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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Sign On: Letter to Warner Brothers on the Continued Danger of “Me Before You”

Not Dead Yet LogoBy Diane Coleman, Not Dead Yet

Thanks, in part, to the great work of the disability rights community, writing, interviewing and protesting “Me Before You”, as of last weekend, the film was only being shown on 238 screens nationwide, down from over 2700 when it opened just six weeks ago.

But the film’s harmful message will continue for years in online media, so our work is not over. It’s too late for theaters, but the producers need to add a suicide prevention public service announcement to all further releases of this film in any form.

We have prepared a letter to Warner Brothers, calling for such a PSA (below). We are requesting that national, state and local disability organizations sign onto this letter by July 25. Please share this with organizations you know and urge them to sign on by emailing Diane Coleman (dcoleman@notdeadyet.org) the following information:

  • Organization name:
  • Location City & State:
  • Is Organization National, State or Local:
  • Contact person & email:
  • Number of members or people served (if available):

Kevin Tsujihara, CEO
Warner Brothers
4000 Warner Boulevard
Burbank, CA. 91522

Dear Mr. Tsujihara:

We, the undersigned national, state and local disability organizations are writing to express our urgent concerns about the negative impact of the plotline and treatment of the assisted suicide of a lead character with quadriplegia in the film “Me Before You”. 

Regardless of the intent of the writer, director and producers, the film’s message is that no amount of wealth, family support, romantic love or ability to continue one’s career are enough to make life worth living with such a disability. For people with disabilities, and perceptions of non-disabled audiences, this antiquated trope is dangerous.

People’s primary frame of reference can be shaped by what they have seen in movies and television. Storylines like this perpetuate stigma and discrimination based on disability.

In an unprecedented level of response to this film’s anti-disability better-dead-than-disabled narrative, over 20 articles and blogs by disability advocates and scholars have been published in mainstream and disability press. This has also been reported by mainstream media, including Buzzfeed, MSNBC and many more. Direct actions by disability advocates leafleting at theaters have occurred in over 15 U.S. cities and at least four countries.

Would any other minority group find Hollywood portraying a lead character’s suicide as a valid choice? Or absurdly and insensitively promoting the hashtag #LiveBoldly, which obviously only applies to his love interest who benefits by inheriting his wealth after his suicide?

We must also note that the portrayal of Will Traynor’s assisted suicide is not consistent with prevailing media guidelines about suicide, in that the details of its handling in the film risk a “copycat” effect, whether or not the film is identified as a factor by those involved in such a tragic and irreversible action. When television programs address topics like this (suicide, sexual assault and a number of others that contain triggers), it has become commonplace for a trigger warning at the beginning, and one or more actors from the show to appear at the end with a public service announcement on where to get help and more information.

Therefore, to reduce the risk of a “copycat” suicide effect, as well as negative impacts on individuals and families in the midst of critical health care decisions, the responsible thing to do is add a public service announcement to online and home entertainment release of the film that clearly states the movie does not condone assisted suicide, along with contact info for the suicide prevention hotline. The PSA that we recommend is Live On. Disabled Lives Are Worth Living.

Please respond to this letter no later than [date], 2016, by contacting Diane Coleman, JD (dcoleman@notdeadyet.org) President and CEO of Not Dead Yet.

Sincerely,

Not Dead Yet

The ADA Legacy Project

Comments

  1. Alesa Loftis says:

    It is never okay to end your life and disability is not a death sentence. There is Always hope.

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