Dear Sia and Hollywood, Stop Hiring Ableds to Play Autistic People
“Music” is a film coming out soon directed and written by musician Sia. It stars Maddie Ziegler as a non-speaking autistic character whose special interest is, you guessed it, music. Sia, after posting the trailer on Twitter, started receiving backlash from the autistic and disability communities, which I think is well deserved.
Ziegler did mention in an article that she researched autism in order to portray it. No amount of research is enough to understand how their neurological system works. Autistics don’t get many chances to be heard. It also hurts a little bit to see a neurotypical imitate stimming, even if it is an homage rather than an insult. Autistics are all so different. We all have different sensory issues and stimming habits. I don’t think it is fair to see a neurotypical represent us because of this. It feels like they are just embodying stereotypes, like they are lumping all autistics together.
I think one of the things that upset me most was when Sia tweeted it would have been cruel to cast someone who was actually at that level of functioning, so she made the executive decision to try and represent the autistic community the best she could. That sentence alone is the exact opposite of supporting and representing us. So many people look at us and assume what we can do and handle. Sia claimed that the autistic actor would have been stressed and overwhelmed. That would have been the perfect opportunity to adapt to the actor and make accommodations.
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 (@Sia) November 20, 2020
Imager courtesy of Sia’s YouTube Channel