Analysis of Me Before You: Chp. 3

young man in a wheelchair is angry

[Image description: young man in a wheelchair in front of white background flipping off the viewer with both hands with his back turned]

Chapter Three is mercifully short. I wonder why it and Chapter Two were not just merged together but I guess it’s important every chapter end with Lou’s family having dinner together. Chapter Four is fairly long however with a lot to unpack so it will take me longer to tackle that one.

If you’re new please consult my intro and you can look at this tag for earlier installments.

Chapter Three begins with Mrs. Traynor leading Lou to the annex Will now lives in. Having everything on one floor would be more convenient for a quadriplegic as Mrs. Traynor claims but I wonder if being excluded from family meals and other minutia of family life just worsens Will’s mental health. (Later on we see Mrs. Traynor’s difficulty with being around her son as he now is.)

And we finally get to meet Will in this chapter. He’s as charming as you’d expect. When we meet him his nurse Nathan is just finishing dressing him. To secure Lou’s affections Will begins to imitate Big Foot’s lustful growls.

No I am not kidding. He seriously begins to make strange cries.

His eyes met mine and after a pause, he let out a bloodcurdling groan.

This is another bizarre scene that I am not sure what in the hell is supposed to be going on. I think Will is imitating someone with a developmental disability who is nonverbal and uses groans and moans to communicate. Nathan later claims this is to unnerve caretakers. Though if that person was a professional I highly doubt they be frightened of an imitation of someone with a speech disability. Moyes seems to assume everyone finds the disabled frightening as she does and especially if they are nonverbal. Again, ableist and insensitive.

Oh and Will is also an ableist asshat for assuming the same. It’s not surprising he has a great deal of internalized ableism as ignorant able people assume all people with disabilities hate themselves.

God I hate everyone is this book.

Anyway though Lou initially thinks:

Oh god, I thought, I’m not up to this.

You. Should. Not. Take. Care. Of. The. Disabled. Or anyone really!

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[Image description: A person making an angry expression with a crooked mouth.]

She introduces herself. Will knocks off his “Christy Brown” impression as Nathan calls it. If you’re American like me you probably have to Google “Christy Brown” to know who they are. As it turns out Christy Brown is an Irish writer with cerebral palsy. What in the fuck is it with this book and making fun of accomplished disabled people?

Oh yeah, ableism.

giphy (1)

[Image description: Gif of Lucille Bluth of Arrested Development rolling her eyes.]

Always a pleasure Lucille.

Oh yeah and you’re an ableist asshat too Nathan. Again, I hate everyone in this book.

No one really admonishes Will for his behavior, Nathan treats it like a personality quirk. This is easily infantilizing the disabled in that they be treated like children. Oh ha ha his bad behavior is because he cannot help it. Fuck you Will is at least thirty if not older. He is perfectly aware of what he is doing.

Will at least somewhat introduces himself civilly to Lou but we’ll see any shred of politeness evaporate soon enough.

Nathan gives Lou a brief tour of the annex. He also goes over all of Will’s medications showing Moyes at least googled a quadriplegic’s med list. Lou asks what if he needs to use the “loo”. Nathan responds his catheter for that.

Um, catheters are just for urine, not feces. Given when Nathan later comes back at noon he implies he will hoist Will onto the toilet. So Will has to hold any bowel movement until Nathan comes? Or is he using diapers and has to wait until Nathan comes back to change it? Either way this is just ridiculous and unnecessary. Why not just train Lou to do either? Or is she going to run screaming out of the castle?

Did I mention Will’s family lives in a castle? Well they do. So they surely have access to every sort of medical equipment there is for a quadriplegic. Which makes the above situation all the more untenable.

This is just such a glossing over of the reality of disability. Moyes can’t show a quadriplegic using the loo but she can show him committing suicide at the end?! There is no argument this is inspiration porn of the highest level. It’s okay when you kill us but we can’t show the reality of disability, no! No!

lHXWok2MQk66MDCPdFCM_Whose Line Is It

[Image description: A gif of a person pretending to pull a raised middle finger out of their pocket.]

Even Lou seems to be aware of what bullshit this is because she asks:

 “What am I here for?”

Nathan responds basically that she is here to cheer Will up. Again, a playmate. I feel sorry for anyone who reads this book and takes a caregiver position under the impression it’s just being nice to a disabled person and some light housework. Then they learn the awful truth it includes “wiping bums”.

” Is that why the pay is so good?”

Another problem is the impression that caregiver is a well-paid position. Most caregivers make below a living wage. A book that instills this fantasy of being a well-paid playmate for a disabled person isn’t going to lead to the public to push for caregivers to get the wage they deserve. Especially when it makes a mockery of their position by in no way showing how difficult it really is.

Nathan finally leaves Will and Lou alone. Will is a snotty brat to Lou. I have to say in maturity level they’re matched. Because Will doesn’t instantly like her Lou wants to quit immediately and sends a text to her sister saying so. Treena responds by essentially guiltripping Lou that her family needs the money.

