by Lizzy Staugler
Is it an inspiring piece of work or a movie filled with an ableist point of view?
That is the question surrounding a new movie titled Music, directed by singer-songwriter Sia. The movie follows a newly sober Zu and her half sister Music, whom Zu becomes the guardian of. Music happens to be on the autism spectrum. With an 8% score on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie is under a lot of fire for the portrayal of the character Music.
Music, as previously mentioned, is on the autism spectrum. However, she is played by Maddie Ziegler, who is not. People were furious to find out that the character with autism would not be played by an actual person with autism. The disabled community has fought time and time again for more disabled characters to be played by someone who actually has to deal with the conditions themselves.
When asked how they felt about the casting of an able-bodied actor, Astro, a member of the autistic community and friend of this reporter, stated that, “we continuously say that no one will understand more or make the portrayal more accurate than someone who has gone through these struggles.” And it’s not like it can’t be done–directors often choose to cast able bodied people instead of people with the disability.
Another major critique of the film is the use of restraints when working with autistic people. Within the movie a particular restraint is shown to be the proper way to restrain an autistic person who is having some kind of breakdown.
This restraint is known as the prone restraint, where the upset party is maneuvered so they are laying face down on the ground, and then a caregiver or another person lays on the back, basically crushing them.
The prone restraint is not only incredibly dangerous but can in fact be deadly. According to health.vic.gov.au, in 2011 38 people died due to the use of this restraint. Sia’s use of it within the movie on two different accounts is telling people this restraint is a proper way to restrain someone, when in fact it is not and has left many autistic people fearing for their lives.
In February 2021, Sia responded to backlash from the autistic community by promising on Twitter that future releases of the movie would remove the two restraint scenes.
This flawed depiction of autism shows that we as a society need to be better. We need to listen to the people who deal with these issues every day, instead of believing we know best. In the words of Astro, “our voices deserve to be heard and need to be heard.”
Music is just one of the many examples of a society that has spoken over the voices of the people that need to be heard.