Hello friends! Long time, no speak. We are going to try and blog regularly again and thought we'd kick off 2021 with a movie non-recommendation.
We would like to preface this blog by saying that throughout this we will be using the term Autistic community or Autistic people as this is what people in the community have said is their preferred language. We understand that language is an extremely individual thing and other people may use different language.
For those who aren’t aware, there is big controversy surrounding Sia’s new film, Music - particularly now that it has been nominated for two Golden Globes. Why? Sia cast a neurotypical person, Maddie Ziegler (her muse from her music clips) as the main character, Music, who is a non-verbal Autistic young woman. We at JAM find this film really problematic and definitely won’t be seeing the film (despite Molly being the world’s biggest fan of musicals). Here’s why..
As non-disabled people who work in the disability sector/space, both in our jobs as occupational therapists and through this brand, we are always conscious of the fact that we need to continue to elevate disabled voices and collaborate with the community that we are working with. It is a main focus for us and we acknowledge our able bodied privilege. It blows our minds that someone with as many resources and as much of a huge platform as Sia, that she has gotten this so unbelievably wrong.
Anne Hathaway held herself accountable after being called out for her ableist role in The Witches. She apologised, has tried to amend for the damage caused and has amplified disabled voices. Sia has no excuse.
After backlash from the Autistic community, Sia said to the Project “I realised it wasn’t ableism.. I mean it is ableism, I guess as well, but it’s actually nepotism because I can’t do a project without her, I don’t want to. I wouldn’t make art, if it didn’t include her.” So I suppose, we would say to Sia, if you can’t do it without Maddie portraying an Autistic person - don’t do it. Perhaps make a different film and leave it to the Autistic community to control their own narrative and the way they’re portrayed in mainstream media. We need to stop consuming inspiration porn and elevating and celebrating the non-disabled people who are benefiting.
@Neurodifferent noted in their instagram post that “this is not to say that all portrayals of Autistic behaviour in this film are all false. It IS refreshing to see a non-verbal Autistic woman who uses an AAC device being represented” but goes on to speak about how it’s done in a problematic way without nuance and depth because Autistic people weren’t advising or portraying it.
There is plenty of content to consume about this from those who are better positioned than us to talk, so we suggest you do and we’ll link some content we suggest you check out below but all we can say to finish is that we’re really disappointed. Some of Sia’s songs are absolute bangers and especially good car singalongs but we, at least until Sia responds appropriately and apologises, can’t listen without getting a bad taste in our mouths.
If you’re interested to explore this further, here’s some content on instagram to check out:
@Neurodifferent shared a post on their instagram that is an image of the words “A Master-Post written from an autistic perspective: Sia’s new upcoming film, “Music”, is extremely problematic and harmful to the Autistic community. Here’s everything you need to know” which is a long but incredibly worthwhile read that unpacks the whole situation. Highly recommended.
@PrincessAspien has made reels on her instagram that are funny but make some really great points about being an Autistic actor
@TheAutisticats have an instagram highlight dedicated to content about this from the perspective of the Autistic community