The street to ableism has all the time been paved with good intentions.
Final week, Sia posted a trailer for her upcoming film, “Music.” In line with a press launch, the “Chandelier” singer co-wrote the screenplay and directed the musical drama, which stars Maddie Ziegler, Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. Sia additionally launched a 14-track album to accompany the movie, titled “Music – Songs From And Impressed By The Movement Image.”
The movie follows Hudson’s character, who’s estranged from her household however all of a sudden finds herself the only guardian of her nonverbal autistic half-sister, performed by Zeigler. The 2 sisters additionally strike up a friendship with their neighbor, performed by Odom, in line with Selection.
But regardless of the seemingly feel-good content material, upon the discharge of the trailer, many within the incapacity and autism neighborhood expressed issues on social media.
One criticism is that Sia forged Ziegler — an 18-year-old dancer who has starred in a number of of the Australian pop star’s music movies — because the lead. Ziegler is neurotypical, and plenty of within the autistic neighborhood took challenge with the dancer portraying a nonverbal autistic teenager.
“There’s so much to be involved about with this movie, together with ― however positively not restricted to ― the casting,” Zoe Gross, director of operations on the Autistic Self Advocacy Community, advised HuffPost by way of electronic mail. “We’re involved about what messages the movie will ship about autism.”
“It’s unhappy to see individuals investing a lot money and time into this outdated method to telling tales about autism, when there are such a lot of higher methods to do it,” she stated.
Gross additionally identified that the “give attention to guardianship is extraordinarily regarding,” particularly if the autistic character within the film is of authorized age.
“Households of younger adults with disabilities are sometimes steered in the direction of guardianship, which entails eradicating an individual’s authorized rights,” she defined. “Options to guardianship, corresponding to supported decision-making, can be utilized to assist individuals with all ranges of assist wants, together with nonspeaking autistic individuals, retain their authorized rights whereas nonetheless receiving helps in maturity.”
“These alternate options to guardianship are essential for serving to individuals with disabilities stay comfortable, self-determined lives, however are sometimes not recognized about, and this movie could symbolize a missed alternative to teach individuals on this topic.”
It’s unhappy to see individuals investing a lot money and time into this outdated method to telling tales about autism, when there are such a lot of higher methods to do it.
Zoe Gross, director of operations on the Autistic Self Advocacy Community
The leisure trade has lengthy struggled with the genuine illustration of individuals with disabilities. Movies and TV exhibits have historically depicted them as objects of inspiration or pity — which contributes to dangerous stereotypes that proceed to marginalize them. In 2016, solely 2.7% of characters within the 100 highest-earning motion pictures had been disabled, in line with a report from the College of Southern California’s Annenberg College for Communication and Journalism.
Movie and TV have additionally perpetuated the dangerous trope that autistic persons are savants (assume: 1998’s “Rain Man” or the latest hit, “The Good Physician”), which contributes to the cultural perception that somebody with a neurotypical incapacity is a burden until they’ve some sort of superpower.
One other issue that many within the autistic neighborhood had been troubled by was that Sia consulted with the group Autism Speaks for her movie.
Autistic individuals have criticized Autism Speaks for years over its controversial messaging, together with a useful resource on its web site known as the 100 Day Equipment for fogeys of newly identified autistic kids. In line with ASAN, the package encourages dad and mom accountable household stress on their autistic baby and to spend time with their non-autistic kids remembering how issues had been higher earlier than their sibling’s prognosis. ASAN additionally notes that the package encourages households to undergo the 5 levels of grief after studying that their baby is autistic, which ASAN characterizes as being akin to appearing “as they might if the kid had died.”
Gross additionally famous that Autism Speaks is “a company with out autistic management whose advocacy priorities are in opposition to the autistic neighborhood.”
Additionally alarming was Sia’s responses to individuals’s issues.
When one Twitter consumer requested Sia why she forged a non-autistic actor for the lead, she lashed out by itemizing the neuroatypical and trans individuals she had forged in her movie.
