For Immediate Release
June 2, 2016
John Kelly 617-536-5140
Diane Coleman 708-420-0539
Advocates Protest Disability Snuff Film “Me Before You”
Disability rights advocates in cities across the United States and around the world are protesting the latest Hollywood movie to end with the assisted suicide or euthanasia of the lead disabled character. Protests have already been held in New York City, Boston and Denver, with more planned throughout opening weekend in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities.
Me Before You is scheduled for general audience release on Friday, June 3rd. Some cities are also providing advance screenings. Members of Not Dead Yet UK protested at the London premier on May 24th, and garnered significant mainstream media coverage (Guardian, Buzzfeed) during the protest and in the days following.
“The last big example of this tired theme was Million Dollar Baby, which came out before the major growth of social media but still resulted in protests covered in the New York Times,” said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet (USA). “We can’t begin to keep track of the people and cities involved this time.”
Disability rights writers and bloggers have also been blasting the film for its oppressive portrayal of living with significant disabilities like quadriplegia. Examples include articles by disability studies scholar Bill Peace and activist and filmmaker Dominick Evans. Some have been featured in mainstream outlets like Emily Ladau’s article in Salon, Lauren West’s in Huffington Post and Ben Mattlin’s in the Chicago Tribune.
Not Dead Yet’s New England regional director John Kelly has the same level of spinal cord injury as Will Traynor, the lead male character in Me Before You. “Book and screenplay author JoJo Moyes admits she knows nothing about quadriplegics,” said Kelly, “yet her ignorance is allowed to promote the idea that people like me are better off dead. We are not ‘burdens’ whose best option is to commit suicide. No one’s suicide should be treated noble and inspirational. We reject this discrimination. Our suicides should be viewed as tragedies like anyone else’s.”
One of the biggest concerns of the disability community is the message this movie sends to the 12,000 individuals who have new spinal cord injuries each year in the U.S. alone. Kelly Buckland, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), is a spinal cord injured husband and father. “Our society places a high value on physical appearance and ability and at the same time really stigmatizes significant disability,” says Buckland. “We understand what it means to deal with issues like the loss of one’s former dreams as well as the loss of physical abilities. When someone is first hit with this, they may spend time feeling that they’d be better off dead. If assisted suicide had been legal in the past, many of us would not be here today.” NCIL and all major national disability organizations that have taken a position on assisted suicide oppose legalizing it.