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The Ruderman Family Foundation has expressed its horror at Hollywood’s Me Before You, which hits movie theatres this week, for portraying the inexcusable suggestion that people with disabilities are better off committing suicide.
“The upcoming release of the movie Me Before You presents a deeply troubling message to our society about people with disabilities,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Foundation. “To the millions of people with significant disabilities currently leading fulfilling, rich lives, it posits that they are better off committing suicide.”
The movie starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, was adapted by author Jojo Moyes from her 2012 bestselling novel, and tells the story of a paralyzed man who falls in love with his caretaker and decides to end his own life so she could “fully” live hers without him. The troubling message of the main character’s inability to see life beyond being a wheelchair user puts forward an outlandish notion that ending one’s life is a better alternative than living with a disability.
“To those who have no close knowledge or awareness of people with disabilities, it sends a very dangerous message about the value of the lives of 20% of our population,” stated Ruderman.
Furthermore, the movie is yet another example of Hollywood’s exclusion of actors with disabilities, a social injustice that continues to be ignored. People with disabilities make up less than two percent of the film and television industries, and the movie’s decision to cast an able-bodied man to play the role of the lead character, is once again a sad illustration of this. Film and television have an overwhelming influence as to how groups of people are perceived in society and with that comes the responsibility for characters to be portrayed authentically.
“Me Before You also chose to cast Sam Clafin as the lead character William Traynor, a person with disabilities, instead of more appropriately casting an actor with disabilities in that role,” Ruderman continued. “Hollywood in 2016 would never consider casting a white actor in a role that portrays an African American character, but routinely casts able-bodied actors in the roles of characters with disabilities. Hollywood should begin to internalize that our society will no longer tolerate discrimination against anyone regardless of whether it is race or ability.”
In the coming months, the Foundation aims to hold a convening in Los Angeles with major studio heads and casting directors to educate them on the injustice and work together to make Hollywood more inclusive towards people with disabilities.