Me Before You: Advocacy or Ableism?

Me Before You: Advocacy or Ableism?

Tackling one of the summer's biggest blockbuster romances.
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I am about the spoil the novel Me Before You and inevitably, the movie adaptation. I also intend to state my opinions and hopefully open a dialogue about the events of the novel in lieu of its controversial nature. These opinions have been made through time spent working with and supporting individuals with disabilities and not my own personal experiences as a relatively able-bodied individuals. Let it be known that I believe only the individual is responsible for deciding what their disability or their experiences mean to them; these are merely opinions made based on curiosity and second-hand experience as a friend and trained source of support. I do believe Moyes representation of individuals with disabilities to be flawed in more ways than one, but I also believe her work leads us to ask questions of ourselves and of others that are important and deserve to be considered. Thank you for reading!


One of my favorite things about summer break is that I have so much more time to read things that I actually want to read, as opposed to assigned readings and script memorization. I have quite a few books squirreled away for when the mood strikes, but in typical book worm fashion I am easy to entice to continue to buy books even with dusty, unread novels waiting for me at home. The recent release of the movie Me Before You, based on the novel by JoJo Moyes, was one of the first novels to catch my eye upon coming home from college. As a psychology major and someone who has worked closely beside individuals with disabilities in the past, Me Before You's apparently romantic plot about a quadriplegic man interested me immediately. Who doesn't love a nice, inclusive romantic drama every now and then?

Having just watched the movie You're Not You on Netflix (starring Hilary Swank, do yourself a favor and watch!) about a woman with ALS, I was prepared for the happy tears and gut-wrenching sobs, but what I was not prepared for was the large amount of backlash Me Before You had received before it even hit theaters. I'm not someone to be deterred from reading or watching something after hearing spoilers—if that were the case, Tumblr would have already ruined just about everything Literary or otherwise I could get my hands on. I immediately rushed to investigate why what appeared to be such a promising plot could have such a negative reaction.

I'll admit that I was not as surprised as I should have been to hear of the story's less than joyful ending: Will Traynor, a man with a C4-5 spinal cord injury, decides to end his life despite being wealthy enough to live what would be considered comfortably and having found love and support. Naturally, I do not condone suicide nor or the support of suicide in any way, but having worked with advocates in the past I understand that the choices one makes for themselves may not always be the ones we agree with. One of the biggest parts of advocacy is learning to accept that sometimes you have to defend decisions that you do not necessarily believe are the correct ones. If an individual with a disability is able to advocate for themselves, their word is law; I believe this learned understanding may have allowed me to be a bit more sympathetic towards the tension created by what Will Traynor wanted to do.

I once knew a man whose doctors suggested he not eat solid foods because, due to his disability, he had a very high risk of choking. Now, this man was almost endearingly stubborn in more ways than one and was absolutely adamant that he make choices for himself, medical or otherwise—as he should. However, in his case, choosing to eat his beloved hot dogs sliced and not puréed meant that any day he could be sent to the emergency room because of asphyxiation, and he was more than once. As much as a hassle as it was for those who worked alongside him, his fellow advocates defended his right to make this decision because it was no one's to make but his. He should be able to eat what he wanted when he wanted it and how just as anyone else in this world should have the right to do.

Of course, I do not mean to compare the eating of hot dogs to medically assisted suicide, but there is an important lesson to be learned in the realm of advocacy. If you are able to advocate for yourself, there should not be a single person out there who can tell you what your quality of living is or what it means to you. If someone signs the paperwork stating that they are not to be resuscitated, nobody can challenge that decision—not even a medical professional. Certainly this would upset those close to that individual, but at the end of the day the only person who can decide how and if they continue to live is themselves.

In the movie You're Not You, as I mentioned before, the woman with ALS does indeed decide that she does not want to be resuscitated. While her family tries to fight this, claiming her illness has made her unable to make such a decision for herself, ultimately the woman receives her wish and is able to pass away in her home while in her own bed. It isn't pretty, and surely it is excruciatingly painful, but so had been her life, even more so each time she was brought to the hospital only to extend the life of a rapidly deteriorating body. I do not in any way wish to undermine the blessing that is the extra time one might have with their family thanks to medical technology, but I also wholeheartedly believe that a person can and should be able to determine when they have had enough. While some people wonder how they will go on without someone, that someone could be suffering greatly.

