Musician Sia has been dismissing constructive feedback on Twitter after releasing the trailer to her upcoming movie, Music, this past week. The movie, slated to be released in 2021, follows the story of an autistic adolescent who views the world in music. However, the leading actress is a neurotypical dancer, Maddie Ziegler – someone who autistic. This is the singer’s directorial debut in the film industry.
What is Music?
Sia describes her film as “a love letter to caregivers and to the autism community” on Twitter, but people disagree. While Sia claims to have good intentions with her creation of Music, the autism rights activism community has different ideas.
Thousands of Twitter users have replied to Sia’s movie release announcement, the majority of them asking about one hot topic. Why isn’t the lead a neurodivergent actress? Sia replied in a series of tweets explaining her reasoning but often missing the mark in the eyes of the autism rights activism community.
Sia’s Twitter defense
Her word choice continues to add fuel to the fire, especially with her explanation about how she describes the main character.
“I’ve never referred to music as disabled. Special abilities is what I’ve always said”Sia via Twitter
Many criticized her usage of the term “special abilities,” especially due to the “infantile” connotations of the word. This proved to some that she lacked qualifications related to speaking on a marginalized group she is not a member of. In response, Sia defended her choices with the argument that she “worked very closely with two neuroatypical friends.”
As people continued to explain how this wasn’t enough and that her casting choices were offensive to the community, she began to tweet with more aggression. *Language Warning*
“Grrrrrrrrrr. Fuckity fuck why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY.”Sia via Twitter
Regarding her casting, Sia explained that she had been working with a neurodivergent actress before Ziegler. However, Sia continued to say that the non-verbal actress before Ziegler “found it unpleasant and stressful” to work on the movie. She cites this as the reason for casting Ziegler.
More Twitter users criticized Sia for failing to provide an accessible work environment and accommodations to keep the actress comfortable. She continued her defense by acknowledging the other thirteen participating actors with disabilities who weren’t cast in unfavorable roles.
The pinnacle of her angry tweets garnered social media attention on November 20th with her response to Twitter user @HelenAngel. The user explained that she and other neurodivergent actors responded to casting calls and were able to work on short notice. Sia simply responded by saying, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”
Other responses to Sia
As of now, eighteen-year-old Maddie Ziegler has not commented on the situation following Sia’s Twitter tirade. She is known, among other things, for her work on Dance Moms as well as her lengthy appearances with Sia dating back to the Chandelier music video.
While she has not spoken up, autism activists have. A petition has been created to cancel the movie that has almost 1,000 signatures. The petition cites the offensive nature of the pending film as a big proponent of its opposition. However, the blurb contradicts Sia’s statements with the claim that “no autistic individuals were consulted.” Sia’s tweets read otherwise.
This brings many questions that still need to be answered. Is this movie an acceptable portrayal or ableist? Who needs to be held accountable? Finally, what does this mean for the autism rights activist community if the movie releases as planned?