This post is dedicated to all the plebs who enjoyed being granted a glimpse of elite society through the royal wedding. Especially to those who think it’s some big deal the bride is about a quarter black, just black enough to make social justice warriors not criticize the very institution of royalty.
I was exposed to what I thought would be just another silly rom-com on the overnight Tucuman-Buenos Aires bus. The film, Me Before You, was much worse than a silly American rom-com: it was English, and its storyline revolved around all the horrors of English caste society. To start, it presents what in its own ideology is the guy “with a great life”, a kind of unironic American Psycho: heterosexual white blonde dude has vanilla sex with his white blonde girlfriend, gets up to go to work at his bank job, shaves, and applies hair cream, all these unremarkable activities filmed in angles to make it look like a Ralph Lauren commercial. Then the Calvin Klein model gets hit by a motorcycle. Perfect! End the film there! But no, unfortunately no.
We are then introduced to the life of Louisa Clark, for about 20 minutes, without any explanation of how this relates to the first story. She loses her job at a café, where all her clients were cranky dumb old Englishwomen who had too much time and too much money on their hands, and is sent by her parents to the job centre to get a new one. No Dolce & Gabbana aesthetic for the working class. It’s just awful, regular English life: drudging from job centre to some job working for rich people back to job centre.
But luck has fallen upon young Miss Clark! She is so blessed that she gets to get a new job working for rich people, this time as a full-time nanny for the dude we had seen run over 20 minutes ago. Aha! But wait, she’s not a nurse, a psychologist, a physio-therapist. No, she’s hired because the rich dude’s serially depressed about being paralysed and needs a friend. So his parents decide to hire a young girl with no qualifications in the hopes she’ll charm him (though, right after the interview, the dude’s mother tells Louisa “next time, dress less revealingly”, to which Louisa nods “yes, of course”, and the super backwards comment is A-OKAY, because yes, we should judge women for wearing skirts that are too low even if we’re only hiring them because we hope their boobs will make our son happy). In other words: they’re paying her to be his friend/lover, because no-one else can stand him. His girlfriend left him for his best friend and right after his paralysis, showing that those closest to him during his past life were totally fake. When he tried to return to his banker job in a wheelchair, they didn’t accept him because, you know, a banker in a wheelchair doesn’t inspire the awe you need to break deals. Yet it is this plastic past life for which he longs. I want my fake friends and my evil job back. Rich dude who has absolutely all the time imaginable at his disposal, can order all food he wants, watch films and play video-games all day, ask for a private jet to Norway with ten escorts, cannot stand living in a world where he is paralyzed. Ask anyone who has to work in life if they’d trade limb mobility for unlimited wealth. In any case, life is sooo hard for rich guy in wheelchair that he has decided to be sent to Dignitas instead of just overdosing on the infinite supply of cocaine he could ask one of his servants to bring him.
Louisa, though, has fallen in love with rich dude, who shows her how to watch foreign films. “Just read the subtitles.” This is an astonishing discovery that changes Louisa’s life and opens the world of high culture to her. In a breathtaking display of dialogue, she’s at the cinema with her idiot working-class boyfriend, and suggests they watch the Spanish film. He asks: “How will we understand it?” She answers: “It’s easy! We just need to read the subtitles.” Because that’s exactly how poor people talk. And they would never have figured out how to read the subtitles had it not been for rich dude who lives in castle.
Ah yes, I hadn’t mentioned he literally lived in a castle. And that he and Louisa took a trip to Mauritius together. Yet life is not worth living, it’s so hard! So rich dude gets taken to Switzerland on his private jet, and bye bye cruel world, Dignitas is happy to turn you into organic free-trade soylent green. In the last scene, we find out rich dude has left Louisa shitloads of money so she can “pursue her dreams” and go to university; namely, not have to work for rich people anymore. To become part of the society that actually matters.
This film is English society. The State will not provide you with education or start-up money: you either work your ass off from the prime of youth until decrepitude, when, having no savings, you have to wait in line for social assistance where you’re treated like shit for being a social parasite, OR you’re born into wealth, which makes you an inherently better person, a fair blonde aristocrat with land and titles. Since the State isn’t there to help those in need, a fortunate few will be hand-picked by these fair blonde aristocrats, who, in all their clemency and humanitarianism, will bestow upon them the privileges of their class. Privileges such as the right to an education, the ability to watch foreign films, the luxury of travel. And being part of this AWESOME class means your friends are fakes, and your job consists of robbing and bankrupting the poor. But that’s just living the life, work hard, play hard, so goes the adage of those who aspire to this way of life.
Me Before You was severely critiques by people from disability rights movements for advocating suicide of people in wheelchairs. They didn’t get the movie. It doesn’t give two shits about most people in wheelchairs; for all it cares, those lousy social parasites should go out and work, clean the castles of the more deserving. The film was about a man-child who had justly inherited everything in life, and had tragically lost the social position to which he was entitled by birth. He could still travel, he could still find love in life, he could still do any of the things the paralyzed protagonists of My Left Foot and L’escaphandre et le papillon did, BUT he could not regain that social position, for it was based solely on appearances. He’d rather die than exchange cocaine parties at strip clubs for authenticities such as “true love”. It is a very English position, and one which resonates with many people. The film grossed $208.3 million, so, in the end, poor people, your tastes justify the film’s point. Those who think the latest royal wedding proved that English royalty is modern and tolerant will, like, totally love this film.