The Backlash Against Sia’s Autism Movie Explained

Music has turn into one of many 12 months’s most controversial movies, with viewers criticizing the directorial debut of singer Sia for its casting of an able-bodied, neurotypical individual within the lead function and for what they see as its stereotypical portrayal of individuals with autism.

In the movie, which was nominated for a Golden Globe for finest musical of comedy, Sia’s long-time collaborator Maddie Ziegler performs Music, a non-verbal younger lady on the autistic spectrum, who comes beneath the guardianship of her recovering addict half-sister Zu (performed by Kate Hudson.)

The controversy over the movie started when the trailer and first music video for the movie have been launched in November, with many taking to Twitter to ask why Sia had not employed somebody on the autistic spectrum to play the character.

This comes after an extended debate over whether or not able-bodied and/or neurotypical individuals ought to play disabled or neurodivergent characters. Actors have lengthy garnered awards for such portrayals, with actors like Eddie Redmayne (for The Theory of Everything), Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man) and Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot) profitable Oscars for such roles. Dozens of actors have been nominated for taking part in disabled or neurodivergent individuals over time, and but solely two disabled individuals have gained performing Oscars—Harold Russell, the star of 1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives who had each of his palms amputated, and deaf actor Marlee Maitlin for 1986’s Children of a Lesser God.

However, there have been growing requires disabled or neuro-divergent actors, who’ve lengthy been under-represented in Hollywood, to play these roles.

music sia autism
Maddie Ziegler in ‘Music.’
Vertical Entertainment

Addressing the criticisms of the casting of her long-term collaborator Ziegler on Twitter, Sia is mostly agreed to have made issues worse for herself. In certainly one of her first tweets when the controversy broke, she revealed: “I actually tried working with a beautiful young girl non-verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful. So that’s why I cast Maddie.”

Though this will likely have pacified a few of her critics, she adopted this up by insulting certainly one of her critics. One person, for instance, tweeted: “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.” To which Sia replied: “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”

She wrote that very same day: “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.”

Now, although, individuals have seen the film, and the criticism has not gone away. In reality, the controversy could have been worsened by the truth that individuals have been capable of see extra of Ziegler’s efficiency, which many have known as out for counting on stereotypical tropes about autistic individuals.

In an interview with Australian discuss present The Project in January, Sia revealed that Ziegler has been apprehensive concerning the function, saying: “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.'”

Per some movie critics, nonetheless, she did certainly let that occur. Guardian movie critic Simran Hans, for instance, summed up plenty of the detrimental critiques about Music when she wrote in a one-star assessment: “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 thoughts” and failing body, are offensive too.”

Hans is much from the one critic to haven’t appreciated the movie. The film presently has a 17 p.c score on Rotten Tomatoes, with the crucial consensus for the film calling it out for being, “offensive in its depiction of autism—and painfully misguided in essentially every respect.”

On The Project, Sia defended Ziegler’s casting by saying: “I realized it wasn’t ableism—I mean, it is ableism, I guess, as well—but it’s actually nepotism, because I can’t do a project without her. I don’t want to.”

In the identical interview, she claimed, “we sent [Ziegler’s performance] off to the Child Mind Institute, and she received a 100% as performance accuracy.”

Newsweek has reached out to the Child Mind Institute to confirm this declare and can replace this text if we get a response.

After the movie was launched, many viewers additionally criticized the movie for scenes that confirmed Music getting restrained. Whether or to not restrain an autistic youngster has been an enormous matter of debate amongst these with autism and their mother and father and carers over latest years, with many saying that the observe is traumatizing and might truly make a violent outburst worse.

In certainly one of her final tweets earlier than disabling her account, after Music acquired two Golden Globe nominations, Sia wrote: “I’m sorry. MUSIC in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. 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 w meltdown safety. I plan to remove the restraint scenes from all future printings. I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough.”

Music is on the market on-demand on digital leisure shops now.

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