‘Music’ film with nonverbal autistic lead, directed by Sia

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ASPartOfMe
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17 Feb 2021, 6:16 am

Petition to Rescind Golden Globe Nominations - Los Angeles Times

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A petition demanding the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. rescind its Golden Globe nominations for Sia’s film, “Music,” has amassed more than 45,000 signatures.

Launched recently by members of the autism community, the Change.org campaign states that Sia’s feature directorial debut — which stars neurotypical actress Maddie Ziegler as a nonverbal autistic teen — “is severely ableist and contributes to harmful stereotypes of autistic people.”

The controversial film, which debuted in select theaters and on VOD last week, scored two Golden Globe nominations for lead actress (Kate Hudson) and best picture, musical/comedy, reigniting sharp criticism from disability activists and allies.

“The fact that ‘Music’ has been nominated for two Golden Globes awards illustrates the complete disregard the entire entertainment industry has for inclusivity and minority representation,” wrote Rosanna Kataja and Nina Skov Jensen, who created the petition. “It will only use autism as inspirational porn to make neurotypicals feel good about their supposed ‘superiority’.”

The petition also takes issue with Ziegler’s performance, as well as the film’s depiction of restraint in sequences involving the actress-dancer’s character. The National Autism Assn. condemns it as “dangerous and abusive.”

“Sia’s decision to include this inhumane treatment is a testament to her ignorance and complete disregard for the safety and needs of autistic people,” the campaign reads. “Despite claiming her movie to be a ‘love letter to caregivers and to the autism community’, she is actually telling the autistic community that she doesn’t care about them.”

How does one act autistic, you may ask,” the campaign continues. “If we look at Ziegler’s portrayal, the answer is by stereotypically mimicking autistic people the exact same way autistic people have been bullied and mocked their entire lives.

“It also enforces the idea that autistic people are not good enough and that their autism is better portrayed by someone with no concept of what it is to be autistic.”

Reps for “Music” and Ziegler did not immediately respond Tuesday to The Times’ requests for comment.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the ways autistic people move, or the ways we make facial expressions,” a viral Instagram post from the Autisticats reads. “Some of us roll our eyes and put our teeth over our lips as a stim or just because it’s comfortable. But we do those things naturally. Maddie Ziegler does not.

“I also want to emphasize that, while I mention Ziegler frequently in this post because she is the actress portraying the autistic character, this whole fiasco is not her fault. She was only 14 at the time that filming began. The blame lies with Sia and the other members of this project who did not stop this before it got out of hand.”


I have posted about many controversial portrayals of autistic people but nothing has been quite as intense or long-lasting as 'Music'. The title I used for the thread really seems misleading now.


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17 Feb 2021, 3:20 pm

I have heard quite a bit about this film from autistic people on the internet. It does not sound good AT ALL. That nomination NEEDS to be rescinded.


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18 Feb 2021, 9:40 pm

From where I came from, the neighborhoods' attitudes may be more realistic, somewhere.

But not the amount of means and knowledge along with the technology and other accomodations -- other than friendliness and tolerance...


Eh.
People here would rather see the music if not just the hype more than the movie by itself. :lol:
The autism bit, even if it's centralized and how it is portrayed, more or less a sidepiece.
Yet easily to jump conclusions over if it's that relevant to the viewer -- but not at large, no.

Many cared a little about accuracy -- only that it's not true here -- they'd just assume at abroad, it's like that. :lol: :lol: :lol:


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19 Feb 2021, 1:11 am



Since I have came to terms to simply ignore the release of Sia' film "Music" and go no further trolling her film since there are too many autistic YouTube creators are or would be ranting on about this movie.

As for my alternative, I had decided to work on ideas for any potential film releases about autism, with one condition that the autistic lead role is to be only played by an actor or actress who is on the autism spectrum.

I think the prison one would be a dark and overwhelming movie, it would be good to have what ever dramas that an autistic inmate might face when being in a lock up.

I had suggested a wild western themed film about a cowboy since animal connections towards horses would bring the magical element into the film. It would be good that the autistic Cowboy is like a Sheriff or a bounty hunter since I don't personally like seeing the autistic role being the role of a bad guy, if it's must, it's a long as the autistic role is only taken by an autistic actor.

