Should Sia have cast an autistic person? #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs — Scope | Disability forum
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Should Sia have cast an autistic person? #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs

Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,465 Disability Gamechanger
The Grammy award-winning singer released a new trailer for her upcoming film 'Music' recently.

After our recent stimulating discussions on the controversy around the film The Witches, the disagreement between Piers Morgan and Sally Phillips on 'cripping up', and the criticisms made of Liz Carr's monologue 'Real Deal' on BBC Four's 'CripTales', we thought it'd be interesting to have a discussion around this topic.

What's the situation?

LA Times: Sia is under fire for how her film portrays autism. But she’s the one feeling ‘FURY’
The project, which she’s calling a “cinematic experience,” will feature dancer and frequent collaborator Maddie Ziegler as Music, a teen with autism as well as actors Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr.
Since then, a backlash has been brewing on Twitter around the portrayal of Ziegler’s character, who communicates her emotions through a tablet in the trailer, leaning into a disability the actress does not have.
Sia, however, seems annoyed by the pushback, tweeting: “Why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY.”

Indiewire: Sia Fires Back at Disabled Community Over Feature Directorial Debut ‘Music’

Sia said that she didn’t cast a disabled actor because “casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.”
You can watch the trailer for Music here.

What have people been saying?

This is a good thread by an autistic person explaining why they had the right to be angry about the situation. I've also put a couple of examples of what people have been saying below.
Hi Sia, can I ask why you didn't cast a disabled actor for this part? It's pretty offensive the way you've chosen to portray this character. People with disabilities are not broken and don't need fixing. Many of my friends have different disabilities and they are some of the … coolest, most talented, funny, kind, intelligent people I know. They are also the most under-represented and inaccurately represented group in our society. This kind of inaccurate, offensive representation causes so much pain.

Bronagh Waugh (@bronaghwaugh)

Several autistic actors, myself included, responded to these tweets. 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. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs.

Helen Zbihlyj (@HelenAngel)

@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:
National Autistic Society (@Autism)

How has Sia responded?

In response to Bronagh's tweet, Sia said:
I agree. I’ve never referred to music [the name of Maddie Ziegler's character] as disabled. Special abilities is what I’ve always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.

In response to Helen's tweet, Sia said:

Maybe you’re just a bad actor.

Sia also said that there were autistic people included in the filming of the film:

As I said, there are thirteen people on the spectrum in the movie.
I had two people on the spectrum advising me at all times.

Sia went on a bit of a Twitter rampage about it, so you can read more of her tweets here.

What do you think? Should Sia have cast an autistic person to play the role? 

National Campaigns Officer, she/her

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  • Cher_Alumni
    Cher_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,741 Disability Gamechanger
    edited November 2020
    Great subject @Tori_Scope

    I personally think attempts should have been made to support an autistic person to do the role.  I realise Sia originally did this and it didn't work out.  But I'm of the opinion that the whole project should have been co-produced by someone with autism from the beginning rather than being led by non-disabled people telling the story for them.  
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  • encaser
    encaser Community member Posts: 400 Pioneering
    It's questionable on both sides, really. On the one hand, Sia did consider the demands of the whole thing and included autistic advisers and staff. On the other, you can argue that she should of kept going until she found someone that capable.
    However, even if Sia found someone who could handle the demands, would she then still not of been criticised for finding the exception to the rule - much like some Paralympians have faced criticism?
    I think there has to be a point where realistic constraint comes into play and Sia faced the likelihood that her project would never be made. There is TV and film material with able-bodied depicting disabled people that would never have been made without them in which disabled interests gained from them. Should they be remade or banned?


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