Okay, so this is happening. I am actually sitting down to write a post about the movie ‘Me Before You’ based on the book by Jojo Moyes. What you have heard about the movie, and the opinions you have formed on both, will be largely influenced by your relationship too, or within the disability community. What I am not going to do is write a very accurate and detailed dissection of all of the issues raised by this book and subsequent movie. Many have done it better than me and I highly suggest you check out these pieces by Emily Ladau, Kim Sauder, and Sara Bloo, just to name a few.
I’ve spent the last few days on twitter (here) reading, tweeting, discussing the implications of this movie, which I am yet to watch. I believe the London premiere is tonight? I have however read the book, so I don’t completely lack insight into what has the disability community all steamed up.
Very potted synopsis:
Will is rich and extremely privileged, so you won’t be seeing him next in the queue at your next PIP assessment.
Will has an accident in which he becomes quadriplegic. He feels his life is no longer worth living & attempts suicide.
His parents hire Lou, a flaky but charming girl, for six months of suicide watch, unbeknownst to her. Said parents have promised that if Will still wants to kill himself in six months they will support his decision.
Will & Lou initially butt heads but when she realises she is on suicide watch, she endevours to use piles of money to convince Will that life really is worth living.
They do a bunch of extreme sports, all the while falling in love. They don’t have sex because, ew, he’s disabled, and we don’t do that!
Will decides that life still isn’t worth living if he can’t do what he could before the accident, and they fly to Switzerland where they all cry and support Will in his decision. Will leaves Lou a bunch of money so she doesn’t have to be miserable and poor any more, while he can be happy and dead.
No nuances from me, as many have already voiced them far better than I could, especially as I have a migraine coming on and am reading the screen with one eye scrunched shut. Also, please don’t think me heartless as a take a slightly ‘lighter’ look at the whole ball game (though there will be no ‘ball games’ – did I mention that disabled people don’t have sex, ew!)
Leaving the whole euthanasia debate for another day, I’m gonna jump right to the heart of the issues.
What were they thinking?
In this case ‘they’ are primarily the director Thea Sharrock and the author/screenwriter Jojo Moyes.
Sharrock has reportedly kept Moyes’s ‘romance’ as streamlined as possible, focusing on its serious central issue: what might make life worth living if you are confined to a wheelchair? She is quoted as saying “By the end, the question becomes: who is it who saves who?” Is it Lou, who is saved from a life of living in rented flats, and all she has to give up is the man she loves? Or Will, who hasn’t even had a peek at how well people with disabilities can live their lives, even outside of the realms of extreme sports?
Sharrock, along with Sam Clafin (who is the able bodied actor playing Will) and Steve Peacocke, who plays Wills personal nurse and physical therapist, spent time talking to people with spinal injuries, and still decided to go with the ‘better dead than disabled’ punchline for the movie.
Tapping into some ‘personal experience’ of disability, Sharrock is quoted as saying,
“My nephew is in a wheelchair and I hope he will be pleased to see this shown in a way that does not make audiences too uncomfortable. If we had shown Will being taken in and out of his chair, or put in a hoist over a bath, the impression we would give is of difficulty. I wanted to make it more normal.”
Um, exqueeze me? Does disability make people uncomfortable? Yes, we have to do some things a little differently, but to spare the blushes of the non-disabled audience, I’m glad they left all this nastiness out. God forbid people actually learn something about a culture different from their own, and disability is a culture, a way of life and a community.
Jojo Moyes was the author of the book and screenplay, but she has been awfully quiet about her role in this travesty, other that a random tweet about how little sleep she’s getting, and I don’t think it’s the premieres that are keeping her up at night. I’m all up for authors earning their crust writing chic lit bonk busters, Moyes’ usual fare, but this foray into a subject she knows nothing about has been an epic fail, not to mention severely damaging to the general public’s already poor, or non existent ideas about what it means to be disabled.
Ms. Moyes, please stick to the chick lit!
Oh and BTDubs, disabled people DO have sex!!! I know, we’re disgusting!! Best charter a plane to Switzerland…