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.
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.
I’m watching Sia’s movie, in order to write a detailed & chronological review (so that nobody else watches it out of curiosity).
But for now, I just want the public to see a few things that speak for themselves, starting with this image: pic.twitter.com/jPqtd5tLOz
— The Autisticats (@autisticats) February 12, 2021
SIA IS FUCKING SICK????? pic.twitter.com/SxxOgIqSac
— pattie (@horanftyonce) February 13, 2021
I'm only now seeing the screen grabs of how autism is physically portrayed in 'Music', that 'love letter to the autistic community' by @Sia and it's making me feel like years of advocacy by ordinary autistic people has been wiped out by a single thoughtless act by a celebrity.
— Pete Wharmby (@commaficionado) February 14, 2021
so I just watched the whole clip from Sia's new movie Music and OH. MY GOD???? It's. SO BAD??? like the sensory overload and the exaggerated mannerisms holy shit this is so bad.
— Abby (@abb3rz07) February 15, 2021
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.”
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.”
// sia , ableism
the way maddie ziegler was basically forced into the role of music and then ended up crying on set for fear that she was mocking autistic ppl and sia simply said "i won't let that happen" makes this movie worse than the dumpster fire it already is.
— bk (@BEDROCKB0YS) February 12, 2021
The next thing I want the general public to see is this clip from the opening scene.
CW: strobing lights, overwhelming visuals, caricature of autistic mannerisms pic.twitter.com/p8dzP66HFC
— The Autisticats (@autisticats) February 12, 2021
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.”
tw // ableism
please don't blame maddie ziegler for this movie as she was 14 at the time of filming, and this clip shows she was pressured into acting it anyway despite her knowing that the film was harmful and wanting not to act in it https://t.co/bXBB67KcoM
— Kasumi @ certified xiao haver (@K4SUM1CCH1) February 13, 2021
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.