Me Before You is the movie at the heart of a controversy. And this is a spoiler alert. The film, follows the relationship between a quadriplegic and his female caregiver. To many, the mere fact that there was a major movie starring a quadriplegic character as a romantic lead was thrilling. However, this thrill quickly turns to feelings that range from disappointment to disgust depending upon who you talk to in the disability community.
The romantic leads do fall in love. However, the male is deeply depressed about his disability, which leads him to ultimately decide his life as a disabled man is not worth living—and opts for assisted suicide.
This plot sends a message to many within and without the disability community: The lives of those who have a disability are not worth living.
Direct Comments from The Disabled Community
Blogger Crippledscholar created a page of comments from the disabled community and mainstream media coverage of the movie named Media Roundup of Me Before You Criticism.
John Kelly, a Boston activist who is wheelchair has been vocal about his disgust over the story portrayed in the film.
He’s concerned that the movie will actually prompt disabled people to end their lives.
“After a new injury, people are very vulnerable, because suddenly you become part of a marginalized group. Only a disabled character could have their suicide presented as noble.
People happily cry over people like me killing ourselves. Where are the films where he changes his mind and they live happily ever after?”
Why Do You Want Me Dead
Ella French, an 11-year-old wheel chair athlete pens a profound letter addressed to Hollywood titled: “Me Before You: Dear Hollywood, Why Do You Want Me Dead?”
One of the most gut-wrenching paragraphs from this currently number two ranked professional female wheelchair skater (WCMX) in the world, reads:
“You sit there with your able bodies, and look at people in chairs and think you feel pity for our sad little lives, but the truth is you’re afraid. You don’t want to imagine that you might be one of us one day. You think you can be perfect, and think you’d rather die than have parts that don’t work right.
I think that’s sad.”
Does Anyone from The Disability Community See Value in the Movie
Sarah-Jane, a YouTube book blogger and fan of the novel, who is a person from the disability community, said that she is planning to see Me Before You regardless of the protests. Her opinion of the Jojo Moyes’s book has not changed.
“We need more disabled stories: that is something I agree with wholeheartedly. But I honestly don’t believe that a book showing one man’s story, one man’s decision, represents the entire disability community as a whole. I don’t think there’s any story out there that can do that.”
However, Sarah-Jane read the book and had not yet seen the movie. There may be subtleties in the book which never made it on screen.
Which seems to be the case. When Jojo Moyes described the film adaptation of her book, she believed some of the subtext and nuances the film were cut in order not to derail its romantic tone.
But even if all the nuance made it into the film, it’s likely it would still be controversial. The book itself was criticized because Moyes didn’t contact any quadriplegics. When writing about an underrepresented group you are not a part of it’s important to do your homework.
And then ask John Kelly’s question “Where are the films where he changes his mind and they live happily ever after?”
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