Sia Defends Casting Non-Disabled Actor To Portray Autistic Character In Her New Movie
Sia has defended casting a non-disabled actor to portray an autistic character in her new film.
The singer-songwriter dropped the trailer for Music last night, a movie written and directed by Sia herself. It follows a ‘newly sober woman (Kate Hudson) figuring out her place in the world when she learns she is to become the sole guardian of her half-sister, Music (Maddie Ziegler), a young girl on the autism spectrum’.
The Grammy-nominee has since faced backlash for casting Ziegler, with campaigners also taking aim at the film’s offensive stereotypes. A petition has since been launched asking that the release of the film be cancelled.
You can view the trailer for Music below:
The National Autistic Society wrote in a tweet, ‘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.’
Sia responded in a series of tweets, ‘Obviously I feel really sad that I feel I’ve upset people and especially people on the spectrum. My intention was love love love.’
She continued, ‘This was to represent a low functioning gal with a magical imagination and intuition. I feel I cast the right person. Super great for the ‘type’ I’m trying to represent. She was so delicate and sensitive and conscious. Her peers on the spectrum loved her.’
On the petition, Hannah Marshall wrote, ‘In addition, no autistic individuals were consulted on the film. Stereotypes are used throughout the trailer, and the visuals are nauseating to autistic people who would’ve wanted to see the film. As an autistic individual, I am asking that this film is canceled. It is extremely offensive to myself and other autistic individuals.’
Sia had sought advice from Autism Speaks while making the film, a controversial group often described as ableist and seen as harmful to the autistic community.
In other tweets, Sia – full name Sia Kate Isobelle Furler – has replied to critics, explaining her reasoning for the casting and trying to assure people that the handling of the film is appropriate.
Actress Bronagh Waugh wrote, ‘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.’
She replied, ‘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.’
Sia reportedly auditioned a ‘beautiful young girl non-verbal on the spectrum’ but she found it ‘unpleasant and stressful’, hence Ziegler’s casting. Earlier, evidently frustrated with the criticisms, Sia wrote, ‘Grrrrrrrrrr. F*ckity f*ck why don’t you watch my film before you j*dge it? FURY.’
In another tweet, she wrote, ‘The movie is both a love letter to caregivers and to the autism community. I have my own unique view of the community, and felt it is underrepresented and compelled to make it. If that makes me a shit I’m a shit, but my intentions are awesome.’
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