We (Still) See You Sia

Well as you might’ve guessed, with the movie’s imminent release Sia is in the news again, this time with an “apology” to the Autistic Community.

….Is how I would’ve liked to begin this post. Unfortunately I can’t do that, because the statement that’s being reported by USA Today as well as Australian media isn’t exactly the apology we’ve been waiting for.

“Looking back, I should have just shut up; I know that now. It was three in the morning, and even though I have a rule that I don’t do anything emotional past midnight, I f—ed up this time.”

Sia, to The Sydney Morning Herald

So, she’s sorry for tweeting emotionally at 3am, not for hurting people. Not for offending people. Not for ignoring advocates from the very community she’s trying to represent. Not for insulting Autistic actors and the Autistic Community as a whole. Not for being ableist and disgusting. No. She’s sorry for breaking her own personal rule. THAT’S what she regrets.

She brings up Maddie again, acting like we’re going after her over this. Some might be, but I haven’t seen that. The hashtag #NotMadAtMaddie is being used. We know that Maddie was a minor when this was filmed, we know she was coached for this role, and we know who did the coaching because she’s said it herself. Several times. SIA is responsible for this movie from start to finish.

“What I do know is that people functioning at Music’s level can’t get on Twitter and tell me I did a good job either.”

Sia, to The Sydney Morning Herald

In the process of defending her film she’s also doubling down on her ableism. The assumption that non-speaking Autistics can’t communicate well enough to use social media is highly inaccurate. It only shows that Sia didn’t actually research very well, and is making assumptions about people based on how she perceives them. She’s dismissing anyone who criticizes her by implying we’re too “high functioning” to speak for the people she’s trying to represent in her movie, while she herself doesn’t even understand what it’s like to be Autistic.

Non-speaking advocates ARE using Twitter and other social media, but they’re not on there telling Sia she’s doing a good job, because she’s not doing a good job.

Sia is speaking over people rather than giving the community a voice, and it’s not ok. Autistics have gotten a, “here’s this movie that misrepresents some of the most marginalized people in your community, (and you better like it),” rather than a, “hey I’d love to help boost your voices so you can tell your own story.” There’s a bit of an “NT savior complex” going on here and it’s icky.

“There’s a saying in AA that you’re better to understand, than be understood. Sadly I forgot about that when I got on Twitter. I really just wanted to explain that I had tried all these different options and done my best.”

Sia, to The Sydney Morning Herald

Again, a non-apology. Sorry she was “misunderstood,” even though she wasn’t misunderstood at all. More ableism. Autistics disagree with her, so instead of having valid criticisms that should be acknowledged and addressed, well we’re just not able to understand what’s going on in the first place. She did something wonderful for us and we just don’t get it and we’re big huge meany heads for having opinions that aren’t praise. (Please catch that sarcasm, I don’t have the energy for my inbox blowing up.)

As far as the line about trying an Autistic actor first, it’s already come to light that Sia herself mentioned it years ago that she was writing this part for Maddie. Skip to 10:10 or so in this video to hear Sia say it in her very own voice. In 2015.

Even if it weren’t a lie, if she did actually have an Autistic actor for the part, if the set environment was too overwhelming for an actually Autistic person then maybe the production crew should’ve provided accommodations for the person who plays the title character. Maybe the film isn’t an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be Autistic if an Autistic person can’t function on the set.

Maybe there are literally hundreds of other jobs on set that could’ve been filled with Autistic talent. Ever watch the credits run at the end of a film? Hundreds of people listed, and Sia could’ve cared enough to seek out a fully neurodivergent crew. She could’ve employed a population that faces 85% unemployment and underemployment rates. IF she had made the movie for us. But she didn’t. She made it for Maddie.

She claims to have done everything in “the most respectful way,” but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Autistic Community and the Disabled Community at large deserve to be heard on this and her continued refusal to listen or issue a heartfelt apology for the harm she’s causing are proof that she cares nothing for the people who this movie is supposed to represent.

She made this movie and she expected everyone to love it and love her for making it. Well, things didn’t go how she expected and now she’s trying to say it’s our fault for not understanding her rather than owning her mistake and trying to fix it.

I really hope Sia will listen. And apologize. And donate ALL of the proceeds from this catastrophe she’s calling a movie to organizations run by Autistics, for Autistics, so that maybe we can do some good in our community as a result of it all.

Autistics are screaming to be heard right now. Is anyone listening?

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