Sia reveals she is autistic two years after ‘ableist’ film 'Music'

Sia reveals she is autistic two years after ‘ableist’ film 'Music'

Sia reveals autism diagnosis


'Unstoppable' singer Sia, whose film Musicsparked accusations of “ableism” for casting long-term collaborator and non-autistic dancer Maddie Ziegler as a non-speaking autistic girl in the lead role, has now revealed she is “on the spectrum” two years after the film flopped at the box office.

The musician’s directorial debut follows a recovering addict named Zu (played by Kate Hudson) who has to care for her autistic half-sister named Music (Ziegler). Sia said the character was “based completely on my neuro-atypical friend”.

It currently has a percentage score of just seven per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, and in the year of its release it won three Golden Raspberry awards – a parody of the Oscars which highlights the worst films of the year.

The 2021 ceremony saw Sia – full name Sia Furler – crowned Worst Director, Hudson win Worst Actress, and Ziegler be awarded Worst Supporting Actress.

Alongside the controversy over the decision to cast Ziegler in an autistic role, organisations representing autistic people condemned leaked scenes from the film in which Music is restrained while she experiences an autistic meltdown.

Tauna Szymanski, executive director of CommunicationFIRST, said in February 2021: “The movie also irresponsibly suggests that people experiencing meltdowns should be restrained, which could not be further from the truth.

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“By not removing the restraint scenes or even providing a warning, those behind the movie are promoting a traumatising and potentially deadly form of restraint that is illegal in over 30 US states.”

Zoe Gross, director of advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, added: “Music doesn’t just promote harmful stereotypes about autistic people – it shows restraints that have killed members of our community as necessary and loving acts.

“This film should never have been made, and it shouldn’t be shown.”

In response to online criticism from one autistic actor, Helen Angel, in which she said several autistic actors “could have acted in it on short notice”, Furler tweeted: “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”

Another post saw her fume: “Grrrrrrrrrr. F***ity f*** why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY.”.

Shortly before temporarily deleting her Twitter account in February 2021, Sia addressed the prone restraint scenes and wrote: “I promise, I have been listening. The motion picture Music will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie:

Music in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. There are autistic occupational therapists that specialise in sensory processing who can be consulted to explain safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help [with] meltdown safety.”

She continued to say that the restraint scenes will be removed from future screens, before apologising and saying she “listened to the wrong people”.

A month before, in an interview with The Sunday Project, Furler commented on the backlash by saying she realised “it wasn’t ableism”.

“I mean, it is ableism, I guess, as well, but it’s actually nepotism, because I can’t do a project without [Ziegler]. I don’t want to.

“I wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her,” she said.

In January 2022, the 'Titanium' singer revealed to The New York Times that following the criticism over Music, she was “suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab”.

Now, during an episode of Rob Has A Podcast, Furler has disclosed she is “on the [autism] spectrum” and “in recovery”.

She added: “I felt like for 45 years I was like, ‘I’ve got to go put my human suit on’ and only in the last two years have I become fully, fully myself.”

Since news broke of Furler’s autism diagnosis, autistic Twitter users have argued this doesn’t excuse her “ableism”:

Music was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2021 in the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy category, but eventually lost out to West Side Story.

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