It's a bug, except when I use it as a feature!
January 17, 2015 4:48 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for movies, personal anecdotes, and what not where a disadvantage is turned into an advantage.

As someone with a handicap, I really enjoyed the movie Wait until Dark, where a blind woman turns the tide on dangerous criminals by waiting until nightfall and breaking all the light bulbs. Now they are in her element and she has the advantage. Similarly, I really liked the scene in "Places in the Heart" where a blind man saves a black man from the KKK because their hoods hide nothing from him. He identifies them by their voices and calls them by name. So they give up and leave.

It doesn't have to be a handicap of that sort. I also liked the negotiation scene in Kingdom of Heaven where the side guaranteed to lose wins the negotiation by promising them that if they don't let the people in trapped in the city go, since they are all doomed anyway, they will make sure it is a Pyrrhic Victory.

I am especially interested in examples of someone consciously and intentionally doing this, not just, oh, looks like I thought it was a problem but I got lucky and this time it just so happens to be for the best.

posted by Michele in California to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In Sneakers, the character of Whistler, who is blind and hacks phones, can tell where Robert Redford was kidnapped by having him describe the sounds he heard while in the back of a van.
posted by xingcat at 5:07 PM on January 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

See A Prayer for Owen Meany. I can't really give the reasons without major spoilers, though.
posted by akk2014 at 5:09 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I thought of Sneakers immediately! Also check out Temple Grandin (TV movie, though there are also books and documentaries that I understand are good, I've just not seen/read them).
posted by Gin and Broadband at 5:11 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cindy Crawford - the model with a mole.

Most horse jockeys - being small is a disadvantage in much of life, particularly for men, but it's just about required to be a horse jockey.
posted by amtho at 5:15 PM on January 17, 2015

Best answer: The Monk tv series
posted by the twistinside at 5:30 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dexter, depending on what you see as a "feature"...
posted by dilaudid at 5:32 PM on January 17, 2015

Lois McMaster Bujold uses this a lot in her fiction. It's effectively the whole underpinning philosophy of the Vorkosigan series and makes small appearances in the Chalion novels.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:00 PM on January 17, 2015

Best answer: Alan Rabinowitz had a significant stutter as a child and could only speak fluently to animals. This led to a love of animals and a career as an explorer and advocate for wildlife. Now he's the CEO of the Panthera organization which protects habitats for big cats.
posted by christinetheslp at 6:25 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Chocolate, in which an autistic teen learns martial arts in order to mete out justice against organized crime
The Lookout, in which a young man with a traumatic brain injury uses the life skills taught to him by his blind roommate to save him from kidnapping
Benda Bilili!, in which African musicians with disabilities embark on a polio vaccination campaign
How to Train your Dragon and sequel, in which the many amputees in the Viking village have access to inventive prosthetics that enhance their functioning
Honorable mention: Alien: Resurrection, in which a paraplegic assembles a gun from parts of his wheelchair to defeat the alien menace
Full disclosure: all self-links.
posted by Soliloquy at 6:27 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: IIRC, in Star Trek the device that Geordi uses because of his blindness allows him to see more than anyone else.
posted by lharmon at 6:32 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wreck it Ralph.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:40 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Lego Movie. Emmit uses his non-original-ness and conformity to ultimately save the day.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:00 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Re: the comment above, here's the complete history of Geordi LaForge's VISOR, including a short catalog of its most significant moments in the Star Trek: TNG and its movie offspring.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:40 PM on January 17, 2015

Best answer: Military-grade camouflage is designed to obscure vision (or at the very least delay visual recognition), but some camouflage techniques simply don't fool persons with color-blindness to the same degree as persons with normal sight.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:35 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: By the way, this is a common trope in media -- the Disability Superpower.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:39 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Real life example from Oliver Sacks where brain injured people have a surprise bonus. Actually, you might want to look up his work in general now that I think about it...
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:34 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Are You Afraid of the Dark episode The Tale of the Closet Keepers, where aliens abduct people and restrain them by means of sound waves -- until they abduct a girl who is deaf and is able to set everyone free.
posted by Gordafarin at 4:59 AM on January 18, 2015

Not sure if you're looking for books too, but Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath should be relevant.
posted by appleses at 6:38 AM on January 18, 2015

Best answer: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:25 AM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

The disadvantages are all fake in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but it's pretty fun watching the characters squirm their way ahead when they can't get out of them.
posted by Mchelly at 9:09 AM on January 18, 2015

In Jim Butcher's Codex Alera, a six-book fantasy series, the main character is literally the only person in the world who can't use magic. But he still becomes integral to the conflicts that go on. If you like fantasy at all, I highly recommend this series!
posted by ethansh at 10:48 AM on January 18, 2015

Best answer: For the first ten years of my career Id get reprimanded/annoy ppl for asking too many questions at work and billing too many hours to "things that don't matter"... Now I'm in due diligence, where an inquisitive and curious way of being is EXPECTED of me :)
posted by treadstone11 at 11:15 AM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: There was a profile in the NY Times last month about Laura Hillenbrand, the author of the highly acclaimed historical biographies Seabiscuit and Unbroken. She has chronic fatigue syndrome, which means she can't leave her house to visit the places she writes about, or even go to the library (let alone promote her books on tours). Not sure if it's the kind of thing you mean, but this detail has stuck with me since I read it:
It may be tempting to think of Hillenbrand as someone who has triumphed in spite of her illness. The truth is at once more complicated and more interesting. Many of the qualities that make Hillenbrand’s writing distinctive are a direct consequence of her physical limitations. Every writer works differently, but Hillenbrand works more differently than any writer I know of. She has been forced by the illness to develop convoluted workarounds for some of the most basic research tasks, yet her workarounds, in all their strange complexity, deliver many of her greatest advantages. When I asked, for example, how she reads old newspapers on microfilm without traveling to a library, I was stunned to discover that she doesn’t. “I can’t look at microfiche,” she said. “I couldn’t do that even in my good vertigo years.”

Instead, Hillenbrand buys vintage newspapers on eBay and reads them in her living room, as if browsing the morning paper. [...]

“There was so much to find,” she said of her reading. “The number-one book was ‘Gone With the Wind,’ the Hindenburg flew over Manhattan with a swastika on it and Roosevelt made a speech saying America would never become involved in foreign wars.” Soon she bought another newspaper, and then another. “I wanted to start to feel like I was living in the ’30s,” she said. That elemental sense of daily life seeps into the book in ways too subtle and myriad to count.
posted by rollick at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much! All great answers. I look forward to delving deeper into them as I have time. :-)
posted by Michele in California at 1:16 PM on January 18, 2015

Best answer: Personal anecdote. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco and current Lieutenant Governor of CA, is dyslexic. You would think this might impede his ability to deliver a decent speech and thus impact his political career. Instead, it permits him to engage and adapt to audiences and occasions. I once attended a graduation where he was the commencement speaker. He had nothing prepared—but you wouldn't have been able to tell from his delivery.
posted by quadog at 11:34 PM on January 18, 2015

Best answer: In the movie The Book of Eli this is a really key plot point, but telling you any more would be a major spoiler.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 3:22 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In the upcoming spy/action film Kingsmen, Gazelle is a female baddie who has prosthetic legs below the knees, and she wears some kind of pointy metal sword prosthetics (think athletic running blades but sharpened metal) for killing people with.
YouTube link with some footage of her.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2015

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