Did “Music” Miss the Beat?: A look at Sia’s 2021 movie.

As National Autism Awareness month begins, “Music” is still facing criticism from the public. The controversial musical, starring Maddie Ziegler, Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. was
rereleased in the United States on Feb. 10 after the outrage of viewers due to restraint scenes.

The movie’s biggest critique focuses on Ziegler’s character, Music. The film focuses on the life of an autistic girl and her older sister who has to learn to care for her. While Ziegler’s character is never verbalized as atypical, Music is portrayed through many of the stereotypical tics and triggers. Sia claims that the movie was intended to bring atypical representation to film; however, many viewers argue that Sia missed the mark.

According to Variety, after the movie was rereleased, Hannah Marshall created a petition against the film with over 17,000 signatures. Marshall released a statement as to why the film should be “canceled.” “It is extremely offensive to myself and other autistic individuals,” Marshall said. “Sia has shown no remorse for her inaccurate and hurtful betrayal of the community.”

On the other hand, the artist has also received a tremendous amount of support. The National Council for Serve Autism released a letter from Yuval Levental. The letter was titled: “Thank You for Representing a Girl with Severe Autism.”

Despite the movie’s criticism, I would give it five stars. My cousin has severe autism, demonstrating the behaviors that Ziegler portrayed. While not all people on the spectrum demonstrate these behaviors, some do. I think it is important to acknowledge those with severe autism, while also acknowledging that Ziegler does not portray the entire autistic community.

Rolling Stone was not impressed by the singer’s director debut, stating that “Ziegler herself seems to treat the condition as an extension for her dancing, so that her physical tics and facial expressions come off as choreographed physical mimicry rather than a characteristic of autism, or a person.”

I personally disagree entirely. As someone who has experienced these tics and facial expressions from a loved one, I didn’t think Ziegler could have acted a more accurate representation. Her performance did not seem choreographed or mimicked in the slightest. Throughout the entire film, all I could think was how accurate a depiction it was of my cousin.

This to say, I have never been diagnosed with the condition and cannot speak on the behalf of the autistic community. There are clear reasons why some members were offended by Sia’s directorial decisions; however, there is a saying among the community that fits well here. The saying is if you’ve met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person. Whether you support or criticize the film, it is important to remember that Ziegler’s representation in the film does not speak to the behavior and characteristics of the entire community.

Sources: Variety, Rolling Stone

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