Sia lashes out on Twitter after criticism over the portrayal of autism in her film 'Music'

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Nov 21, 2020, 10.25 AM(IST)

sia Photograph:( Twitter )

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'Music' stars Maddie Ziegler, Sia's longtime creative partner, as a girl named Music. Since Ziegler is able-bodied and neurotypical, many people saw the trailer and agreed that it is continuing a harmful Hollywood pattern of characters with disabilities being played by non-disabled actors.

Singer-songwriter, Sia recently released the first look at her upcoming musical-movie production, 'Music', about a young girl on the autism spectrum. The film was immediately met with dismay by people with disabilities who took issue with the portrayal of autism. 

In the trailer for 'Music', Ziegler's character appears unable to communicate verbally.

Her half-sister (played by Kate Hudson) is seen talking with a friend (played by Leslie Odom Jr.) about how Music can understand what's being said around her but sees the world in "a completely different way from us" and needs help communicating. 

 

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'Music' stars Maddie Ziegler, Sia's longtime creative partner, as a girl named Music. Since Ziegler is able-bodied and neurotypical, many people saw the trailer and agreed that it is continuing a harmful Hollywood pattern of characters with disabilities being played by non-disabled actors.

"Hi Sia, can I ask why you didn't cast a disabled actor for this part?" actor Bronagh Waugh tweeted at the singer. "It's pretty offensive the way you've chosen to portray this character. People with disabilities are not broken and don't need fixing."

 

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"I agree," Sia replied. "I've never referred to music as disabled. Special abilities is what I've always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community."
 

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In response to another person, Sia said she "tried working with a beautiful young girl non-verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful," which is why Ziegler was ultimately cast. 


"Did you do any research or consult the community at all?" another person asked Sia. "It's very condescending to say it would be cruel to consult a disabled actor."

"Duh," Sia replied. "I spent three f---ing years researching, I think that's why I'm so f---ing bummed."

One person added to a thread of criticism, identifying themselves as an autistic actor who would have gladly acted in the movie" on short notice.

"The fact of the matter is zero effort was made to include anyone who is actually autistic," they wrote.

"Maybe you're just a bad actor," Sia replied.

 

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Another person said it was "a mighty shame" that someone with a huge platform like Sia was "using it to exclude disabled and neurodiverse actors from their own narratives." 

"I've been a long time fan of your work, so this is really disappointing," they wrote.

"I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folks, and not as prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers," Sia replied. " sad nobody's even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place."

Among her relay of defensive tweets, Sia also sent out a tweet to her 3.8 million followers: "Grrrrrrrrrr. why don't you watch my film before you judge it? FURY."

 

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Sia says she had 'two people on the spectrum' advising her on the movie 'at all times,' but people are also taking issue with the autism organization partnered on the film.
 

Autism Speaks has been a divisive organization for many years. Many people with autism take serious issue with the group's harmful descriptions of the disorder — for example, the way the organization's advertising has compared autism to "pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes."

"As the largest nonprofit related to autism, it spent years promoting ideas and information that furthered stigma and misunderstanding about the condition," Sara Luterman wrote in the Washington Post earlier this year.

"Autism speaks came on board long after the film was finished, four years in fact," Sia told one person on Twitter. "I had no idea it was such a polarizing group!"

Sia continued to stand by her decisions around the film and asked the critics to watch the film before making up their mind.

"I believe this movie is beautiful, will create more good than harm and if I'm wrong I'll pay for it for the rest of my life," Sia tweeted to one person.

'Music' is set to premiere on February 12, 2021.

 

 
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