Sparked by news of her upcoming film Music, Australian pop star Sia has spent the last few months shouldering a wave of backlash from from the autism community.
Disability advocates are angry Sia—who is not autistic—chose dancer and actor Maddie Ziegler—also not autistic—to play the protagonist and title character of the film which follows a nonverbal autistic teenager who uses a device to communicate with others.
Critics cited Sia didn't allow autistic actors to audition for the film. CBS' remake of The Stand faced similar accusations of ableism after casting a hearing actor for a deaf character after not auditioning deaf actors for the part.
Ableism is discrimination which favors able-bodied people over the disabled.
Not sia getting butthurt about being called out for casting maddie ziegler to play a girl w autism in her movie (fu… https://t.co/Ecapbp5OXa— tina 🧚🏻♀️ (@tina 🧚🏻♀️) 1606088243.0
Advocates' criticism was stoked further by the discovery Sia enlisted the guidance of Autism Speaks when researching the film.
Autism Speaks has been criticized as a resource and advocacy group for only parents and caregivers that ignores the voices of people with autism and views autism as a problem to be eradicated instead of a condition to be accommodated.
Autism speaks is trending so Im posting this https://t.co/HIwRIgdIm2— 🐁Fulvern🐁 ✿ ★ B•L•M (@🐁Fulvern🐁 ✿ ★ B•L•M) 1605882126.0
Those facts alone put Sia in the cross hairs of disability advocates and actual autistics across the internet.
But now she's been embroiled in controversy all over again. This time it was enough to make Sia delete her Twitter account altogether, Huffington Post has reported.
That renewed criticism was caused by a couple recent developments. A leaked scene from the film has surfaced and drawn serious criticism and the film scooped up two Golden Globe nominations, a development that critics fear will perpetuate such mistreatements of a topic that requires careful considerations of representation and sensitivity.
The leaked scene involves the autistic protagonist, Music, as she is physically restrained in a way that is recommended by groups like Autism Speaks but is quite dangerous and considered abusive by some when used in real life.
You can see it for yourself below, but do be warned the clip may be triggering for some viewers.
People on Twitter were appalled by the scene's inclusion in the film.
@Sia I mean, seeing restraint being used during a meltdown literally gave me a panic attack, and Music’s personalit… https://t.co/hL3kUOPziz— jeanne 🌸 (@jeanne 🌸) 1612398793.0
@lxdyscorpio @3ychk @Stardust2187 @Sia there are 2-3 scenes in which prone restraint is used. a character tells mus… https://t.co/f5FI4flkKw— damien (he/him) (@damien (he/him)) 1612379568.0
The only reason there's prone restraint in Sia's terrible trashfire of a film is cause a scene where Music is havin… https://t.co/MwSlLr4Ttn— creature (@creature) 1611938643.0
In addition to the tweets, Zoe Gross, the Director of Advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, shared her concerns with Huffington Post:
"MUSIC doesn't just promote harmful stereotypes about autistic people―it shows restraints that have killed members of our community as necessary and loving acts."
"This film should never have been made, and it shouldn't be shown."
Despite Sia's defensive responses to early criticisms toward the film, she appeared to be all ears when this wave of backlash came.
Before deleting her Twitter account, she said the following in a thread:
"I promise, I have been listening. 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 explain safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help w meltdown safety."
Sia went on to explain this will be the last of that scene we have to see.
"I plan to remove the restraint scenes from all future printings. I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough."
But for some, the damage was already done.
So in response to Music being a damaging film about autism portrayals, Sia said she's going to edit out the restrai… https://t.co/UjAaHVxEpa— Mark McPherson (@Mark McPherson) 1612495242.0
SIA IS REMOVING HER RESTRAINT SCENES FROM MUSIC, its a little step, now time to delete ur movie 🥰🥰— Izzy (@Izzy) 1612531495.0
Sia saying restraint scenes will be removed from future films #SiaMusic but I'm siding eyeing right now. we need ac… https://t.co/xASaf5DWta— 🍍❤Hoesephine❤🍍 (@🍍❤Hoesephine❤🍍) 1612432367.0
It seems that Sia has apologised for her film Music, but only about its depiction of restraint. The film’s failing… https://t.co/NXrIQdWrLg— Joanne Ferguson (@Joanne Ferguson) 1612437237.0
Time will tell if any further updates or responses to the continuing criticism are in store.
But depending how the Golden Globes go, more backlash certainly could be around the corner.