Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Ablenationalists Assemble

On Disability in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2021), 15, (1), 1–17.


Superheroes are often disabled, either literally or metaphorically. Their exceptional powers and abilities may be balanced by weakness in order to engender audience sympathy or identification, or to provide a source of narrative obstacles. Although superhero stories are not necessarily about disability, they have become one of the most accessible and popular formats in which disability is a consistently salient trope and integral part of the narrative machinery. The article argues that the use of disability in current superhero narratives, exemplified by the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is best understood through the theoretical lens of narrative prosthesis and ablenationalism. In the MCU, a core function of disability is to provide heroes with a yearning for normality and a desire to be productive members of a community. The interlinked narratives of the MCU effectively depict many of its protagonists as supercrips, framing disability as intrinsically linked to a heroic struggle to fit in with non-disabled society.

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Author details

Grue, Jan