Alive and Kicking: A Reaction to Me Before You

Hello readers,

Today we honor the fallen veterans who have served our country and kept it free for almost 300 years (maybe more than that but I haven’t kept up with the math). These veterans are dead and their deaths should be respected.

However, there is a whole population of people in America who are still alive, but that America seems to think are better off dead. And personally, I’ve had it with that attitude.

Before you ask, no, I have not seen Me Before You. I intended to, because it looked as if the hero, who has a disability, was going to be represented as a real person. But then I found out he commits suicide at the end, thanks to a Buzzfeed article about the disability community’s response.

A lot of people are saying the disability community needs to get over it. They say that it’s made clear in the movie and corresponding bestseller that suicide is not a choice every PWD makes; it’s simply that one character’s decision. They say the fact that he was able to make the choice is some kind of breakthrough. And…well, if I squint I guess I can see that, but…

No, it’s not working. It’s just not.

You blew it, Hollywood–and JoJo Moyne. You had the perfect opportunity to represent a character with a disability fairly, with a real life. But you went for the angsty suicide plot. Whether you meant to or not, you once again implied that persons with disabilities are better off dead, and that disability is such a tragedy, anyone with one would/probably should kill themselves. That disgusts me for many reasons, not the least of which is the number of persons with disabilities who commit suicide every day. Why? Because of an ableist attitude that says, “We will give you a ramp and an IEP and a shower seat, but at the end of the day it’s our world, not yours. If you can’t do a job, travel, whatever, well, it’s your fault for being born like that/sustaining a disability.”

Get the French over yourselves, every single one of you. Stop exacerbating the tragedy, and ask yourselves what you can do to improve these lives you say you’d rather commit suicide than live.

A lot of members of the disability community are also upset because of the hashtag #LiveBoldly associated with the movie. I’m sure you can figure out why. But just a thought–why can people with disabilities only #liveboldly if they’re choosing not to live? Suicide isn’t a bold decision–it’s one made of desperation, often because you think, to the marrow of your being, that people are better off without you.

It’s Memorial Day, but let’s honor the dead on this day. Let’s not tell the living, “You’re worth more dead than alive” or “I’d kill myself if I were you.” To live, however you choose, doing the best you can–that is living boldly.

I don’t need a memorial, and neither does any other living PWD.

To life!

#MeBeforeAbleism

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3 thoughts on “Alive and Kicking: A Reaction to Me Before You

  1. Oof, that’s really sad that they made that choice again. This hits close to home, as I’ve seen this done with LGBT characters for a long time and am well aware of the harm it does. I didn’t realize (but am not really surprised, I guess) that this was also a major issue for PWDs. It’s messed up. And it’s harmful. Rant ahead…

    It seems that the privileged community often thinks it’s doing marginalized people a favor by depicting their stories as tragedies and showing them being crushed and destroyed in the end. Yes, suicide is a serious problem that needs to be addressed and made visible in PWD communities, in gay, lesbian and bi communities, in transgender communities, in communities of color, etc. And yes, it’s a thing that happens and we shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t and we should openly address the things that cause it.

    But. BUT. How do these people think it feels to only see yourself represented as someone whose life sucks and who will die in the end? How do they think it feels to have your representation always be in the form of a tragedy? These movies/books/media are made primarily for an able-bodied (or cis or straight or white) audience to be able to say “wow, that is so sad. I’m so glad I’m not a _____.” And they feel compassionate and maybe a little more informed of the struggles of the marginalized people that they momentarily glimpsed on screen, but purely as an academic exercise. In the end, they can walk away just feeling sorry for people with disabilities and feel glad not to be one and move on with their daily lives.

    Meanwhile, those of us who are represented in this sort of media just see yet another confirmation that our lives are tragedies. That there isn’t hope, there isn’t a chance for us to live normal lives or achieve the things that our neighbors, friends, and colleagues do. When this is our only narrative represented on screen, it strips us of our humanity and reduces us to an object of pity and a cautionary tale. We don’t get to be real people. We don’t get happy endings. We are just victims of a cruel world and that’s all we’ll ever have a chance to be.

    NO. The most horrifying part of all of this is that studies have proven that youth are more likely to commit suicide when they see other people do it through the news, media, etc. There is always a spate of suicide attempts after a celebrity takes their life, and people are being warned to handle the statistics of LGBT youth suicide attempts with care because, hearing these statistics repeated, make LGBT youth more likely to attempt suicide. It’s not really surprising. When it is reinforced to you over and over that taking your life is the common or expected outcome, it makes it much easier to succumb to those urges. And yet irresponsible media continues to kill off gay, lesbian, transgender, and apparently disabled characters in the name of “good drama” or “writing a compassionate story”. Hell no. There is nothing compassionate about exploiting the very real tragedy of human suffering in order to elicit some tears from your able-bodied, cis, or straight audience.

    Maybe once there are loads of positive role models for disabled people or LGBT people in the media I will have less of an issue with a book or movie that tackles suicide in these communities. But we’re not there yet. Not even close. So I think this topic really needs to be off the table for screenwriters until they catch up on creating positive stories for people like us.

    Rant over.

      1. Haha, I wouldn’t have ranted if you hadn’t just now educated me about the necessity of including people with disabilities in this conversation. But I do love winning internets! 🙂

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