Throwing Off the Disability
A character who has been disabled for an extended period, often physically or visually, will suddenly regain use of the disabled organ.
Explanations for this tend to fall into five varieties. First, it could be a form of heroic will. Second, and most believably, their injury could be one from which they could recover, and they happened to have been healed by the plot-relevant moment. Third, they might not have actually been disabled at all, and it was just an Obfuscating Disability. Fourth, their otherwise incurable disability was miraculously cured through divine means or by Applied Phlebotinum. Finally, fifth, their disability could just disappear for no reason at all, possibly as a Retcon or as Canon Discontinuity.
Unfortunate Implications are inherent in this trope, if you think about it for a moment: If fictional characters can "will" their disabilities away, then real people who can't do the same thing must be too weak-willed or lazy to do the same. Also, if the only happy ending the writers can imagine for the character is to magically lose their disability, this could be a little depressing for disabled people living in the real world.
Anime and Manga
- In one of the last episodes of the second season of Code Geass, Nunnally overpowers the memory geass the Emperor had put on her and opens her eyes through sheer force of will, after being blind from psychological trauma for years. (Her legs still don't work, though.)
- Appears as a Justified Trope in the second season of Darker than Black. The heroine's brother is a Contractor who is confined to a wheelchair as part of his Remuneration. Typically of this trope, he suddenly rises from his wheelchair at a plot-important moment.
- This happens to Coco in the finale of Basquash, as one of the last shots is her getting out of her wheelchair. Considering everything else in the series, it's very likely this was the phlebotinum version.
- In Fist of the North Star, one of the Nanto Roku Seiken, Shuu, recovers his eyesight at the brink of death, for a Tear Jerker moment where his greatest wish, seeing Kenshiro's grown-up face, is fulfilled, allowing him to die at peace, knowing the guidance of his star was not wrong.
- Averted by Hayate after Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. In her case, it had been stated that her paralysis was due to the Artifact of Doom draining her life, and even after they got rid of the magical source, it still required about six more years of medical treatment before she was able to walk.
- In Alpine Rose (manga) Marie was paralyzed until she met Lundi, and then miraculously rose from her wheelchair to help him, after which he's limping on crutches and she's apparently fine.
- For a character who was just pretending, there's Richard Dragon, a comic book character created by Denny O'Neil. He reveals in an issue of The Question that he actually can walk, and the wheelchair was just to screw with people.
- In the comic The Incredible Hulk Bruce Banner gets ALS, and is eventually cured by Reed Richards. (The issue ends with Banner Breaking the Fourth Wall, saying it's Just A Story and there's no real cure for ALS, encouraging people to donate to the research to Find A Cure.)
- In 52 Ralph Dibny thinks that Dr. Milo is just pretending to be crippled in order to smuggle a magical artifact into the asylum in which he is incarcerated. Said artifact is one of the wheels on Dr. Milo's wheelchair. Horribly subverted when it turns out Milo really is crippled and has no legs. Ralph only realizes this after he had already removed the wheel and Milo was left helpless and crawling on the floor.
- After Tony Stark had his nervous system replaced after a great deal of damage. He had to learn how to move. During that time, he was paralized from the neck down.
- Professor Xavier, who routinely goes from paraplegic to perfectly healed and back again.
- In DC's 2011 reboot, Barbara Gordon returned to her classic role of Batgirl after decades as the wheelchair-bound Oracle. In the story it's been Ret Conned that she was only paralyzed for three years (of Comic Book Time), and she and her family found some "miracle" doctors in Africa that performed the surgery that healed her. In an attempt by the writers to avoid the Unfortunate Implications, she may be healed physically but still carries psychological scars, having PTSD as well as a kind of Survivor Guilt because she was healed when so many people aren't.
- An infamous commercial had the late Christopher Reeve standing up and walking away from his wheelchair, while explaining the importance of funding research for the treatment of disabled people. The ad, of course, used CGI to make him walk, and was supposed to engender hope for the future, but the ad mostly got Reeve What the Hell, Hero? reactions from the general public for making it look as though cures for paralysis would be available in the near future, and a few crushed people who were fooled into thinking that he really had been cured.