Everyone in this book is awful and awful to each other.

Lou decides to do some vacuuming to pass the time. In a scene reminiscent of, but in no way with the same emotional complexity, when Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast goes into the West Wing of the castle and sees a portrait of the Beast when he was human; Lou goes into Will’s bedroom and sees picture of Will when he is able. Through this framing device we see he was a skier, had a girlfriend, and was a successful businessman.

Again making the prologue totally unnecessary except for further highlighting the tragedy of Will becoming disabled.

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[Image description: Coach character from Key & Peele shaking his head.]

Will of course comes in because he psychically senses an opportunity to be horrible.

”You were…wondering how awful it must be to live like that and then turn into a cripple.”

Thank you for cementing the impression you are a living embodiment of the bitter cripple trope Will. Fuck, we’re always either bitter or the saint.

Nathan returns to help shit come out of Will’s other end too. Lou goes on a lunch break and calls her sister to complain some more about Will.

 “Of course he’s miserable. He’s stuck in a bloody wheelchair.”

People. Are. Not. Miserable. Because. They. Are. “Stuck”. In. A. Wheelchair.

This idea that wheelchair users are angry because they can’t walk shifts blame away from able people refusing to make things accessible. I am not pissed when I get to the library because I can’t walk, I am pissed the ramp on the sidewalk has a huge divot at its bottom that catches the wheels of my chair and I get stuck because able people see no reason to repave the damned thing. I am mad that able people refuse to move to one side on the sidewalk when they can walk in the street if they wanted by just stepping down. I can’t. And I can go on and on about how fucking entitled able people are.

And something tells me Moyes is not going to address this given her history of dismissing the concerns of the disabled. Because it’s easy and convenient for able people to do. It’s the disabled fault they’re angry because they just want to be offended, not because of something she or any other able person did.

Lou comes back from her break and Nathan leaves. She asks Will if he wants to go somewhere. What follows is worthy of any SNL skit mocking the trope of the bitter cripple.

”I don’t do anything Miss Clark. I can’t do anything anymore. I sit. I just about exist.”

“Well,” I said, “I was told you have a car adapted for wheelchair use.”

“And you’re worried it will stop working if it doesn’t get used everyday?”

….

“Do you want me to bring you your computer?”

“Why, have you thought of a good quadriplegic support ground I could join? Quads R Us? The Tin Wheel Club?”

I am seriously picturing Jim Carrey in a wheelchair right now, lolling his head around in the most ridiculous and exaggerated fashion as he refuses all of these well-meaning requests. That is how absurd this all is.

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[Image description: Jim Carrey in Liar Liar pulling his lips back with his fingers and sticking his tongue out.]

It is very clear Moyes has never interacted with an actual quadriplegic or someone who has had actual depression. Irritability can be a symptom of depression but the idea a disabled person would fixate on their condition like the above is very much an ableist idea. Able people seem to think we think of nothing but our disability. Especially as we’re always telling them to not be ableist!

In contrast we can look at Bojack Horseman (which I am aware is a cartoon but shut up you uncultured prick) which actually portrays depression as it really is. I think Bojack must have people on its creative team that have actually dealt with depression. In one scene Bojack lashes out at a friend and for a second afterwards we see a look of disbelief come over his face. For a second, even he cannot believe he said all those terrible things. The next second we see him double down, you can see the wheels turning in his head that he’s only telling the truth. This is the sort of disassociation you see with depression. The irritability leads to an uncontrolled response because depression is a disorder of the brain.

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[Image description: Bojack Horseman and Diane Nguyen on a balcony. Bojack is speaking. The image is subtitled: “I’m responsible for my own happiness? I can’t even be responsible for my own breakfast!”]

Will doesn’t display this though we’re supposed to believe he is so depressed he would take his own life. He is very much in control of his responses. A depressed person be far more likely to turn down all the requests and then snap only when it becomes too much for them to bear. Will is just a jackass.

Frustrated, Lou asks what he wants and Will basically tells her to shut up. Lovely.

When Lou gets home she talks to her sister (which she should really stop doing because Treena is a manipulative asshat) and says she wants to quit again. Treena says she can’t quit because Treena wants to go back to school and stop working herself. Her sister wants her to stay in an unpleasant and borderline abusive position so she can better herself with no real benefit to Lou.

Lou, seriously, move out. You’re twenty-six and an autonomous adult as much as you may not act like it. Though of course I am guessing she needs Will to show her how because it be too much to ask a modern young woman self-actualize on her own.

Anyway we end with Lou agreeing to stick out the six months to help Treena. And this ableist line:

 Downstairs Mum was laughing at something on television. We could hear her exclaiming to Granddad. She often explained the plot of the show to him, even though we told her she didn’t have to.

Yeah let’s just keep a stroke victim in isolation, stimulating his brain surely do nothing to help his recovery.

No wonder Lou is such an ableist asshat when she comes from this sort of family.

Everyone is awful in this. Just awful.

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