This is not ‘Music’ to my ears


Photo courtesy of Hanway Films

Music movie poster

Music, a movie directed by pop singer Sia, is an egregiously inaccurate and unresearched depiction of autism that is a danger to the entire autistic community. Music is about Zu, played by Kate Hudson, a young woman struggling with alcohol addiction who is suddenly the caretaker to her younger sister who is autistic, played by Maddie Zeigler. 

The first issue with this movie is that Zeigler is not autistic. Neurodivergent actors have been overlooked in Hollywood for a long time and this could have been a great opportunity to highlight some of the talented actors who are autistic. Sia claims that this movie is a “love letter to caregivers and to the autism community,” however, by hiring a neurotypical actor to play an autistic character, Sia is participating in the ableism that she is claiming to fight against. 

Another problem with this movie is that it appears to be poorly researched. In the movie, Music has multiple episodes where her senses are suddenly overwhelmed and she begins to have a meltdown. In response to the first meltdown seen in the film, Ebo, played by Leslie Odom Jr., teaches Zu to restrain Music on the ground until she calms down. The next time that Music has a meltdown they are in a public park and Zu restrains her with her face on the ground and her arms behind her back. This position of restraint can lead to PTSD for the victim and is responsible for the deaths of many autistic people. 

I have an autistic brother who has frequent meltdowns in public due to overstimulation. One of my greatest fears is that someone is going to think of him as a threat and is going to hurt him because they don’t understand him. This movie only works to increase my fear and surely the fears of people with autism who are unable to control their meltdowns. It scares me that people might see this movie and think that they know what to do when they witness a person with autism having a meltdown. I fear that this movie will invoke someone’s hero complex, causing them to restrain someone and possibly hurt or even kill them.

Although misrepresentation is an issue, depicting autism in film and media can lead to more open conversations and can help society to be more accepting of differences. However, these depictions need to be well-researched and accurate. 

Instead of using Music’s autism as a prop that fuels the emotional development of her main character, Sia could have put the focus on Music, done proper research and hired an autistic actor to play Music in a way that was not so offensive. 

A movie like this would have been informative and educational to those who don’t know much about autism and could have worked against ableism instead of perpetuating stereotypes and abelistic views.