Here's Why the Autistic Community Is So Angry with Singer Sia

Sia is in the hot seat with the autistic community following the release of "Hey Boy," the first song and video from her directorial debut film Music. Fans were also perturbed by the trailer for the upcoming feature, which stars Maddie Ziegler, Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom.

Much of the controversy over Sia's latest project surrounds her casting of Ziegler as the lead character Music, a teen on the autism spectrum. In an October interview with Variety, Ziegler described her character as someone who is "non-verbal and she has a little echolalia, can repeat what you say to her, but she doesn't generate her own language."

When folks finally got to see the first video and trailer of for the film, criticism emerged over Sia's decision to hire an actor who wasn't actually autistic.

Autistic Community Is Angry With Sia
SIA performs at Mt Smart Stadium on December 5, 2017, in Auckland, New Zealand. Dave Simpson/WireImage

"Hi Sia, can I ask why you didn't cast a disabled actor for this part? It's pretty offensive the way you've chosen to portray this character. People with disabilities are not broken and don't need fixing. Many of my friends have different disabilities and they are some of the...Coolest, most talented, funny, kind, intelligent people I know. They are also the most under-represented and inaccurately represented group in our society. This kind of inaccurate, offensive representation causes so much pain," one person wrote on Twitter.

Another asked: "Hey - did you talk to anyone who's disabled about their feelings towards this film? and the lack of representation by #ActuallyAutistic people in a movie that's going to make money off of disability? Will @Sia be donating to causes that contribute to disability equality in arts?"

There was an onslaught of similar comments and questions about why someone with such a large platform as Sia opted to exclude disabled people from the film and why she referred to the main character as someone with "special abilities" as opposed to the preferred term disabled.

Sia addressed many of her critics head-on.

"I cast thirteen neurotypical people, three trans folk, and not as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts but s as doctors, nurses and singers. F**king sad nobody's even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place," Sia wrote on Twitter.

"Autism speaks is a big no no lol for those who may not know, especially because they support the use of ABA therapy, which is incredibly traumatizing to many autistic individuals. This shows Sia doesn't *really know* what's she's raising money for...or doesn't care," one person tweeted.

"3yrs researching and you didn't know Autism Speaks is a problematic organisation [sic]? I'm not autistic and I've never actively researched autism organisations [sic], but I do follow autistic people on Twitter and that was all I needed to know that AS don't well represent autistic people," wrote another.

Sia first announced plans to direct the film Music at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. Speaking with Variety in October, Sia recalled a speech she gave to the cast and crew just before filming started, which harped on the overall ethos of the film.

"I want you to work every day knowing that we're trying to show love for all of the caregivers, and for all of the people on the autism spectrum, that this movie is for them. If we can keep our egos out of it, that would be great," she recalled saying. "We ended up with the best film because we came to work every day with the best intentions."