Sia had a strong reaction to some criticism she received over the trailer for her upcoming directorial film debut Music from the autism community, urging critics to see it before judging Maddie Ziegler’s lead character. “Grrrrrrrrrr. F–kity f–k why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY,” the singer tweeted after receiving backlash on Thursday to the minute-long preview that introduced Ziegler’s non-verbal character Music, who appears to communicate to the world through song and dance.
When Irish actress Bronagh Waugh tweeted, “Hi Sia, can I ask why you didn’t cast a disabled actor for this part? It’s pretty offensive the way you’ve chosen to portray this character. People with disabilities are not broken and don’t need fixing. Many of my friends have different disabilities and they are some of the —,” Sia responded, “I agree. I’ve never referred to music as disabled. Special abilities is what I’ve always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.”
The trailer does not explain why Music does not speak and makes no direct mention of her disability, but when another commenter asked the singer — who also wrote the script and 10 original songs for the accompanying album — “did you do any research or consult the community at all?,” suggesting it was “very condescending” to say it would be “cruel” to consult a disabled actor, Sia explained her process for prepping for the film.
“Duh. I spent three f—ing years researching,” she said, later adding that she was confused at the pushback since the character is entirely based on her neuro-atypical friend in response to another commenter who asked why it would be “cruel” to cast someone with the character’s abilities in place of Sia’s longtime foil/video avatar Ziegler. “He found it too stressful being non verbal, and I made this movie with nothing but love for him and his mother,” Sia wrote of the unnamed friend Music was modeled on in pushing back against a number of tweets decrying what commenters said was ableism on the singer’s part. “I think that’s why I’m so f—ing bummed.”
She later noted that there are “thirteen people on the spectrum in the movie,” writing “F—ing bull–it. You have no f–king idea because you weren’t there and haven”t seen the movie.” The National Autism Society also weighed in, saying Sia has, “got this one wrong. There are so many talented autistic actors out there – like Saskia, Alex, Max, and Holly who starred in our #AutismTMI films.”
There were, of course, also a number of people who praised Sia for representing autism on the screen. “The way these people speak when they have no idea about how the movie presents the autism , so stupid She is trying to give other messages She’s not trying to say that people with special abilities are broken She’s saying that they are special and have their beautiful perspectiv,” wrote one, with another adding, “where was that negative energy when netflix released atypical with main character played by non autistic person? where is that negative energy when gay characters are played by straight people ALL THE TIME?”
Sia also noted in the replies that she had two people on the spectrum advising her at all times and that she believes “the movie is both a love letter to caregivers and to the autism community… I believe this movie is beautiful, Will create more good than harm and if I’m wrong I’ll pay for it for the rest of my life.”
Check out the comments and the trailer below.
.@sia has got this one wrong. There are so many talented autistic actors out there – like Saskia, Alex, Max, and Holly who starred in our #AutismTMI films: https://t.co/f1aWSs2nXM https://t.co/Vsts6g8728
— National Autistic Society (@Autism) November 20, 2020
That feeling when you see a film cast a non-disabled person to play a disabled character…
We get angry. Then, we get glad to have the @HonTonyCoelho @NBCUniversal Media Scholarship to support actual disabled people who want to work in media & comms.https://t.co/1dlaLdNCvP
— AAPD (@AAPD) November 20, 2020