The following blog contains spoilers.
So I saw “snuff movie” Me Before You the other day and you know what? I actually quite enjoyed it. Don’t tell anyone though, being a disabled person I was meant to find it offensive.
For those who don’t know, the basic plot is this: A young woman (Louisa) who has little ambition loses her job and with nothing better to do she takes a job as a carer for a quadriplegic man. Her charge (Will) was once the bee’s knees. The CEO of his company, rich, athletic, and a world traveller. But now he is totally reliant on everyone for everything, frequently ill and in constant pain. He hates his life. And… (at the beginning at least) he is an asshole (it’s ok, disabled people can be assholes too).
After trying unsuccessfully to end it himself, he tells his parents that he intends to go to Switzerland and end his life in an assisted suicide clinic. His parents ask him to wait 6 months and he agrees.
Enter Louisa. After finding out about Will’s intention she hatches a plan to help him experience life again in the hope of changing his mind. Predictably, they fall for each other. But despite this he still goes to Switzerland to die. Following his death, Louisa vows to live everyday to the fullest.
The main criticism I keep hearing about this movie is that it suggests that death is better than disability. I don’t think it does that at all. No one suggested Switzerland to Will. He is highly intelligent and has come up with the idea on his own after a lot of research. Further, everyone in his life (all able bodied) is trying to get him to reconsider. He is still very wealthy and can afford the best of care and almost any kind of leisure activity he desires. Still, being unable to take part in such activities himself means that he will forever be only a spectator of life not a participant and he will be in constant discomfort all the while. His intelligence means that he is all too aware of this.
The other thing is that this is a man who lived a “big” life completely autonomously. Now his every move is monitored and he has to do absolutely everything in the company of someone else. All of the intimate details of his life are now public fodder meaning little to no privacy. For an adult, especially one who isn’t used to it I’m sure that would be hard to accept.
Yes, it paints disability in a dim light and this could make people feel sorry for Will because he is disabled. However, I recall seeing “The Pursuit of Happyness”, a true story about a man who has some terrible struggles with homelessness. I’m pretty sure few people saw that and thought “wow that seems like a great way to live”, either.
I can definitely understand his position. When I lost my sight and hearing I had a similar situation myself. I had always been wobbly so I could never do anything too physical and I developed a love of movies, stories, live comedy and the theatre. When I couldn’t even do those things anymore, let alone conduct a conversation, I felt lost and worthless not to mention BORED! The notion that life was going on right in front of me only made things worse and I spent far too many hours wishing that I was stupid so I wouldn’t have to notice. Luckily for me I got some of my lost senses back, although at times I still feel like I am only a spectator. If it had been permanent I am not sure what I would have done.
In actual fact this movie is more of a commentary on euthanasia not disability. That is a topic that I feel I am not qualified to comment on, but I do believe that everyone is entitled to dignity and a quality of life. Plus, the main character is Louisa the carer not Will.
The other major complaint seems to be that “Me Before You” is yet another example of “inspiration porn”. Well ok, yes it is. There is no denying that. But it is very difficult for anything featuring a disabled person not to be. In that case, the only other option is not to let able-bodied people refer to us at all. Let’s just be thankful that it isn’t saying “there is no disability accept a bad attitude” or something ludicrous like that. As the late great Stella Young used to say “no amount of smiling at it will turn a set of stairs into a ramp”.
The moral I got out of it was to live life to the fullest because you never know what is around the corner and not to live life with regrets. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Sure, they could have done this in any number of other ways. Including by making Will terminally ill rather than disabled. But let’s face it. That’s been done to death!
There is one thing that irks me about “Me Before You” though. It does seem to harbour the notion that physically disabled people are not capable of making decisions for themselves and that if an abled bodied person pays you some attention everything is right with the world again. To be honest it actually pissed me right off, so much so in fact that I did an inner cartwheel when Will revealed that despite the “great life” that Louisa had created for him, he still intended to go through with the suicide (which he did). Not sure what that says about me though.
At the end of the day “Me Before You” is a story which is funny in parts and sad in others (yes I cried). It might make some people feel sorry for us whilst others might be more understanding and still others won’t care at all. But let’s stop being so precious. Especially when the disabled community (and the world in general) has some much bigger fish to fry.
Besides, ignorant people don’t listen to rational thinking anyway. If they did, Donald Trump wouldn’t be a US Presidential candidate now would he?