Me Before You makes having a disability seem worse than death

by Michaela Hollywood, The Independent, 29 May 2016

Ms Hollywood is a member of Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Trailblazer network of 600 young MS activists.

We are of course keen for disabled storylines to enter mainstream culture, but Me Before You is misleading and inaccurate. It spreads jarring messages about life as a disabled person to the public. With its fatal ending, Hollywood is again telling people like me that it’s better to choose death than live as a disabled person. It’s saying my life isn’t worth it.

Such is the anger within the disabled community about this film that activists hijacked a Twitter chat with Claflin, shutting it down early by using the film’s hashtag #LiveBoldly – which, ironically, Claflin’s character shuns when he commits suicide. There were also protests at the film’s premiere.

The representation of life as a disabled person in Me Before You is a blurred reflection of the truth. Director Thea Sharrock said that she wanted to avoid portraying the realities of living with a disability in the film, such as being hoisted into a bath or being helped to clean, because she wanted to make Will’s disability “more normal”. In doing so, she strips the character and film of any real meaning.

Sharrock is right that disability needs to be normalised, but that will only happen when people like her stop leaving my reality on the cutting room floor.

Advertising disability as a fate worse than death is offensive and damaging. It’s damaging for the young people with disabilities who are watching this film. It’s damaging to the public perception of disability. It’s damaging to us – to how we live and to our aspirations for the future.

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