Sia’s Movie Faces Backlash

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The poster for Sia’s movie “Music”.

Famous musician Sia released her new film Music on Feb. 12, and it has already been nominated for several Golden Globes. That includes a nomination for best picture (musical/comedy category), and a best actress nomination for Kate Hudson, who played Zu, the main character’s half-sister.

Critics aren’t happy, and it shows with the 11% freshness rating that the movie received on a well-known review aggregator called Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie features Maddie Ziegler as the main character, Music, who is a teenager on the autism spectrum. Critics took issue with that at once; they believe that Ziegler shouldn’t be playing a nonverbal, autistic character because she is neurotypical. Most people agree that the role should have gone to a neurodivergent actress. A group of neurodivergent actors spoke out on Twitter, stating that they would have happily taken the role, especially because they would have been able to offer a more accurate portrayal of autism than Ziegler could.

When confronted by them, Sia claimed that the autistic actress that had been hired before Ziegler “found it extremely stressful and overwhelming”. This suggests that Sia wasn’t willing to accommodate the actress to make filming easier for her, and replaced her with her god-daughter instead. This is far from Ziegler’s first project with Sia, which led to theories that it was Sia’s plan all along to replace the first actress with her.

To make matters worse, Sia’s film features Music being physically restrained, which is a harmful practice to employ when attempting to stop an autism meltdown. These meltdowns shouldn’t be stopped; people have died from being restrained during them. Instead, autistics should be allowed the space they need to calm down. This represents another issue with Sia’s movie: it seems to focus on “fixing” or “bettering” autistics, whose differences should be embraced.

Here’s what the singer had to say about it on Twitter:

“I promise, have been listening. The motion picture MUSIC will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie,” Sia tweeted, followed by the warning, which states: “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.”

She has since decided to remove the restraint scenes from all public screenings of the movie.

Sia declared on Twitter that she consulted Autism Speaks — an autism advocacy organization in the United States — when making this film. This served to further enrage viewers, as Autism Speaks is known for working to “cure” autism, as opposed to acknowledging the people on the spectrum as regular human beings. As described by AWN Network, it’s a known hate group. Sia swore that she wasn’t aware of that before collaborating with them, despite having said earlier that she’d done years of research before beginning to make this movie.

She has posted her apology to the neurodivergent community on Twitter, saying that she had “listened to the wrong people” and that her “research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough”.

The backlash Sia faced for her movie has escalated to the point that the singer has deleted Twitter and gone silent on the matter. It’s not likely that she’ll remove the movie entirely, but fans and critics remain hopeful.