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The Trailer For Sia's New Movie Is Already Super Controversial, And Her Response Made Me Very Uneasy


If you opened Twitter today, you may have noticed that singer-songwriter Sia is in the center of controversy involving her upcoming movie, Music.

Grrrrrrrrrr. Fuckity fuck why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY.

The trailer for the film dropped yesterday, and it shows Maddie Ziegler playing a nonverbal autistic girl named Music.

Maddie as Music in long pigtails and a pair of headphones over her ears

After the trailer’s release, the film itself was met with various criticisms. A big one is that the movie cast Maddie Ziegler as its lead:

sigh. yet another example of Hollywood casting a non-disabled actor to play a disabled character. When doing a film about Autism, hire #ActuallyAutistic folks to work on it.

Hollywood strikes again with another film where non-disabled actors play disabled roles. Having a neurotypical play an autistic person is offensive enough; rolling this trailer out at the start of #DisabilityHistoryMonth is a kick in the bloody teeth. No captions, either.

That feeling when you see a film cast a non-disabled person to play a disabled character... We get angry. Then, we get glad to have the @HonTonyCoelho @NBCUniversal Media Scholarship to support actual disabled people who want to work in media & comms.

@Sia @leslieodomjr @maddieziegler It’s a mighty shame that someone with such a colossal platform is using it to exclude disabled and neuro diverse actors from their own narratives. I’ve been a long time fan of your work, so this is really disappointing.

To which Sia said that she did try to work with a nonverbal girl and did cast some neuroatypical people:

@JordanaGol @leslieodomjr @maddieziegler I actually tried working with a a beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful. So that’s why I cast Maddie.

@TomeLevi @leslieodomjr @maddieziegler I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts but s as doctors, nurses and singers. Fucking sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.

But of course, these tweets sparked a ton of discourse in and of themself:

@Sia @TomeLevi @leslieodomjr @maddieziegler ok...sooo now you're bashing sex workers and recovering drug addicts. Do you understand that everything you're saying is problematic? And in the midst, you've been attacking Autistic people?

Sia: "casting an autistic actor in my film was impossible because the filming/work environment wasn't accessible for them" Then change the fucking environment? Change the work model so it can accommodate a person's style of working? Why is this so difficult for ableds to get?

‘My heart is in the right place but here let me denigrate sex workers and people struggling with addiction in my justification’. Skin in the game: former sex worker, recovering alcoholic, #actuallyautistic, former massive Sia fan.

@Sia Well, as an autistic sex worker, I've got to say that this is pretty gross, right here.

Another criticism was what we saw of the movie itself — which some called outdated:

Maybe Sia didn't consult autistic people in the making of her movie because it would have undermined the entire plot of a film that hinges on ableist tropes and a deeply problematic portrayal of autism? The story she wanted to tell necessitated erasing #ActuallyAutistic folks.

As well as not accessible:

I watched the @Sia trailer and as an #actuallyautistic person...that movie was a friggin overload for me. Chile I felt like I was in rainbow puke town. Made me hella uncomfortable. All them colors and music at once? Overloaded the hell outta my senses, but, 4 years research tho.

Then, there was the involvement of the group Autism Speaks in the movie:

FYI, Autism Speaks is incredibly controversial — from the way they speak about autism to the way they spend their money.

autism speaks is a hate group, sia, stop throwing your toys out the pram and maybe actually listen to autistic people and adjust your behaviour instead of writing them off as a lost cause and haters

Autism Speaks is trending again. So here's a reminder Autism Speaks is a hate group that funnels money and efforts away from autistic care and accesses, and is thusly responsible for the death and suffering of countless autistic people. Stop giving money to Autism Speaks.

To which Sia said that she wasn't aware of the group's controversies:

@georgecnolan @AprilSpectrum @supportingsia @Kris10Parisi @autisticbruce @Variety Autism speaks came on board long after the film was finished, four years in fact. I had no idea it was such a polarizing group!

Some used this tweet to question the extent to which Sia had really done her proclaimed research.

Finally, there's backlash over the way Sia was speaking to criticisms, especially those coming from autistic people. In total, she replied to people over 40 times — dismissing tweets as "bullshit" and saying that people hadn't seen the whole film. One example came when one user suggested that there could have been a greater effort to include autistic actors:

@EmilyPember @supportingsia @Kris10Parisi @autisticbruce @Variety @Sia @dominickevans Several autistic actors, myself included, responded to these tweets. We all said we could have acted in it on short notice. These excuses are just that- excuses. The fact of the matter is zero effort was made to include anyone who is actually autistic. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs

And Sia responded with this:

@HelenAngel @EmilyPember @supportingsia @Kris10Parisi @autisticbruce @Variety @dominickevans Maybe you’re just a bad actor.

the fucking state of how sia is responding to autistic people with valid criticisms of her film...we’re all adorable and easily fetishised and fun to make movies about until we speak lmao 🙃

We'll keep you posted if there's any more developments.