Meghan Christopher, Olivia Cadrecha, Elizabet Popel, and Amanda Hamilton
Sia has been in the hot seat for controversy over her latest project, the movie Music starring Maddie Ziegler who plays a girl on the autistic spectrum. The movie Music is an example of a film that portrays able-bodied individual acting as if she were autistic, in a manner that is unrealistic and offensive, which essentially takes away the opportunity for someone that is actually autistic to be represented in the media. There are many ethical issues surrounding role casting such as ableism, which is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to be disabled. But why is this an issue you should be concerned about? It is important that you understand the ethical implications of casting someone who is not legitimately neurodivergent in a film that is dedicated to representing the autistic community. You must begin to understand how inaccurate representation of marginalized communities affects the betterment of society as a whole. How would you feel if someone that did not go through your struggles acted as they did in front of millions of people on camera?
Many people challenge the concept of ableism in films like Music and other films which cast actors that are not disabled because they believe that ‘acting is acting’ and that acting like a person who is disabled isn’t unethical. But the reality is that the misrepresentation in the film community does perpetuate ableism, and this is something that keeps happening because oftentimes well-known actors and actresses are needed to increase the number of viewers and fans of a film, and there is a small number of disabled or neurodivergent people who fit that bill. This is likely why Sia chose Maddie Ziegler for the main character because she is well known by the public and has a large fan base. It is likely that you know Maddie Ziegler from her debut on the television show Dance Moms. She has danced in multiple music videos for Sia as well. Sia claims that she cannot do a project without Maddie in it. But if that is the case, then why did Sia not cast a neurodivergent actress to play the lead and have Maddie play a supporting role?
Many were frustrated by Sia’s response to her film, because she was very defensive over it and lashed out at people on Twitter as seen below.
The autistic community and allies of the autistic community were angered by the misinterpretation of autism in the film, as well as the use of exaggerated mannerisms, elaborate flashing lights, and chaotic music. Ziegler herself is not on the spectrum, and many people were angered by the misrepresentation and felt that for someone who claimed to “love and appreciate the autistic community” the film just really missed the mark. The autistic community also spoke out on how they felt about the film on twitter and youtube.