Singer-songwriter Sia released her movie Music on Feb. 12 and has sparked copious amounts of controversy and criticism due to her wrongful portrayal of the autistic community in the movie.
Music is about a nonverbal autistic girl, Music, that begins to live with her half-sister Zu, who is a recovering alcoholic. Music is played by Maddie Ziegler and Zu is played by Kate Hudson. The film is supposedly centered on family and finding a voice for oneself despite life’s obstacles, but does nothing to achieve that, much less represent disorders and addiction.
Upon the release of Music’s trailer in late 2020, Sia received criticism about her decision to cast a neurotypical actress for the role of a nonverbal autistic teenager.
Over recent years, the autistic community has spoken out about their discontent with the misrepresentation and lack of inclusion in media. Since then, more awareness has been brought to this issue and led to more representation of people with autism, like in Pixar’s new short, Loop, which cast its first non-verbal autistic character.
However, Sia detrimentally failed to do that in Music. In addition to this, she failed to appropriately address autistic people as the preferred “disabled,” and instead calling them “people with special abilities.” The problem with calling someone with autism or Down Syndrome “special” indicates a feeling of superiority and is patronizing to the autistic community.
All of these issues, among others, within Music were criticized and spread on media platforms. In response, Sia took to Twitter to curse critics out and worsen the situation with her lack of remorse.
This movie-musical does nothing to address and correctly portray global issues like addiction, injustice, or autism. It is just another example of performative activism in media, so that Sia can preserve her image and vanity.
After all of the backlash and raised awareness about authentic representation from the autistic community, it is appalling that Sia’s Music was nominated for a 2021 Golden Globe under the Best Musical or Comedy category.
The criticism of this film by the autistic community is necessary to raise awareness about issues concerning representation and awareness, in the hopes of change. After this controversy, it is not expected, but hopeful that neurotypical people will be more considerate of how they perceive and attempt to represent the autistic community.