, in time he recognized it for the blessing it was, for the series of betrayals and wild goose chases he went through in his efforts to remove the curse got him more power and fame than he could ever have dreamed of as a mere clan warrior (chief among them a flying teleporting longship that lets him track prey wherever it hides). He is now one of the Dark Gods' most devout followers, making each victory into a sacrifice to them.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Flaws system in Edition 3.5. Some of these flaws can be physical handicaps that could be readily healed with magic (for a price if you're not the right class or level), but the character is gaining a free feat in exchange for said flaw. Thus, if it was ever healed the GM will surely rule the feat is lost too, hence why a player would want to keep a handicapped character, for whatever roleplaying reason they can come up with.

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger: On fighting Magus, Frog (a human cursed into a giant bipedal frog) thanks Magus for it, as he claims his achievements would never have happened in his human form (several of his abilities make use of his tongue and jumping ability). However, the ending cutscene shows him as a human, though that's only an Unexplained Recovery if, later in the game, the player chooses to recruit Magus instead of fighting him a second time.
  • During the "Tales of Ash" arc in The King of Fighters (2003, XI and XIII), Iori loses his power due to Ash Crimson stealing his power. The power Iori wields is from a family curse due to his clan making a deal with Orochi in the ancient days (Long story, basically it was made out of misguided jealously). While Iori can fight without it, when all's said and done at the end of KOF 13, he's given the chance to let said power disappear into the ether and live a normal life. He decides he Can't Stay Normal and takes the power back within himself.
  • Countershade from Mighty No. 9 is a one-armed sniper who lost his missing arm in a battle, and has opted not to have it replaced because he enjoys the extra challenge his handicap brings to combat.
  • Kazuhira Miller in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain literally loses an arm and a leg while he was captured. Although he's fully capable of getting mechanical limbs like Snake did, he refuses to get one because wants to hold onto the phantom pain to fuel his revenge against Cypher.
  • In Overwatch, Mercy says there are procedures she could use to restore the eye Ana lost in a Sniper Duel against Widowmaker. Ana is grateful for the offer but declines, saying that she's comfortable with who she is now and that her missing eye is a good reminder to push forward in life.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Durkon's mother Sigdi lost her arm years ago. When she joins the party in battle, wielding an axe, she's questioned why she didn't let Durkon regenerate her arm with a spell before the fight. She explains that Durkon needs all the high-level spell slots he can get for the fight, then touches upon this trope:
      Sigdi: Plus, I been like this fer fifty years an' change. I'm na sure I'd know what ta do wit two hands right away!
      Hilgya: I don't know, strap a shield to it?
      Sigdi: It's OK, lass. It took Durkon a while ta unnerstand, too.
    • Played with when Redcloak has one of his eyes gouged out by O-Chul. As a high-level cleric, he could easily cast a Regenerate spell to restore it, but his boss Xykon (who's mid-Villainous Breakdown at the time) decides he's sick of Redcloak wasting time instead of actively pursuing their Evil Plan and forbids him from getting his eye back as a form of punishment.
      Xykon: You're not regenerating anything. That eye? That's your individual Idiot Tax. That's what this fiasco costs you personally. I want you to remember every moment of every day what happens if we sit on our lazy ASSES and rearrange the furniture in a ruined city instead of moving on to the next target. If I ever see you with more eyes than assholes, I'm going to shove one in the other.
  • Terezi Pyrope from Homestuck goes blind as part of a long-winded revenge plot, but finds herself preferring being blind over when she could see. When Aranea gives her the option to heal her eyes, she declines due to what being blind has done for her. In the original timeline, she does end up taking the offer out of a sense of low self-esteem and regrets being manipulated into it, making sure it never happens when she sends John out to fix the timeline with his retcon-powers.

    Western Animation 
  • Gargoyles: Halcyon Renard uses magic to transfer his mind from his dying body into a Golem. Unfortunately, this causes him to get drunk with power and become a complete Jerkass. After having a Heel Realization, he chooses to go back to his decaying body.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer discovers that he has a crayon inside his brain that he stuck up his nose as a child, and after having it removed, he becomes significantly more intelligent. Unfortunately, this intelligence comes at the cost of being ostracised by his friends and co-workers, and at the end of the episode he asks for it to be put back in so he can go back to being his old, dumb, likable self.
  • Similar to the example above, an episode of Spongebob Squarepants had Patrick becoming an Insufferable Genius after his head was accidentally replaced with brain coral. Due to his new intelligence alienating his friends, he decided to replace his head back to his normal oafish self.
  • In Futurama episode "The Cyber House Rules", Leela undergoes surgery to become a normal two-eyed woman in spite of Fry's objections who believes she's cool the way she is (although it should be noted that the second eye just made Leela look normal and she still couldn't actually see anything with it). By the end of the episode, she realizes that Fry was right, and basically threatens the surgeon into making her one-eyed again.

    Real Life 
  • A very significant proportion of real people with disabilities prefer having their disability to a hypothetical life without said disability, largely because it's the only life they know, and have stated that even if a cure was available, they wouldn't take it. It's not uncommon for people who are deaf, people who are blind, or those who have autism to feel this way.
  • The singer Grimes has quite a notitheable lithp; she stated that she "liketh it", and has no desire to undergo speech therapy.
  • Stephen Fry has a distinctive crooked nose as a result of breaking it at the age of six and refused to undergo corrective surgery because he sees it as his trademark.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: