Trigger warning: This article deals with suicide and substance abuse.
Cast your mind back to late 2020 when Australian musician Sia announced her latest venture, a film titled Music with her muse Maddie Ziegler cast as the protagonist.
At first glance this may have seemed like another run-of-the-mill collaboration for the pair, who partnered for the controversial music videos “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart”, however as the film's plot was revealed accusations of nepotism and ableism came to light.
Music follows Kate Hudson’s Zu, a newly sober drug dealer, who becomes the guardian of her half-sister Music, a neurodivergent, non-verbal autistic teenager. Ziegler’s casting as Music was rightfully called out on social media, with even an online petition calling for the film not to be released.
Despite controversy following the film, mainly with Sia lashing out on a autistic actor tweeting “maybe you can’t act” in a now deleted post and a scene in the film depicting Music being restrained, Sia has finally revealed exactly how the backlash impacted her.
In a new interview with the New York Times, Sia (who was piggybacking on her unlikely friend Kathy Griffin’s profile) revealed that the controversy left her “suicidal”.
“I relapsed and went to rehab”, the musician shared. Sia has been open about her struggles with substance abuse and suicidal ideation in the past, however she revealed that Griffin helped her throughout the experience. “She saved my life.”
The main qualm with the film was that a neurotypical actor was cast in that role and by doing so, it prevented autistic communities from telling their stories.
Hannah Marshall, who started the online petition, claimed in the appeals description “it is extremely offensive to myself and other autistic individuals. Sia has shown no remorse for her inaccurate and hurtful betrayal of the community.”
“As an autistic individual, I am asking that this film is canceled,” Marshall wrote.
Sia eventually admitted she “should have just shut up” in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. Reflecting on the tone-deaf comments she made in defence of the film, Sia said “Looking back, I should have just shut up; I know that now… I fucked up this time.”
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Ava GilchristAva Gilchrist is the Digital Fashion Writer at marie claire and ELLE Australia.