Should Sia Have Cast an Autistic Actress in Music?
As a writer that writes about autism prolifically, many people have asked me for my opinion on the Sia, Music film controversy. For those that don’t know here are the basic facts of the media storm. Sia has recently directed a film called Music about a young autistic girl who is non-verbal and moves in with her sister. The recently sober sister is played by Kate Hudson and her sister by Maddie Ziegler. Controversy surrounds the fact that Sia chose an actress who was not autistic to portray an autistic character.
As a parent of an autistic child, am I outraged?
Simply put, no. First I am a fan of Maddie Ziegler I think she is an extremely talented young lady and believe she will do the role justice. Although, it is hard to see totally from the trailer, the film features the characters dancing. Ziegler’s dance talent is well know. People have failed to ask the question was she picked for this talent. Also, we need to appreciate that Sia has been inspirational in starting Ziegler’s career and hugely supportive of her, why shouldn’t she pick her protegee.
Are autistic people excluded in films?
A common saying in the disabled community is ‘Nothing about us without us.’ This is meant to highlight, how common it is for disabled people to be excluded. I agree that there could be more opportunities for disabled actors. I also acknowledge that very rarely do actors with autism play autistic parts. Has anyone asked them whether this is from choice?
We can not however, say that actors with autism are discriminated against. Anthony Hopkins one of the biggest actors in Hollywood is autistic and does not seem to have a lack of parts offered to him.
Where do we draw the line?
Do all gay characters have to be played by gay actors and actresses. Do all those that portray domestic violence in films have to be a victim themselves. The art of acting is about portraying different characters and making people believe.
No one commented when Ziegler played Christina in The Book of Henry that she shouldn’t have the role because she hadn’t actually been abused. Everyone should be judged on their own merits regardless of personal traits and experiences.
I suspect this outcry is more of a move towards Sia than serious outrage about autistic roles. Although, to be fair Sia has done nothing to help herself through this.
When people attacked Anne Hathaway for her role in Witches, saying that her deformed hands were an insult to deformity, she apologised. Quickly and sincerely, no one heard anything else about it. Sia didn’t take this view, as is her right as an artist, which has caused much of the controversy. She acted with anger and got outrage back.
When it was suggested that she considered an autistic actor for the role she replied, ‘Maybe you’re a bad actor. She made it sound as if autistic people can’t act because they lack imagination, which we only have to look at Hopkins to know is rubbish. It is possible that her words were misinterpreted and she simply meant that Ziegler was the best person for the role.
As Sia well knows though, all publicity is good publicity. This issues has had people talking about Music for a number of weeks. This sort of exposure for a smaller film is valuable. I for one will be watching it will intrigue. It is hard to know from the small trailer where the film will go, but from what I have seen Ziegler does a stunning job.
One factor that has been left out of much of the talk about the film is that the film includes many autistic actors within it. Yes, it would be amazing if there were more autistic actors, playing autistic parts. However, if my side-kick goes into acting I want her to get a role on her talents and skill, not on the fact she needed to fulfil a quota of autistic people on a film. Maybe it is as simple as Ziegler was the right person for the role and no one meant any offence to anyone.