Bo is a university student by day and nerd by night, with a big passion for writing and stories. Danger: Do not feed this person RPGs.
Good representation in media is incredibly important. Everyone deserves to see a character they can relate to being a hero, someone they can look up to and be inspired by. Disabled people are no different.
The following is a list of characters in western animation who are physically disabled. Heads up, though; all of these characters are either blind or missing a limb. Sadly, the western world of animation still has a long way to go in terms of representation for disabled people, but it's still fantastic to see characters with potentially life-changing disabilities kicking butt and taking names.
"Avatar: The Last Airbender" - Toph
Toph may be an obvious choice for this list, a character many know and admire as a powerful disabled woman who doesn't let anything get in her way.
Toph is a blind girl from the Earth Kingdom, and an earthbender who has learned to use her power over earth to extend her senses. Even before she was a teenager, she had become famous in underground earthbending matches, in which she was often put up against tough, abled adults.
While her disability can frustrate her at some points, she's an incredibly capable hero who leads a satisfying story, using her disability to her advantage rather than letting it control her.
"How to Train Your Dragon" - Hiccup and Toothless
The How to Train Your Dragon franchise has several disabled heroes, and uniquely features two as the main protagonists.
When Hiccup first finds Toothless, a rare Nightfury dragon feared by his village, the creature is missing a tail fin and can't fly, and is trapped in a crater. Hiccup helps the scared dragon by befriending it and inventing a mechanical fin, and the two relearn to fly together.
By the end of the first film, Hiccup losses a foot, and it's replaced with a mechanical one.
Both characters don't take long to recover from their lost limbs, their goals to unite dragons and humans as friends taking the center stage for the plot for the rest of the series. Also, Hiccup is never denied his place in the tribe as the chief's son for his disability.
Shout out to Gobber, who also has a mechanical arm, but doesn't let that stop him from blacksmithing.
"Adventure Time" - Finn
Warning, this section is spoiler heavy.
Finn, one of the two main character from Adventure Time, loses half of one of his arms in the sixth season, and it gets replaced by a flower. While this flower does mature and grow into a fully functional arm, he does lose it again, and needs to get it replaced with a mechanical arm.
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While the story may sound a bit weak, hear me out. In most media containing disabilities, we see a lot of grief surrounding a new hardship. However, he never really falters. There's no arc where he needs to regain confidence, or self pity. He simply continues on as a hero, because that's what he does best.
"RWBY" - Yang, Fox, Maria and Pietro
RWBY's most notable disabled character has to be Yang Xiao Long, a huntress that fights with her fists. In the third season, Yang loses an arm in a battle, and while she does get a high tech arm replacement, she has a lot of trauma to work through. In season four, she has this conversation with her father Tai, that I think sums up the arc well:
Yang: “I’m scared. Everyone keeps talking about me getting back to normal, and I appreciate it, but…this is normal now. It’s just taking me a while to get used to it.”
Tai: “Well, normal is what you make of it.”
Yang: “What is that supposed to mean? Do you want me to just pretend like nothing happened? I lost a part of me. A piece of myself is gone and it’s never coming back.”
“You’re right, it’s never coming back. But it doesn’t have to stop you from becoming who you want to be.”
She takes the advice to heart, and now she's back on the battlefield, stronger than ever, fighting as one of the show's four central protagonists.
Fox is a blind character from team CFVY, who admittedly doesn't get much screen time, but has been shown kicking butt. The book RWBY: After the Fall also features him as a main character, where he is shown to be perfectly capable and happy, providing the fun for his team.
Maria is a character whose eyes were sliced in combat, and lost her ability to see normally. Now she has mechanical ones, though they sometimes act up, needing to be serviced every ten years. Though she gave up her life as a hero when she lost her vision, she still has a fantastic rebellious nature.
Lastly, Pietro is a character from the seventh season who is wheelchair bound and dying, but that doesn't stop him from giving all of his love to his daughter and supporting the heroes whenever they need it. He also built Yang's arm and Maria's eyes.
"OK K.O" - Red Action
Red Action is a recurring character from OK K.O but her episodes are some of the best. She's an amputee from the future who has decided to live in the present. While she'd much rather have fun and kick back than save the world, she's a fully capable fighter, formerly being part of the "Hue Troop", a group of time-travelling heroes, and eventually becomes a fitness instructor. She's also great at surfing, and doubles as canon LGBT representation.
Those were my top five animated shows with disabled characters, what are yours? Have I missed someone? Let me know in the comments below what you think!
© 2020 Bo Beaufill