It was surprising when none other than Sia, the seemingly shy musician announced she had a film on the horizon, moreover that it was set to be about a girl who is highly autistic. Because it seemingly was both high production, had an authentic storyline from someone from the disabled community and it had a Sia soundtrack extraordinaire, it was hard not to be excited.
I mean it was set out to be something heart warming and forward thinking of the disabled community. But when the singer announced none other than her prodigy Maddie Ziegler was playing the lead ‘Music’, people speculated this film wasn’t going to meet expectations that it had set out to achieve. The trailer was met with a flurry of fans who accused the singer and her lead as ableists, for not casting the vast quantity of actors, who are already at a minority, for the role they’d have been much better suited to.
And to make matters worse, Sia herself wasn’t acting quite ideally to the communities she had offended. In a flurry of now deleted tweets, Sia swore, said an autistic person wouldn’t have been able to handle the tight filming schedule and that she had a series of autistic actors throughout the film to justify her lead casting role.
Ziegler is not on the autism spectrum herself, and in all honesty, it shows. Perhaps it’s the starkly offensive facial expressions she uses during the course of the movie, or the fact her character is greatly exaggerated, but the actor adds no authenticity to the role. Plus there are multiple scenes where she is wearing box braids, where there have been calls of cultural appropriation.
And the storyline, is well something. The plot towards the end of the movie, barely even focuses on Ziegler, instead opting for her to be a stepping-stone for neurotypical people to achieve their goals of self-realization. The whole plot just seems to revolve around her alcoholic, drug addicted sister, played by Kate Hudson, and her journey of learning to become a better person than her evil ways. It barely revolves around Music’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and human ability to learn about her storyline, and reduces her to nothing but a side character at the end.
This isn’t even getting to the bizarre visuals from the music scenes. I spent so long of the movie, wishing that the songs weren’t quite so long, and more context to the situation would be found. The dancing also was accompanied by bizarre costumes, bright colours, and weird sets. Not even mentioning the bright flashing lights, which when a high number of people on the spectrum suffer from epilepsy and seizures, seems counter intuitive.
The film also showed multiple times Ziegler (Music) being restrained during a meltdown, a method known for being a lethal form of restraint, resulting in suffocation and death. Autistic people can also suffer from PTSD, and mental health problems from using restraints. Meltdowns are not tantrums, or something that needs telling off, rather they are something that needs space, and slowly working through.
A number of the celebrities associated with the film, including Ziegler and Leslie Odom jr. in recent light have wiped the slate clean of the associated bad press from the movie, but this hasn’t stopped them from receiving heavy backlash on social media for being associated with their roles.
Sia herself discussed how she was working closely during the movie with Autism First, a charity known for advocating a series of harmful resources for the autism community.
It’s not like there aren’t an abundance of autistic actors she could’ve used, as she said, she did use a series of neuro-divergent actors, so why she didn’t believe they would’ve suited the lead role is beyond question. This tops off Sia’s obsession with the much younger Ziegler in full fashion, after the weird chandelier video that sexualised a then very young Maddie fresh out of Dance Moms, in a skin body suit.
The singer asked us to watch her movie before judging. And after watching, it was a bunch of crap not worth to invest your money into viewing. The whole film screams offensive, with an air of guilt, that even the celebrities are trying to wipe from their list of credentials. Anyone got a wig to hide behind by any chance?