Sia’s new film


Courtesy of Unsplash

Sarah Larson, Arts and Community Writer

Two weeks ago, a trailer was released for Sia’s new film titled Music. This movie follows the character Zu, played by Kate Hudson, who is a newly sober drug dealer who starts having to take care of her teenage half-sister who is autistic named Music, played by Maddie Ziegler. Zu struggles with this new responsibility and ends up getting help from their neighbor named Ebo, played by Leslie Odom Jr. This movie contains fantasy musical sequences to show how Music views the world. Sia had announced this film project in 2015 at the Venice Film Festival and even this early in the creation of this film, Maddie Ziegler was set to be cast. Music was shot in mid-2017 and is set to be released in February 2021. Sia also wrote ten songs for this movie, three of which have been released as singles already. She also plans to release the full studio album titled Music – Songs From and Inspired by The Motion Picture before the release of the film on February 12 of next year.  

While the main storyline of this movie seems to be quite endearing with a positive message, this did not stop the criticism. This criticism mainly came from the decision to cast Maddie Ziegler as Music who is autistic while Ziegler is not. Advocates claimed that this portrayal of autism was inaccurate and offensive with some saying that this portrayed people with disabilities as broken and in need of fixing. People on Twitter were also questioning why she didn’t cast someone who was on the spectrum to play the character Music. Another problem people had was how Sia responded to some of this criticism. At first, she seemed somewhat respectful in her response and she was just confused by the negativity. However, after a while, she started to get a bit more aggressive with her replies. When asked why she didn’t cast someone who was on the spectrum she claimed that she had done this but that she found it unpleasant and stressful and when one tweeter said that she and a bunch of other autistic actors would have been up for the role she replied with “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.” Another moment she lashed out was when tweeted “Grrrrrrrrrr. F***ty f*** why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY” which prompted a response from Marlee Matlin in which she stated that this shouldn’t be the response to such an important topic and that she should listen to the criticism. One last source of backlash was the fact that for this film Sia worked with the organization Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is known for having polarizing and exploitative viewpoints. Some of the more notable things they have done include having openly seeking a cure up until 2016, comparing autism to diseases such as aids, cancer, and diabetes, and making available a 100-day kit that encouraged parents to grieve over an autism diagnosis. This organization is also regarded as a hate group by the autistic community. If you want to know more about this organization, I would personally recommend watching the YouTuber, iilluminaughtii’s multiple videos on Autism speaks because they are what opened my eyes to how bad this organization is. Rather than Autism Speaks, Sia could have worked with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) or the Autistic Women & nonbinary network because these organizations are autistic led, against abuse, have minority representation, and a majority of their funds go towards the needs of autistic people. 

Sarah Larson is a Dakota Student Art and Community Writer. She can be reached at [email protected]