The other is about a remote island that's inhabited by one autistic character who lives on this island to escape neurotypical driven society. One day, neurotypical castaways are shipwrecked on his\her island, then these castaways takes over the island.


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19 Feb 2021, 1:14 am

She's been blasted by the Australian media for casting an NT as a non-verbal autistic girl.

Funny nobody had a problem with casting NTs for "Temple", "The Accountant" and an NT to play the "Good Doctor" where all three characters were depicted by NTs playing characters who were non-verbal autistics as children?

So what's changed this time?



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19 Feb 2021, 5:15 am

cyberdad wrote:
She's been blasted by the Australian media for casting an NT as a non-verbal autistic girl.

Funny nobody had a problem with casting NTs for "Temple", "The Accountant" and an NT to play the "Good Doctor" where all three characters were depicted by NTs playing characters who were non-verbal autistics as children?

So what's changed this time?


Nothing has changed they just want to cover up severe autism because they are embarrassed of them and they dont fit into their agenda.

Of course they can’t openly say that so have to come up with an alternative absurd criticism like saying they should have used somebody who is severely mentally disabled to act out severe autism.

In other words “anyone can act” so why not use a child who is severely mentally disabled to follow complex instructions that a NT would find challenging.

Their absurdity knows no limits sadly.



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19 Feb 2021, 6:11 am

carlos55 wrote:
cyberdad wrote:
She's been blasted by the Australian media for casting an NT as a non-verbal autistic girl.

Funny nobody had a problem with casting NTs for "Temple", "The Accountant" and an NT to play the "Good Doctor" where all three characters were depicted by NTs playing characters who were non-verbal autistics as children?

So what's changed this time?


Nothing has changed they just want to cover up severe autism because they are embarrassed of them and they dont fit into their agenda.

Of course they can’t openly say that so have to come up with an alternative absurd criticism like saying they should have used somebody who is severely mentally disabled to act out severe autism.

In other words “anyone can act” so why not use a child who is severely mentally disabled to follow complex instructions that a NT would find challenging.

Their absurdity knows no limits sadly.


Didn't she claim the actor she originally cast was unable to perform due to her autism interfering with her acting so she picked Zeigler? Perhaps she didn't trust finding another actor with autism?

Obviously Sia has never heard of Daryl Hannah or Dan Ackroyd



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19 Feb 2021, 6:52 am

cyberdad wrote:
Obviously Sia has never heard of Daryl Hannah or Dan Ackroyd

Off Topic
Dan Ackroyd being autistic is very questionable.
https://wrongplanet.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=283792


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19 Feb 2021, 7:21 am

cyberdad wrote:
She's been blasted by the Australian media for casting an NT as a non-verbal autistic girl.

Funny nobody had a problem with casting NTs for "Temple", "The Accountant" and an NT to play the "Good Doctor" where all three characters were depicted by NTs playing characters who were non-verbal autistics as children?

So what's changed this time?

People have criticized NT's playing Autistics before.

Exclusive: 'The Good Doctor' Star Tamlyn Tomita Responds to the Show's Biggest Criticism

The Good Doctor Doesn’t Look Good For Autistic People

So what has changed? What about this film?

There is much more criticism, and the mainstream media is paying attention.

For the earlier films, my guess is that ND advocates were just happy to have Autism named and having a lead character be autistic. Since these representations were groundbreaking advocates were more concerned about the representation than who was acting.

In 2020 we had the whole George Floyd Protests and riots and the subsequent rise of "woke" and "cancel culture" ideas more into the mainstream.

The way Sia reacted, and reacted, and reacted mostly badly but quotable.


Related as of this writing rotten tomatoes has 11 percent of critics rating it positively and 22 percent of general public reviewers rating it positively.


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19 Feb 2021, 7:24 pm

ASPartOfMe wrote:
For the earlier films, my guess is that ND advocates were just happy to have Autism named and having a lead character be autistic. Since these representations were groundbreaking advocates were more concerned about the representation than who was acting.


