Sia has received a lot of backlash for casting a neurotypical actress as the autistic lead in her upcoming film, “Music.” This movie has been deemed extremely problematic by the autistic community. Sia seems to be dominating the narrative of this story, using her privilege not to help tell the story but to make it about herself. The production of this film is carried out in a way that insists people with autism do not have the ability to choose what is best for the community.
The research done by the actress playing the lead role, Maddie Zeigler, proves problematic as well. To prepare for her role, Zeigler watched YouTube videos of kids with autism having intense reactions to various overwhelming circumstances known as “meltdowns,” which were uploaded by their parents. Adults with autism have been trying to get those videos taken down from YouTube for years because it is a violation of privacy for a stranger to be able to view a child’s meltdown, which is a complete overload of the nervous system. These videos help paint people with autism as pity projects. Zeigler should have sought out a better way to prepare for the role, like consulting with someone who is autistic.
In all honesty, I did not know much about this movie when it first was announced. Thus, I did not know of anyone who was hurt or offended by it. I was able to see through social media that there was an outraged community offended by the film that was trying to amplify their voices. Films, music and art in general are beautiful things, but when you are trying to represent a certain group of people in your art, expect criticism. Representation in art can be a lovely venture, but when representing another group of people you do not identify with, you need to do all the research possible. Representation is important, but there is nothing more painful than watching a portrayal of a group you identify with being all wrong. It hurts to see a one-sided and weakly researched character that will then go on to be one of the few experiences people may have with that group of people. This is how stereotypes emerge and it needs to stop.
It all boils down to the fact that Sia is a very wealthy famous person with support from die-hard fans. Sia defends her methods for going about this movie but there are many unhappy voices not being heard. While her intentions may have been in the right place, that does not divert from the fact that the autistic community does not feel okay about this film. Sia’s fans continue to defend her good intentions, which is creating a divide on the Internet. There are those who are speaking out against those defending their favorite artist. This film will possibly go on to get positive feedback while the opinions of people with autism will be lost.
I am not a fan of cancel culture in any way. I think canceling people online is an ineffective and immature way of handling a conflict. Canceling someone altogether on the Internet does not allow for mistakes to be corrected. With Sia’s movie, I think mistakes need to be recognized. With any piece of artistic work, sometimes the first draft isn’t the one. Sometimes you need to hear constructive criticism and hurt voices and make changes.