In Will Traynor's case, the man was already suffering greatly. I personally don't think the book touched upon it enough, but Will's injury left him in a great deal of pain nearly all the time, which is not always typical of spinal injuries. He was fortunate enough to have the best of everything, and even then Will had to take several medications just to be able to sit in his chair, not to mention that he risked a life-threatening illness any time someone so much as changed his catheter a few minutes off schedule. This is not to say that Will couldn't have continued to live a relatively happy and healthy life, because I absolutely believe in trying to find a way to make anyone's quality of living better, but it cannot be denied that even waking up in the morning was an incredible weight to bear for Will Traynor.

Do I agree with his decision? Absolutely not. Do I understand why he made it? Yes, and I would defend his right to make said decision because it is his and only his right to do so. Will was of sound mind when the decision was made and thought for a long time on it; this was not a decision that was taken lightly or made spur of the moment. Even the love of a lifetime could not sway him from this decision, which I believe speaks novels about his own pain and discomfort.

Understanding advocacy and learning to embrace what we can't comprehend or get on board with are skills that are important not just within the community of individuals with disabilities but on a wider, more general scale too. They are skills that help to empower yourself and others while being respectful of both sides of any conflict, something I believe that everyone could benefit from.

With that elephant in the room having been dealt with, I will also say that I don't exactly agree with the direction the movie was taken in. The movie's focus is entirely upon the romantic aspect of the book. Sure, relationships can be important and life-altering, but they are not the end-all-be-all of a person's life, as Will Traynor's decision shows. The most important thing to be taken from Will and Louisa's relationship is what they learn about each other and themselves through knowing each other, not necessarily about cute outings and what was shown in the trailer as a romantic getaway to a tropical island. Never mind the fact that there's a third character lingering around nearly at all times encouraging them both to better themselves and that the novel itself is more about self-discovery more than anything else. The movie was unfortunately advertised as no more than a budding romance, which I believe strips all of the importance and meaning behind Will and Louisa's interactions and the choices that are made in lieu of them.

Criticisms have been made about Louisa, painting her as a plot device and nothing more—the able-bodied girl who gets to "live boldly" (as the advertisements read) while Will chooses to end his life. However, the Louisa in the novel leaves much more to be desired. She is stunning and eccentric with her own misgivings and insecurities. Louisa is strong, but selfless enough to grant Will's final wish by accompanying him before his death despite her own wishes and opinions on the matter because she comes to understand what the ability to make that choice means to Will. Most importantly, she is human and a well developed one at that.

I do not believe it to be any fault of the actors, but it is clear that the movie versions of these characters have faded into watered-down versions of what they were originally meant to be for the sake of enhancing the romantic aspect of the plot. I do not think it is fair, however, to equate her to a mere plot device, as I believe her to be a rich main character in a world that could certainly use more examples of strong, empowered leading ladies.

The movie also leaves out an important moment in Louisa's past for the sake of furthering the romantic plot, acting as if Louisa's sexual assault never happened as was also a plot device, which I find wildly inappropriate and unnecessary. There are others who might argue that the sexual assault itself was wildly inappropriate and unnecessary, but given the more recent events of the Stanford case and the lenient rulings against Brock Turner, I do not find including sexual assault to be misplaced at all. It is all too common and society continues to allow women to define themselves by what happened to them rather than support them, something that Louisa learns to work past. If anything, I believe it absolutely rude to diminish her sexual assault to a plot device to bring them together when so many people today face such a tragedy. When the terrifyingly high numbers become a thing of the past, then I will believe it too be an all too conveniently placed plot point. Maybe.

In short, I can completely understand where the movie comes off as incredibly ableist because ultimately, it does not live up to the novel, which I find interesting considering that Moyes herself helped in the adaptation. This story is one that could have been told and told well without being sold as the next romantic tragedy we never asked for.

However, I don't believe that Moyes is an insufferable ableist for writing this story. Do I think that we need more positive examples of living with a disability in the media? Without a doubt! I believe this is why they chose to advertise the movie in such a way, despite it being such an inaccurate depiction of what was to come. It is especially unfortunate that such a story be adapted for film at a point in time in which we are sorely lacking in positive representation of that community, as it certainly sticks out like a sore thumb that way and comes off as dreary and hopeless—the exact opposite of what I perceived this book to be. In my eyes, this novel told a story about struggles; the struggle to find oneself, to find meaning and more difficultly, to find the strength to accept decisions we may not exactly agree with.

