A petition launched to rescind the Golden Globe nominations for Sia‘s film Music has reached over 65,000 signatures.
Sia attached a warning message to her feature directorial debut shortly after the controversial film scored two Golden Globe nominations, and notably the comments have been turned off under the film’s trailer on YouTube.
The film stars Sia’s frequent collaborator Maddie Ziegler, who is not autistic, as a nonverbal autistic teen.
“I promise, I have been listening,” Sia tweeted. “The motion picture MUSIC will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie. I plan to remove the restraint scenes from all future printings. I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough.”
The disclaimer addresses part of the film that depicts the use of restraint in sequences involving Ziegler’s titular character.
The National Autism Association defines restraint as “physical force used to immobilise – or reduce the ability of – an individual” and condemns it as “dangerous and abusive".
“MUSIC in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people,” reads the new warning on Sia’s film. “There are autistic occupational therapists that specialise in sensory processing who can be consulted to explain safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help [with] meltdown safety.”
Of course, this is not the first time an able-bodied actor has played a character with a disability.
Eddie Redmayne, Colin Firth, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx have all won Oscars in the past two decades by playing visibly disabled characters; famously Hoffman portrayed an autistic character in Rain Man, while Leonardo DiCaprio received his first Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for playing a developmentally disabled boy in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? – without the surrounding controversy Sia has experienced for Music – pointing to a new outlook on what is now considered appropriate in terms of representing disabled people in films.
In the petition, Rosanna Kataja (who describes herself as an autism ally) and Nina Skov Jensen (who is autistic) called the film “severely ableist” and say it contributes to “harmful stereotypes of autistic people”.