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Wheelchair Woobie

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Awww, the poor kid...

Julie Jenkins lost her leg in a wreck (Am-pu-ta-ted!)
The nominations for Prom royalty came (Uh-huh!)
Our Sara's senior year, and Queen was her claim (Uh, duh!)
'Til gossip stirred the student body would name Julie Jenkins, Queen of the Prom (Pi-ty vote!)
— "The Ballad of Sara Berry", 35MM: A Musical Exhibition

An easy way to instantly mark someone as The Woobie is to put them in a wheelchair. Crutches or other similarly visible impediments are common as well, but wheelchairs are the most common. Often, their Woobie status is tied to how they ended up in the thing in the first place.

This trope is NOT reserved for examples involving wheelchairs; any meaningful disability works. The important thing is that the character's Woobie status be directly tied to them suffering from whatever it is (either with respect to how they got that way or how it is affecting their life).

Compare the Littlest Cancer Patient.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The pictured example is Kamio Misuzu from Air in the second half of the show. Let's just say that she got sick to the point in which she needed to be on a wheelchair. Unlike some of the other examples, she doesn't get better, but instead worse. Very worse.
  • Code Geass: Nunnally Lamperouge/vi Britannia, although in Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunnally, she regains her ability to walk in the end. The anime also makes reference to her undergoing physical therapy, but we don't see any results within the actual show. By the time she becomes the Empress of Britannia, she has regained her sight - but is still in a wheelchair.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Jean-Pierre Polnareff is an interesting case. Back in Stardust Crusaders, he didn't fit this trope at all, being a Plucky Comic Relief Butt-Monkey who fought a majority of the battles in both the first and second half. He may have lost two of his fingers in the fight against Vanilla Ice, but besides that, he comes out mostly unscathed and returns to his home country of France peacefully. ...That is, until Golden Wind. It's revealed that off-screen during the events of Stardust Crusaders, he and Jotaro did research into the Stand Arrow that gave DIO his Stand, and found out that they were sold to his lackey, Enya, by the boss of Passione, Diavolo. Jotaro went to Morioh, not only to meet his younger uncle Josuke after he was conceived in an affair by Jotaro's grandfather, Joseph, but also to uncover the Stand Arrows that Enya had sold to residents of Morioh. Meanwhile, Polnareff went to confront Diavolo himself and end his effective Stand peddling market, but Diavolo beat Polnareff into submission and knocked him off a cliff, leaving him for dead. Polnareff survived, but he was left paralyzed in a wheelchair with prosthetic legs, and he had to go into hiding once Diavolo found out he was alive. From there on, he could do absolutely nothing until he caught wind that Giorno and Team Bucciarati planned to overthrow Diavolo, which he helped them to stop him, but at the cost of his own life when Diavolo found him in the Roman Colosseum.
  • Helen from Sonic X. Refreshingly, in episode 14, Sonic makes a point to not smother her with pity, but instead spend a day with her treating her as a person, and not making a big deal about her disability, but moreover, making an actual point to accommodate her needs while befriending her, even going so far as to blow off the President to avoid interrupting his time with Helen.
  • Kirito from Sword Art Online during the second half of the Alicization arc. Due to the grief of losing Eugeo combined with the power surge damaging his brain, this leads Kirito to have an extreme Heroic BSoD that leaves him an Empty Shell for a large portion of the war. In this state he loses his ability to speak, most of his awareness of his surroundings, and most of his mobility. He requires intense care from either Alice or whoever is looking after him and necessitates being wheeled around in a wheelchair.
  • Sylvette Suede of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee. Her mother died in childbirth, and she is eventually separated from the brother who raised her and lives in poverty. And it turns out that Gauche did not actually recover his memory when he comes back, denying her a reunion with him.
  • In the sequel to Tokyo Ghoul, Shuu Tsukiyama, previously a threatening villain, has spent nearly three years in a deep depression after Kaneki’s supposed death, uninterested in leaving his room or even eating. The physical toll of it has left him Delicate and Sickly, so he requires a wheelchair to get around once he becomes determined to leave his room.