- A famous "heroic" will example is the title character of Doctor Strangelove. As he enthuses over the upcoming end of the world, he rises from his wheelchair to describe his plan before proclaiming "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!" According to some rumors, this was the result of the actor, Peter Sellers, forgetting that Strangelove was a cripple and he improvised the line on the spot to cover his mistake.
- There's a very similar scene in When Worlds Collide, although that man doesn't walk very well though during that scene and probably couldn't stay standing for very long.
- The "Run, Forrest, Run!" scene in Forrest Gump is somewhere between the willpower and healing versions of this trope. As a child, Forrest was made to wear leg braces, likely out of a complete misdiagnosis by a doctor. So one day, he walked home with Jenny and had to escape from bullies, he was either completely healed or had never needed the braces in the first place. If anything, they probably made his legs stronger over time.
- The Bride from Kill Bill performs a classic type 1 recovery. After fours years of lying in a coma, she discovers she can't use her legs. Since she's a badass, she kills a couple people anyway...Afterwards she commands her legs to work again a bit at a time, starting with "Wiggle your big toe." A relatively short time afterwards, the Bride is not only walking again, she's driving off in the Pussy Wagon on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Of course, her paralysis was probably due to not having used her muscles in years, not necessarily to any real damage. This does raise the further question of why the rest of her body (and her voice) work straightaway, though.
- In The Ex the ex-boyfriend (Chip) reveals he can walk; this ends up being his Moral Event Horizon as he was pretending to be handicapped for years.
- Tommy, of The Who's album/film of the same name (deaf, dumb & blind, but it was psychosomatic).
- Famous Obfuscating Stupidity example at the end of The Usual Suspects.
- Parodied in The Big Lebowski where after it has been discovered that the title character (not the protagonist) has been a fraud in a number of aspects of his life, Walter suspects that he's faking being a cripple (he's not).
- Rufus in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children does a type 3, revealing he was playing up his illness all along.
- Parodied in Life of Brian when a blind man claims to be healed by Brian ("I was blind and now I can see!") only to immediately walk straight into a deep pit.
- Mikey from The Goonies throws away his inhaler at the end.
- In Lady and the Tramp, Trusty the bloodhound had lost his sense of smell long ago, but when the Tramp is taken by the dog catcher, he manages against all odds to track him down.
- Cthulhu (2007). A disabled man who says he lost the use of his legs and testicles in an accident, offers the protagonist a chance to impregnate his wife. When he turns down the offer (as he's gay) he gets drugged and raped instead. When angrily confronting the wife later, he's surprised when the husband (who's got full use of his legs) attacks him. It turns out the whole thing was a setup by the local cult who needed his offspring for their own dark purposes.
- The female lead does this out of Obfuscating Stupidity in The House of Flying Daggers.
- Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels engages in a type three case while pretending it's type one.
- In Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt's weak-ass military advisors tell him that a retaliatory bombing raid against Japan can't be done. So he stands up on his paralyzed legs and tells them, "Do not tell me it can't be done."
- Van Helsing does this in Jesus Franco's 1970 adaptation of Dracula staring Christopher Lee. during the film he suffers a stroke and becomes confined to a Wheel Chair only to rise again shortly after in order to fend off Dracula
- In Avatar, the main character is able to walk again after having his consciousness transferred to an alien body.
- The Princess Bride, "I'm only laying here because I lack the strength to stand. Then again... maybe I do."
- In Transylvania 6-5000, the hunchbacked butler gradually stands up straight while delivering a speech about the indignities he and his family have suffered. His wife and son then stand straight as well, revealing that they'd only been stooping because that's what everyone expects of servants in a spooky Transylvanian castle.
- In laughably terrible furry movie Bitter Lake, one of the characters mocks another for leaving his "retarded" brother to run his province while attending peace talks (he gets a mention on the movie's website as "half-witted"), who is then promptly forgotten. He appears at the end of the movie, claiming he never really was retarded, and that his brother only said he was to discredit him. He's also the villain of the movie.
