Sia´s ¨Music¨ strikes the wrong tone

Sia’s latest film ¨Music¨, has certainly raised eyebrows and brought severe backlash from the autistic community.

Grace Hepner (ESF), Santa Fe Staff Writer

Sia’s latest film ¨Music¨, has certainly raised eyebrows and brought severe backlash from the autistic community. The film was released February 10, 2021 and the response has been intense to say the least. 

Within the film’s trailer, Maddie Ziegler, who has starred in multiple Sia films previously, portrays an autistic character. Many question why Sia chose to have Ziegler play the character, instead of an actual autistic individual, especially with so many autistic actors and actresses in Hollywood. People feel that having an autistic actress would create an accurate portrayal of autism’s effects on life. According to the CDC, an estimated 5,437,988 Americans fall onto the autism scale. This community also feels that casting an autistic actress, instead of Ziegler, would give representation to a community that is oftentimes overlooked. It is no secret that representation is one of the most important forms of alliance to marginalized communities.

This doesn’t just pertain to Sia’s film and the resulting ethical conversations. Representation is desperately needed for every minority group. Shonda Rhimes, the creator and producer of many modern day shows, emphasizes just how important representation is by casting those that fall into marginalized categories. Representation paves the path for equality. It breaks down barriers, and widens everyone’s view on the world. Issues that at one time would be brushed aside are now able to be brought to light. 

Another discussion that has risen from the shocking film’s trailer is how inaccurately Maddie Ziegler portrayed this autistic character. There is such a wide spectrum for every mental illness, but this is especially the case for autism. Within the film, Ziegler “dances” and widely emphasizes each movement that she makes. The complications autism present in day-to-day life differ from the ones that Ziegler portrayed. According to Autistic Self Advocacy Network, autism differs for every individual diagnosed. Some can partake in activities that those without autism perform such as talking and holding conversations. It is a drastic oversimplification of what those within the autistic spectrum have to go through daily. Critics would call her acting a “disgrace” and a “slap in the face” to those with autism or to those who have been involved to any degree in the life of anyone who has dealt with autism. It is important to note, however, that Ziegler was a minor at the time and under contract, so she had no choice. Conversations have recently surfaced that show Ziegler being extremely uncomfortable with the film. She didn’t want to offend anyone and was anxiously expecting backlash. Sia on the other hand brushed her worries aside saying that ¨no one will think that.¨

While the controversy continues to spread, something that all parties of the conversation can agree on is that Hollywood is still missing the mark in representation of marginalized communities. It would not have been difficult to cast an autistic actress. Instead, Sia chose Ziegler. Regardless of how many times in the past Sia has properly represented other minorities, her new film sends a message that autism is not widespread enough to be talked about and properly portrayed. 

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