We See You Sia

The following is a video made by “The Classy Aspie” concerning her viewpoint on Sia’s new movie and the controversy surrounding it, and a transcript provided by an anonymous user. Responses/corrections have been inserted between spacers, typed in italics.

Capture of a YouTube video by user RitaThePearl (aka The Classy Aspie, a Facebook page which has been unpublished) transcript with responses below

Hiii I want to talk about Sia’s upcoming movie…[finger snap]…Music. And…uhh, the drama surrounding it.

Drama” is an interesting choice there. I might’ve used controversy, criticism, maybe negative feedback. Using a word like drama is intentional. It’s meant to gaslight and minimize people’s legitimate complaints. A manipulative tactic often used as an attempt to discredit people as unstable or overreacting.

Uhh, it’s come to my attention… multiple times that the people in the Autistic Community, most of which uh in the “Actually Autistic” community—I don’t believe are Autistic because most of them are self-diagnosed… [pause, looking to the side] …um, have decided to attack Sia about the fact that she uses/used Maddie Ziegler in the movie.

Self-diagnosed Autistics are valid. Diagnosis is a privilege which is inaccessible for many due to their race, gender, socioeconomic status, age, disability, or region. Diagnosed Autistics are also speaking out. Intersectionality between the Autistic Community and the Disabled Community means non-Autistic disability advocates are also speaking out. Neurotypical allies who understand why this is wrong are speaking out and amplifying voices and boosting signals. It’s not only self-identified Autistics in this movement, but even if it WERE, the points we’re making would still be valid.

Well, Sia actually uses Maddie for most things. She uses her to represent herself, at least that was my take on it, in all her music videos, almost all of them. Um, in fact I—showed my husband early on in our marriage, the Chandelier video and a few other videos featuring Maddie, where I was like I think Sia is on the spectrum because I absolutely stim in the way Maddie Ziegler does the choreography for Sia’s videos. Sooo, my whole take on the thing for years is that Sia might be on the spectrum, or otherwise neurodivergent, and used that specific choreography and Maddie to represent her, because she hid from the public for a long time.

The previous statement implies self-identified Autistics aren’t really Autistic, but in the very next bit Sia herself receives an armchair diagnosis that somehow completely validates her as an Autistic even though she’s never once publicly stated that she might be, or thinks she is, or that she’s been formally diagnosed. Which, according to the precedent set above, means she can’t be Autistic.

Besides that, it’s not anyone’s place to announce that Sia is Autistic except Sia. If she is, and she wanted people to know, people would know.

And besides THAT, even if Sia is Autistic, that doesn’t give her a free pass to make a movie that causes this much harm to the Autistic Community. If she’s Autistic it only makes this whole thing that much worse.

Sooo, the “community” [Autistic Community] which, by the way I want nothing to do with—it stopped being about Autism a long time ago and started being about being oppressed on purpose…umm, has attacked her, and she got rude back and [head shaking]—y’all deserved it.

A community raising legitimate concerns over the production of a movie that’s supposed to represent them is hardly an “attack.” Sia’s response to an Autistic actor, however

Image of a tweet from user Sia (verified user) replying to (user redacted) “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”

The movie isn’t out yet, I haven’t seen it. But I do know for a fact that people on the end of the spectrum..that Sia and the movie in general are trying to portray and trying to use uh the actual musical numbers, the musical numbers in the movie to show a nonverbal Autistic’s [pause] view of the world?, which by the way is awesome, uhh, yeah, Maddie might not be on the spectrum but if she self-diagnosed herself y’all would have to um, accept it right?, ooh woo, right?, [sigh] People on that end of the spectrum are in movies ok, they cannot generally act, they cannot generally take on a lot of the burden of acting, including…the stuff that goes…the schedules, rigorous schedules, the [indecipherable] people that can’t talk…or read..and you are such a.. presentation that you have a hard time even understanding what Autism is? Do you really think that people like that are able to act in films and do musical numbers? If you think that..[pause, sigh]..you’re a privileged Autistic, ok? [rests face on hands, dramatically]

And that’s coming from someone who can talk and is on the spectrum myself.

Holy cringe factor, Batman! Where to even start??

Let’s address attacking self-diagnosis again. IF Maddie announced that she’s Autistic (self-diagnosed or otherwise) she would be accepted as Autistic by the #ActuallyAutistic crowd. But it doesn’t matter, because she hasn’t announced that and this is just a diversionary tactic AGAIN trying to discredit anyone who criticizes the film. Maddie isn’t the issue here. There’s even a hashtag. #NotMadAtMaddie

Sia herself has said that Maddie was in tears at rehearsal because she didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings with her performance. She felt like she was mocking the Autistic Community. She didn’t want to cause harm, and as a 13-14 year old budding actress she tried to advocate but was ultimately convinced by Sia that everything would be fine.

Full interview with The Zach Lang Show here (Sia begins speaking about the movie at 4:50 and the quote about Maddie crying is at 7:39)

Now back to the point. The ableism in this statement is absolutely disgusting. There isn’t a low end or a high end to the spectrum. “People like that” (non-speaking Autistics) have a wide range of talents and skills, just like Autistics who can speak. Just like non-Autistics.

Making blanket statements about a diverse population is not only inaccurate but downright harmful. It perpetuates negative stereotypes that have stolen the voices and lives of millions of non-speaking individuals over the years. What a way to speak about anyone, let alone a group of people who already face disheartening levels of prejudice and discrimination simply because they communicate differently. Like, WOOOOOOOOW. And you’ve got the nerve to call others “privileged?” Check your own, first! Last I checked the #ActuallyAutistic community wasn’t dogging non-speaking individuals like that, but you do you, Boo.

