Based on the best selling novel, Me Before You tells the story of Louisa Clarke, a recently unemployed, self proclaimed ‘fashionista’ whose family relies on her having an income. After taking on a job of a companion to the wealthy Will Traynor, who is paralyzed from the waist down, Clarke finds her priorities change.
At first glance, the film is what it is marketed to be; a romantic flick meant to be enjoyed on a girls night out or with a significant other; a box of tissues on one side and a tub of ice cream on the other. Yes, it is a tear jerker. And although Emilia Clarke’s bright smile and over active eyebrows will keep you preoccupied for most of the film, what lies underneath is a problem most audiences will be unaware of. Let me break it down for you:
It’s no doubt that Me Before You is a film about disability and assisted suicide. This is troubling enough but is made worse by the fact that it uses a non-disabled actor (Sam Claflin) in the role of a quadriplegic. Claflin’s studly posture, even if on a wheelchair, and swoon-worthy smile may make him an obvious choice for the part, however, many are criticizing the decision. Thus, similar to the #OscarsSoWhite movement, a non-disabled actor playing the role of a quadriplegic is causing a stir on social media.
Here’s the thing: there is a big difference between actual human people having feelings about their actual lives and experiences of disability and a fictionalized account written by someone who isn’t disabled. The problem is the film heavily romanticizes very problematic stereotypes about disability. It’s important to criticize and be aware of the fact that the non-disabled media heavily over-represents disability discourses that fit into ableist stereotypes, which makes it harder for the viewer to differentiate between the feelings of individuals and the experiences and feelings of all disabled people.
And while some may argue that the purpose of the movie was to give fans a treat by bringing the best selling novel to life, the depth and meaning was evidently lost in the making. The conversation on paralysis was overshadowed by more marketable things such as unconventional relationships, bucket lists, and awkward love triangles. It’s still a pleasure to watch, no doubt, but expect no more than some eye candy and lines you wish your significant other would say to you, but never will.
Did you watch Me Before You? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!
A miscarriage is often misunderstood, especially in the context of the working world. This tragic event can often have debilitating effects, including depression and postpartum disorder, but women are still expected to return to work as if they are recovering from an illness such as the flu or a cold.
Recently, a miscarriage was recognized as a disability in an interim court decision on March 14, in the case of Winnie Mou. She was fired in 2013 for being unable to meet workplace targets after suffering a miscarried pregnancy. The interim decision says that the company fighting against Mou argued that “the Application should be dismissed because the applicant has failed to establish a disability. It asserts that in order for an injury or illness to constitute a disability, there must be an aspect of permanence and persistence to the condition.”
The judge rejected this argument and instead supported the notion that Mou was suffering from a disability. Instead she ruled: “I also find the applicant’s miscarriage is a disability. I acknowledge that a miscarriage may be covered under the ground of sex or as an intersection of sex and disability. It also is not a common ailment, and it is certainly not transitory. It is clear from the applicant’s testimony that she continues to experience significant emotional distress from the miscarriage even today.”
Interestingly, “permanence and persistence” are not a definitive part of a disability, as determined by Section 10 (3) of the Human Rights Code. A disability can be temporary and still apply to the definition. The judge’s inclusion of emotional distress as an integral identifier for a miscarriage is an important development.
Depression and other mental disorders are often dismissed in the workplace as an irrelevant reason for missing work. The inclusion of the emotional and long-term impacts of a miscarriage is a welcome clause to the definition of a disability. Many women will return to work without having managed the devastating emotional impacts of having a miscarriage, which can lead to further depression and illness.
By allowing women to heal outside of the workplace without losing their jobs, it validates the relevance of miscarriages. It will also (hopefully) open the doors for increasing acceptance of miscarriages and its associated causes for depression. There continues to be a tendency to hide this pregnancy-related issue and to avoid speaking of it. This does not promote healing for the women who experience its after-effects and may also have impacts such as shame or hiding its existence furthering the emotional pain.
Hopefully, this case is settled in favour of Winnie Mou and it will have a positive effect on the future of women who undergo a miscarriage and need to take time from work. The legal system has the capacity to make sweeping legal changes to the Human Rights Code and this workplace mishap may just make Canadian legal history, modifying the Disabilities Act of Human Rights Code for the better.