Sia Admits Casting Maddie Ziegler as an Autistic Character in Her Movie ‘Is Ableism’
Sia officially took her first big swing as a movie director, though her film career is already off to a rocky start.
The pop artist is facing severe backlash after debuting the trailer for her new film, Music, starring Maddie Ziegler—the popular young dancer you might recognize from Dance Moms as well as the iconic music video for Sia’s “Chandelier.”
Per People, Music follows Zu (Kate Hudson), a drug dealer who’s forced to take in her sister, Music (Ziegler), “a special-needs teen” who uses a communication device to speak and “sees music differently.” Sia directed and cowrote the film, and created a 10-song album of original music for it, which is set to debut in February 2021.
However, the trailer has not been well-received by many in the autism community, as well as people on Twitter, who find Sia’s response to the backlash defensive and distasteful. Here’s what went down.
Sia debuted the movie trailer on November 19, 2020.
“The news you’ve been waiting for,” the artist proclaimed on Twitter. “Music, the movie written & directed by Sia + starring Kate Hudson, @LeslieOdomJr, & @MaddieZiegler, will be arriving in early 2021! Watch a sneak peek of the movie here.”
The reactions immediately came pouring in.
Within a day Sia began trending on Twitter for casting Ziegler (who doesn’t have autism) to play an autistic character. The hashtag #ActuallyAutistic was also trending by November 20, 2020.
Even the National Autistic Society spoke out against the film, tweeting, “@Sia has got this one wrong. There are so many talented autistic actors out there—like Saskia, Alex Max, and Holly who starred in our #AutismTMI films.”
Another point of backlash was the film’s connection to Autism Speaks, a controversial organization that many in the autism community and beyond have described as a “hate group,” more focused on ending autism than spreading constructive autism awareness.
However, Sia claims that Autism Speaks “came on board” years after the film was already finished.
She also states in the tweet from November 20, 2020 that she “had no idea it was such a polarizing group.” However, that slightly contradicts another tweet that claims she spent “three fucking years researching” autism for the film. Which brings us to the next section…
Sia’s response to the backlash.
It hasn’t been pretty. A series of responses disappointed Twitter users; she essentially asked them to see the movie before judging, told them the film was based on her “close friend,” that she felt casting Ziegler was “more compassionate,” and that she had “two people on the spectrum” advising her the entire time.