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Famous singer-songwriter Sia has faced backlash for her recent film directorial debut, Music. Critics have almost unanimously agreed that her movie is harmful due to her stereotypical, negative depiction of autism. If you haven’t heard about the backlash, here are some details on why everyone hates Sia’s movie Music.
Bad representation of autism
The musical film Music features big Hollywood names but poor representation of autism. Maddie Ziegler plays Music, the main character, a biracial non-speaking girl with autism. Kate Hudson plays Zu, Music’s older sister. Leslie Odom Jr. plays Ebo, Music and Zu’s neighbor who is also a boxer.
Critics and autistic people say that Sia’s depiction of autism dramatizes and stereotypes autistic behavior. One scene that faced especially harsh backlash depicts Zu forcing Music onto the ground face-down in a prone restraint, an often-deadly type of restraint.
Prone restraints have given children with autism post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. Many autism advocates have pointed out that the prone restraint scene in Music should have been excluded due to the method’s ineffectiveness and dangers.
Many actors with autism reached out to Sia on social media to tell her that she should have cast an actual person with autism to play Music. Helen Zbihlyj, an actor with autism, tweeted that several actors with autism, including herself, contacted Sia: “We all said we could have acted in it on short notice.” Sia responded, “You have no [expletive] idea because you weren’t there and haven’t seen the movie.” She then added, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”
Later in a talk show, Sia said she refuses to do any creative projects without Ziegler. She also admitted her casting choice was due to ableism and nepotism. Additionally, Sia revealed that Ziegler felt uneasy about playing an autistic character and cried on the first day of rehearsals. Ziegler was worried that viewers would think she was making fun of autistic people.
Another factor that raised backlash was that Sia consulted with the organization Autism Speaks for her movie. Despite the organization’s name, people with and without autism have criticized Autism Speaks for years, as it has a long past of blaming family stress on Autistic children. Zoe Gross, director of operations at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, has said that Autism Speaks is “an organization without autistic leadership whose advocacy priorities are in opposition to the autistic community.”
Horrible reviews and backlash
Music received many low reviews: On Rotten Tomatoes, Music has a 9 percent critic score and 14 percent audience score. Many people have pointed out that Ziegler’s character Music is mimicry. One reviewer called it “ableist minstrelsy.”
On February 3, when the Golden Globes nominees were announced, Music received even more backlash upon being nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Hudson was also nominated Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. People with autism and people who believed that the movie is ableist said that the nomination was proof of ableism.
Kate Hudson addressed the backlash
Hudson said that she believed the cast and filmmakers had good intentions ever since Sia started shooting the movie years ago. Hudson also said that she believes it’s important to have an ongoing dialogue about neurotypical actors portraying neurodivergent characters.
Sia apologized and deleted her Twitter
After Sia lashed out at many people in the autism community and people who gave her movie poor reviews, she apologized for the use of restraints in Music. She also said she listened to the “wrong people” during her research for the film. Soon after, Sia deleted her Twitter account.