Sia has released a trailer for her new film ‘Music’ that she directed. It depicts an autistic girl played by Maddie Ziegler. Many autistic people expressed their concern on Twitter, saying they feel mocked. Maddie is a neurotypical actor playing an autistic character, and therefore is imitating autistic body language and facial expressions.
Twitter users have further mentioned that it is not just the casting of an able bodied person that makes this film problematic, but the fact that Sia is working with an organisation called ‘Autism Speaks’. Many have pointed out the oppressive nature of the organisation, noting that they use ‘ableist language constantly’, and are therefore more harmful towards Autistic people than beneficial.
She's also working with Autism $peaks for the film. An organization that believes you can cure autism and uses ableist language constantly! Ppl have compared them to PETA but for humans. Fuck Sia
— Lilith Mobley (@bunni_bunbuns) November 22, 2020
Sia has gone on to claim that she did not realise ‘Autism Speaks’ was such a polarising group, but perhaps she should have done her research? If Sia conducted a research group and had autistic people involved in the film that it supposedly represents, then this issue would not have arose.
A lack of understanding
Sia’s lack of understanding of the frustrations of the autistic community is clear in her recent tweet…
It is clear that Sia’s new film is very harmful towards the Autistic community. It perpetuates a damaging stereotype, belittles and demoralises autistic people through language such as ‘magical little girl’ as well as using an able bodied actor. Sia and Maddie Ziegler are both going to profit off the dehumanisation of autistic people. There are many autistic actors who could have played the role. However, Sia’s decision to chose an able-bodied actor without considering the impact this would have on the autistic community consequently trivialises their lived experience.
You can check the trailer here. In this video you can see the great extent to which this is problematic, and how the depiction of the autistic character is degrading…