^^ This. And also the depictions were positive and the actors included Clare Danes and Ben Affleck so who wouldn't want them to play autistic people.

Ziegler's portrayal was perhaps showing an autistic person who is lower functioning and I suspect for many people it was "Rain Man" all over again.



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19 Feb 2021, 10:45 pm

I have no hate towards Sia, and I'd imagine she's not dealing with the backlash she's receiving too well, but the optics as an observer are just.. really bad.

Especially the scene where the girl experiences a melt down and people restrain her. There were also many scenes apparently where the acting seems like a really poor portrayal of a real autistic person.

Honestly I'd have been happier if the directing cast and the actor were both on the spectrum, but it's sorta like 'whatever' to me.



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19 Feb 2021, 11:02 pm

FlaminPika wrote:
Honestly I'd have been happier if the directing cast and the actor were both on the spectrum, but it's sorta like 'whatever' to me.


There are plenty of autistic people who have never seen or experienced a "real" meltdown either. But it certainly would be preferable as at least they would better relate to sensory overload than an NT.



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20 Feb 2021, 1:01 am

I think the severity of the backlash is due to the neurodiversity movement becoming increasingly outspoken in recent years.

With series like The Good Doctor the issue of NT actor was partially mitigated by the idea of someone with autism being capable of being a doctor. So it was showcasing the "autism as difference not disability" and the "acceptance of autism in the workplace" kinds of viewpoints to which the ND movement is aligned.

With "Music" being minimally verbal, it is showing a more severe and disabling side of autism which is not aligned with the ND movement.

So I agree with Carlos55 to the extent that the fuss is not only about the casting of a NT actor or the general quality of the film. There's this whole other political agenda at play which is related to the (very clear and obvious) schism on social media between autistic self-advocates and autism parents / Autism Speaks.

It seems like only recently that the self-advocates have developed a large enough and coherent enough presence on social media (in part through the neurodiversity movement) to make any impact. So it's understanding that they would be very vocal on this topic.

But I think it's a shame we haven't heard much from the 'autism parent' side of things - whose situation may be closer to that which Sia was intending to represent. I wonder whether they feel the same negativity about the film or whether they might have more mixed feelings, perhaps quite pleased to see representation of more severe autism for a change?



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20 Feb 2021, 6:47 am

Jimmy Kimmel asks Music star Kate Hudson that question about Sia's controversial casting

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“Nobody has really asked me that,” said Hudson of Kimmel raising the issue, and the actress was game to have the discussion she stated was only right and necessary. “It’s not a soundbite conversation,” said Hudson, “I think it’s an ongoing, important dialogue to be had about neurotypical actors playing neurodivergent characters.” See, Sia—not so hard. Hudson even steered Kimmel back toward this touchy ground when, at one point, the host brought up her Golden Globe nomination, explaining, “I feel terrible,” that members of the neuroatypical public have been hurt by her director’s casting choice. (Hudson did not, however, wade into Sia’s widely derided prickliness about that community daring to question her artistic choices, only agreeing with Kimmel that Sia is “lovely” person.)

Kimmel, who has been just as vocal in his support of the autism community (he told Hudson that he has autism in his own family) as he’s been scathing in his mockery of anti-vaxxers baselessly blaming autism on life-saving vaccines, kept that dialogue front-and-center throughout the last half of the interview, with Hudson delicately explaining her own willingness to listen.


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20 Feb 2021, 7:02 am

MrsPeel wrote:
But I think it's a shame we haven't heard much from the 'autism parent' side of things - whose situation may be closer to that which Sia was intending to represent. I wonder whether they feel the same negativity about the film or whether they might have more mixed feelings, perhaps quite pleased to see representation of more severe autism for a change?

Jill Escher is President of the National Council on Severe Autism.
Stop Hating on Maddie Ziegler: She Was Magnificent in Sia’s “Music”
Quote:
It is hardly an instant classic. The script felt somewhat like a first draft. The characters were fairly one-dimensional and cliche. The musical fantasy numbers, featuring big puffy candy-colored costumes and music that sounded bland to my ears, failed to add much substance to the thin plot. While Sia surely deserves chutzpah points for striving to create a heart-touching musical based on gritty modern themes, and for deploying her multidimensional talents including writing, directing, music composition, and performing, overall I found it a forgettable film.