    Comic Books 
  • Hunter Zolomon from The Flash is a well known example. His life had never been easy to begin with and when he was introduced, he had to use a cane to support himself due to a Career-Ending Injury back when he was working for the FBI. Later on plays this trope completely straight when Grodd paralyzes him during an attack to Iron Heights Penitary. His transformation from a bitter limp cop to Wheelchair Woobie makes the final straw, makes him extremely angry and bitter, and he begs to then Flash Wally West to undo his crippling via time travel. Wally rejects his request due to fragility of time. Hunter, feeling betrayed by his best friend, attempts to go back in time to fix his life on his own. Unfortunately, since he isn't a speedster, all he manages to do is give himself Time Master powers... which slowly (from his point of view, in reality it's less than a second) drive him so insane that he becomes convinced that it's his destiny to become the next Reverse-Flash and make Wally's life more tragic. Throughout his career as Zoom, he's genuinely unaware that his attempts to help his friend are actually causing him great harm.
  • Barbara Gordon was confined to a wheelchair for a long time following being shot in the spine by Joker in The Killing Joke. The recent removal of that factor is heavily debated, especially since she had come into her own as Oracle before then.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): "Tempest's Tale" (issues 67-68) slightly reinterprets Tempest's backstory from the 2017 movie that introduced her: After losing her horn to the Ursa Minor, Tempest's old friends made an honest effort to include her in their activities (contrary to what she had claimed in the movie). But as she struggled to control her magic with her broken horn, watching her suffer became too much for them to handle. This, combined with them losing contact with her after washing out of magic school, ultimately led her to think that they had abandoned her in her hour of need.

    Fan Works 
  • Invoked and Exploited in-universe in Brother's Keeper. Caleb lost a leg at some point during his captivity, and Belos purposefully plays up his mobility struggles to make him look even more helpless. He forces Caleb to use a wheelchair during public appearances, and even designed the chair specifically so that it can't be controlled by the person sitting in it, meaning Caleb is always being pushed by others while in the chair. When not in public Caleb uses crutches instead, which he vastly prefers over the wheelchair.
  • The Freedom Planet fanfic, A Dragon Without Wings, has this very much in-mind. The story itself revolves near entirely around the fact Lilac (nicknamed Ground Lilac, as this is the same multiverse as with Freedom Dies With Me) is paralysed from the waist down after being shot in the back by Brevon. Supplemental material, such as this seem to indicate it wears down her spirit; the prologue, disturbingly, starts with her attempting suicide. Don't worry, though, she gets better. A lot better.
  • Chen becomes this in the fanfiction series Gensokyo 20XX, after a vicious attack leaves her left arm and leg paralyzed from nerve damage. From what can be read, she spends most of her time bedridden, as she cannot get out of it, though, apparently, later on, she does use a wheelchair (apparently, the same one Yukari hit Tenshi with). Initially, earlier, she was upset by this, until Yuuka reassured her that, despite her hindrances, she can still live a happy life.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • On, the Scootaloo group has an entire folder set up for stories about Scootaloo discovering that she will never fly, and having to cope with that, often going full Woobie in the process.
    • Many stories feature Rainbow Dash suffering permanent damage to one or both of her wings (often going into Hurt/Comfort Fic territory) — understandably devastating considering that high-performance flight is central to her lifestyle.
    • Snowdrop (2013) tells the story of a blind pegasus. The first several minutes heavily play up the hardships faced by the titular Snowdrop due to her blindness (mostly her classmates wanting nothing to do with her). That plus her over-the-top cute character design amplify the Woobie factor, tugging at the viewer's heartstrings with all the subtlety of a yak on crack.
  • To The Night Sky has Edward Elric often confined to a wheelchair since his automail limbs have been taken away, and he first loathes not being able to go around under his own power. As his mental health slowly degrades, the Woobie factor grows since Edward is more fragile and dependent on others to carry him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Annabelle: Creation: Janice doesn't start the movie in a wheelchair, merely walking with a crutch due to polio. Then her good leg is broken, leaving her in a wheelchair, despondent about her chances of being adopted, and defenseless against terrifying demon attacks.
  • The Big Heat (1988) has an unnamed little girl with polio in a wheelchair appearing in several hospital scenes, who exists to be shot in a hospital shootout halfway through for no reason other than proving it's a film where Anyone Can Die. Her body full of holes even skids around on said wheelchair!
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors: Like everyone at Westin Hills, Will has been mentally tortured by Freddy, confined to an asylum, and told he's delusional. He is confined to a wheelchair due to what is heavily implied to either be a bungled suicide motivated by his horrific recurring nightmares or an unsuccessful attempt by Freddy to kill Will in the dream world. He mentions that when he has good dreams, they're about being able to walk again.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Chloe Reeves in The Dumping Ground. In a wheelchair after falling out of an upstairs window as a toddler due to neglect by her mother, and may or may not have been pushed by her older brother, the needlessly evil and conniving Ryan Reeves. She then spent years separated from her family, sending endless letters to Ryan that he never opened. And then, after finally being moved into the same kid's home as her brother, she's stuck in an endless cycle of being ignored by him, forgiving him, excusing his terrible deeds, and being manipulated and controlled by him. The poor kid...


