The Message of ‘Me Before You’

Before starting this post, I want to make a disclaimer that I do not have a disability. I’m merely writing this post to share with you all my thoughts on the book and the trailers and previews of the movie. I am in no way trying to dehumanize people with any type of disability.

Killer Harmony | The Message of Me Before You | Me Before You is a book turned movie about a man who was injured in a motor accident two years earlier and now he must live in a wheelchair and be cared for full time by his new caregiver, Louisa. The story has been subject to criticism for misrepresenting the disabled and that life for disabled people is not worth living. I do not agree with that conclusion, but I am abled bodied.

So, you have probably heard of the newest book-turned-movie “Me Before You.” The book was written by the British author, Jojo Moyes. Since hearing about the movie adaptation, I decided to read the book, as books always tend to be better than their movie counterpart.

In case you don’t know much about the story, it focuses on William Traynor, a 35-year-old man who was injured in an accident with a motorcyclist two years prior and 26-year-old Louisa Clark, his new abled bodied care giver.

The book and movie has received a ton of criticism from members of the disabled community for many reasons. The first is that they chose an abled bodied actor, Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games) to portray Will. I, of course, see the problems with that as it does show a bit of ableism. However, Rachelle Friedman, a woman in a near-identical case to Will, understands the choice to choose an abled bodied actor for reasons based on time and energy required of the role.

I do understand that there is a lot of misrepresentation and lack of representation of minority groups in Hollywood and the media. I do not think that is right, but in some cases, like this, it makes sense. It takes time to dress, undress, and redress people with quadriplegia. Related health complications might affect the filming schedule. Read more on Rachelle’s thoughts here.

The other big reason that the book/film has received criticism is because of the ending *SPOILER ALERT*¬†when Will commits assisted suicide. Some disabled people and activists for the disabled have come out and said that the message of the story is that it shows that disabled lives aren’t lives worth living.

I would like to ask some of these people if they have read the book and/or seen the movie. While Will’s assisted suicide is a major part in the story, I do not think it is the main part. Yes, Will was injured in an accident and yes, he must now live in a wheelchair and rely on constant care from others. I did not get the feeling of it being about how disabled people must commit suicide. Rather, I think the main message that the book and movie tells is that life is worth living, regardless of your situation. You can make the best of what you’ve got if you just look at all of your options.

I also believe that Will’s death is not the worst thing. Is it a good thing? Absolutely not, but with his injury, Will lost his sense of control. He is a grown man who should be able to make some sort of choice for himself. Granted, I think he should have tried to live, but in the end, “you can’t change people.”

4 thoughts on “The Message of ‘Me Before You’”

  1. Ryan and I saw this movie last night! I read the book a few months ago and have been reading posts from the disabled community about how they think this movie sends the message that disabled people "don't have lives worth living". I am not disabled but I felt that the movie was positive and showed that disabled people could make their own choices and didn't have to live a life they didn't want. I also think it's a bit different because Will was not quadriplegic his entire life. It might be harder for someone's lifestyle to change so drastically and have to just "deal with it". I understand the points the community is trying to make but I agree with you that the book tries to focus on the fact that everyone else wants him to live, but in the end, you can't force others to do things they don't want to do. I think the more insulting part of the book/movie was when Lou's mother argued that he wasn't in his "right mind" to make such a decision. I feel that would be more hurtful than just letting the person decide for themselves. Sorry this comment was long, but I'm glad you wrote a post on this and shared your thoughts!

  2. I can't wait to see the movie! I've been watching some clips and trailers on YouTube to tide myself over. Lol. You know, I was reading about Dignitas, the assisted suicide place, and apparently they won't take people who aren't able to make their own decisions, which I thought was interesting. I also agree that it would be different had he been disabled his entire life. It also would have been different if he was still a minor. I understand people's concerns, but it seems like a lot of things tend to be a big debate lately. Books or not!

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