Sia performing at South by South West in 2008. Credit: Wikimedia/Kris Krug

Ever since announcing her directorial debut, Music, Australian singer-songwriter Sia has faced plenty of backlash.

Music is the story of titular character, Music (Maddie Ziegler), a non-verbal girl on the autism spectrum, and her newly sober half-sister Zu (Kate Hudson), who struggles as Music’s sole guardian.

Sia was initially criticised for casting her long-time friend and collaborator Maddie Ziegler as Music, instead of someone on the autism spectrum. She was quick to defend the decision, saying casting an actor on the spectrum would have been “cruel”. Defended her decision in an interview on Australia’s TV show The Sunday Project, she said: “I mean, it is ableism I guess as well, but it’s actually nepotism because I can’t do a project without [Ziegler].”

The criticism intensified after a leaked video showed the dangerous prone restraint being used on Music having a meltdown. A meltdown is an uncontrollable reaction to a sensory overload, and can sometimes be confused with a temper tantrum.

“The restraints that she uses in the film, of course, for autistic people, will cause PTSD to autistic people who have been restrained in the past,” said Charlotte Disley, a representative of the London Autism Group Charity.

“The apology was conveniently after the Golden Globe [nominees] were announced,” she said. “I think the fact that she deleted her Twitter account exactly after apologising to the community just shows that she’s not really that bothered.

“If she wanted to apologise, then she wouldn’t have done it in the first place.

“Autistic people shouldn’t be expected to just forgive Sia.”

Music was recently nominated for a Golden Globe in the category Best Picture (Musical/Comedy). Kate Hudson, who plays Zu, was also nominated for Best Actress (Musical/Comedy). Following the nomination, there was widespread disagreement with the decision.

Sia has now apologised for the depiction of autism in Music. In a Tweet, she said the restrain scenes would be removed from the film, and added that a warning would be added to the film: “Music in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. 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 w [sic] meltdown safety.”

After saying she “listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough,” Sia deleted her Twitter account.

Music is set to release on digital platforms for UK audiences on 15 February.

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