The Trouble With Cure

The Trouble With Cure

What’s wrong with cure?  Isn’t it a good thing when people get better?

In fiction, I say no.  Not usually.

Here’s the trouble with the typical “cure” plot line (the usual formula of stories with disabled characters, where at the last minute they are somehow cured of the disability).

Well, actually, there are a few problems so I’ll break them down:

1) Not realistic.

Sometimes people do recover from disabling accidents. Sometimes doctors can fix things, sometimes treatments work.  That’s great!

But it’s rare. Very, very unlikely. If you go by Hollywood, you would think that sort of thing happens all the time. In fact, they make it seem like people who are disabled just haven’t tried hard enough; with enough effort and persistence, they could recover… or if they just found the right doctor.

This is not a good message to be putting out to people who are not aware of the truth. It leads to people thinking those with disabilities are lazy or unmotivated.  It leads to people who sustain traumatic injuries believing that if they focus their entire life on getting “fixed,” it will work.  The books and movies promised.

2) Easing writer responsibilities.

Writing a good story often involves putting your characters into the most challenging situations you can think of and watching them get out of it. Sometimes writers manage to put their characters into situations that they can’t think of a way out of and that’s when they cheat. This is what is known as deus ex machina, where everything is suddenly fixed by an outside source and the solution does not come from within the story and the characters.

But enormous challenges to characters are what great literature is made of. If you can’t think of a way out, then leave the character to keep struggling through it because that’s life. In life, we don’t get a solution handed to us when things get too rough.  What use are our stories if they don’t provide us an inspiring model to keep going through tough times?

You know the show House? About a disabled doctor with a poisonous personality? Good show, but it bothers me that they seem to use House’s disability only when it is convenient and ignore it when it is not. Sometimes he doesn’t seem disabled at all. Well, I watched a clip of the writers being interviewed about the show and they said that the original script called for House to use a wheelchair.

That would have been awesome, in my opinion. The writers go on to say that the network talked them out of that and “thank goodness” they did. No explanation for why they are glad they got talked out of it, but I’m pretty sure it’s because they didn’t want to deal with the challenges.

Writing through those challenges would have made the show even stronger than it already is.

In real life, if someone uses a wheelchair then they use a wheelchair and they find a way to work within that framework. When writers have constraints like that which they must stay within, it brings out much greater work.

3) Why do they need to be fixed?

The biggest problem I have with the miracle cure plot line is, it clearly supports the idea that a happy ending is not possible without a cure.

If you want to leave the characters happy at the end, the disabilities have to go away.  Why is that?  Can’t a disabled character have a happy ending?


In my books they always do.


  1. Celeste
    Jul 10, 2011

    I agree with everything said here. Often times I find myself thinking, “Isn’t it terrible that I never want anyone to be cured in movies?” This definitely made me feel better about that.

    I recently watched a movie called “Beastly,” which was pretty far-fetched to begin with. In the movie, Neil Patrick Harris plays a secondary character who is blind man (and he’s obviously not a blind actor, which is a whole other issue). Of course, he’s victim to the miracle cure storyline. But I was especially disappointed with this because the story had nothing to do with him being blinded, and he didn’t show any sign of being distressed or even wanting to be cured throughout the entire movie!

    And I’ve never watched House. I just don’t think it’s my kind of show. But the clip you linked to rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed demeaning or something. “What kind of confidence do you have in a doctor that’s handicapped?” I think I’d feel just as confident as long as he wasn’t a brain surgeon with shaky hands!

    By the way, what is the picture of the girl with the horse from?

  2. RuthMadison
    Jul 11, 2011

    The picture is from a Hallmark movie called After the Fall. I guess I should attribute it, eh?! lol. I haven’t seen it, but reading the description it sounded like exactly this sort-of crap! 🙂

    • Celeste
      Jul 11, 2011

      Haha, I figured it would be an example of miracle cures. I asked for the sake of my straight male devotee forum members! Maybe they would want to see it regardless. 🙂

      • Celeste
        Jul 11, 2011

        Hah, oh wait. Hallmark movie. Maybe they won’t like it after all. Hahaha.

        • RuthMadison
          Jul 11, 2011

          Hehehe, no probably not. And it’s a seriously ugly wheelchair too 🙁

  3. Amy
    Jul 13, 2011

    Hi, Ruth! I truly appreciate everything you’ve just said from a reader’s point of view. I hate when authors or screenplay writers have their own vision of reality, since I don’t like fiction that isn’t plausible.

    I’m not sure this is the right place, but I’ve followed your posts on certain themed formus (and I think you know what I’m talking about) and you seem very open and friendly so I’m just going to ask you for an advice.

    I must state first that I’m not a dev, just someone who very much enjoys the wounded-hero fiction type. Nowadys I read books and watch movies where the hero is a very high functiong para (aka independent, but full time wheelchair user) but I can’t seem to find any intelligent fiction and I was wondering if you could recommend me something. I’ve read W(hole) and that’s the type of fiction I’m looking for.

    I know there aren’t many books/movies with this kind of plot, especially good ones, but I’m trying my best to find them all. I’m not looking for anything Balzac-like written, just something that won’t make me roll my eyes.

    Also, let me just say that is so great whant you’re doing for the whole dev community, coming out like that and telling people straight that the preference for a man in a wheelchair is just like someone else’s preference for say above average tall men. I think that too!

    Keep it up and write some more!

    • RuthMadison
      Jul 13, 2011

      It is fantastic to hear from you! Thanks so much for your comment. I know exactly what you mean, enjoying the “wounded hero” fiction definitely doesn’t mean you’re a dev, and there’s some interesting cross-over and differences. I will have to think on your request. I’ll try to dig up the best books I can find, but it is tough! That’s why I’m in this market. I’m writing as fast as I can trying to get stories out there for us all to enjoy. I’ll get back to you once I come up with some suggestions!

  4. Amy
    Jul 13, 2011

    Yey! Thank you! I knew approaching you woulnd’t be a mistake. I have to add that I didn’t ask you because I’m lazy, I/ve search Amazon, eBay, every book on the likesbooks list and I’ve read bad fiction so I’m pretty desperate! Looking forward to getting word from you!


  5. GirlWithTheCane
    Jul 13, 2011

    Awesome post. Thank you for speaking about this important issue. I’ve worked with people with intellectual disabilities for a long time, and have physical disabilities myself…the assumption that “disability” = “illness”, in that it’s something to be “cured”, is one that really bothers me. I’m not sick – I live one-handed and I use a cane, but from a health standpoint, I’m probably actually a good deal healthier than I was before I acquired my disabilities – thinner, in better shape, healthier mentally…my life just looks a bit different than it did.

    Great blog. I’ll be coming back to it.

    • RuthMadison
      Jul 14, 2011

      Thank you for writing! I’m glad to meet you. You make an excellent point, I’d wager a guess that you’re probably healthier and more in shape than I am.

  6. Jamie
    Jul 15, 2011

    As a disabled woman, I have spent my entire life in a wheelchair. I have gone through my moments of “why me?” but I know that God has a plan for me to do great things. Would my life be easier not having a disability? In some respects yes, but in all honesty, I have been able to experience so much more and touch so many lives because of my disability; I wouldn’t change it for the world. I definitely will have my happy ending, disability and all! You can read more about me, my life and loves at!

    • RuthMadison
      Jul 16, 2011

      And we’re going to hear one of your great stories about how having a disability gave you the chance to flirt with cute firefighters next week! 😀


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