Sia’s first directorial debut, Music, has been met with controversy and backlash, with calls for her two Golden Globe nominations to be revoked, and petitions calling for a boycott of the film.
Termed insensitive and irresponsible, the film follows Kate Hudson’s newly-sober drug dealer Zu, who becomes the sole guardian of her autistic half-sister Music, played by Maddie Ziegler.
Music has a plot that should evoke intrigue, but instead attracted criticism for the questionable casting choice of neurotypical Maddie as the autistic lead, the stereotypical displeasing portrayal of autism and the use of prone restraints.
While Maddie Ziegler and Kate Hudson defend the film, Sia herself has openly addressed the recoil and retaliation from the autism community saying: “I’m sorry”
She added: “I plan to remove the restraint scenes from all future printings. I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough, not wide enough.”
These statements were made shortly before deactivating her Twitter account.
The film had the potential to really showcase autism in a new light and provide representation on the wide screen where there has been a notable void throughout the years – but instead due to the lack of research, it resulted in making the already underrepresented group further buried in stereotypical tropes.
If you are going to tackle sensitive topics, you have to make it your duty to do so with care. Examples of media that have handled autism with care on screen include The Accountant, The Good Doctor and The A Word.
Given that the film has received heavy criticism for its insensitive and poorly researched portrayal of autism, but has undoubtedly provided a platform for autism to be spoken about in the media, we are left to debate among ourselves whether Music is an abject failure or if some good can be seen through its release.