- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2016

DENVER — Disabled-rights advocates are staging protests pegged to Friday’s general release of the movie “Me Before You,” which critics say promotes the message that people in wheelchairs are better off killing themselves.

The Warner Bros. film, based on the bestseller by British novelist Jojo Mayes, has been portrayed in trailers as a feel-good romantic comedy with little hint of its pro-assisted suicide message.

The disabled-rights group Not Dead Yet blasted the movie as a “disability snuff film” and “an insult to disabled people.”

“My outrage is shared by all those I know who have read the book and seen the trailer for the upcoming film. The potential damage this film can cause is significant,” said disability activist Bill Pearce in a post on the website Bad Cripple.

Protests have already been held in New York City, Boston and Denver, with additional demonstrations planned throughout opening weekend in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities, according to Not Dead Yet.

Opponents of the movie’s message have also countered with the social-media campaign #MeBeforeEuthanasia.

John Kelly, New England regional director of Not Dead Yet, said he has the same level of spinal-cord damage as the movie’s lead character, Will Traynor, a young, rich, successful businessman who winds up as a quadriplegic after being hit by a motorcycle.

“Book and screenplay author Jojo Moyes admits she knows nothing about quadriplegics, yet her ignorance is allowed to promote the idea that people like me are better off dead,” Mr. Kelly said in a Friday statement.

“We are not ‘burdens’ whose best option is to commit suicide. No one’s suicide should be treated noble and inspirational,” Mr. Kelly said. “We reject this discrimination. Our suicides should be viewed as tragedies like anyone else’s.”

Variety movie reviewer Andrew Barker called the film “out of its depth” in “addressing the politics of euthanasia.”

“‘Me Before You’s‘ admirable presentation of a disabled person as a swoon-worthy romantic lead collides awkwardly with its implicit suggestion that perhaps such a life isn’t even worth living, and the undercurrents of wish-fulfillment leave a sour taste,” the May 24 review said.

The website Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 53 percent “rotten” rating from critics, saying the film benefits from its stars’ chemistry but that “it isn’t enough to compensate for its clumsy treatment of a sensitive subject.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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