(WARNING, THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM THE MOVIE “ME BEFORE YOU”. IF YOU’D LIKE TO WATCH THE MOVIE BEFORE READING THIS POST THEN DON’T READ ANY FURTHER, IF YOU’VE WATCHED THE MOVIE YOU COULDN’T CARE LESS THEN READ ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
So back in May and Interesting romance film set the world a blaze like California forests in the summer time. Shit I need to find a new reference, I’ve run the California forest reference to the ground like sliding for home base in a Sox game. Let’s see what else I can reference hmmm, how about the Hindenburg? That happened long enough ago oh wait I have a better one, like Baelor’s Sept on a bad day but then people who don’t watch Game of Thrones might miss the reference. We’ll say the Hindenburg, the film set the world a blaze like the Hindenburg on a bad day (too soon? I have two references that are way better but, they’re pretty fucked up so I won’t even go there). Anyways the movie in question is called Me Before You, while the film pleased most people it pushed all the wrong buttons in the disability community. Before I even saw the film, I saw articles all over the place about how it portrays living with a disability in a negative light. The articles started pouring in and even fellow members within the community put in their two cents. The general consensus was that this was an awful movie and shouldn’t have even existed in the first place. I had hoped to see the movie while it was still in the theaters but I never had the chance to. Thanks to the interwebs and people who are willing to share things over dozens of wires, I was able to was able to partake in this fancy feast. I was expecting to hate the movie and I was expecting this blog to be me basically getting drunk, eating Taco Bell and then proceeding to profusely defecate on this movie. The more I started watching this movie, the more I started to ask if the people who got up in arms with this film even watched the film but most importantly, tried to get where the central character was at.
For those who need a synopsis, the movie follows a woman (play by Game of Throne’s Emilia Clarke) who has just gotten laid off from work and is desperate for another gig to support her family (her father has been unemployed for quite some time). Through a temp agency she finds a gig where she has to be a care taker for a man with quadriplegia. The man’s name is Will and in the beginning of the film you’re given a glimpse of his life prior to being in a wheelchair. Will was a banker, was in a serious relationship and seemed to have everything going for him. On his way out he gets distracted while crossing the street and gets hit by a truck. The story takes place two years later and the accident seems to adversely affected his outlook on life, his former girl friend has left him for his best friend and things have been pretty rough as far as navigating a brand new word and I ain’t talking about the one from Aladdin songs or even Narnia, we’re talking fucked alternate universe new world. His caretaker in cliche fashion falls in love with Will after a period of tension followed by bonding, she soon learns that in time Will plans to end his life via physician assisted suicide and here we get to the heart of what seems to get people angrier than Rex Ryan when his team screws up, like pretty Rex Ryan face angry (here’s a visual aid).
Now before we get carried away and before I get back on topic, I am a New England Patriots fan even to the grave and this is one of the best faces to look at when playing against his teams. I’m so glad this guy decided to stay in the AFC East because I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself if I couldn’t see that face again.
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to dick around for a bit, it’s time to get back on topic. I totally understand why people are so angry at this movie, to them this movie is basically saying that living with a disability is the worse thing in the world and that no life with a disability is worth living. No matter how hard this girl tries, she just can’t make this guy change his mind and a it’s pretty heartbreaking. It’s easy to toss this movie aside, piss on it, set it on fire and empty a revolver clip in it but, we’ve got to peel away at the layers and touch on a couple issues within our community and within the able bodied community that play catalyst to this problems in this film. There are two categories of disabilities, ones you’re born with and ones you acquire either due to an accident, an illness, malpractice, or age. Being born with a disability is somewhat straight forward. You don’t exactly have a fucking say the matter, you grow up learning you’re different from others and you just grow into your disability. Your whole life is basically learning to adapt to your disability so you’re just used to it and everything is second nature. Acquiring a disability however is a different bag of worms and is a bit more complex. Imagine living life a certain way for a very long time and something happens and boom, now you’ve got to attempt to learn in a short time what those of us born with disabilities spent our entire lives learning. This guy seemed to be at his prime and to him he had everything, a lovely woman, a fantastic job that paid well and many other things. To go from that to not being able to live life the same way he used to can be pretty traumatic, sometimes with lasting affects.
Now I come from a field where accommodations can be made so that someone with a disability can still work and live life to the fullest. The guy had the money to get what he needed to ensure he could have gotten those accommodations but, that really didn’t matter to him because to him his life was over. While it’s easy for us to judge this guy for being selfish and to get angry at the story writers for creating such a grim outlook knowing there’s a world of options for those with disabilities, we need to remember that such a drastic change can rattle people to the core, sometimes to the point of no return. I’m aware we as people with disabilities have a duty to show the world that our lives are worth living but I also don’t think it’s fair that we’re attempting to bury a perspective and outlook that doesn’t fit our narrative. As positive as we’d like to be we need to remember that there are those that never do adjust well mentally to such a drastic change. There are people out there who struggle emotionally every single day and never make it to where we are mentally. While I’m all for showing disability in a positive light, the story of true hopelessness does need to be told. All aspects of living with a disability from thriving and despair need to be shown. The world is a big place and to only tell one narrative simply to push only one narrative no matter how good the intentions is just not fair.
I also empathize with the guy because as those who read my blog and know me personally know, there was a point in my life where I didn’t think my life was worth living. I don’t often like talking about that part of my life because it’s usually met with negativity. I’ve heard everything from “but you have everything going for you” and “but you could have it so much worse” and “At least it’s not cancer” and “you’re over reacting”. As a refresher, I grew up being bullied for they way I talked, some of my stimming behaviors, and my social awkwardness. After a while that sort of thing had an adverse affect on my mental health. At the age of 22 a series of events set off a bunch of triggers that reawakened trauma I had buried, this plunged me into a deep depression where I constantly contemplated suicide. I woke of unhappy and I went to sleep unhappy, I stopped caring about myself and gained a ton of weight and while I never came up a with a plan, I did constantly look around and think of all the ways I could possibly hurt myself. From jumping in front of cars, buses, trains, to slashing my wrists with various blades and sharp objects, the possibilities were endless. I’m alive to because by the grace of God I still had enough sense left to realize I needed to call for help. I spent five years seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist to get to where I am now not to mention I had a great support system and people willing to get where I was and gently pull me out.
Unfortunately not everyone has people who can get where they’re at and make them feel less alone in their struggles and that’s what I think happened to Will in this movie. While it’s great to encourage a positive out look, sometimes you just need to open your ears and get at someone’s level. While Will had his family, others left his life presumably because he pushed them away, he felt like a burden out of the gate and didn’t want people to spend their life caring for him. The other problem is perception of having a disability, where Will comes from, having a disability is the end rather than the beginning of a new type of life. Again I’m all for a positive attitude but, this grim out look Will has a pretty important because it is a reminder that we with disabilities have a long way to go in showing others that our lives are worth living. It’s also a reminder that we need to do a better job of reaching out to people like will because sometimes, the best way to hear a message is from someone who was where you were once and just gets it. Not once in this movie did Will meet others like him and while his stubbornness plays a huge role in this, it does explain quite a bit. Instead of dropping atomic bombs on this movie, we should see this movie as a blessing a disguise. This movie is a reminder that our job isn’t done and that we still need to fight the good fight. I hope that people will actually watch the damn movie instead of letting a bunch of articles and reviews sway their their opinion because underneath the cliches, it is a pretty moving story that touches on some pretty important issues of ethics and love.