The street to ableism has at all times been paved with good intentions.
Last week, Sia posted a trailer for her upcoming film, “Music.” According to a press launch, the “Chandelier” singer co-wrote the screenplay and directed the musical drama, which stars Maddie Ziegler, Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. Sia additionally launched a 14-track album to accompany the movie, titled “Music – Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture.”
The movie follows Hudson’s character, who’s estranged from her household however all of a sudden finds herself the only guardian of her nonverbal autistic half-sister, performed by Zeigler. The two sisters additionally strike up a friendship with their neighbor, performed by Odom, based on Variety.
Yet regardless of the seemingly feel-good content material, upon the discharge of the trailer, many within the incapacity and autism neighborhood expressed considerations on social media.
One criticism is that Sia solid Ziegler — an 18-year-old dancer who has starred in a number of of the Australian pop star’s music movies — because the lead. Ziegler is neurotypical, and plenty of within the autistic neighborhood took subject with the dancer portraying a nonverbal autistic teenager.
“There’s a lot to be concerned about with this film, including ― but definitely not limited to ― the casting,” Zoe Gross, director of operations on the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, advised HuffPost through e mail. “We’re concerned about what messages the film will send about autism.”
“It’s sad to see people investing so much time and money into this outdated approach to telling stories about autism, when there are so many better ways to do it,” she mentioned.
Gross additionally identified that the “focus on guardianship is extremely concerning,” particularly if the autistic character within the film is of authorized age.
“Families of young adults with disabilities are often steered towards guardianship, which involves removing a person’s legal rights,” she defined. “Alternatives to guardianship, such as supported decision-making, can be used to help people with all levels of support needs, including nonspeaking autistic people, retain their legal rights while still receiving supports in adulthood.”
“These alternatives to guardianship are crucial for helping people with disabilities live happy, self-determined lives, but are often not known about, and this film may represent a missed opportunity to educate people on this subject.”
It’s unhappy to see folks investing a lot money and time into this outdated strategy to telling tales about autism, when there are such a lot of higher methods to do it.
Zoe Gross, director of operations on the Autistic Self Advocacy Network
The leisure business has lengthy struggled with the genuine illustration of individuals with disabilities. Films and TV reveals have historically depicted them as objects of inspiration or pity — which contributes to dangerous stereotypes that proceed to marginalize them. In 2016, solely 2.7% of characters within the 100 highest-earning motion pictures have been disabled, based on a report from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Film and TV have additionally perpetuated the dangerous trope that autistic persons are savants (suppose: 1998’s “Rain Man” or the latest hit, “The Good Doctor”), which contributes to the cultural perception that somebody with a neurotypical incapacity is a burden until they’ve some type of superpower.
Another issue that many within the autistic neighborhood have been troubled by was that Sia consulted with the group Autism Speaks for her movie.
Autistic folks have criticized Autism Speaks for years over its controversial messaging, together with a useful resource on its web site referred to as the 100 Day Kit for folks of newly identified autistic youngsters. According to ASAN, the package encourages mother and father responsible household stress on their autistic baby and to spend time with their non-autistic youngsters remembering how issues have been higher earlier than their sibling’s analysis. ASAN additionally notes that the package encourages households to undergo the 5 phases of grief after studying that their baby is autistic, which ASAN characterizes as being akin to appearing “as they would if the child had died.”
Gross additionally famous that Autism Speaks is “an organization without autistic leadership whose advocacy priorities are in opposition to the autistic community.”
Also alarming was Sia’s responses to folks’s considerations.
When one Twitter consumer requested Sia why she solid a non-autistic actor for the lead, she lashed out by itemizing the neuroatypical and trans folks she had solid in her movie.
“I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers,” she tweeted. “Fucking sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.”
This response didn’t go down nicely.
“So, you got out your ‘token quota’ card when casting?” Dominick Evans, a incapacity advocate, responded on Twitter.
“We are not objects to be counted to ‘prove you are diverse.’”
Another Twitter consumer identified that’s Sia’s try at subverting disabled stereotypes additionally comes off a bit misguided.
“Should all autistic &/or trans people aspire to be doctors, nurses or singers – are we only valid then?” they requested.
Sia advised one other Twitter consumer that she felt that casting an autistic individual along with her character’s “level of functioning” was “cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.”
Although some might imagine this “executive decision” was pragmatic, Gross mentioned ASAN was “alarmed” that Sia thought that casting a nonspeaking autistic actor could be “cruel.”
“It suggests that she thinks that autistic people don’t understand our own lives and aren’t the people who should be telling our own stories,” Gross advised HuffPost. “When people tell stories about autism that cut out an autistic point of view, when storytellers view us as objects to tell inspirational stories about, or when autism is treated as a narrative device rather than as a disability community full of real people, the stories that are told fall flat, don’t speak to our reality, and are often harmful to us.”
When one other Twitter consumer requested if Sia had executed any analysis or consulted the autism neighborhood in any respect, she responded: “Duh. I spent three fucking years researching, I think that’s why I’m so fucking bummed.”
Yet in the midst of the analysis, it appears she by no means stumbled upon one of many many on-line critiques of Autism Speaks. Sia mentioned the controversial group got here on board to seek the advice of “long after the film was finished.”
A Twitter consumer seems to have warned Sia about Autism Speaks earlier this yr.
Sia even went so far as telling an autistic actor that “maybe you’re just a bad actor” when the actor tweeted that her causes for casting a neurotypical actor to play an autistic teen have been merely “excuses.”
Alaina Leary, an autistic author, wrote in Refinery 21 that Sia’s impolite comment to the autistic actor solely provides “to the prevalent assumption that autistic people are unable to act because we’re not neurotypical, which ignores the incredible diversity of the autistic community.”
Leary additionally identified how Sia’s assertion that casting an actor with the character’s “level of functioning was cruel, not kind,” and reveals “how little research she has done on autistic people.”
“Describing someone as low-functioning and making assumptions about their abilities based on how they communicate is ableist, not kind,” Leary wrote.
Gross added that her group had consulted with the workforce that made Pixar’s film “Loop” and supplied an instance of how autistic actors could possibly be included in narratives involving their lives.
“They brought on a nonspeaking autistic voice actress, Madison Bandy, to play a nonspeaking autistic character,” Gross defined. “And they modified their recording process to allow her to participate in a way that worked for her.”
Gross added that autistic folks usually want lodging for work, together with within the leisure business, “but that doesn’t mean that we are not worth hiring or including.”
“It’s deeply disappointing to see Sia using her platform to attack autistic people who’ve spoken up about their concerns about the film,” Gross concluded to HuffPost. “When you speak over a marginalized community to tell their story without their input, people will object to that.”
“If Sia truly wants to be an ally to the autistic community, she’d listen to the feedback she’s getting and learn from autistic people about how we want to be represented.”
Sia didn’t instantly reply to HuffPost’s request for remark.
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