    Video Games 
  • Gehrman from Bloodborne, once the first Hunter of Yharnam, a selfless person who can withstand a cosmic scale of horror, reducing into a crippled, wheelchair-using old man trapped in a dream. He wished to be freed from the nightmare and begged his friends to put him out of his misery, but they couldn't. By the time when you halted the source of nightmare, he insisted to offer you a Mercy Kill instead of begging you to kill him, wishing you to be freed. If you reject his offer, he demonstrates quite handily that having a missing leg is not a big handicap for him.
  • Simon, the protagonist from Cry of Fear. He is a teenager handicapped by a hit-and-run incident, worsening his depression and anxiety issues, which he has been struggling with throughout his life. The nightmarish environment in the game mirrors Simon's ill state of mind. In all but one of the endings, his accumulated hatred and bitterness towards the world finally catches up to him and he shoots himself in the mouth, but not before taking his crush/therapist (depending on your choices) with him.
  • The player's brother, Doned, in the opening of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. He spends the rest of the game in a world where he can magically walk and gets upset with Marche for trying to restore their original world as he felt utterly hopeless and envious of his brother being able to have a normal life until Marche complains to him that their mother basically looked out after Doned way more than she ever did with Marche and very often left him alone at the house, and this coming after their family went through a divorce. Marche all but spells out that Doned is being an Ungrateful Bastard for just thinking being crippled is the worst thing that ever happened to him without accounting for what Marche was forced to go through because Doned needed more help and attention. In the end, he's back in his wheelchair, but more accepting of his situation.
  • Emi Ibarazaki from Katawa Shoujo, though it's temporary; she has an infection that prevents her from using her prosthetic legs. Bad thing, running with said prosthetic legs kept her Past Experience Nightmares away from her mind, thus her mental/emotional state becomes unstable....
  • Loopmancer has the hero's wife, Wenjun, who was crippled in an accident that claimed her daughter's life and leads to her husband becoming distant from her. And then she's kidnapped by the villains in an I Have Your Wife moment.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: The third game introduced Mamuro, an adorable little kid Lan meets who's been stuck in a wheelchair for most of his life. He's also the operator of Serenade, the King of the Undernet (at least at the start of the game).
  • Mega Man Legends 1 has a little girl named Ira who uses a wheelchair. Despite the hospital's aging equipment stalling her recovery, she remains hopeful that she'll walk again. If you donate enough Zenny so the hospital can buy new equipment, she will.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Has a loveable scientist named Huey Emmerich, who comedically has everything bad happen to him. He, additionally, is in a wheelchair.
  • Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls: Monaca Towa, the Lil' Ultimate Homeroom, is a heavy deconstruction of the trope and Woobies in general, if her being an antagonist didn't tip you off already. She presents herself as the most pitiful yet oddly optimistic girl, that every one of her allies love and care for. She acts perfectly charming, speaking almost whimsically about everything. Her crippling disability just gives her some extra points. Not only does she demean and abuse her fellow Warriors of Hope without even breaking her saccharine character, but she actually fakes being disabled. Even though, by her own admission, the wheelchair is inconvenient, she puts on with it because she figured people would pity and care for her more if she was an "ill girl".