- One Redwall book has a hare in a wheelchair suddenly regain her ability to walk.
- Older Than Feudalism: Happens a lot in The Bible with various miracles. One example that is probably closest to this trope is the story of Samson. Samson was captured and blinded and had his hair, the source of his power, cut off as well. Eventually, the hair grew back, causing his strength to return and allowing him to pull Taking You with Me on his captors.
- Which really shouldn't work, since the common interpretation is that he derived his strength from being a Nazarite (a holy man who, among other things, is prohibited from having his hair cut). He lost his strength due to breaking the vow - having it grow back doesn't exactly unbreak the vow.
- An Enderverse example—near the end of Xenocide, Miro, who had been crippled and unable to talk properly, regains the use of his body as it was before the accident that disabled him. Not actually that miraculous, because what really happened was he discarded his old body and created a new one due to being instantly teleported Outside in order to--it's complicated.
- Grandpa Joe does this in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the rest of Charlie's grandparents accomplish it by the end of the sequel.
- It never actually says they can't walk, it's just that they're really old and have stayed in bed 24/7 for years. They're out of practice. All it takes is the right motivation (for Grandpa Joe, the chance to visit Wonka's factory; for the others, being told that if they don't get out of bed, they won't fit into the glass elevator).
- In Jane Eyre, Rochester is blinded by the fire that his wife set in Thornfield - one eye is knocked out entirely, but the other one heals over time. His severed hand never grows back, though.
- In the book Wicked, Nessarose was born without arms, and cannot walk on her own - she always needs someone to steady her. The Silver Slippers, after Elphaba enchants them, give her the balance for independent locomotion.
- In the Lord Darcy mystery short "Murder on the Napoli Express", one man has a pronounced limp when walking slowly, and virtually no limp when walking quickly. The limp is a poorly done excuse for carrying a Sword Cane.
- In The Lost Years Of Merlin, Merlin has been blinded as a child, but for some reason later on can kind of see, or at least sense what's there, to the point where later in the book (and he's the narrator) he practically has his sight back perfectly.
- A Sweet Valley High book had a character paralyzed after an accident. Subverted in that her paralysis was never intended to be permanent and that her doctors stated she would walk again after rest and physical therapy. However, she remained wheelchair-bound long past her expected recovery time and it is soon realized that she is subconsciously creating her paralysis so that her boyfriend won't leave her. However, when her babysitting charge falls into the pool, she has to jump in to save him. Turns out the kid is a champion swimmer and did it on purpose to snap her out it.
- In Heidi, once Klara's wheelchair is disposed of and other characters help her practice walking, she's soon completely cured.
- In The Secret Garden, it's made clear that Colin was never disabled to begin with, but has been staying in bed out of paranoia and a royal fit of the sulks. For ten years. Once he's willing to try, he slowly gains strength.
- On the other hand, the same characters are eagerly talking about using willpower to cure Ben's back, which really does have something wrong with it... but he doesn't undergo such a dramatic transformation.
- In The Poisonwood Bible, Adah, who has walked with a slant and had difficulty talking all her life due to "hemiplegia," finds out she was misdiagnosed, and that her habits were learned in childhood rather than the results of a medical condition.
- Eragon, of the Inheritence Cycle, has a most egregious one of these, losing the debilitating scar he picked up at the end of the first book. Combines heavily with Deus Ex Machina, and as we find out in the fourth book, was the actions of the dragon eldunari who hid themselves in the ruins of the Riders' city.
- Gillian Grayson, in Mass Effect Ascension, was established as having high-functioning autism that clearly has a serious impact on her thought processes and the way she relates to the world. By the end of the novel, when she's off Cerberus-provided experimental chemicals and wearing an environment suit, she's seen as being in somewhat better shape, but not remotely "cured". In Mass Effect: Deception her autism isn't mentioned; she had been an "unstable" twelve-year-old with a "temper", implying that she was in and got over an adolescent phase.
- In one of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer
episodesseasons, Spike is in a wheelchair for a couple of episodes, then reveals that he is just making Angel think he's crippled so that he can surprise him later. (Not the good sort of surprise. Or the dirty kind, either.)
