Sia addressed the mounting fury surrounding her controversial film “Music” early Thursday morning — then deleted her Twitter account.
On Wednesday, disabled and autistic people received a blunt reminder that ableism not only exists — but that it’s also celebrated — when the Australian pop star’s movie received two Golden Globe nominations, including in the “Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.” One of the film’s stars, Kate Hudson, received a nod for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.”
The awards announcement comes amid months of backlash by the disability and autism communities surrounding the “Chandelier” singer’s film. These criticisms include concerns about the movie’s messages about autism; the casting of Maddie Ziegler, who is not autistic, as an autistic nonverbal teen; and Sia’s decision to consult with the controversial organization Autism Speaks for the film. In response to the backlash, Sia lashed out at her critics on Twitter.
Adding gasoline to this fire, a leaked and upsetting clip (which you can view below, but some may find disturbing or triggering) from “Music” has also been making the rounds on social media.
The scene features Hudson’s character using a dangerous type of restraint on Ziegler’s character. The act is portrayed as commonplace and necessary — though it has resulted in death.
“MUSIC doesn’t just promote harmful stereotypes about autistic people ― it shows restraints that have killed members of our community as necessary and loving acts,” Zoe Gross, director of advocacy at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network said in a press release sent to HuffPost. “This film should never have been made, and it shouldn’t be shown.”
In a series of now-deleted tweets published on Thursday morning, Sia wrote that she has “been listening” to the criticism surrounding “Music” in the wake of her Golden Globe nods.
“I promise, have been listening. The motion picture MUSIC will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie: MUSIC in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. There are autistic occupational therapists that specialize in sensory processing who can be consulted to explain safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help w meltdown safety.”
In a third tweet, Sia said she intends to delete the restraint scenes. She also seems to acknowledge her association with Autism Speaks, saying she listened to the “wrong people” in her research for the film:
Soon after, Sia deleted her Twitter account. Her Instagram account, however, still was active as of Thursday afternoon.
HuffPost has reached out to Sia, but did not receive an immediate response.
The film will premiere in select Imax theaters for one-night only on Feb. 10, per Variety. It will then be released on premium video-on-demand platforms on Feb. 12.
It appears Sia took into account recommendations made by Communication First — a group run by and for nonspeaking people with disabilities. In a statement issued late last year, the organization offered her a list of steps she could take to “flip the script” on the damage she has already done to the community with “Music.” It advised the Grammy-nominated musician to first and foremost “acknowledge the harm and trauma this situation has brought to the disability community, and create a meaningful plan to make amends.”
The statement also called for Sia “to create an introductory short to the film to educate viewers on our broad, diverse humanity and the importance of inclusion and representation.”
In a press release issued Wednesday, Communication First stated that Sia’s team “reached out and briefly engaged” with it “before restraint scenes from the film were leaked” on social media. The group said that communication between it and Sia’s team ended after “a committee of nonspeaking and autistic people were invited to screen the film last week” and made additional recommendations due to the upsetting nature of the film. Apparently, aside from the leaked clip above, there is another scene in the movie in which Ziegler’s character is restrained.
“MUSIC’s restraint scenes will undoubtedly cause harm to autistic people,” Tauna Szymanski, executive director of Communication First, said in the release. “Because many autistic people have experienced restraint, some will be traumatized by watching the film.”
“By not removing the restraint scenes or even providing a warning, those behind the movie are promoting a traumatizing and potentially deadly form of restraint that is illegal in over 30 US states.”
Guy Stephens, founder and executive director of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint said in a statement that “physical restraint is an outdated crisis management technique used in schools, psychiatric facilities, hospitals, and prisons. Physical restraint is dangerous and can lead to significant trauma, serious injuries, and even death. There are far better ways to work with people that need compassion and support.”
Stephens noted that depictions of physical restraint in “Music” will perpetuate “the idea that physical restraint is an acceptable practice. It is not.”
Anne Borden King — co-founder of Autistics for Autistics, an autistic-led advocacy group — told HuffPost in an email that “this film should never have been made,” and that it “simply invented this schlocky storyline that ‘pulls on the heartstrings’ of equally ignorant people.”
“Those who nominated the film, as well as the filmmakers, need to educate themselves by reading what autistic people have been writing about the film.
Borden King added: “Autistic people are people, not props, and we deserve fair and equitable representation in film. The only use for this film is to educate future filmmakers of how not to represent a marginalized group in film.”