SIA’s new movie MUSIC shouldn’t be featured at Hollywood awards shows

The film MUSIC by Sia received an 8% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Photo Credit: Photo via Vertical Entertainment

The film MUSIC by Sia received an 8% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

By: Emma Downes, Club Reporter

What is MUSIC?

Sia is a well-known musical artist from originally from Australia. She has had many hits in the US including the songs “Chandelier” and “Titanium.”  Recently she has come under harsh criticism for her self-directed and composed movie MUSIC. The film features a neurotypical actress playing the role of a non-verbal autistic character, named Music. Music’s guardian dies, leaving her in the care of her sister Zu struggling with addiction, who is recently sober. The movie features Kate Hudson as Zu, Maddie Ziegler as Music, and Leslie Odom Jr. who plays the role of an important neighbor in Music’s life.

So why has the film, and Sia faced such harsh criticism? There are many reasons, including prone restraint condemned by the autistic community, and intense flashing scenes making epileptic viewers unable to watch.

SIA’s Casting Decisions

Before the film was released Sia faced harsh backlash through Twitter, which she has since deleted. She was asked by many why she had chosen to cast Maddie Ziegler in the role, to which she responded to in a very negative way.

When one user tweeted, “Several autistic actors, myself included, responded to these tweets. We all said we could have acted in it on short notice. These excuses are just that- excuses. The fact of the matter is that zero effort was made to include anyone who is autistic.” Sia responded to this by tweeting,” Maybe you’re just a bad actor” which appeared in a Newsweek article.

This response is unacceptable and shows blatant disrespect to the neurodivergent actors who offered themselves for the role. Along with those tweets Sia also added that before she cast Ziegler for the role she attempted to cast an autistic actress. According to Newsweek, she tweeted, “I actually tried working with a beautiful young girl non-verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful. So that’s why I cast Maddie.”

Overall, Sia’s response to the casting situation was unacceptable, and coupled with other issues did not look good on her part.

Flashing and Overwhelming Scenes

In the film, which features scenes in Music’s mind, there are many musical scenes. These scenes feature intense flashing lights, quick movements from the camera, and sudden loud sounds. This is harmful to some autistic viewers because around one-fourth of them have epilepsy according to the Pittsburg Post Gazette. There does not seem to be a flash warning before the film starts warning epileptic viewers, which could be harmful to viewers’ health.

Aggressive Restraint Scenes

Although there is not a flash warning for epileptic viewers, there is a warning cautioning against the aggressive restraint scene, which many might find disturbing. Sia issued a statement saying, “The motion picture MUSIC will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie: MUSIC in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. There are autistic occupational therapists that specialize in sensory processing who can be consulted to provide safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help w meltdown safety” as noted in Vanity Fair. Many viewers and people in the autism community have spoken out on how dangerous this practice is.

Julia Bascom is the executive director of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, she spoke to The Mighty, a health-focused community that speaks on different health issues. She said in an interview with The Mighty, “Restraint and Seclusion are traumatic and dangerous practices that harm students with disabilities everyday.”

If this practice has been condemned by professionals and parents in the autistic community, and Sia recognized that, why is the scene in the movie at all?

You can view the leaked restraint scene via Twitter by the @autisticats here.

Harmful Imagery

Many have criticized the way in which Ziegler performed, under the direction of Sia. Some of the actions and mannerisms featured play into stereotypes surrounding autism. Sia claims to have done her research, yet the actions portrayed by Ziegler are harmful to the community. The New York Times has stated, “Neither Ziegler nor Sia are autistic, and their collaboration on this film reduces disability to mannerisms that look indistinguishable from mockery.”

Overall the performance is damaging, and reflects that little or incorrect research was done.

Presence in Hollywood

Although many have cautioned and petitioned against this film, the Golden Globes still had it nominated for two awards. Even though it did not win, the nomination still took place. The movie itself was nominated for “Best Picture- Musical or Comedy,” and Kate Hudson received a nomination for her role.

After all of the protest against this movie, why had the Golden Globes still chose to nominate this movie? The nomination shows blatant disregard and disrespect towards the autism community.

At the end of the day, MUSIC portrays a negative image of the autism community. Not only is Sia in the wrong, so are the Golden Globes.