Also, I’ve been listening to the songs that have been released from the album for Music, the film, and I personally think Sia might’ve written an album for..people on the spectrum, and y’all collectively spat in her face without ever seeing the movie, which by the way has Leslie Odom Junior in it and he has never done me wrong, all the way from Hamilton to his book, um “Failing Up”, to everything else he’s done, every show he does, every voice acting he does, he’s just great, ok?

If Sia really made this movie and album FOR the Autistic Community she could’ve staffed the entire production with neurodivergent talent. Writers, musicians, actors, directors, costumers, set design, sound crew, gaffers, gofers, makeup artists, everyone. Maybe use that huge platform and all of those connections and resources to help Autistic individuals tell our own stories instead of making up a story to tell and then producing the whole thing without input from the community and then wondering why folks aren’t grovelling at her feet in praise and thanks.

NEWSFLASH: the entire point of producing a trailer for a film and releasing it prior to said film’s premier is so that the public can get a good idea of what the movie is about and whether or not they’ll spend their time and money to go see it. We’re supposed to judge a film by its preview!

People are allowed to decide they don’t want to see this film without actually seeing it. People are allowed to publicly voice their concerns about this production. That’s not an attack. That’s how we affect change in the world as advocates and activists.

Not sure how Leslie Odom Jr. being in it makes it less harmful to the Autistic Community. He’s an amazing actor and talent (from long before Hamilton, btw) but his presence in the cast doesn’t strip away the ableism and stereotypes in the script and it certainly doesn’t excuse the way Sia is handling her public relations.

I saw the trailer for Music and I did relate to some of the behavior I saw…Maddie acting out…I did. If you don’t relate at all to some of these extreme presentations and cases…[dramatic pause/intense eye contact with camera lens/then quiet whisper with head tilted]—are you Autistic?

(Again with the trying to invalidate people!) I haven’t seen a whole lot of people saying they don’t relate to the Autistic character. It’s been quite the opposite really. People have said the performance triggers an intense reaction similar to how it felt being bullied and mocked in school. People are upset that an actor was used who had to be coached to mimic these mannerisms rather than hiring a person who does them naturally. People are upset that there’s yet another non-Autistic person literally writing the narrative for our community.

I saw less of a “lashing out” about The Good Doctor. That guy’s not Autistic. The guy who plays Sherlock—they say Asperger’s, “in the BBC Sherlock”, he’s not on the spectrum that we know of. Uh, Hugh Dancy plays Will Graham. They say “on the autistic spectrum” about him in the NBC show [Hannibal]. He’s not autistic…, that we know of.
Personally I think a lot of people are undiagnosed in the um industry, so to speak.

People have spoken out about those shows. Repeatedly. There actually ARE a lot of Autistics in the Hollywood industry, which is why it’s so frustrating when people claim that Sia hiring Maddie for this film is ok. There are so many Autistics in the entertainment industry (openly so or not) that there’s almost no reason why Sia couldn’t fully staff her production with neurodivergent people. But she didn’t.

Bringing up other problematic productions as justification for this problematic production is….. problematic.

But honestly?—y’all are disgusting, I…I’m done with the “Actually Autistic Community”. And I’m officially on board with the “I’m Diagnosed”..community. And if you’re not diagnosed and you think you’re autistic that is fine and dandy just say so…just please if you want to be an advocate actually get the diagnosis ok? Like, it’s not that..hard [rests face on hand, stares into camera]..just travel outside your small town.

The person who just referred to AAC users as “people like that” and suggested they’re incapable of acting or participating in telling their own stories is calling the Autistic Self-Advocacy moment disgusting? That’s laughable.

(IS there even an “I’m Diagnosed” Community? If so, what good are they doing for the Autistic Community as a whole, other than gatekeeping who gets to speak? I’m genuinely curious.)

There are a lot more barriers to accessing formal diagnosis than where a person lives. You would know that if you were actually an advocate in the community. Again, check your privilege. Like seriously check it. It’ll be good for you.

I for one am excited for the movie. We’re gonna watch it as a family: me, my daughter, my husband—he’s not a big movie person but he’s kind of interested to see what’s so “bad about it” that the community [Autistic Community] attacked Sia, a woman who I used her music videos and music to help describe my own stimming and autistic behavior. Go watch the video for Chandelier. Maddie’s choreography is literally how I stim.

So…I guess my presentation of Autism is too stigmatizing for you guys. You guys…[slight eye roll]…Y’ALL [said loudly and drawn out, face perched on hand, zooming in towards camera lens], hehe ugh yankee speak.

Again, the individual presentation of autism being represented in the film is not what people have issue with here. It’s how it’s being presented that’s the problem. Most folks who have spoken out would be exceedingly happy to see accurate and thoughtful representation of a non-speaking, AAC-using Autistic individual, if such a thing were to exist. However, this particular film does not fit the bill. Not by a long shot.

The Reason I Jump” is a movie based on a book written by Naoki Higashida, a non-speaking Autistic individual. I imagine quite a few of us are looking forward to that.

Anyway, I will post a full video of a movie review once I see it. And if I don’t like it, and find it stigmatizing, you all will know. Just ‘cause it’s Sia doesn’t mean she’s immune from criticism from me. So anyway here comes my husband, goodbye. [blows kiss towards screen, video cuts out]

Anyway, I almost didn’t even make this post because your video is clearly made with the intent to trigger a response from people who oppose the film and I didn’t want to feed into that, but there’s so much harmful commentary in it that it needed to be dissected.

The things you said about non-speaking individuals are appalling and shameful. In the process of defending Sia you’ve caused additional harm to an already extremely marginalized community. As a clinically diagnosed, Autistic who is able to speak well enough to make videos, you should be standing up for others in the community rather than tearing them down. Or do you have another form of twisted logic like the self-diagnosis nonsense that makes it so you don’t have to respect and support AAC users as your peers, either?


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