- Spike was seriously injured while curing Drusilla and needed several episodes to recover, but then he continued to play possum while figuring out how best to backstab Angelus.
- Wesley on Angel had been shot and was confined to a wheelchair for a few episodes. During that time, he (literally) rose to Cordelia's defense in order to intimidate Angel. It's a subversion, though, because as soon as Angel left, Wesley collapsed back into the wheelchair and told Cordelia to drive him to the hospital to fix his busted stitches.
- John Locke on Lost used to be in a wheelchair before he came to the island, where he regained the ability to walk.
- Rose's cancer was cured by the island, as was Jin's infertility.
- In the flashsideways, Jack operates on Locke and fixes his paralysis in the series finale.
- Inverted in Heroes, as Daphne's disability comes back during the eclipse, when her powers are turned off temporarily.
- Played straight in the first season, when Mr. Linderman heals Nathan's wife, who was paralyzed from the waist down, as a "gift" to her and Nathan.
- One of the few high points of WWF's Invasion angle was when Vince McMahon brought in the legendary "Classy" Freddie Blassie to give the WWF roster a pep talk. Blassie rose from his wheelchair to give an impassioned speech about the history and legacy of the WWF, imploring the gathered wrestlers to not let the forces of the Alliance destroy what took so long to build.
- In an episode of The Incredible Hulk David Banner gets paralyzed from the chest down; when he Hulks Out at the end of the episode Hulk is at first paralyzed as well, but eventually recovers due to his Healing Factor, which heals Banner too.
- An episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit ended with an apparently wheelchair bound woman being pushed into a swimming pool by her angry husband (who the detectives had just made realize had only her word that she was still disabled). She was indeed faking and the episodes ends with the detectives, perhaps a little too smugly, informing her that she'll now be going to jail.
- Parodied in a famous Saturday Night Live sketch which billed itself as an alternate ending to It's a Wonderful Life. George and the townsfolk think that Mr. Potter is pulling the Obfuscating Stupidity version and throw him out of his wheelchair. Sure enough, it turns out he's faking his paralysis as well.
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp", one character who uses a wheelchair turns out to be faking it.
- the first character to rock a wheelchair in Who was actually one of the good guys â€” Dortmun, one of the leaders of the anti-Dalek resistance in "Dalek Invasion Of Earth." Dortmun is confined to a wheelchair due to one of his many failed attempts to devise an anti-Dalek explosive. And not coincidentally, he's a terrible leader whose super-explosives never do what they're supposed to. But then Dortmun finally redeems himself, confronting the Daleks and buying time for the others to escape â€” by climbing out of his wheelchair and standing to face the Daleks at last.
- Glee: Type Three: In "Wheels", Tina reveals to Artie that she's been faking her stutter to avoid people, and wants to stop. The actually-disabled Artie takes the news quite badly, pointing out the Unfortunate Implications of pretending to have a disability.
- Star Trek gives us Captain Christopher Pike, who's stuck in a wheelchair and unable to express himself other than by flashing a light "Yes" or "No." Captain Pike's mind is still alive in there, but nobody's figured out a way for him to use Morse code, or translate his brain activity into speech. So Spock takes matters into his own hands, risking his own career and Captain Kirk's command to help Captain Pike return to Talos IV, the planet of the obscene craniums. There, Captain Pike can live in a kind of dreamworld for the amusement of the sterile Talosians, but at least he'll be perfectly healthy.
- A Taxi episode has Louie taken to court by an old lady who he hit with his cab. When he learns that the woman is a notorious scam artist with a history of phony lawsuits, he decides to "prove" she's not really hurt during the trial by shoving her wheelchair toward a staircase so she'll jump out. Unfortunately for him, it turns out that in this particular case he really had injured her.
- In an Easter episode of The Waltons, Olivia is stricken with polio and for a while confined to her bed or a wheelchair—until she hears her youngest child crying out in a nightmare, and in her half-sleeping state gets up and walks down the hall. Apparently the cure for disability is to forget you're disabled.
