Why Sia’s Film “Music” Was Controversial, and Is It Worth the Watch?

By Sakari Jackson, Grade 9, Staff Writer

On February 10, Sia dropped her film “Music,” which quickly received an outpouring of complaints. It earned a whopping 8 percent “fresh” score from Rotten Tomatoes critics and a 14 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. But why did it flop? Should you still give this movie a chance?

Even before its release, the neurodivergent community, especially autistic individuals, was discussing how the film would misrepresent the autistic community by using a neurotypical actor. After it was released, many took to social media to discuss how the film portrayed an inaccurate, and possibly dangerous, view of the autistic community. The Autisticats on Twitter wrote an interesting thread about how dangerous the movie was to the community, and others chimed in as well.

Many of the complaints centered around the movie’s opening scene. The movie started with strobing lights and flashing colors, known to overstimulate some autistic people and cause seizures in those with photosensitive epilepsy (which is common in autistic people, but also a general danger for others). The movie also did not provide a content warning about these things, which could negatively affect the neurodivergent and disabled community, especially since the movie targets this audience.

Madison Ziegler, who plays the main character “Music,” incorrectly impersonates an autistic person, often making offensive and uncomfortable facial expressions. The Autisticats write: “This performance is a caricature of autistic body language. It’s unsettling and insincere. And it is deeply reminiscent of the exaggerated mannerisms non-autistic people often employ when bullying autistic & developmentally disabled people for the ways we move.”

Another disturbing sequence are the scenes in which the main character, Music, is restrained during meltdowns. This is a wild misrepresentation. The kind of restraint shown can be very bad for autistic people and sometimes proves fatal. Although Sia apologized for these scenes before the movie was even released, they are still present in the film with no content warning. Furthermore, the majority of the backlash surrounding the movie regarded neurotypical actress Ziegler, who played the role after expressing some misgivings about portraying an autistic character. She bears some of the blame for the offensive viewing of autistic people, though she was a minor when she was hired and seemingly coerced into the role by Sia. The only group Sia worked with for the film was Autism Speaks, which views autism as a problem that needs to be cured and, ultimately, harms more than helps the community.

Keeping all this in mind, you should not watch this film. It is extremely problematic and offensive to the group that it depicts. If you are interested in watching the movie for yourself, it would be ideal to watch it someplace where it would not support Sia in any way and keep in mind how inaccurate the film is.