Despite Sia defending her decision to cast Maddie Ziegler in her newest music video for her song “Music,” the singer’s unconventional argument to respond to the ableist backlash she has received for this ignorant decision is arguably distasteful. It includes neither an apology nor a token of support towards those who have autism. wInstead, it is a concession that nepotism came into play when casting this role. Sia claims that she “wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her [Maddie],” but perhaps this brings up the question of whether this is truly art or simply a dramatized and outsider view of how people believe an autistic person would behave or act.
In addition, Sia’s bluntness and sheer indifference to her lapse in judgment only prove to deepen the wound and seem to show little to no remorse at the thought of mocking those who have autism. She further defends herself, claiming that it is impossible to please everyone and avoid receiving hateful reviews.
However, this seems like an easily avoidable situation if she simply did not attempt to portray an autistic person by casting someone who cannot relate in any way, shape or form.
This situation in and of itself is a prime example of cultural appropriation. Think about the criticism that would be evoked if, instead of pretending to be autistic, Sia had portrayed Ziegler as assuming a different race, like using Blackface, for example. This situation would be totally unacceptable, as it would be highly offensive and raise the question of why Ziegler was chosen to fill that role. This is no different. Why didn’t Sia choose an autistic person to star in this film when it would have made for an authentic and purely inspiring story?
Instead, she demands Ziegler fill a role that she simply cannot and displays insolent dishonesty that is both offensive and unnecessary. As the autism community stands up to respond to this film, it is abundantly clear that this is not something they can get behind.
This has surely tainted Sia’s reputation. It has shone a light on a different side of her that had not been previously revealed. With cultural diffidence at an all-time high in our world regarding race, sexuality and in this case, developmental disorder equality, there is no need for a situation like this to create further division.
This is indeed a culturally appropriative event that should in no way be socially accepted. Hopefully, some good will come out of this and perhaps give the autism community a new platform to spread ideas of equality and compassion.