While I do not agree with the decision Will Traynor ultimately made, I respect his ability to choose for himself what would become of him, just as I respect Moyes for being able to illustrate the difficulty in making such a decision for ones' self and how it also effects those around them. I do not believe this story, or at the very least the novel, was an attempt at glorifying suicide by any means. Me Before You did not have a happy or particularly hopeful ending, despite Louisa inheriting a sizable fortunate from Will. I don't even blame Will for leaving the money to her, as his parents weren't exactly hurting for money in the first place and as we have come to learn, he did love her.

The movie may make it seem as such, Will does not die just so Louisa can live a full life, as his choice was made long before he had even met Louisa. Nobody was better off without Will and certainly no one was happier, at least, not the people who cared about him. Ultimately, the one who understood him the best—Louisa—was the only one able to even come close to accepting why Will chose death for himself instead of life, and she was the only person close to him who could respect that decision. What's important is that it happens anyway of Will's own accord. In fact, there is even a court ruling after his death explaining how no one can be held accountable but Will, as everyone else fought so strongly against it that there was simply no evidence against them. Moyes does not create a happy scenario for those he left behind and she reflects several times on the research Louisa has done to learn how Will could continue to live happily and healthy. Everyone he knew wanted him to live, and he had the ability to do so. This was never a story condoning what he did, but rather, supporting his right to choose.

In any other case, someone might not have made Will's decision had they met Louisa and found someone to make their life "worthwhile". However, seeing as I am an abled-bodied person, it is not my right to decide if Will should end his life or not no matter what other opportunities he has to continue living comfortably. Nobody else has the right to decide the worth or meaning of someone else's life, no matter what's their level of abled-bodiedness is. We cannot be upset that Will was not the person we wanted him to turn out to be because that is the nature of life.

The way this book was adapted did not come at a particularly opportune time. I am sure it might have been better received if there were a much more positive representation of the disabled community within the media, but I don't think that because the timing was poor and the adaptation insensitive that we should completely throw away the novel in its entirety. Though it may not be the story we need right now, it is a story we need nonetheless. The movie may be a bust, but with an open and respectful mind, the novel is a must!

Cover Image Credit: NYT.com

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50 Quotes from the Best Vines

If you're picturing the vines in your head, you're doing it right
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In 2017 we had to say goodbye to one of the best websites to ever roam the internet: Vine. In case you have been living under a rock since 2013, Vine was -(sad face)- a website and app that took the internet and the app store by storm in Winter 2013. It contained 6-second videos that were mostly comedy- but there were other genres including music, sports, cool tricks and different trends. Vine stars would get together and plan out a vine and film it till they got it right.

It was owned by Twitter and it was shut down because of so many reasons; the viners were leaving and making money from Youtube, there was simply no money in it and Twitter wanted us to suffer.

There's been a ton of threads on Twitter of everyone's favorite vines so I thought I'd jump in and share some of my favorites. So without further ado, here are some quotes of vines that most vine fanatics would know.

1. "AHH...Stahhp. I coulda dropped mah croissant"

2. "Nate how are those chicken strips?" "F%#K YA CHICKEN STRIPS.....F%#K ya chicken strips!"

3. "Road work ahead? Uh Yea, I sure hope it does"

4. "Happy Crimus...." "It's crismun..." "Merry crisis" "Merry chrysler"

5. "...Hi Welcome to Chili's"

6. "HoW dO yOu kNoW wHaT's gOoD fOr mE?" "THAT'S MY OPINIONNN!!!.."

7."Welcome to Bible Study. We're all children of Jesus... Kumbaya my looordd"

8. Hi my name's Trey, I have a basketball game tomorrow. Well I'm a point guard, I got shoe game..."

9. "It's a avocadooo...thanks"

10. "Yo how much money do you have?" "69 cents" "AYE you know what that means?" "I don't have enough money for chicken nuggets"

11. "Hurricane Katrina? More like Hurricane Tortilla."

12. "Hey Tara you want some?" "This b*%th empty. YEET!"