“I forged 13 neuroatypical individuals, three trans people, and never as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts however as medical doctors, nurses and singers,” she tweeted. “Fucking unhappy no person’s even seen the dang film. My coronary heart has all the time been in the precise place.”
This response didn’t go down nicely.
“So, you bought out your ‘token quota’ card when casting?” Dominick Evans, a incapacity advocate, responded on Twitter.
“We aren’t objects to be counted to ‘show you might be various.’”
One other Twitter consumer identified that’s Sia’s try at subverting disabled stereotypes additionally comes off a bit misguided.
“Ought to all autistic &/or trans individuals aspire to be medical doctors, nurses or singers – are we solely legitimate then?” they requested.
Sia advised one other Twitter consumer that she felt that casting an autistic individual along with her character’s “degree of functioning” was “merciless, not sort, so I made the chief resolution that we might do our greatest to lovingly symbolize the neighborhood.”
Though some might imagine this “government resolution” was pragmatic, Gross stated ASAN was “alarmed” that Sia thought that casting a nonspeaking autistic actor could be “merciless.”
“It means that she thinks that autistic individuals don’t perceive our personal lives and aren’t the individuals who must be telling our personal tales,” Gross advised HuffPost. “When individuals inform tales about autism that minimize out an autistic perspective, when storytellers view us as objects to inform inspirational tales about, or when autism is handled as a story system slightly than as a incapacity neighborhood stuffed with actual individuals, the tales which are advised fall flat, don’t communicate to our actuality, and are sometimes dangerous to us.”
When one other Twitter consumer requested if Sia had achieved any analysis or consulted the autism neighborhood in any respect, she responded: “Duh. I spent three fucking years researching, I believe that’s why I’m so fucking bummed.”
But in the midst of the analysis, it appears she by no means stumbled upon one of many many on-line critiques of Autism Speaks. Sia stated the controversial group got here on board to seek the advice of “lengthy after the movie was completed.”
A Twitter consumer seems to have warned Sia about Autism Speaks earlier this yr.
Sia even went so far as telling an autistic actor that “perhaps you’re only a unhealthy actor” when the actor tweeted that her causes for casting a neurotypical actor to play an autistic teen had been merely “excuses.”
Alaina Leary, an autistic author, wrote in Refinery 21 that Sia’s impolite comment to the autistic actor solely provides “to the prevalent assumption that autistic persons are unable to behave as a result of we’re not neurotypical, which ignores the unbelievable range of the autistic neighborhood.”
Leary additionally identified how Sia’s assertion that casting an actor with the character’s “degree of functioning was merciless, not sort,” and exhibits “how little analysis she has achieved on autistic individuals.”
“Describing somebody as low-functioning and making assumptions about their skills based mostly on how they impart is ableist, not sort,” Leary wrote.
Gross added that her group had consulted with the crew that made Pixar’s film “Loop” and supplied an instance of how autistic actors could possibly be included in narratives involving their lives.
“They introduced on a nonspeaking autistic voice actress, Madison Bandy, to play a nonspeaking autistic character,” Gross defined. “And so they modified their recording course of to permit her to take part in a approach that labored for her.”
Gross added that autistic individuals typically want lodging for work, together with within the leisure trade, “however that doesn’t imply that we aren’t price hiring or together with.”
“It’s deeply disappointing to see Sia utilizing her platform to assault autistic individuals who’ve spoken up about their issues concerning the movie,” Gross concluded to HuffPost. “While you communicate over a marginalized neighborhood to inform their story with out their enter, individuals will object to that.”
“If Sia actually needs to be an ally to the autistic neighborhood, she’d take heed to the suggestions she’s getting and study from autistic individuals about how we need to be represented.”
Sia didn’t instantly reply to HuffPost’s request for remark.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Join membership to turn out to be a founding member and assist form HuffPost’s subsequent chapter