Why critics are calling for Sia’s movie “Music” to be excluded from the Golden Globes

Hannah McDonnell, Staff Writer

Sia’s new movie “Music” has amassed so much controversy, a viral petition to have the film condemned by the industry and for it’s two Golden Globe nominations to be rescinded is circulating the internet. 

Sia’s “Music.”

The film “Music” features a recently sober woman, played by Kate Hudson, who becomes the guardian of her half-sister, Music. Music is played by Sia’s longtime collaborator and dancer, Maddie Ziegler. Sia stated that she hoped that this movie would bring “a voice for the voiceless.”

However, Sia’s new movie, which received two Golden Globe nominations, stirred up a mass controversy over her casting  neurotypical Ziegler as a nonverbal autistic girl named Music as well as the involvement of the group Autism Speaks, which is also controversial itself for a number of reasons.

She has defended her decision to cast Ziegler on various occasions, but the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community is still upset with her choice.

“Several actors, myself included, responded to [Sia’s] tweets,” said Helen Z, an autistic community director of Minecraft stated. “We all said we could have acted in it on short notice. These excuses are just that—excuses. The fact of the matter is zero effort was made to include anyone who is actually autistic.” 

Another member of the autistic community, Paige Layle, responded to Sia’s movie on TikTok where she normally uses the platform to speak up about issues within the ASD community and to educate others. Layle addressed Sia’s argument that she had originally cast an autistic actor to play Music but that the environment was “too stressful” by saying, “Sia, you have millions of dollars. Change the environment!”

In response to Layle and the other people confronting her, Sia tweeted that she had casted “thirteen neuro-atypical people [and] three trans folk.” Following that, she mentions that she did not cast them as “prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers.” However, this was only met with more criticism, not only over how she dealt with ASD but also how she talked about sex workers and people living with drug addiction.

Actress Kate Hudson defended Sia when interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live, stating “I think when people see the film, they will see the amount of love and sensitivity that was put into it.”

Sia stated in an interview on Australian talk show “The Project” that her decision to cast Ziegler was not “ableism” and that she can’t do a project without Ziegler. 

However her portrayal has offended a huge portion of the ASD community and one scene in particular has not only people with autism riled up, but neurotypical people as well. This scene showed Ziegler’s character being held in a prone restraint, which is essentially piling on or sitting on someone to hold them down. This is an extremely controversial technique that has previously killed autistic people. 

In addition to that, one of the opening scenes of the movie includes strobe lighting, overwhelming visuals and caricature of autistic mannerisms. Many people have called Sia out about her portrayal of self stimulatory behavior, or “stimming.”

Leslie Odom Jr. in “Music.”

Those calling her out, including Twitter user @immunititties, stated that her portrayal of “autistic stimming literally looks like how bullies at school make fun of autistic people.”

Sia has since apologized for the film and deleted her entire Twitter account. 

It is important for viewers who see this movie to know the difference between what is the right way to portray autism and the wrong way to portray these disabilities. If a viewer is not educated on autism and watched this movie, they could then believe that prone restraint is the correct way to handle a meltdown or believe that harsh sensory environments don’t affect autistic people.