Joni Eareckson Tada

Voices Speak Out Against ‘Me Before You’ Movie: Quadriplegic Living Is ‘Not A Death Sentence’

Me Before You, the controversial romantic drama movie based on Jojo Moyes’ best-selling book of the same name, continues to do well with ticket sales despite the fact that many are unhappy with the film. Although Moyes and the creators of the film state that they have no sociopolitical agenda with the story, many of the disabled community do not see it that way.

“I have no problem with people seeing [Me Before You] and not liking it for 101 different reasons; you go into every project with that as a possibility. I understood going into it how vulnerable a topic it is and susceptible to very strong opinions. It has big themes in it that are very easy to make quick judgments on,” says Sharrock in a story recently posted by the Inquisitr. “It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the message is. It’s a fictional story about how important the right to choose is. The message of the film is to live boldly, push yourself, don’t settle.”

But those words are not bringing much comfort to some.

“You are either like a poor soul to be pitied or you’re usually the opposite of that, you’re some sort of superhero — for the most part they really sensationalize,” Kelly Buckland, the executive director of the National Council on Independent Living, told MSNBC last Friday. “There’s a lot of stereotypes and myths.”

In 1970, Buckland became a quadriplegic after breaking his neck and considers Me Before You a “slap in the face.”

“This one really kind of resonates with me personally because when I broke my neck I spent about a year in rehabilitation. When I returned back to my community, I wasn’t the same person I was when I left there,” said Buckland. “All my friends and my family still saw me, still remembered me how I was. There’s a lot of loss you go through. I went through a significant depression because I thought I’d never have a career, I’d never get married, all the things that people dream about. I actually seriously considered suicide.”

Also taking issue with Me Before You is John Kelly (who is also a quadriplegic), the regional director for the disability rights group Not Dead Yet.

“The only function of this movie is a direct attack on disabled people, saying our lives are not valuable. The disability [Hollywood likes] to show is at my level. All we are is a head… it evokes horror disgust and fear in people.”

In the MSNBC article, Kelly goes on to say that he takes issue with the fact that Moyes admits to not having done any interviews with any quadriplegics while researching for her novel.

“The choice was made by a bigot to write a story in which everything about the character would be Hollywood perfect, and the only thing he saw as a detraction in his life was his disability,” said Kelly. “[Moyes] has it in for this group of people that has been condemned.”

It is also doubtful that the production of Me Before You included many, if any, disabled people working on the project, including the actors who are portraying those characters.

“If a white person were to portray the life of black person, how would that be perceived? Not well,” said Buckland. “The mantra is nothing about us, without us. We should be the actors, we should be involved in research, the production.”

Joni Eareckson Tada, another quadriplegic who takes issue with film, actually did star in a 1979 biography film based on her life. The film, Joni, told the story about how she broke her neck in a swimming accident when she was just 17. While the film is ultimately a story of hope, it did not hold back in showing the struggles that she faced. However, Eareckson Tada didn’t just survive, she thrived, becoming a painter, author, and speaker.

“In light of the fact that California’s new physician-assisted suicide law goes into effect tomorrow (Thursday), following closely on the heels of the newly-released film, Me Before You, I wanted to sound an alarm about this egregious legislation and the glamorization of it. As a quadriplegic who’s been married for nearly 34 years, I can say for certain that my husband and I have a deep and satisfying relationship, mostly because – not in spite of – my severe disability. It teaches us both patience and self-sacrifice; endurance, respect and joy, even when – especially when – times are hard.

“Regardless of whether or not in the context of a marriage, the taking of one’s own life or enabling a loved one with a disability to do so is never the answer. All life is created in the image of God and worth our greatest efforts to preserve and protect, and He alone is the one who should order the length of our days.”

Eareckson Tada heads Joni and Friends, which serves the disability community through the International Disability Center, international radio and television programs, Wheels for the World, which every year sees thousands of individuals receive wheelchairs, and Family Retreats held in the U.S. and around the world, where families affected by disability learn that they are not alone.

“Too many people forget the fact that we are all born disabled,” Kelly believes. “We all have to learn how to walk, talk, use the bathroom. For some of us, for one reason or another, these activities can be a challenge or an impossibility, but they certainly are not a death sentence.”

[Photo by Alberto E. Rodriquez/Getty Images]

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