Sia Is Fighting With Fans On Twitter Over Casting Maddie Ziegler As Autistic Teen In New Film

Truly a masterclass in how to not respond to criticism.

Sia responds poorly to criticism surrounding casting of her new film, Music

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Sia is giving a masterclass in how to not respond to criticism after casting long time collaborator Maddie Ziegler in the lead role of Music, her directorial debut film, instead of a neurodivergent actor.

Music, which is slated for release in February 2021, is an original musical directed, co-written and produced by Sia, focusing on an autistic teenage girl Music who is reluctantly put into the care of her recently sober half-sister (Kate Hudson). The film’s colourful musical sequences are supposed to represent the way Music, as a neurodivergent person, sees the world.

After dropping the first trailer for the film this weekend, the singer faced questions over the film’s depiction of autism — specifically, the choice to cast Ziegler, rather than an autistic actor.

At first, Sia responded to criticism on Twitter in a measured if not misguided way, explaining that she had at first worked with an autistic actor, but they found the film’s requirements overwhelming. She said “casting someone at [Music’s] level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.”

And so Ziegler was brought in, though the dancer-actor has been attached to the project since it was announced in 2015.

Sia repeatedly encouraged people to hold their criticism until they had seen the film, insisting that she did her research and that the film is a ‘love letter to caregivers and the autism community’.

The singer also insisted that the film was diversely cast, despite Ziegler taking the main role: overall, she says, there are thirteen neurodivergent and three trans actors within the film.

“And not as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts but s [sic] as doctors, nurses and singers,” she added. “Fucking sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.”

There was also criticism of the choice of advisory group involved in the film, Autism Speaks, who do not feature autistic people in leadership positions, and have had issues around their messaging. In defence, Sia says they only recently became attached, and she did not realise they were such a ‘polarising’ group.

Responding to the controversy, Twitter user @Helenangel responded to say she wished Sia sought out an autistic actor for the role such as herself, to which Sia said she was ‘sorry we were never introduced’. After Helen responded by saying that “zero effort was made” to include autistic people in the film, and that she herself ‘could have acted in it on short notice’, Sia changed tact.

“Fucking bullshit. You have no fucking idea because you weren’t there and haven’t seen the movie,” she wrote, before adding in another tweet, “maybe you’re just a bad actor.”

Overall, Sia got pretty frustrated, leaving it at “Fuckity fuck why don’t you want my film before you judge it? FURY.” You’ll be able to in February, but in the meantime, find the trailer and a few more of Sia’s tweets below.