Autism rights activists have asked Sia to cancel the release of her upcoming film Music.
Many have taken to social media in response to the first trailer of the film, released on November 19, which shows Maddie Ziegler playing the role of a nonverbal autistic teenager.
An online petition was launched last week, campaigning to cancel the premiere in light of visual effects and stereotypes deemed offensive, as well as the fact that Ziegler is not on the autism spectrum.
“As an autistic individual, I am asking that this film is canceled,” wrote Hannah Marshall, who launched the petition, on the fundraising page. “It is extremely offensive to myself and other autistic individuals. Sia has shown no remorse for her inaccurate and hurtful betrayal of the community.”
She continued: “This film will not have a major impact on history. Canceling it will express that intolerance to neurodivergence is unacceptable in today’s society. Sia and her associates have additional avenues for funds; they will survive even if no money is made from this film.”
Sia responded to a number of criticisms on Twitter, engaging with a number of disability activists who criticised her use of the term “special abilities” instead of “disabled”. The musician said she had consulted autistic people and allies, and explained she had tried to work with “beautiful young girl non-verbal on the spectrum” before casting Ziegler, until she “found [the project] unpleasant and stressful.”
She added: “The movie is both a love letter to caregivers and to the autism community. I have my own unique view of the community, and felt it is underrepresented and compelled to make it. If that makes me a shit I’m a shit, but my intentions are awesome.”
Music is slated for a theatrical release in February 2021.