Last year, Sia directed her debut feature film, Music. Although her intention was to present a musical which is also inclusive, but it backfired. After the release of the film, people criticized her for casting a girl who did not have autism. At the same time, the film received bad reviews because of the portrayal of autism. The film was also nominated for Golden Globe awards. Recently, the songwriter opened up about the backlash and revealed that she became suicidal.
In 2017, Sia made her directorial debut, Music which starred Kate Hudson and Maddie Ziegler.
Although Sia has made her name in the music industry, she announced her first film project in 2015. While it was supposed to be a non-musical film, she changed her mind mid-way and the filming began in 2017. Finally, it was released in 2021 and got nominated for Golden Globes. The cast includes Maddie Ziegler, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Juliette Lewis, Ben Schwartz and Tig Notaro. According to the premises of Sia film, Kazu Gamble, a sober drug dealer becomes the sole guardian of her non-verbal autistic sister, Music, played by Ziegler. With the help of her imagination and musical dance sequences, Music tries to understand the world around her.
Shortly after the release of the film, it received massive backlash and criticism.
Although Sia did not intend to do it, the film hurt the sentiments of people who have autism. According to them, the film does not portray the autistic people in a positive or realistic light. Brian Truitt, film reviewer, said that Music had so many bad creative decisions. Furthermore, he said:
“What could have been a joyful look at the inner world of a teen girl on the autism spectrum is instead a formulaic drug-addict drama with nonsensical musical sequences. Hey, at least the songs are pretty good.”
Meanwhile, another critic called it a cringe-inducing atrocity. After criticism, Sia took to Twitter to express her thoughts and said:
“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.”
Recently, Sia revealed that the backlash made her have suicidal thoughts.
This week, New York Times did a profile on the comedian, Kathy Griffin. For its preparation, they also interview Sia. While talking about how Griffin saved her life, she narrated the impact she had after receiving backlash for her film, Music. According to Sia:
“I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab.”
After Griffin found out about this, she invited Sia out for dinner and paparazzi captured the moment. This led to healthier media coverage and the songwriter credits this incident helping her get back to her feet.
Despite the backlash, Sia defended her casting choices and Maddie Ziegler’s performance.