CW: Ableism & Assisted Suicide
July is Disability Pride Month. Positive portrayals of disabled people are rarely seen in media. Many times, disabled characters are played by non-disabled actors. More disabled actors need to be cast in these roles.
In 2016, the movie Me Before You premiered in theaters. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Jojo Moyes. In the film, the protagonist is Will, a man in his 20s who becomes disabled following an accident. He decides to end his life with assisted suicide after falling in love. Will’s choice to end his life at 26 is entirely motivated by his inability to live as a quadriplegic, according to the plot of the film and book.
As someone with Cerebral Palsy, the plot of Me Before You is deeply troubling to me. Life with a disability can be challenging at times. Ableism can seem like an insurmountable obstacle at times. However, my life is not a tragedy. Life can still be lived while using a wheelchair. My wheelchair allows me to enjoy everyday life more. I’ve gone to the mall, the arcade, and on vacations with my wheelchair. Without my mobility equipment, I would be bedridden. My mobility equipment doesn’t limit me; it does the opposite. People in wheelchairs can also fall in love.
The film used the hashtag Live Boldly in promotional materials. Disabled people can live boldly. A wheelchair doesn’t mean that you can’t live life. I’ve lived with Cerebral Palsy for nearly 23 years now. In that time, I’ve gone to Fenway Park, been in the water with dolphins, gone to the National Zoo, seen the Lincoln Memorial, and had an opinion piece published in my local newspaper. I’ve lived a wonderful life, surrounded by wonderful people. I can’t wait for the next chapter in my life.
Well said, Grace. What an awful premise for a film!
I have not seen the film yet
Neither have I, but I wrote a paper on it in college for English.
In some ways the movie is even worse, since the film takes away the multiple health issues that Will has in the book and settles on the idea that a man like Will will never be able to have sex in his condition. Yes, really. The thing that cements his decision is not access needs, failing health, falling in love, or even intimacy. Instead, he decides to end his life because he cannot “give [Louisa] children’ (leaving aside the equally thorny issue of a disabled person falling into a sexual relationship with a paid caregiver). That, combined with the air of dignified sacrifice in his last letter to Louisa is what enraged me. Showing a fearless representation of an interabled couple could have been groundbreaking, but we didnt get that.