13. "Get to Del Taco. They got a new thing called Freesha-- Free-- Freeshavaca do"

14. "Mothertrucker dude that hurt like a buttcheek on a stick"

15. "Two brooss chillin in a hot tub 5 feet apart cuz they're not gay"

16. "Jared can you read number 23 for the class?" "No I cannot.... What up I'm Jared, I'm 19 and I never f#@%in learned how to read."

17. "Not to be racist or anything but Asian people SSUUGHHH"

18. 18. "I wanna be a cowboy baby... I wanna be a cowboy baby"

19. "Hey, I'm lesbian" "I thought you were American"

20. "I spilled lipstick in your Valentino bag" "you spilled- whaghwhha- lipstick in my Valentino White bag?"

21. "What's better than this? Guys bein dudes"

22. "How'd you get these bumps? ya got eggzma?" "I got what?" "You got eggzma?"

23. "WHAT ARE THOSEEEEE?" "THEY are my crocs!"

24. "Can I get a waffle? Can I please get a waffle?"

25. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAVEN!" "I can't sweem"

26. "Say Coloradoo" "I'M A GIRAFFE!!"

27. "How much did you pay for that taco?" Aight yo you know this boys got his free tacoo"

28. *Birds chirping* "Tweekle Tweekle"

29. "Girl, you're thicker than a bowl of oatmeal"

30. "I brought you Frankincense" "Thank you" "I brought you Myrrh" "Thank you" "Mur-dur" "huh...Judas..no"

31. "Sleep? I don't know about sleep...it's summertime" "You ain't go to bed?" "Oh she caught me"

32. "All I wanna tell you is school's not important... Be whatever you wanna be. If you wanna be a dog...RUFF. You know?"33. "Oh I like ya accent where you from?" "I'm Liberian" "Oh, my bad *whispering* I like your accent..."

34. "Next Please" "Hello" "Sir, this is a mug shot" "A mug shot? I don't even drink coffee"


35. "Hey did you happen to go to class last week?" "I have never missed a class"

36. "Go ahead and introduce yourselves" "My name is Michael with a B and I've been afraid of insects my entire-" "Stop, stop, stop. Where?" "Hmm?" "Where's the B?" "There's a bee?"

37. "There's only one thing worse than a rapist...Boom" "A child" "No"

38. "Later mom. What's up me and my boys are going to see Uncle Kracker...GIVE ME MY HAT BACK JORDAN! DO YOU WANNA SEE UNCLE KRACKER OR NO?


39. "Dad look, it's the good kush." This is the dollar store, how good can it be?"

40. "Zach stop...Zach stop...You're gonna get in trouble. Zach"

41. "CHRIS! Is that a weed? "No this is a crayon-" I'm calling the police" *puts 911 into microwave* "911 what's your emergency"

42. "WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? "

43. *Blowing vape on table* * cameraman blows it away* "ADAM"

44. "Would you like the spider in your hand?" "Yea" "Say please" "Please" *puts spider in hand* *screams*

45. "Oh hi, thanks for checking in I'm still a piece of garrbaagge"

46. *girl blows vape* "...WoW"

47. *running* "...Daddy?" "Do I look like-?"

48. *Pours water onto girl's face" "Hello?"

49. "Wait oh yes wait a minute Mr. Postman" "HaaaAHH"

50. "...And they were roommates" "Mah God they were roommates"


I could literally go on forever because I just reference vines on a daily basis. Rest in peace Vine

Cover Image Credit: Vine

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The Queen Of Soul Leaves A Story To Tell And A Voice That Cannot Be Replicated

Aretha Franklin may have passed on, but her legacy will live forever.

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On March 25, 1942, Aretha Franklin was born. The daughter of a well-known and highly respected Baptist Minister and Gospel singer from Memphis, Tennessee would soon move to Detroit, Michigan, where Aretha would meet lifelong friends and musical contributors.

Aretha Franklin was engulfed in music from the day she was born and, by the middle of the 1950s, Aretha had learned to play piano and began singing alongside her sisters in the church choir. It was during this time that Franklin first met strong, historical figures, such as Clara Ward, Smokey Robinson, and civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson. These are notable family friends that would stand by Aretha's side many times in the future.

Like many people finding themselves in the spotlight, there is more to Aretha Franklin's story than what is put in the tabloids. There are deeper events in her timeline that contribute to her emotion-filled voice. At the small age of six, Aretha endured her mother's leaving of the family and death four years later.

