Ranted about the “Me Before You” Response

Guys, why do we (especially the Christian conservatives) freak out about EVERY new book (but more so when its made into a movie) that comes out with an agenda that doesn’t quite match God’s standards? (Um, hello, there is one Bible, and its pretty clear that the world has different standards).

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This post is in response to various articles even appearing in newspapers like New York Times, etc that call for a “warning” in the messages/themes in “Me Before You” written by Jojo Moyes.

Firstly, friend and I saw this preview and wondered if there was a book, and decided to read the book and then watch the movie together. (The latter has not happened yet). We were intrigued by the preview, I actually watched it multiple times in my wait to find a copy of the book (I don’t recommend doing this as the trailer reveals all the funny/sweet moments making the book less of a surprise). I delayed in obtaining this book because the kindle version was like $9.99 and couldn’t find a paperback cheaper than $14 (until of course I found the above copy after kindle break down purchase).

I will admit that the book is fun and enjoyable, but I think I put it at a 3 on goodreads because I wasn’t a fan. I won’t be able to rant without sharing the ending, so if you don’t want it to be spoiled (though with the rants available you probably already know) stop reading.

Brief summary. This guy, Will Traynor is injured and becomes a quadriplegic. He struggles with depression and attempts suicide. He makes a deal with his loved ones that he’ll wait 6 more months before medically ending his life. He’s done, this vivacious man doesn’t want to ruin all of his memories by experiencing his favorite things as a handicapped man. Cue the hire of Louise a local, trapped/haunted by a trauma in her past (which I’ve heard the movie doesn’t delve into). She’s vivacious in her personality, but doesn’t have any large dreams for herself, she really doesn’t ask much from life. It sets up for a typical Rom-Com of two different people falling for each other.  Due to the sad face reactions to the trailers posted on facebook I guessed that things didn’t go the way that the reader wanted. I hated the ending, and I really don’t like Will Traynor. I find him selfish, rude, and arrogant. (Mixed with some really great humor). In the end he tells Louise (after she admits her love for him) “You aren’t enough.” (Who does that???!!!!). But, everyone’s over-generalizations about the themes in this book have me in its defense:

  1. Hollywood does not want handicap people dead
  2. Jojo Moyes DID speak with disabled people before writing this book
  3. Change your perspective, and see more themes

THIS IS THE IDEA OF ONE INDIVIDUAL’S STORY

There have been claims that because of the ending, Hollywood is “endorsing this message” and is prescribing it towards all of the disabled/handicap population. This is not the case. ALL of the characters in the book are appalled by Will’s decision and actively fight against it and refuse to have anything to do with it as much as possible. To believe that Hollywood is saying that handicap people can’t enjoy life, and should end their lives, is a gross exaggeration of the story.

In a well done interview with Signature  they ask Jojo Moyes several great questions about the origins of the STORY. Jojo Moyes responds,

“You like to think that if you suffer some catastrophic physical accident that you’d be like Christopher Reeve – that you’d be the amazing, graceful person who found a way through. I’m not sure I would be that person. I think I would be very angry for a long time. I spoke with a nurse who deals with this kind of spinal injury and she said that only twice in her career had she met men who just refused to accommodate it, who just refused to find a way through. That fascinated me because I thought about what it would be like to be that man’s mother, what it would be like to be the person in love with him, what it would be like to be him. I just knew it was a story I had to tell.”

This is the story of a small minority who just couldn’t get past their disability/handicap/life change. They were stuck and therefore fixated on ending their life. Even if this isn’t the story that we would want to read (everyone would rather him be happy and choose life), this is a realistic concept/story for SOME people in this situation, and that story deserves to be told. It deserves to be known and honored that some people can’t change when life hands them lemons.

I HATE that truth. I HATE that love wasn’t enough for Will Traynor to change his mind. I would hate to love someone, and know that I couldn’t make them choose life. But, the fact that we can’t make anyone do anything is kind of a fundamental principal in life (and a daily reality when I work with behaviorally challenged children). Despite all of the people in Will’s life they COULDN’T change his mind to chose to live. Most of the characters run away, and refuse to participate because they believe it is wrong. In the end they realize that standing next to their loved one as they die is better than never saying good bye at all. I can’t imagine how tough a decision that would be.

Many claim that Jojo Moyes has romanticized this idea of a disabled man teaching a homely girl to become vivacious. Sure it is an exaggerated story (noting the characters extreme differences), but she DID speak with people in her research. According to this interview she has family members with 24/7 care needs (so she understands their routines) and spoke with people in various online communities. She states that people even sent her letters sharing that they believe she told “their story” So again, at least some portion of the disabled and their caregiver population have experienced these trials.

Other themes that we can take away from this story:

-The will to live is difficult in the face of disability, largely because we do not live in an accommodating world.

-Maybe if the world was more disabled friendly, it would be easier for these individuals to choose and enjoy life.

-We can’t force anyone to choose life.

-We should be more understanding towards those who feel stuck in their disability, and find ways to listen to their hurts and their stories, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.

There, rant over. Can we please just get back to enjoying stories and not overgeneralizing them?????