The Australian artist known for his hits like “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart” announced the release of the trailer for the film titled “Music” in a post to Twitter on Thursday. She wrote and directed the film.
“The news you’ve been waiting for!” she wrote along with a sneak peek at the film, which arrived in early 2021.
The film’s cast includes Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr. and 18-year-old “Dance Moms” star Maddie Ziegler, who has often worked with the singer in several music videos.
Ziegler, a non-disabled actor, portrays a teenager with autism who communicates his feelings to the outside world via a tablet. The character is based on the artist̵
7;s neuroatypical friend who found it stressful to be non-verbal, Sia said.
Several fans and activists in the autistic community found the cast to be offensive and misleading. Many questioned the portrayal of Ziegler’s character, arguing that an autistic actor should have been cast in the role and that disabled people should be hired to tell their stories.
“Sia has got this wrong. There are so many talented autistic actors out there,” the National Autistic Society wrote in a Twitter post.
In a series of tweets and replies, Sia defended her decision to cast Ziegler in the role, saying she felt the use of a non-disabled actor was more compassionate. The character was never referred to as disabled, but rather a person with “special abilities,” she said.
“I was actually trying to work with a beautiful young girl who was not verbal in the spectrum, and she found it uncomfortable and stressful. So that was why I threw Maddie,” she wrote.
In a post, the singer expressed her “rage” over the subject and urged people to watch her films before making a judgment. Sia also wrote that she spent three years researching the film, which she described as “both a love letter to caregivers and to the autism community.”
The controversy sparked the use of the hashtags #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs and #ActuallyAutistic on social media and continued the conversation about portraying disability in the media without including representation and the voices of those who actually experience life as a person with a disability.
In response to criticism that the film excludes “disabled and neuro-diverse actors” from their own narratives, the singer said she cast “thirteen neuro-typical people and three trans-people” as doctors, nurses and singers, not as “prostitutes or drug addicts. “
“I hired lots of kids with special abilities. I’m willing to be misunderstood because I think this movie does more good than harm,” she said in another response.