Spoilers in this entry if you are among the six people left who have not read this book.
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown is one of those books that is a pop culture phenomenon and you feel like you need to read it just to keep up. Before I read the copy someone had passed along to me, I chanced upon a review of the book from a disability perspective by Carolyn Anne Anderson. Only skimming the first half of her review at the time, I saw that the fourth paragraph began like this:
It may just be habit to some writers as they begin to formulate a villain's character, to give them some form of disability.
I didn't finish the review then, but my interest in The DaVinci Code was truly piqued. I wanted to witness Brown's use of disability stereotype for myself. At the same time, I no longer needed to read the book -- this one sentence of Anderson's revealed such a disability cliché that the final plot twist was known to me before I even cracked the book. Not only was the primary villain disabled (polio), his evil nature is the "dramatic secret" of the novel's final moments. Yay.
Well, actually, the villain isn't disabled so much as "crippled." Crippled. Crippled. Did I mention he is crippled? Well, Brown does. Over and over and over as Mr. Crippled Secret Villain limps around and other characters comment on the fact that he is crippled. This is to make sure that the densest reader understands that twisted on the outside means twisted on the inside. Why is he a villain? Because he's crippled and that can drive a person to be not nice.
It turns out that Mr. Limpy also has a henchman who is albino. Physically different means evil, remember. As so often happens, disability is used as metaphor for something else and not left to exist as a natural part of a character on it's own.
There are plenty of other problems with originality in Brown's novel. And disabled people can join the Catholic church in finding something in the book that's offensive. I knew I wasn't diving into fine literature when I read The DaVinci Code, but you know a stereotype is really tired when it gives away the ending of a thriller to use it at all.