Why I’m not watching Sia’s movie and you shouldn’t either

Music, HanWay Films/Atlantic Films, 2021

In case you missed the news about the garbage-fire-train-wreck that was Sia’s movie, Music, here’s a quick recap of it: it’s painfully ableist and severely offensive.

I have never watched- and will never watch- Music because of how problematic it is. It’s completely ignorant to so many autistic people who have repeatedly voiced how harmful this movie is. 

Music stars Maddie Ziegler, Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. The story itself is about Music, an autistic teen who falls under the care of her drug-dealing half-sister, Kazu. 

Let’s get one thing straight: it’s the 21st century, and there is absolutely no reason for a non-autistic actor to play an autistic character. Maddie Ziegler is not neurodivergent, and there are plenty of actors who are. Not only is this blatantly ableist, it’s also a seriously misinforming and inaccurate representation of the autism community.

While I haven’t watched the film, Eden from the popular Instagram account Austisticats, did watch it in hopes to quell others’ curiosity about the movie.

While they do clearly hold bias concerning the film, it’s our job as a community to listen to autistic people when dealing with issues concerning autism. 

Eden shares an opening shot of Ziegler in the movie, and it’s extremely disgusting. According to Eden, “The performance is a caricature of autistic body language.” They also add that it is reminiscent of neurotypical people mocking autism and autistic individuals. 

In Music, Ziegler is putting on an act, and it’s not her natural behavior. Frankly, there is no way that isn’t offensive, and that within itself should be alarming to everyone and deter them from watching this movie.

In fact, in the Australian TV show The Sunday Project, Sia openly said, “I mean, it is ableism I guess as well, but it’s actually nepotism because I can’t do a project without [Maddie Ziegler]. I don’t want to. I wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her.” 

Firstly, is she seriously admitting to both blatant ableism and nepotism showing up in her movie? Ziegler, who is Sia’s goddaughter, was cast by Sia in the movie as what she stated was “nepotism”. How is that fine in her mind either? 

To make matters worse, Ziegler even broke down crying on her first day on set because she didn’t want to offend anyone. Sia apparently had told her, “I won’t let that happen.” News flash Sia, you seriously failed her. Sia should have known better when producing the movie. Ziegler is a teenager, but Sia isn’t. It is her responsibility to ensure that Music was a proper and decent representation of the autism community.

As if this is blatantly ableist enough, the move also has scenes depicting restraint in the movie, which is incredibly harmful and even fatal to autistic people. 

Zoe Gross, the director of advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, stated that, “Had the filmmakers chosen to meaningfully involve autistic people from the beginning, we could have told them how catastrophically irresponsible it is to encourage viewers to use the kind of deadly restraints that killed Max Benson, Eric Parsa, and many other members of our community.”

Sia did later apologize for this and stated that future printings would remove the restraint scene and have a warning at the beginning of the movie. However, as per Eden’s experience, this isn’t the case. The scenes are still present in the movie, along with strobing lights and colors that could also be harmful to many autistic people.

All in all, Music is extremely problematic and a horrendous attempt at representing the autistic community. Anyone who might even have the slightest sliver of curiosity to watch it, I urge you not to. Curiosity kills the cat, and in this case, curiosity hurts an entire community of people who have spent decades trying to fight back against society’s mockery and ableism.