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The Dangers of Sia’s Film ‘Music,’ and How You Can Help

Music Movie Poster

On Feb. 10, Australian artist Sia released her film Music, in which a woman named Zu learns she is to become the sole guardian of her half-sister Music, who is on the autism spectrum. While it may appear that Music seems like an innocent film including autism representation, that is not the case. Sia’s film is a dangerous and ableist film which negatively portrays autistic characteristics, which if not made aware of, could harm autistic people in the future.

The first public awareness of Music was in Nov. 2020, when Sia released the trailer. Already there were problems. We could see that the main character Music was played by Maddie Ziegler, who is not autistic. The trailer saw Ziegler imitating autistic body language and facial expressions.

After the trailer was released, many people in the autistic community were outraged. To them, it felt like a slap in the face because many autistic people naturally move in the way Ziegler does in the trailer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the fact that Ziegler seemed like she was mocking autistic people hurt. It felt like a dehumanization. This body language is not something that neurotypical people should copy.

After the movie, many people tweeted at Sia over the trailer, saying how she was wrong to do this project, how she should cancel it, and that if Sia wanted to release Music, that she should have gotten an autistic actor instead.

Sia reacted in the worst way possible, lashing out against the negative feedback, saying that the people should watch the film before criticizing it, and even replied to an autistic actor’s tweet saying that maybe they didn’t get the role because they were a bad actor. Sia was basically stating that autistic people shouldn’t be complaining over a film about autism, they know what it’s like to be autistic more so than someone like Sia would; it makes them who they are.

More information about the movie would be released including interviews that Sia did. Sia said that Ziegler was scared to do the movie, and that she cried during rehearsals.

In an interview with ABC News, Sia admitted she lied to Ziegler regarding her role in Music. Sia said that casting Ziegler was nepotism. ”I mean, it is ableism, I guess, as well, but it’s actually nepotism because I can’t do a project without her. I don’t want to. I wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her.”

“And I bold-faced-ly said, ‘I won’t let that happen.’ And last week I realized I couldn’t really protect her from that. I thought I could. I realized there are some things I can’t protect her from.” – Sia

Many autistic people don’t blame Ziegler at all. She was forced to make this project by Sia, and she was 14, she didn’t have any power to get out of her contract. Ziegler did the best she could. Apparently, she studied hours of videos of autistic stims so she could accurately imitate them for the movie.

The blame goes to Sia. Why is it that Sia basically forced Ziegler into doing this film? She admitted that she couldn’t see Music being made without Ziegler, even when she was concerned about mocking people.

When it comes down to the research to the movie, Sia falsely stated that she collaborated with Autism Speaks to make Music. After Sia stated this, Autism Speaks said that this was a lie, and said that autistic people should portray neurodiverse characters.

Even if Autism Speaks did work with Sia, this just shows how little research she did while making Music because Autism Speaks is not an autism-friendly organization. Autism Speaks has a vile history with lots of controversy, in which they make autism sound like a horrible disorder. For example, they once released a campaign ad in which they said autism takes over your child’s soul like AIDS and diabetes combined and makes your marriage fail. Their whole campaign was that they wanted to find a cure for autism. There are far better autism organizations than AS, like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network.

Lastly, one of the more dangerous aspects of Music is a restraint scene. In the film, Music has several meltdowns and to combat this, she is held down in restraint. This is a dangerous and deadly way to handle an autistic meltdown. Several autistic people have died due to restrained meltdowns, including Eric Palsa, Max Benson, Corey Foster, Faith Finley, and many others. If neurotypical people think this is the best way to handle an autistic meltdown, it could lead to the deaths of many more autistic people.

There are far better ways to handle a meltdown, including giving someone time to recover, calmly and patiently assisting them when they are ok, and placing them in a quiet, safe place if possible.

Overall, Music should not have been made at all. Sia’s research into the movie was careless and ignorant. Don’t watch Music at all. The less people that see this film, the better. If you want to know what happens in the movie, look at reviews written by autistic people, there are many out there. One great example is a review by Sara Luterman. The more people that are made aware about this film, the better.

So what can you do to help spread awareness concerning Music? There are several ways to help. First, listen and follow autistic people. Watch films and TV shows with autistic representation, including Listen (Communication First YouTube project), Pixar’s Loop, Love On the Spectrum, Atypical, and The A Word. Lastly, you can just share this information.

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    Grace RyanFeb 25, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Amazing writing! I learned a lot from this!

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The Dangers of Sia’s Film ‘Music,’ and How You Can Help