When the movie Me Before You came out, people said: It’s just one movie about one man who has a disability. It isn’t meant to represent all experiencing with disability.
The resounding response from the disability community has been to say, “There’s no such thing as one movie about a character with a disability that doesn’t affect the real lives of disabled people. These things don’t exist in isolation.”
The sad fact is the portrayal of disability in Me Before You isn’t isolated. Disability as a Tragedy is the normal narrative. Me Before You takes the narrative a little further, into the realm of Better Dead than Disabled.
A sickening attack on people with disabilities occurred on July 26th, 2016 in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. For many people with disabilities who pointed to Me Before You as a cautionary tale, the attack in Japan was their worst nightmares brought to life.
Satoshi Uematsu entered a residential care center in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture, where he previously was employed and began slicing open the throats of the people who lived there. Some might call this a random and unpredictable act, except for the fact that he wrote a letter to the Japanese Parliament in advance to his actions. In his letter, he called for a revolution. He wanted to create a world that allows for mercy killing. He thought the perfect place to begin such a revolution was to murder Japanese disabled people.
The sad fact is that violence against disabled people is normalized in our society. It’s a revolutionary act for a person with a disability to boldly proclaim they don’t want to be put out of their misery. It is an act of defiance against social norms for a family member to say they don’t feel burdened by someone they love and would fight tooth and nail for that person to remain in their lives. It is considered insensitive to tell someone who loved the movie Me Before You that you think it sends a dangerous message.
Make no mistake: The movie and book send a dangerous message throughout, not just at the end. The problem is with repeated assertions of life not being worth living with a disability, not just the choice the character made at the end. A person could skip the ending and come to the same conclusions.
You would need to be wearing blinders to miss the fact violence against disabled people has become something society tends to overlook. Tune into the news for a month straight. I guarantee you will see at least one story of a disabled person murdered by a caregiver/parent. I also assure you there will be at least one recorded reaction of someone saying the person loved their victim and must have snapped.
Hint: If you can’t cope, have the courage to admit it.
Everyone else: Allow people to admit these things, without raining down scorn and judgment upon them.
A boy I knew growing up had to make a terrible choice with his autistic daughter. His autistic daughter became violent after his wife and he had another baby. She even kicked out the windows of their vehicle during a meltdown, after hurting the toddler. In the end, they placed their daughter in a residential home. The result was having to endure scorn from all sides.
I don’t judge their decision, but I do judge the people who treated them so badly for making it. It’s possible these parents avoided their family story ending in tragedy. Would people rather have parents hide the fact they aren’t able to handle a situation and have it end in disaster?
I can tell you one thing for sure:
I am done showing any pity towards parents who cause the death of their disabled children. I am done making excuses. There are options, no matter how difficult they are to face. I am done showing pity towards people who cause the death of disabled people in general, with the idea they are doing them mercy.
Society should be done with it as well.
I believe people who do these things honestly believe society will look the other way. Considering the number of disabled people murdered every year, and the fact most of the murderers don’t go to jail for long or at all, it isn’t surprising they feel this way.