Column: How pop-star Sia could recover from upcoming film controversy

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Watching Sia’s trailer for her debut film ‘Music,’ junior Caleb Audia takes note of controversial scenes to which Twitter users called for attention amongst fans. In this scene, Maddie Ziegler, a former Dance Mom’s contestant, is seen impersonating a non-verbal, autistic, character. “I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community,” Sia responded on Twitter to the backlash.

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Insight:

Was Sia out-of-line for casting a verbal actress for a non-verbal character with autism?

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Singer-songwriter Sia released her upcoming film’s trailer on Wednesday, Nov. 18, as well as a new single from the film’s soundtrack – “Hey Boy.”

Sia, in many past interviews, has said that the film will feature a full-length soundtrack album, and has also given insight that she will release another, solo, album at the end of 2021, aswell. 

Film Details:

The film, “Music,” follows the story of a young girl who is non-verbal with autism who falls under the care of her older, “sober, drug-dealing” sister. The movie is set to follow their life together and the struggles they go through to find love and friendship. Music, the non-verbal character, is played by former Dance Moms dancer Maddie Ziegler and her older sister is played by actress Kate Hudson. 

Issue:


Upon release, many fans were excited that the film, which was once rumored to be released in 2016, is now set to release in early February of 2021.

While I was disappointed that there wasn’t casting for someone who would portray the character more realistically, I’m excited that the film is finally coming out after being delayed for five years.”

— Caleb Audia

But the praise didn’t seem to last long, as viewers filled in leaving their offense and concerns over Ziegler’s part, especially considering that Ziegler is not non-verbal nor does she have autism. 

Throughout her career of both writing, directing and editing the film, Sia has promised that, while the main character may be non-verbal and have autism, there’s a ‘good side’ to the ending of the story. She also promised that she means no offense to anyone in the autism community who may be concerned about the appearance. 

Still, many users on Twitter fired back at the release of the trailer, and Sia’s previous statements.

One user commented: “Disappointed in [Sia], thought you’d be more progressive & edgy than this. I’m #Autistic but an artist too. Creating work on disability without disabled input is ableist & dismissive, no matter abt ‘good intentions’. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs.”

 

While, arguably, Sia’s been in the pop culture spotlight since her single “Chandelier,” which also featured a music video with dancer Maddie Ziegler, shot through the United States, it’s been a while since fans have gotten a taste of a solo project. 

Back in 2016, after the release of her seventh studio album “This Is Acting,” which featured songs like “Cheap Thrills,” Sia started on many collaborations and other tasks. These included a Christmas album, a super-group with Labrinth and Diplo, and a song with Doja Cat and Ozuna before announcing the movie. 

But as the ratings continue to drop amongst the highly-anticipated film, Sia continues to defend her actions.

“I’ve never referred to Music (the character) as disabled. Special abilities is what I’ve always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind,” Sia posted on Twitter. “I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.”

Twitter users continue to combat the release of the film, calling it to be canceled, and many more are hoping that the film industry, in the future, will hire actors and editors with disabilities to overall include more representation.

Upcoming Projects:

Do you plan on seeing Sia's upcoming film?

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While the film is set to be a big project for the multi-grammy-nominated songwriter, Sia is set to continue to release a multitude of projects in the near future. While it is confirmed that two albums will be released in 2021, a multi-grammy-nominated producer, Diplo, has given insight that the singer is set to also release a single with him – previously leaked during the summer.

The song, believed to be called ‘Titan’s,” is a hot subject among fans since it was played during Major Lazer’s online-concert series. While once believed to be a Major Lazer song, to which Diplo is a member of the production group that’s famously known for their 2015 record “Lean On,” newly released clips have shown progression towards a Labrinth-Sia-Diplo track.

Little-Room for Hope:

Even though Sia’s new film may be a ‘flop’ due to the controversy among the release, she has multiple opportunities to give her fans something special in the near future. What’s coming down the line: two albums, many collaborations, a film, multiple music videos and potential tours.