Friday, May 27, 2016

Me Before You Role Reversal (SPOILERS)

The disabled community is abuzz with talk of Hollywood's next tearjerker, Me Before You.  Many disabled people and our allies are pissed over many aspects of this film/book.  And they're not wrong, it is exceedingly problematic on various levels.

A short synopsis:  A wealthy quadriplegic man wants to commit suicide because he doesn't think his life is worth anything, anymore.  A cute, able-bodied woman in need of some money is hired for six months to be the man's caretaker (and is on secret suicide watch).  When the woman finds out the man wants to kill himself, she endeavors to make his life worth living and tries to change his mind.  They fall in love, but he still kills himself and leaves her money so she never has to be without anything again.

The general public is raving about this story.  They say it's heartfelt, touching.  He, they tout, made her life so much better, and so much more meaningful.
"But there really are disabled people who want to kill themselves and feel useless," fans will say to defend this garbage.  They're right.  But...

What if the roles were reversed?  What if our young, lithe heroine was the one who didn't want to live anymore?  What if our disabled hero had to show her everything life had to offer within six months, or she would kill herself?  What if after courtship, conversations, friendship, she decided to kill herself anyway?  What if she were the one to set him up for life to pursue any dream he possessed?  He, the character the story constantly says (in one way or another) shouldn't enjoy life or want to live a long time.

I bet the majority of the defenders of this book/film would be screaming their heads off.  "Why didn't she get help?  Why didn't her family step in? Why didn't love save her or make her want to live?"
It wouldn't make sense for them, you see.  A young, able-bodied person's life is so full of promise and hope.  It becomes a tragedy for it to end.  A disabled person is a burden, a half life.  A light in the process of already being extinguished.

The vast majority of the audience for this would rather be dead than disabled like the hero, at least that's what they think.  And why wouldn't they think that?  If all Hollywood and the publishing industry is going to show us is burden, loss, sadness in the realm of disability, it is only going to reinforce the negative connotations of disability fermenting in most people's minds.

And don't get me started on the fact that the couple doesn't have sex!

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