We Must Protest The Disability Representation In ‘Me Before You’
By Karolyn Gehrig
Image of me — a white, blonde, invisibly disabled woman in a doctor’s exam room. I am standing beside the exam table, visible from the hip up, holding my hair above my head. I am looking at you.
I am speaking to you who will not look at me. When you look, you see disability as an archaic monolith. You will not see the disabled woman who talks, walks, eats, and fucks. Your gaze is more abled even than your body. This is to your detriment.
I promise you cannot imagine my life, and remain shut from its splendor and horror alike. It became great when I flushed it full of other disabled and chronically ill people, to whom I would not have to explain or apologize for the primacy of my existence.
Me Before You is a film in which a disabled person kills himself because of his disabilities. It has been widely criticized for this portrayal, and protested by the disability community.
Let’s get rid of the idea that Me Before You is just a movie that happened. The notion that JoJo Moyes wrote a book that did well and ‘Hollywood’ said, “Thank Goodness, we’re so thrilled you are here. Have all the money and make this movie. Conspire primarily with your director and leads, as you four will be held publicly responsible for a series of decisions that involve many more people. It’s so brave of you to do this. How revolutionary. Have fun.”
That’s not how movies are made. There’s a massive financial process that takes into account the social and political climate, and whether the film can perform well in multiple countries, to both recoup investments and turn a profit. ‘Hollywood’ is an industry. This is business.
I am writing this, mostly, to a collective you, referencing specific points of view voiced by participants in the creation of Me Before You. I am not shouting you out here because that might give you the idea that I speak only to you, and not to those who agree with the sentiments in your work. In advance, please have as many apologies as you offered. The count rests at zero.