Sia, who spoke at an event in 2019, was criticized in her new film “Music” for depicting autism. (Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for Daily Front Row / TNS)
LOS ANGELES – A petition calling on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to revoke its Golden Globe nominations for Sia’s film “Music” garnered more than 45,000 signatures.
The Change.org campaign recently launched by members of the autism community says that Sia’s directorial debut, starring neurotypical actress Maddie Ziegler as a non-verbal teenager with autism, is “high performing and contributes to harmful stereotypes of autistic people” .
The controversial film, which debuted in select theaters and on VOD last week, garnered two Golden Globe nominations for Lead Actress (Kate Hudson) and Best Picture, Musical / Comedy, and sparked sharp criticism from disability activists and allies.
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“The fact that ‘Music’ was nominated for two Golden Globes Awards shows the total disregard for inclusivity and minority representation by the entire entertainment industry,” wrote Rosanna Kataja and Nina Skov Jensen, who drafted the petition. “It will only use autism as inspirational porn to make neurotypes feel comfortable about their supposed ‘superiority’.”
The petition also questions Ziegler’s performance and the portrayal of the film’s reluctance in sequences that affect the character of the dancer. The National Autism Association condemns it as “dangerous and abusive”.
“Sia’s decision to accept this inhuman treatment is evidence of her ignorance and complete disregard for the safety and needs of autistic people,” the campaign said. “Although she claims her film is a ‘love letter to caregivers and to the autism community,’ she is actually telling the autistic community that they don’t care.”
When Sia was asked earlier this year about her decision to cast frequent contributor Ziegler in the lead role, she insisted that she “can’t do a project without” the alum “Dance Moms” featured in a series of music videos by the singer. Songwriters played along.
In the same interview, Sia revealed that Ziegler feared people would think she was making fun of people with autism by playing the character – and that she promised Ziegler that she would not let that happen. Change.org’s petition, however, confirms Ziegler’s fears of assuming the role.
“How do you behave autistic?” Continues the campaign. “If we look at Ziegler’s portrayal, the answer is to stereotypically mimic autistic people, just as autistic people have been bullied and ridiculed their entire lives.
“It also enforces the idea that autistic people are not good enough and that their autism is better represented by someone who has no idea what it is to be autistic.”
The representatives of “Music” and Ziegler did not immediately respond to the Los Angeles Times’ requests for comments on Tuesday.
The petition comes shortly after Sia apologized to the autism community on social media for showing reluctance in the film and promised to include a disclaimer warning against “the use of restraint in autistic people.” After a prominent autism advocacy group, the Autisticats, watched the film when it was released last week, they found on social media that the warning label had not yet been added.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way autistic people move or how we make facial expressions,” said a viral Instagram post by Autisticats. “Some of us roll our eyes and put our teeth over our lips for stimulation or just because it’s comfortable. But we do these things of course. Maddie Ziegler doesn’t.
“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 years old when filming began. The blame lies with Sia and the other members of this project for not stopping this before it got out of hand. “
Earlier this month, Sia tweeted that she was “sorry” and took responsibility for hearing “the wrong people” while she was “making music” – a marked departure from her initial response to the controversy who the “Chandelier” hitmaker attacked people with autism, who criticized the project.
“Sia’s handling of the comments from disability activists has so far been insensitive, irresponsible and invalid,” the petition says. “Faced with legitimate criticism, Sia decided to attack members of the community personally, such as when she replied,” Maybe you are just a bad actor “to an autistic person who expressed their ability and willingness to act in their film.”
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not immediately respond to the Los Angeles Times’ request for comment on Tuesday.
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