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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Famous singer and songwriter, Sia, has recently added director and scriptwriter to her resume. Sia’s movie, originally conceptualized in 2015, has just hit the big screen. It’s called Music. Basically, Zu, a newly sober drug dealer, becomes the guardian of her autistic half-sister named Music. There has been a massive amount of controversy surrounding the film. There are some obvious stereotypes that are portrayed throughout the movie.


The concept of this movie had the potential to be amazing. The execution, however, took away the chances of this film becoming a groundbreaking masterpiece. People are constantly trying to eliminate stereotypes, but movies like this keep them intact.


The movie racial stereotypes the character Ebo, played by Leslie Odom Junior. He is a friend of Zu, and he is a person of color. This stereotype serves as a plot device in which a person of color helps the white protagonist overcome their struggles. Oftentimes, within this stereotype, the person of color has some sort of magical power that is only used to help white people.


The character Music is played by Maddie Ziegler. The character Music has autism, but Ziegler does not. In the months leading up to the release, Sia was providing information about the film on Twitter. Some Twitter users were vocal about their disapproval of a person with autism being played by a person who doesn’t have autism. 


A user on Twitter, @ HelenAngel, said, “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.” The user also included a hashtag, #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs. Sia was upset by this and tweeted in response, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.” Later, she apologized for her comment, but eventually ended up completely deleting her Twitter account because of the backlash. 


Ziegler’s portrayal of a person with autism has also been criticized for stereotyping. There is a scene where Music is being restrained while she is having an outburst. People with autism shouldn’t be restrained during an outburst, as it can be harmful and dangerous. Sia agreed to put a warning about this scene, then ended up removing it completely.


In My Opinion


By supporting this movie, a person is allowing, and even praising stereotypes. I use an electric wheelchair. Growing up, I never saw any representation of people like me in the media. It made me feel so alienated, yet disabilities are normal. So why aren’t they shown in the media? When I started seeing characters in wheelchairs in shows or movies, I was elated. It’s always disappointing to find out that most characters in wheelchairs are usually played by people who can walk. 


Just like Sia’s movie, the idea of autism being portrayed in the media was invigorating. It’s arguably worse to falsely portray a population of people than it is to not portray it at all. That way, you can talk to people in minorities to genuinely gain insight into their lives, rather than getting a false impression from the media. I think that the media needs to work on accurately portraying the entire population, not just a subpopulation that fits the narrative they want to create. Accurate representations include utilizing real people that genuinely fit the description of the character. Representation of minorities is good, but only if it’s done right.

Carlee is a junior majoring in Public Relations. She loves listening to music and attending (accessible) concerts. She takes pride in being a member of the disabled community. Her life goal is to help end some of the stigmas surrounding the disabled community. She does this through writing, speaking at events, and even making videos on TikTok. You can find her TikTok @CarleeWithTwoEs.
Arden Ericson will graduate Penn State in May of 2023. As one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus at PSU, she is a double-major in Public Relations and French Language. After graduation, she will pursue a career that combines her passion for educational equity, social justice and French.