Why The Internet Is Mad At Sia
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Why The Internet Is Mad At Sia

A simple misunderstanding on the surface reveals itself to be a spiraling hole of ableism and ego when examining the details of Sia's upcoming movie, Music (2021).

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Why The Internet Is Mad At Sia
Twitter.com

If you're a pop music fan, you may have been excited to see the newly-released trailer for Australian pop singer Sia's upcoming movie last week. Her movie, Music, which is expected to debut in early 2021, tells a story of a young woman with non-verbal autism who communicates with her new guardian by using a tablet. According to Sia, this movie is supposed to be about creativity, the struggles of living with autism, and finding your voice. There is, it seems, just one problem: Sia has cast a non-disabled actor, Maddie Ziegler, to play the role of a disabled character.

Shortly after the trailer was released, disability activists, autism activists, and fans across the internet spoke out against this hiring choice. They argued that a movie that truly wishes to represent a community and situation that is so widely misunderstood should have a lead actor who knows what it is like to live that life. Instead of taking the criticism with grace or nuance, however, Sia lashed out at the fans who questioned her casting choice. Over the course of several days, Sia dug herself further into a hole, saying that she had initially tried to work with a neurodivergent actor who ultimately could not handle the stress of the role. She insisted that "it felt more compassionate" to use a neurotypical actor instead. When an actor with autism tweeted that she, along with several other actors with autism, was available for the part on short notice, Sia tagged all of the actors and replied "maybe you're just a bad actor."

As if this wasn't bad enough, when those tweets were met with more hurt and confusion by her fans, Sia whined that she did, in fact, cast several neurodivergent actors in the movie. "I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk," she huffed on Twitter, "and not as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts but s [sic.] as doctors, nurses and singers. " It seems that Sia wanted praise for doing the bare minimum-- not demonizing people with autism. And in the flourish that burned any bridge that she may have hoped to save with the neurodivergent community, Sia claimed to have "spent three f***ing years" doing research for the film. This sentiment came as a shock, as the film's biggest collaborator was Autism Speaks, an organization that stigmatizes and disempowers people with autism. There are tweets dating back to April where Sia's fans have told her how bad the organization was for autism activism, and three years of research on autism would undoubtedly uncover the depth of misinformation and stigmatization that Autism Speaks facilitates. Yet Sia insisted that she " had no idea it was such a polarizing group!" and has continued to frame herself and her movie as unflawed and tragically misunderstood.

This is disturbing, but not surprising. While Sia claims to have made this movie as an insight into the struggles of life with autism, it has become painfully clear that, in fact, this movie is meant to be a feel-good, pat-on-the-back kind of film intended for the abled gaze. Sia portrays Music, the neurodivergent character, as a sort of manic pixie dream girl who serves as a device to facilitate the development of the characters around her. Furthermore, Music does not seem to have agency in this film, either. It is pretty clear why so many people are mad at Sia and even supporting a boycott of the film: Sia wrote a movie that uses the autistic character as a prop, hired a non-autistic actor to play the role, refused to take constructive criticism, and collaborated with an organization that actively perpetuated harmful stereotypes and misinformation about people with autism.

To find out more about how you can support empowering autism organizations, visit autisticadvocacy.org and awnnetwork.org.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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