But the movie did have its high points, and one was the character of Music, as played by Maddie Ziegler. I realize some in the autism community profess to be offended by the portrayal, but why? Perhaps it wasn’t perfect, but it was a beautiful performance on many levels.

The one thing that keeps you watching the film when you could just as easily shut your laptop and walk away is that from the very first scene you care about Music. As she starts her day with her daily eggs prepared by her doting grandmother, you immediately see her vulnerability, joy, turmoil, anxiety, humanity, and irrepressible inner light. You see she is severely disabled, yes, but throughout the film, this portrayal is delivered with a loving empathy and without an ounce of mockery or condescension. A reviewer called it “cartoonish” but I cannot agree — Ziegler delivered a fleshed-out performance with plenty of nuance.

Indeed, it struck me that Ziegler must have done considerable research for this role. In Music’s physical and behavioral traits I recognized abundant real-life characteristics I see among my real-life autistic friends. The overbite may seem corny to some, but it looked almost exactly like the profile of a few autistic girls I know. The toe-walking is of course a reality for many with severe autism. The gentle head sway seemed straight off the shoulders of my autistic friend Jacob. The giant goofy grin reminded me of several severely affected young women I know, including my own nonverbal autistic daughter, Sophie. The meltdowns, the hypersensitivity to sound, the calming response to music, the obsession with a little-kids’ TV show, all very real, and well played, and all the more impressive considering this actor is so young and comes from a background as a dancer, not a thespian.

The pieces that struck me as most unrealistic are attributable to the script, and not to Ziegler’s attempts to embody a teen with this level of disability. For example, it’s rather unlikely that an autistic girl at her level of functioning would take walks every day by herself in her neighborhood, or even brush her teeth by herself. And given this is supposed to be contemporary downtown Los Angeles, where were the school and regional center services and supports for which Music most assuredly would have been eligible?

Furthermore, Ziegler plays not just one but two roles in the film. In the reality parts she’s that teen with severe autism who falls under the care of her much older half sister, Zu, played by Kate Hudson. In the musical fantasy parts she dances expressively while wearing costumes so over-the-top they make Mark Morris look sedate by comparison. A tall order for any actor.

There is also a hullaballoo about the scenes in which Music is restrained, with some advocates calling the film dangerous for portraying unsafe techniques. I saw these scenes as a big ol’ “meh" that certainly would not communicate life-endangering information to any reasonable person. There was no prone restraint, at least in the sense that I know the word. Yes, adults sit atop her and pin her arms for brief periods in two scenes, but so what? These things happen all the time in the real world and the real homes with severe autism to address immediate safety concerns, whether we like it or not.

It’s also worth noting another positive for this film — it is probably among the first feature films to touch on a huge and growing social issue of what happens when autism caregivers die.

In the end, if you’re interested in seeing a fictional character with a severe form of autism portrayed with a great deal of love and verve, watch this film. But if you’re looking for a peak cinematic experience, take a pass.



I have been following this controversy from the beginning and the vast majority of bile has been directed towered Sia not Ms. Ziegler. When this first started Ziegler was criticized for an interview in which she said she researched the part by watching Youtube videos of meltdowns. Since then many critiques have noted the Ziegler was quite young at the time of the filming and should not be blamed.


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20 Feb 2021, 8:30 pm

ASPartOfMe wrote:
I have been following this controversy from the beginning and the vast majority of bile has been directed towered Sia not Ms. Ziegler. When this first started Ziegler was criticized for an interview in which she said she researched the part by watching Youtube videos of meltdowns. Since then many critiques have noted the Ziegler was quite young at the time of the filming and should not be blamed.


There's the question whether Zeigler knew the consequences but did not mind if it propels her career. The difference with Dustin Hoffman or Clare Danes is that they were playing real characters,

Zeigler and Affleck agreed to play fictional stereotypes probably knowing they exaggerated autism.