The controversy was sparked by the release of the trailer for the film, which depicts a young woman with autism, played by dancer/actress Maddie Ziegler. The portrayal was deemed “offensive” and “inaccurate’ by the Twitter mob, deteriorating into an insult match and calls from various organizations not to watch the video or the film.
Sia wound up tweeting that she is “so confused” by the negativity toward the movie that she wrote and directed. Earlier, she had a different attitude in announcing the trailer release.
”The news you’ve been waiting for!” Sia tweeted on Thursday morning. She touted the work of Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr. and her longtime collaborator, Ziegler, on the film. Ziegler’s involvement was the spark, as audiences grew upset upon learning that Ziegler was portraying a special needs child.
“Can I ask why you didn’t cast a disabled actor for this part?” Irish actress Bronagh Waugh asked. “It’s pretty offensive the way you’ve chosen to portray this character. People with disabilities are not broken and don’t need fixing.”
Sia responded that she tried to “lovingly represent the community.” That set off Twitter, with many asking why a disabled actor could not have filled the role. Sia fought back, saying at one point, “Duh. I spent three f***ing years researching, I think that’s why I’m so f***ing bummed.”
Sia claimed she hired many “special abilities kids” to work on the film, including a girl on the spectrum, before casting Ziegler.
“She found it unpleasant and stressful,” Sia said of the young girl on the spectrum.
When one tweeter said that she and a number of other autistic actors would have been up for a role, Sia replied, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”
Ultimately, the film seems to have ignited anger in the very community it was trying to please. The UK’s National Autistic Society said, “Sia has got this one wrong.”
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) also responded to say “Don’t watch the Sia video.”
Ultimately, Sia defended her actions and urged a review of the finished product.
“F***ity f*** why don’t you watch my film before you judge it?” she wrote on Twitter. “FURY.”
That brought one prominent celebrity reaction
Dear @Sia, With respect as a fellow artist, is this the kind of response you want people to see when discussing such an important topic such as people with Autism? Please don't be deaf to what they have to say. Marlee Matlin
— Marlee Matlin (@MarleeMatlin) November 21, 2020