Aretha began a family of her own at the age of 12. In 1956, Clarence, Franklin's first son was born. Two years after, Aretha gave birth to her son Edward.

In the years that make up the start of the Franklin Clan, Aretha Franklin signed to Columbia Records and moved to New York. Moderate success would be found in the next five years of her music career. In 1961, Aretha Franklin was married and conceived her third child, Teddy Jr., with her newly-wedded husband.

While moderate success is admirable, Aretha signed with Atlantic Records and, in 1967, released an album "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You" with a hit track of the same name giving Aretha Franklin her first Top 10 hit.

Following the great success of her 1967 album, Aretha moved on to release other critically acclaimed hit songs, including, "Respect," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "Chain Of Fools" and more, earning her several Grammy awards and the cover of Time Magazine, where her nickname, The Queen Of Soul, was born.

To the outside world, Aretha Franklin was constantly moving up, but, behind closed doors, Aretha's personal life was struggling. Ms. Franklin has a history of arrests for disorderly conduct and reckless driving. She had also developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Franklin divorced her abusive husband, Ted White, and allowed the experience to serve as inspiration in the studio. Aretha was married and gave birth to her fourth son, Kecalf, in the 1970s. The relationship would end in 1984.

Along with her growing popularity as a singer, Aretha Franklin became a symbol of pride for many black Americans during the climax of the Civil Rights Movement. Many women, also looked to Aretha as a strong black woman that is living proof of what Black Women can be.

Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987, becoming the first women to ever be listed.

As times changed and music continued to redefine itself, it became difficult for a soul-gospel singer to stay in the spotlight. Nevertheless, Aretha Franklin always found a way to release a hit that transcended the ever-changing boundaries of music. With collaborations, covers, an autobiography, and The Presidential Medal Of Freedom awarded in 2005, Aretha Franklin never left the minds of all who cared to listen and pay attention. She continued to inspire multiple generations and give breath-taking performances that reminded the world why she was, indeed, The Queen Of Soul.

Aretha Franklin spoke to hearts around the world with the utter of one subtle note. Her ability to stay relevant, no matter the age group, amazed but did not surprise. The world knew she was one of a kind. The world knew there was only one Aretha. Through the years, Ms. Franklin never altered to fit in and never strayed away from the type of music she wanted to produce for the happiness of others. Her name alone is a cause for celebration. The amount of records she holds is mind-boggling. Her music narrated, not only her personal endeavors but the lives of people worldwide. A personal connection can be made when listening to any of her songs. Aretha Franklin is a standing ovation within herself.

Little did the outside world know, Ms. Franklin had been battling illness for years, behind-the-scenes. Although occasional rumors would ring of her health, Aretha dodged all questions and killed all concerns with poise and a brilliant smile. She did not want the world to know of her health issues, no matter how small. A longtime friend of Aretha Franklin told People Magazine, "She has been ill for a long time, She did not want people to know and she didn't make it public." Word spread of a battle between Aretha Franklin and Pancreatic Cancer for many years, although, of course, no confirmation or details were given on the matter.

It started to become hard to hide the ailing condition of The Queen once shows frequently began to be canceled, due to doctors orders. Aretha had announced in February of 2017 that she would be retiring from music, but may take the stage at select events. Franklin was true to her word and returned to the stage in August of 2017 and at the Elton John AIDS Foundation's Enduring Vision benefit gala in November of the same year. Fans became highly concerned by the more than noticeable shift in Aretha Franklin's appearance.

A close friend of the phenomenal singer told TMZ, "she could go at any time," and mentioned that she was down 85 lbs. This information was given two weeks ago. Unfortunately, better updates did not follow.

On the morning of Thursday, August 16, 2018, The Queen Of Soul, Aretha Franklin passed away. She leaves behind her soul-touching music, a record of more than 20 chart-topping R&B; hits and 18 Grammy wins, and anthems that will live for ages. She is survived by her four sons.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, and, while the physical body that is Aretha Franklin has moved on to Glory, the teachings and inspirations of her soul shall live forever. Like many idols before her, it is indeed hard to say goodbye, but let us be grateful for the time we had to witness the greatness that is Aretha Louise Franklin. May she rest in sound peace.

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