Sia's New Film Sparks Backlash From Autism Community

By Paris Close

November 21, 2020

Sia is standing by her decision to cast an able-bodied actor as autistic in her new film.

The trailer for the pop star’s upcoming directional debut project, Music, released earlier this week and it featured dancer and longtime collaborator Maddie Ziegler cast as a character with autism and a love for music. (Ziegler is not autistic in real life.)

Ziegler's not being autistic in real life, however, became a point of outrage for many social media users and advocates of the autism community who accused Sia of excluding disabled and neuro diverse actors from telling their own narratives.

“This is cripping up and it’s really gross. if you want to tell stories about disabled people, pay disabled people to tell the story,” one user tweeted.

Someone else added, “This is totally unacceptable and there are no excuses, you should know better than to allow able bodied & neurotypical to represent the disabled community. It's incredibly offensive as is the [infantilization] of the character. And not even captioned. Don't release this.”

Sia did not take these comments standing down. In fact, she defended her casting choice and even replied to several followers.

“I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as f—ing prostitutes or drug addicts [but] as doctors, nurses and singers,” Sia tweeted. “F—ing sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place. … I spent three f—ing years researching, I think that's why I'm so f—ing bummed.”

When advised by another user to “consult actual autistic people” for roles such as these, the “Breathe Me” star responded, “I did try. It felt more compassionate to use Maddie. That was my call.”

One autistic actor argued that several other autistic performers, including themselves, “could have acted in [Music] on short notice” and accused Sia of making “zero effort … to include anyone who is actually autistic,” to which the musician fired back, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”

See more of Sia's exchanges with Twitter users below.

Photo: Getty Images

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