Me Before You opened just weeks ago but has already made headlines several times, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. In particular, it was Australian screenings of the film which recently triggered protests across the country.
Protesters claim that Me Before You, directed by Thea Sharrock, is a “disability snuff movie” because the main idea of the film, they claim, is that the disabled are better off dead than alive.
— karl quinn (@karlkwin) June 17, 2016
And so ever since the film opened in Australia last week, protesters have been coming to cinemas an hour before screenings of Me Before You and protested against the film. Organizers of pickets have been urging activists to turn up to cinemas wearing zombie costumes or t-shirts with all kinds of slogans that slam the film.
— ((( ⭐ GoodWorx ⭐ ))) (@GoodWorxs) June 2, 2016
The film starring Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke and The Hunger Games‘ Sam Claflin is now facing quite a negative response from the Australian public, because organizers of pickets are spreading print-and-wear t-shirt designs with slogans that feature “Me Before You is a disability snuff movie,” “Disabled lives are worth living,” and “Live Boldly? We already do.”
— AAPD (@AAPD) June 3, 2016
Me Before You, which was based on Jojo Moyes’ best-selling book, is centered around the life of Will Traynor (played by Claflin), who becomes disabled after a motorcycle accident. After enduring a great deal of suffering, Traynor decides that he is better off dead than alive. His plans go awry when he falls in love with his personal caretaker, Lou Clark (played by Clarke).
Protesters claim that Me Before You doesn’t differentiate between disability and terminal illnesses.
On his own blog, a disability activist and filmmaker Dominic Evans claims that there is in fact “a huge difference” between a person with a disability who doesn’t have a terminal illness and can live with his disability for years to come and a person with a “debilitating illness, such as brain cancer.”
“You can find success, love, fulfillment even if you happen to use a wheelchair. It is not the end of the world, and these films need to stop scaring people into thinking it is.”
— Craig Wallace (@CraigWtweets) June 18, 2016
But that’s only a small part of the criticism Me Before You has received since its opening day in Australia. Writer and activist Carly Findlay claims that watching the film, the audience is supposed to cry at an able-bodied actor pretending to act like a disabled person.
But Findlay asks, do viewers who cried during Me Before You ever cry over “the barriers and discrimination actually disabled people face in our everyday lives?… And are they aware of the low employment rate and poverty that disabled people are facing in Australia?”
Responding to the harsh criticism from protesters and movie critics, Me Before You director Thea Sharrock said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter earlier this month that it’s just “a fictional story about how important the right to choose is.”
And the main message that Me Before You carries, according to Sharrock, is that people should “live boldly, push yourself, don’t settle.”
At the end of the film, Claflin’s character chooses assisted suicide over living his life as a disabled person. In his recent interview with Page Six, book author Francesco Clark said that he was angered at the message Me Before You carries, as he has spent years to show people that being quadriplegic isn’t the end of life, “it’s another beginning,” according to Entertainment Weekly.
“While I am by no means taking a stance on the issue of assisted suicide, I feel compelled to express that I am angry to be unwittingly associated with a storyline that suggests the only option for those who sustain injuries like mine is death.”
[Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]