Okay, so the movie, Me Before You(based on Jojo Moyes’ novel of the same title) has been hitting the big screens and is getting a lot of hype at the moment.
This is my two cents worth.
I read the book after many of my (able-bodied) friends convinced me that it’s a “must read”. Some even commented on how well the author gets inside the guy in the wheelchair’s head. But the book is not written from the quadriplegic’s perspective. It’s written from his companion/carer’s point of view.
To be honest, I hated the book.
Despite it being a love story, it has a really crappy ending and it left me feeling incredibly sad. I’m a romantic at heart and a real sucker for happily ever after. We have enough sadness to deal with in everyday life, so I prefer to find refuge in feel good stories.
I also found the book to be unrealistic in places and it’s clear that the author has never been personally affected by disability. From what I’ve seen and heard about the movie so far, the producers and actors also have no real clue of what it’s like to be quadriplegic. How could they? They’re all able-bodied. So should they really be the ones to be telling our stories? I’m not so sure.
The movie has caused outrage among many in the disability sector. Most of the quads I know are tired of the media portraying our disability in a negative light and really wish that the storytellers in our world would do more research before creating unrealistic characters that pander to their own ignorance and insecurities. We don’t all want to die. Many of us are living full, meaningful lives and contributing positively to society and some are doing more than a lot of able-bodied folk. Most of us are too busy living to get busy dying.
The movie’s determination to romanticise assisted suicide leaves me wondering if I’ll ever be accepted. Do people think that I should also just kill myself because I am paralysed from the neck down?
I keep reminding myself that this is only a story with one fictional character’s negative outlook on life. It certainly doesn’t represent who I am as a proud quadriplegic woman.
There is always a silver lining and, as they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity. The controversy over this movie has highlighted the plight of quadriplegics the world over and ignited discussions around disability in general. That in itself is a good thing. We can all learn something from healthy debate.
At the end of the day, this is a story about one character’s freedom of choice. Isn’t that what many of us fight for? Our freedom to choose. Who are we to judge? It does worry me, however, that his choice is presented not as selfish and cowardly, but as sacrificial, brave and even noble. Should I also be sparing my family the burden of caring for me? Am I the one being selfish by choosing to live?
None of the other characters supported Will Traynor’s decision to end his life, which sends out a good message that not all quadriplegics are simply abandoned. It also tells the world that irrespective of physical ability, we can love and be loved.
The good thing is that movies like this create awareness and opens doors for people like me to share our stories, which in contrast could have a powerful, positive impact and make a real difference to people’s mindsets. The mere fact that many of us haven’t given up and don’t intend to any time soon can give society a new appreciation for our daily struggles and in turn become stories of hope and promise rather than abandonment and despair. As, after all, disability can reach out and pull anyone of you into its nasty club at any time.
I think that the film producers missed a perfect opportunity here to make a real difference to our world. Think about how powerful and transforming this movie could have been if it had had a different outcome? And, I’ve no doubt that the story would still have been a massive hit.
For me, I want people out there to know that there is life (and love) after a devastating spinal-cord injury and it can be a good quality life, depending on one’s attitude. I certainly don’t want to kill myself or be pitied in anyway.
What happened to fairytales with happy endings?
They do exist in real life.
I know because I’m lucky enough to be living one at present.
If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, I’d love to hear what you have to say.