Story at a glance

  • Singer-songwriter Sia co-wrote and directed an upcoming musical drama film, "Music.”
  • Fans were upset that a nondisabled actor was cast in the role of a disabled character.
  • Sia defended her casting to fans, saying her heart is “in the right place.”

Early critique of Sia’s latest project seemed to get under the singer and songwriter’s "thick skin and an elastic heart” when she fired back at fans online who were disappointed by the representation in the trailer for “Music.”

In a trailer for the film co-written and directed by Sia, Maddie Ziegler plays the role of Music, a non-verbal, autistic teenager. The actress and former “Dance Moms” star — who is not autistic — has performed in a series of Sia’s music videos, including "Chandelier" and "Elastic Heart" and plays the sister of main character Zu, played by Kate Hudson, a now-sober former drug dealer who becomes the sole guardian of Music. 


READ MORE LIKE THIS FROM CHANGING AMERICA

BOOKS ON RACE AND DISCRIMINATION IN AMERICA BECOME BESTSELLERS

MICHELLE OBAMA OPENS UP LIKE NEVER BEFORE IN NEW NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY

WASHINGTON NFL FOOTBALL TEAM TO CHANGE CONTROVERSIAL NAME, LOGO

HOW ONE PHILADELPHIA SPORTS TEAM IS HONORING BLACK LIVES TAKEN BY POLICE


 

But fans and disability advocates voiced their disappointment that the character was not played by an autistic or neuroatypical actor directly, saying that Sia had missed the point. 

This year, a study reported a historic high of 8 percent of family films in 2019 featuring a lead with a disability (for context, 1 in 5 people in the United States live with a disability), but almost a quarter of these characters reinforced negative stereotypes. 


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


Advocates have long argued that more representation both on screen and behind the scenes would inform better and more accurate portrayals of autistic and other disabled characters. 

But Sia doubled down, responding to critics and saying, "I spent three f***ing years researching, I think that's why I'm so f***ing bummed.”

Well, if you do want to watch the film before judging it, you’ll have to wait until next year. The movie, which was pushed back after being expected to release this year, is scheduled for a limited release in February along with Sia's next album and the soundtrack to the movie. 


READ MORE FROM CHANGING AMERICA

WHAT AUTISM RESEARCHERS AND ADVOCATES WANT FOR PEOPLE ON THE SPECTRUM 

HOW GRETA THUNBERG’S AUTISM HELPED MAKE HER THE WORLD’S MOST IMPORTANT PERSON FOR 2020

LET’S CHANGE THE WORDS WE USE AROUND AUTISM 

ACTIVISM AND UNIFICATION ON WORLD AUTISM AWARENESS DAY

INTEGRATED COMMUNITIES OFFER HOPE TO ADULTS WITH AUTISM

KEVIN VALDEZ OF APPLE TV+’S ‘LITTLE VOICE’ ON BEING AN ACTOR WITH AUTISM


 

Published on Nov 20, 2020