- In the BBC series Sherlock, army doctor Watson returns after being wounded in Afghanistan, now walking with a limp and cane. But, as pointed out by others, the limp and pain are not constant, and disappear when he is occupied otherwise, letting them conclude it's mostly psychosomatic. They are right, and during the first episode it happens more and more often for extended periods until limp and cane disappear entirely.
- Particularly when it's noted that Watson was shot in the shoulder, yet his limp and pain come from his leg.
- Averted on Picket Fences for realism's sake, when the older brother recouperates after getting shot. The gradual reduction of his spinal cord's swelling, that restores his ability to walk, takes up a good part of that season, and his getting out of his wheelchair is preceded by episodes where he regains a sense of touch in his feet and the ability to urinate without a catheter.
- Eureka: Due to an incident involving time travel, Kevin loses his autism. This gets handled about as well as one would expect given the prevalence of Throwing Off the Disability.
- Although given that his mother actively tried to thwart their attempts to return to their correct timeline, as she prefers him this way, might lend itself to some Unfortunate Implications.
- Temporary paralysis is a frequent version of Hollywood Healing seen on Soap Operas. Frequently, the character snaps out of their paralysis in order to save themselves or another character from a life-threatening situation.
- Seven Days: Wheelchair-bound Dr. Ballard is given a chip that allows him to walk again. Unfortunately, said chip contains an alien consciousness that makes him homicidal, forcing Parker to back-step to prevent him from receiving the implant, leaving him in the wheelchair.
- Lionel Luthor in Smallville. He is inflicted with genuine - albeit temporary - blindness, and eventually regains his sight. But, Lionel being Lionel, he turns this into Obfuscating Disability.
- Played up, down, back and forth by Arrested Development, with a lawyer who fakes blindness in order to get jury sympathy. Michael figures this out and throws a book at her to prove it - unfortunately on the one day when she had been temporarily actually blinded. For unrelated reasons, she is also faking a pregnancy.
- Olivia does this in the second season of Fringe after seemingly fruitless rehabilitation with Sam Weiss.
- On Downton Abbey, Matthew is told he'll never walk again after a bomb blast in the WWI trenches. A few episodes later, he starts feeling tingles, but is told it's just psychosomatic. He finally bolts up out of his wheelchair to grab Lavinia when she falls.
- This is treated somewhat realistically, for a number of reasons:
- The 1915 medical technology wasn't sensitive enough to detect his chances of recovery.
- The doctor is revealed to have known there was a small chance, but didn't want to give false hope, which is consistent with his depiction as medically conservative.
- Matthew sits down again immediately and has to undergo a long recovery, using a cane for most of the remainder of the series.
- This is treated somewhat realistically, for a number of reasons:
- In Dick Tracy, the Mayor's invalid wife pulls off the 'Heroic Will' version: rising from her invalid bed to shoot Mrs Pruneface and save her daughters.
- In the musical Wicked, Nessarose has been confined to a wheelchair, and after donning the magical slippers, gains the ability to walk.
- This was changed from the book, where she is without arms, but can't maintain balance to walk on her own. It's dramatic!
- In Amahl and the Night Visitors, a Christmas Miracle allows Amahl to throw away his crutch and walk without it.
- Occurs in Hanna-Barbera's Heidi's Song, with an invalid girl gets out of her wheelchair in order to defend her pet kitten against a Hawk.
- Used a couple of times in South Park:
- In "Krazy Kripples", Christopher Reeve regains the ability to walk (among other things) by sucking the stem cells out of an embryo.
- In "Bloody Mary", attending an AA meeting convinces Randy that he is powerless to overcome his drinking problem, and starts using a wheelchair for some reason. When sprayed with the blood of the eponymous Mary, he triumphantly stands up and throws his drink to the ground. Justified, of course, because he was only ever disabled in his hypochondriac mind.
- Peggy in King of the Hill had to go through this when her muscles had atrophied after being released from her body-cast due to a skydiving accident. In this case she chose to forgo normal physical therapy for Cotton's method, where he purposefully got her angry in order to provoke a response. It was still a long and involved process, though.