If you were on Twitter a few days ago, you may have seen me reacting to a trailer. This trailer was for the singer Sia’s debut film Music. When I first saw the picture for it, I was pretty impressed. It looked bright and colourful and I did like some of Sia’s music. However, when I discovered what the film was about and saw the trailer, my thoughts quickly changed.
Zu (Kate Hudson), a newly sober drug dealer and self-saboteur finds herself the sole guardian of her teenaged, autistic half-sister, Music (Maddie Ziegler). Zu is a free spirit barely able to take care of herself, let alone her sister; Zu struggles with this new responsibility, but soon learns that life’s obstacles are made easier with a little help from a friend, Ebo (Leslie Odom Jr.), a neighbor whose own family story makes him someone Zu can learn from and rely upon.
As someone on the autistic spectrum, I’m always a little on the fence when it comes to media featuring it.
There have been a bunch of TV shows/films that have featured autistic characters. There have been some that have been incredible such as The A Word and a CBeebies show called Pablo. Yet there have been others that were sometimes questionable like The Good Doctor and Atypical.
Something that nearly all these things have in common are that the ‘autistic’ character is usually played by a neurotypical actor.
Personally I’m kind of on the fence about this.
If it’s evident that the actor has done their research about autism and shows an understanding, then I don’t normally mind it. However, if an actor has been shown purely for the name or laziness, then that’s when I struggle. This is where I’m standing with Music.
1. Not everyone on the spectrum are non-verbal.
Okay…every time I see something with an autistic character, they are always shown to be either non-verbal or over-the-top. It’s great that they’re showing one element of the spectrum! That’s a great start! However, we’re not all like this. It’s such a wide spectrum.
2. There are more autistic actors out there they could’ve cast!
Regardless of the controversy over casting Maddie Ziegler as Music, I do think she’s an amazing up-and-coming actor. The problem is that there are actually autistic actors that could have portrayed this character. Yes, they may not be non-verbal but at least they would be on the spectrum.
Apparently Sia tweeted that she did look into casting a non-verbal young girl but…
“I actually tried working with a beautiful young girl non-verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful.”
While I appreciate that she tried, this could have been an incredible opportunity to learn more about autism. She could have helped introduced practices on sets to make Hollywood more accessible. However, she went for Maddie. Sia could have approached: Kayla Cromer, Dan Aykroyd or even Susan Boyle!
There are also a number of undiscovered autistic actors out there! I’m not saying that non-autistic people can’t play these characters. Look at Freddie Highmore and Jim Parsons. They did such a great job! There’s just certain roles like this that should be considered more carefully.
3. Sia’s responses to tweets
There are many ways you could respond to criticism. Believe me, my acting tutor told me that 99% of us would never get an acting job…on our first day! You’re upset by it and may spiral, but you eventually learn from your mistakes. You don’t lash out at the public for their views!
“Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”
“F**king bullsh*t. You have no f**king idea because you weren’t there and haven’t seen the movie.”
“I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as f**king prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers.”
These responses are horrendous!!
They do not help at all. I understand it’s probably devastating that people are negative about something Sia has worked on. Yet, she should at least try to understand it from the perspective of the autism community. She’s not just talking to someone in her family. She’s talking to the worldwide public and has to be more professional than this, not just cuss everyone out.
She also consulted with a controversial ‘charity’ called Autism Speaks. Just google them and you’ll see why people are face-palming.
4. It is one big sensory nightmare!
We all know that Sia is a little out there. She dresses different, has a persona of hiding her face and more. I love that she looked at the focus of music. I personally use music a lot to ground me, to escape from the world and sometimes to understand people.
Unfortunately someone didn’t do their research!!
The trailer itself is a sensory nightmare! The music is too loud, the colours super bright and people just dancing all over the place. Maybe this would be incredible for a typical person but an autistic viewer could have a sensory overload!
Sia – If you do ever find this post, please learn from our community. We’re not trolls, we’re not attacking you. We’re simply wanting our world to be understood.
If you want to learn more about autism, please head over to the National Autistic Society‘s website. It has so much information!
What are your thoughts on Sia’s film trailer for Music? I’d love to know especially if you’re on the spectrum or have an autistic loved one!