If you haven’t heard yet, Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones and Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games are in a romantic book-to-movie together. In my own personal opinion, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in ages. It was funny, different, and made me sob like a baby at the end. Me Before You is a romantic novel written by Jojo Moyes which gained positive reviews when it was published in 2012. As the media culture now follows, most books are being converted into Hollywood hits, or television triumphs.
Me Before You is about an unlikely romance which blooms between the rich and successful quadriplegic, Will Traynor, and an eccentric dresser who desperately needs a job, Louisa Clarke. The major plot line in the novel (spoiler alert!) is that Will simply does not want to live anymore. In his “past life,” he enjoyed jumping off of cliffs, scuba diving, travelling, and living life to its fullest. Being confined to a wheelchair isn’t his ideal life, nor has he gotten used to it after two years. When Louisa is hired to look after him, we see a hesitant friendship and eventual love grow between both. It appears that since the beginning of the novel, Will has become significantly more conversational and is starting to enjoy life more with Louisa Clarke’s quirkiness. As the novel comes to a close, we are able to see that despite Louisa’s many attempts to show him the positives of life and her confession of love to him, Will Traynor’s mind is unchangeable and he ultimately goes to a doctor-assisted suicide facility in Switzerland.
Now, when the book was published it gained many positive reviews from The New York Times and USA Today, but it was only when the movie hit theaters that the negative reviews came in. The movie was very true to the book, hitting all the major plot points, and Emilia Clarke and Sam Clafflin nailing each character perfectly. But the backlash the movie received from the disabled community cannot be ignored. The disabled community argued that Will was portrayed incorrectly as a quadriplegic and it would send the message to the masses that disabled persons were better off dead than to live in a wheelchair their entire lives.
Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I would like to point out that Me Before You was a novel before it was ever a film; where was the negative criticism then? The only person who should be able to decide what they want, is that person themselves. Everyone has the right to make their own decisions regarding their bodies, who they are, and who they want to be. The disabled community is forgetting that everyone is their own person, and no two people are the same. Me Before You is showing a glance into a person who could not be his past self and the person he is now. Will felt like the wheelchair defined him. As an outsider, I can see where Will was coming from. He was unable to use the bathroom himself, unable to feel like himself, and he could not perform many other basic necessities. It is not up to us as readers of a novel or movie watchers to decide what kind of person the character is. The author Jojo Moyes wrote this book and created the character Will Traynor; she is essentially the only person in the world who knows what is going through his mind because he is a fictional character that she brought to life with the elegance and wittiness of her words. The disabled community is allowed to share their opinion on Will, but they cannot decide if Will’s choice of dying was correct or incorrect.
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