Sunday, 5 June 2016

Boycotting Characters... A New Extreme

I am a pro-lifer. It is evident on my social media where I often post pro-life messages, in informative comments I post disagreeing with pro-abortion articles, in my choice to take a stance during the recent debate regarding the introduction of embryo freezing in my country, regardless of whether I would lose followers for my views. I believe in morality, in life and also in being true to myself even as a professional and commercial writer. However I recently drew the line at an absurd turn that the pro-life movement took. Believe it or not, I even got myself to 'unlike' a page that strives to raise awareness against abortion, a page whose posts I must probably have often shared on my own profile.

What, you are questioning, could possibly sway me from my views? I am still pro-life, avidly so, but I disagree with all the articles and comments on such pages that are trying hard to get people to boycott the film Me Before You, the film I have been promoting these past months which is based on the book that I reviewed so positively only lately. (

Mind you, I have no commission for my troubles of promoting this wonderful story. As I say
in my review, however, the book taught me so much and one of its protagonists - Will Traynor - is a person I wish could have been real and who I could have met, despite that I would never wish anyone to live the horrible couple of years he goes through in the book.

Now the reason why pro-life organisations are striving so hard to bad-mouth this story is because they have misinterpreted the fact that euthanasia is one of the themes of the book/film as meaning that the author, as well as the actors who took on the main characters' roles in the film interpretation, must be promoting the right to and the sense in euthanasia. This is definitely not the case and not only are all the characters in the book save for Will himself against the idea of taking him to Dignitas but also find it hard to even accept his views and decisions. That in itself speaks to me of a pro-life stance in this plot? Meanwhile, actor Sam Claflin has been bombarded with questions, not just in interviews but also on an  #askSam session on Twitter, asking for his stance on the matter as well as how people in Will's situations don't really think like the character does about their life.

It's all well and good to give your view, even stick to your guns and openly challenge any opposition. However, to attack an actor, as some actually did with their words, simply because he is committed to his career role enough to know that once he embodies a character he must not question that character in order to portray him well, is to show the ignorance that seeps in with extremism in whatever the subject matter. Be it religion, values, race or gender issues or any other of the multitude of aspects of life that can have people taking sides, extremism can only ever lead to hate and never to a proper representation of what we believe in.

To me, to attack a writer for a creative and fictional work goes beyond sense, reason and even the cause in question. Apart from the fact that these articles and comments are misinterpreting the story and misinforming the public about it, causing unnecessary damage and harm, they also showed me that extremism can lead to ridiculous situations. Why was this film, out of all the thousands that come out each year, singled out for its message? (again, being pro-euthanasia is not even really the message here!)

If we can condemn a film for dealing with euthanasia (though to be honest given the particular life that Will leads in the book, his life always overshadowed by pain and sickness and a looming unknown death date but which hangs close nonetheless I can hardly condemn his personal choice), then we should be condemning also all the following:

- thrillers for using murder as the basis for a story and most especially Murder by Numbers for showing us the murderer's side of things.
- films that pose ethical questions and give both sides to the story (such as Extreme Measures).
- films that show anti-heroes which means we are glorifying the good side of a human who might also have a bad one (such as Puncture).
- films that put thieves in a good light (such as Gone in Sixty Seconds).
- films that use sexual content, even extensively, in the film in order to properly present the storyline and plot (Bitter Moon definitely falls in this category).

The above is by no means an exhaustive list but what I mean to say is, all of the above examples are of situations that are less than perfect, and yet no one, as far as I know, has openly opposed any of these films for the way they show things. As an author and aspiring novelist, I believe in creativity and that includes coming up with storylines that might at times include questionable activity on the part of the fictitious characters. This does not mean either that I agree with the character's choices or even that I am presenting these situations as ideals or endorsing them. Furthermore, I am sure I would be gutted if anyone were to consider my characters' actions as my own, moreso if I am attacked for these same actions.

And so, to conclude before side-tracking from my initial point, I will not be boycotting Me Before You, nor any other film for that matter, and feel free to form my own opinions not only about the characters' choices but also about whether they might actually have been necessary to the plot. And so what I will boycott is, rather, those organisations that I feel are doing more harm than good in their misinterpreted and as afore-mentioned extreme ideologies which are spread around for unsuspecting receivers to acknowledge and react to.

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