    Visual Novels 
  • Armie Buff from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is bound to a wheelchair due to an arson attack on Armie's apartment home with their mother inside, who broke a window and lept out of the fire with Armie in her arms. The resulting fall caused their mother to die while Armie suffered injuries to their legs. Armie becomes even more of a woobie when their father is killed by an egotistical politician under orders from someone else. By the end of the trial, she reveals that she had healed months ago, but her shut-in behavior and fright of going outside made her stay on the wheelchair. At the end of the game, she has been accepted into the university's digs just like her late father, though she's doing so legally.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Tavros Nitram from Homestuck, whose misfortunes are too plentiful to name here, although there's a delightfully comprehensive (and spoileriffic) list in his entry of the character page. Although his woobie-ness is not tied to his disability — he was still the universe's punching bag both before he was paralyzed and after he regained the use of his legs.

    Western Animation 
  • The Legend of Korra: After a rather brutal series of events (including being badly poisoned, nearly suffocated and falling from not one, but several cliffs), Korra is left confined to a wheelchair for at least two years. And as a bonus, that series of events was designed to make her feel useless in her role as the Avatar (and kill the Avatar spirit forever), with her allies unintentionally adding to that by doing her job while she recovers. She prides herself on her strength and her role so this haunts her. Even when she gets out of the chair, a combination of trace poison in her system and her own doubts and fears leaves her a shadow of her former self for quite a while.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Nearly every episode referencing Scootaloo's inability to fly pulls her squarely into Woobie territory.
    • "Flight to the Finish": After being ruthlessly teased over her condition, Scootaloo is so severely distraught that she runs away from her friends, goes home, tears her posters off her bedroom walls, and throws her scooter in the trash.
    • "The Washouts": Towards the end, Scootaloo reveals her motivation for joining the titular team: she wants something noteworthy she can do with her life despite the whole "can't fly" thing - so much so that she is willing to join a stunt team with a devil-may-care attitude towards safety. At the same time, Rainbow Dash had been strongly implying that she was expecting Scootaloo to follow her into the Wonderbolts despite there being no realistic hope of that actually happening, which was making her feel inadequate.
    • Multiple episodes have Scootaloo implicitly wishing that she could fly. She is able to fly in dream scenes in "Bloom & Gloom" and "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" (the latter of which has her with gigantic wings, as if to compensate for her actual wings being allegedly undergrown for flight). When she is turned into a sea pony in "Surf and/or Turf" and dives underwater, her first thought is "So this must be what it's like to fly!", and it accounts for a large part of her bias towards Seaquestria over Mount Aris. There, her yearning to fly has in essence consumed her to the point of interfering with her CMC duties.
    • For nearly the whole series, it was left ambiguous as to whether Scootaloo had an actual disability or whether she was simply having difficulty learning to fly.note  This may have made her situation even more tragic: At no point is there any evidence of anyone helping her learn to fly, nor any indication that she had ever seen a doctor to look into why she had been having trouble flying, nor anyone pointing her in the direction of technology (such as Apple Bloom's hang glider in "Call of the Cutie") that would have helped her to fly if she'd never be able to do so naturally.note