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Sia criticized for portraying autism in film music




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After posting the first look at his first film, The music, Sia faces criticism on Twitter over the cinematic portrayal of autism. Many have disputed that Sia chose her longtime collaborator Maddie Ziegler as Music, described as a teenage girl with special needs in a press release for the film, which Sia directed and co-wrote. The teaser describes the music as non-verbal, and many have interpreted her as an autistic character, causing them to wonder why Sia didn’t choose an autistic actor. Sia replied to around 40 tweets criticizing the film and the cast. Dr Dawn-Joy Leong, who studies autism in art, tweeted, Disappointed with @Sia thought you would be more progressive and daring than that. I am #Autistic but also an artist. Creating disability work without input from people with disabilities is ableist and disdainful, whatever the good intentions. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs. Her tweet was one of around 40 that elicited a response from Sia, who againstI’m so sad and confused you think I haven’t searched and used my friends on the spectrum! So many assumptions.

Sia claimed in another TweeterI actually tried working with a beautiful non-verbal girl on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful. That’s why I chose Maddie. Reply to another tweet from The falls Bronagh Waugh, Sia added, I never called the music off. Special abilities are what I’ve always said, and putting someone at their functioning level was cruel, not nice, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community. She further claims she based the music entirely on my atypical neuro friend. He found it too stressful to be non-verbal, and I made this movie with nothing but love for him and his mother.

Many have accused Sia of making assumptions about people with autism and not looking for actors. Estelle Olivia tweetedI am a neurodivergent actor and writer with an MA in Fine Arts from a prestigious program. I know myself and a lot of other autistic actors and writers (many of whom are in this thread) would kill for a lead role in a star-studded movie. @HelenAngel addedSeveral autistic actors, including myself, responded to these tweets. We all said we could have acted on short notice. These excuses are just excuses. Sia replied, Holy bullshit. You have no fucking idea because you haven’t been there and you haven’t seen the movie. Then she added, Maybe you’re just a bad actor. In response to Tome Levi, theater physical security consultant, Sia claims, I chose thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans people, and not as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts, but as doctors, nurses and singers. Sad nobodys even saw the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place. People criticized more her for declining sex workers as fucking prostitutes.

Sia has also been criticized for working with the controversial the Autism Speaks charity, which some claim mistakenly compares autism to illnesses and does not involve people with autism in its work. Autism Speaks came on board long after the movie ended, four years in fact, Sia tweeted. I had no idea it was such a polarizing band! In a tweet, not answering anyone, wrote Sia, Grrrrrrrrrr. Holy shit why don’t you watch my movie before you judge it? FURY. The music is slated for a limited IMAX release in February 2021.

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