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A Hollywood film about disability has a lot of people feeling left out.

Some spoilers for the book/film 'Me Before You' ahead.

A Hollywood film about disability has a lot of people feeling left out.

The trailer for the upcoming romance film "Me Before You" promises everything you expect from a good love story.

"Me Before You" stars Emilia Clarke ("Game of Thrones") and Sam Claflin ("The Hunger Games") and is an adaptation of the 2012 book of the same name. The trailer promises an epic love story between Will, a quadriplegic man (played by the able-bodied Claflin) and his caretaker Louisa (Clarke).

It has everything you expect from the genre — conventionally attractive people, hair that somehow doesn't look horrible in the rain, lots of crying, remarkably well-lit bedrooms, and so many feelings and grandiose declarations of love.



What the trailer dances around, however, is that much of the driving force of the film is Will's belief that he'd be better off dead than alive and paralyzed. His parents, desperate to save him, hire Louisa as a caretaker. Will agrees to wait six months before seeking an assisted suicide, and Louisa spends that time trying to encourage him to keep on living.

In the end (spoiler alert), Will chooses death over life as a quadriplegic, and Louisa is able to better appreciate and live her own life as a result of having known him.

According to many in the disabled community, the film pushes some harmful messages about people with disabilities and the kinds of lives they lead.

Disability rights blogger Kim Sauder addresses some of the issues at The Huffington Post, writing, "It’s a film about disability and assisted suicide which is troubling enough, but is made worse by the fact that it uses a non-disabled actor in the role of a quadriplegic."

It certainly doesn't help that Will's character was not born quadriplegic. His character was paralyzed as the result of a car accident and decides that life with a disability is not a life worth living. If Will were a real, living person, this is certainly Will's decision to make. But Will is not a real person. Will is a character whose story and decisions are controlled by a screenwriter and director, both of whom in this case are able-bodied.

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.

Quadriplegic people are perfectly capable of leading rich, full lives. According to "Me Before You," however, living a life in paralysis is not a life worth living very long.

"The non-disabled media heavily over-represents disability discourses that fit into ableist stereotypes, which makes it harder for the viewer to differentiate between the feelings of individuals and the experiences and feelings of all disabled people," Sauder writes.

On May 23, Clafin was scheduled to do a live chat to promote the film. Twitter users flooded the hashtag, eager to make their voices heard.

For an hour, fans were going to have a chance to engage Claflin in real time using the hashtag #AskSam. People with disabilities — who were already frustrated with the painfully-ironic #LiveBoldly hashtag the film was promoting — used the opportunity to make themselves heard:




Unfortunately, the #AskSam Twitter chat was brought to an abrupt and early ending 20 minutes before it was slated to begin ... without Claflin answering a single question.

It's not clear whether this was Claflin's call or a decision made by a PR rep or just a terribly unfortunate accident. Whichever way, it reinforced the erasure of actual people with disabilities — which was exactly the problem in the first place.


Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Their questions unanswered, a group of activists hijacked the film's #LiveBoldly hashtag, using it to share their own stories.

"To paint a movie with such a tragic outcome as a love story and the choice of assisted suicide as rational … reinforces the stereotype that disabled people have such awful lives that death is preferable," actor/writer Mik Scarlet told Upworthy. "My life turned out to be more amazingly wonderful than any of my non-disabled friends might have dreamed of, let alone a paralyzed wheelchair user. Where is that story?"

As it turns out, there are a lot stories just like it — and plenty of people with disabilities willing to share their stories with anyone open to listening:






Including people who are part of the community whose story is being told can only serve to make the story stronger.

Whether that means making sure they're consulting on the script, on set, or — better yet — getting opportunities to tell their own stories on screen or casting an actual quadriplegic to star in the film, taking steps to make sure the story respects the lived experiences of the people who will be affected by the way characters like them are represented is a good thing.

"The media needs to find a way to talk about disability in a way that does not make disabled people look like they are burdens," said activist and filmmaker Dominick Evans. "My disability requires a similar level of care to the protagonist in this film, so it's hard to see a movie where my life, essentially, is devalued on-screen."

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Nobody's perfect, and Hollywood will certainly make similar mistakes and tell similar stories again. Hopefully, the backlash to "Me Before You" will inspire other authors and filmmakers to take a different approach when telling the stories of people with disabilities in the future.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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