"I'm sorry"

Sia’s debut feature film ‘Music’ caused chaos and outrage due to its portrayal of autism. This led people in requesting a petition being signed more than 18,000 times for it to be cancelled. The film starring Kate Hudson aka Zu, a newly sober drug dealer, introduces disability through her half-sister Music played by Maddie Ziegler. Viewers were quick to criticize once the first trailer was out, stating that a non-disabled actor shouldn’t be cast when the character has a disability.

Originally, Sia said that she “tried working with a beautiful young girl” who was on the autism scope, however the girl found it tough to cope calling the experience “unpleasant and stressful” leading to Ziegler’s casting.

Twitter Comments

As judgments for her decision grew, so did Sia’s Twitter responses. She blast multiple threads of defense responding to critics stating the reasons for her choice. One reply went towards an autistic actor who said they would have “gladly acted in the movie”, Sia replied: “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.” The autism community followed with a series of comments shading the singer.

Lack of Diversity

The major accusations coming from viewers were based on giving the lead role to a neurotypical actor. The lack of opportunity towards neurodivergent actors doesn’t allow them to rise to the surface and prove their talent. Sia responded in a frustrated manner saying, “I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as f****** prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers. F****** sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.”

Maddie Ziegler

Even though people have now watched the movie, the criticism is yet to disappear. Instead, it has only escalated reflecting on the stereotypical portrayal of the character, Music. Ziegler’s performance mirrored a cliche outlook on this ‘category’ of people, casting them out by the exaggerated gestures and expressions. In January, Sia was interviewed by an Australian talk show, The Project, revealing that Ziegler was aware that her performance may cause criticism. “She [Ziegler] just said, ‘I don’t want anyone to think I’m making fun of them…And I bald-facedly said, ‘I won’t let that happen.”

An Apology

Besides the controversy, it was announced February 2nd that ‘Music’ had been nominated for two Golden Globes. The categories were for best picture in the musical or comedy category and best actress for Kate Hudson. Just before deleting her Twitter account (February 2nd), she informed the audience that the film will have a warning at its head saying: MUSIC in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. She wrote, “I promise, I have been listening.”

She continued, “There are autistic occupational therapists that specialize in sensory processing who can be consulted to explain safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help with meltdown safety.” She ended her line of Tweets with, “I’m sorry.”

Ratings

Film critics didn’t hesitate to spread the negative word. Specifically, Guardian film critic, Simran Hans stated, “Ziegler… is not herself on the autistic spectrum. It’s a problem, especially given the cartoonishness of her portrayal, which sees her gurning, grimacing and mumbling through her scenes…The lyrics, jaunty platitudes about Music’s “magic mind” and failing body, are offensive too.” Rotten Tomatoes has a 15% rating of the film followed by IMDB’s also low rating of 3.1/10.