You might recognize Maddy Zeigler, the star of Sia’s forthcoming (and now controversial) new film Music, from the enigmatic Swedish pop singer’s music videos. She’s the young dancer clad in a nude bodysuit and platinum wig in “Chandelier” and “Cheap Thrills,” for example. That’s her, roughed up and slightly feral-looking, squaring off in a cage-match dance-battle with Shia LaBeouf in the 2015 video for “Elastic Heart.”
Anyhow, given the context of their professional history, it’s not a huge surprise that Sia chose to cast Zeigler as the lead in her feature film debut. What the pop star seemingly didn’t anticipate (but probably should have, because it’s 2020) is that people would get angry she made a movie about a young woman with autism but didn’t cast a disabled or neuro-diverse actor for the role. When the first trailer for Music dropped on Thursday, folks criticized the exclusion on social media. But rather than graciously acknowledge and address their concerns, Sia threw a Twitter fit.
“It’s a mighty shame that someone with such a colossal platform is using it to exclude disabled and neuro diverse actors from their own narratives. I’ve been a long time fan of your work, so this is really disappointing,” read a typical reply to Sia’s announcement tweet.
The singer tried to explain Zeigler’s casting, tweeting that she first tried working with a young actress who was “non verbal” and “on the spectrum” but “she found it unpleasant and stressful.”
Things seemed to take a turn when Sia tried itemizing the diversity she packed into Music: “I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as fucking prostitutes or drug addicts but s as doctors, nurses and singers. Fucking sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place,” she tweeted.
The discourse turned downright ugly after an autistic actor argued there’s plenty of talent that could’ve filled Zeigler’s shoes: “Several autistic actors, myself included, responded to these tweets. We all said we could have acted in it on short notice. These excuses are just that- excuses. The fact of the matter is zero effort was made to include anyone who is actually autistic. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs”
Then Sia replied: “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.”
Finally, things crescendoed with the following tweet from the singer: "Grrrrrrrrrr. Fuckity fuck why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY."
Whew, nothing like bullying non-famouses and throwing a public temper tantrum to make the internet believe your “heart has always been in the right place” and you’re doing your “best to lovingly represent the community.” Time to put the phone down, Sia. Don’t try to tweet through it. People will get a chance to judge Music in its entirety next year, we hear, but right now you’re only making things worse.