'Sia's film Music misrepresents autistic people. It could also do us damage'

AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen

Ziegler’s performance as Music, however, is the standout disaster, serving us “Autism” the Rain Man way, all tics and whooping and capital ‘A’ Acting. She affects a honking, hiccuping gait occasionally punctuated by phrases – “make your eggs”, “braid your hair” – delivered in a voice that lands somewhere between a school bully mimicking Meryl Streep’s low register and a dog waking up from dental surgery. One wonders what support and guidance was offered to Ziegler, just 14 at the time of the production. (Sia claims, in a Variety interview, that on set Ziegler expressed concern that “anyone” – presumably autistic people – would think she was making fun of them, and that Sia assured her “honey, I won’t let that happen”. And yet.)

It’s especially upsetting when autistic characters with complex support needs are presented as problems to be solved

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2021/jan/27/sias-film-music-misrepresents-autistic-people-it-could-also-do-us-damage

Has anyone seen this movie?
Im wondering how accurate the review is?

Comments

  • I haven't seen it, but my daughter did. She felt the same way.

  • verityverity Administrator, Citizen

    I was asked by my family to read Silent History of the Dog in the Nighttime, I though it was a tried an stereotypical portrayal, and basically a concept piece based on a line from the Hound of the Baskervilles. Some people on the spectrum like it for some reason.

    I would not advocate for censorship.

    I lot of people like the Good Doctor you can argue that it is unrealistic an sensationalised, but is not that different in that way from simualr drama.

  • I read the review yesterday, wasn’t aware the film existed before that.

    Have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime and seen The Big Bang Theory: didn’t think much of either to be honest. Stereotyped behaviour, as verity said, but worse than that for me was what they share with what I think of as “autistic para-coded” characters (Mark in Peep Show, both Roy and Moss in The IT Crowd): that is, even when a behaviour I’ve exhibited is part of the character, the ascribed motivations are utterly alien to me... they just don’t seem to have any truth or authenticity to me at all

  • IsabellaIsabella Citizen
    edited January 28

    I received Curious Incident as a Christmas gift. It's not something I would normally read but my friend thinks I'll identify with the main character. I'm going to keep an open mind.

    I've never seen Big Bang Theory, Peep Show, The IT Crowd, or The Good Doctor.

    I really liked Atypical although I don't necessarily think that was an accurate depiction of autism. I just enjoyed the characters and the stories in general.

    MD's comment to me about Sia: (reproduced with permission)

  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen

    @Isabella said:
    I received Curious Incident as a Christmas gift. It's not something I would normally read but my friend thinks I'll identify with the main character. I'm going to keep an open mind.

    I've never seen Big Bang Theory, Peep Show, The IT Crowd, or The Good Doctor.

    I really liked Atypical although I don't necessarily think that was an accurate depiction of autism. I just enjoyed the characters and the stories in general.

    MD's comment to me about it: (reproduced with permission)

    Thank you for that Isabella

    Yup the restraint part is difficult to watch, there is a leaked snippet of a scene on twitter

    All the trigger warnings:

  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
    edited January 28

    Ahh .... Autism Speaks provided the consultation for the film/project.

    Edited to add a link to their famous 2009 commercial ,for anyone requiring context about the organisation:

  • Statest16Statest16 Citizen, Mentor

    I give a great big" I don't give a f&*#"
    There going to damage me more than I already am,good luck.

  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
    edited January 28

    @Statest16 said:
    I give a great big" I don't give a f&*#"
    There going to damage me more than I already am,good luck.

    Lol
    Funny guy

  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor

    I haven't watched it, but I don't have any desire to after seeing the trailer and the creators reaction to autistic people critiquing her work. Some people were saying it's a good thing because it represents nonverbal autistic people, but I still think it's very exaggerated and stereotypical.

    The main character seems like the same old representation of a "severe" autistic person that I see in anything media wise relating to autism. I would like more media with autistic people that have varying traits than just being a socially awkward, asshole savant or a mentally handicapped burden presented to have no agency over themselves.

    Also, I haven't seen The Good Doctor but I've seen The Big Bang Theory. There are aspects of Sheldon I think are okay and that I relate with (I always get compared to Sheldon whenever anyone compares me to an autistic person in media lmao), but I think in certain seasons they just made him out to be an uncaring, childish asshole instead of someone who genuinely struggles socially and that his only actual personality trait is being a dick about science.

  • BenderBender Citizen

    @Statest16 said:
    I give a great big" I don't give a f&*#"
    There going to damage me more than I already am,good luck.

    In a nutshell, thank you.

  • Statest16Statest16 Citizen, Mentor

    @Amity said:

    @Statest16 said:
    I give a great big" I don't give a f&*#"
    There going to damage me more than I already am,good luck.

    Lol
    Funny guy

    I try

  • MagnaMagna Citizen

    @Amity said:

    @Isabella said:
    I received Curious Incident as a Christmas gift. It's not something I would normally read but my friend thinks I'll identify with the main character. I'm going to keep an open mind.

    I've never seen Big Bang Theory, Peep Show, The IT Crowd, or The Good Doctor.

    I really liked Atypical although I don't necessarily think that was an accurate depiction of autism. I just enjoyed the characters and the stories in general.

    MD's comment to me about it: (reproduced with permission)

    Thank you for that Isabella

    Yup the restraint part is difficult to watch, there is a leaked snippet of a scene on twitter

    All the trigger warnings:

    Question: What is the reason in a wide open area that they could not have left the poor girl alone??? Yes, even that little snippet was disturbing.

  • Very disturbing. For one that didn't look like any meltdown I've ever seen, and more importantly .... what is this teaching people?

  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor

    @Amity said:

    Thank you for that Isabella

    Yup the restraint part is difficult to watch, there is a leaked snippet of a scene on twitter

    All the trigger warnings:

    The video wouldn't load before, but now that it loaded I'm very disturbed by what I just watched. Aside from that meltdown looking so exaggerated, the fact that it shows them restraining her at all, but especially like that is terrifying.

    I agree with Isabella that I am concerned about what this is teaching people. This is the type of thing that gets autistic people killed, and actually anyone who is restrained that way, and they shouldn't be putting that in the movie like it's a normal thing to do.

    I hope no one tries to do this to someone having a bad meltdown after watching this. I am very glad that no one ever did this to me when I had meltdowns because it would have made it worse and would have hurt me.

  • Years ago before I knew I was autistic, my friend who is a special education assistant went to training programs on how to restrain students in meltdown. I didn't really know what she was talking about. I'm sure it didn't involve a knee to the chest but it's still disturbing to think about. Now I've heard of students dying or being injured when restrained or isolated by teachers, and more media attention brought to the issue of meltdowns. It would be very helpful if this movie depicted a meltdown properly, for starters.

    I suppose all meltdowns are different but that didn't look like any meltdown I've ever had or witnessed. Personally, I can't stand up when I'm having a meltdown. I have to crouch or rock or go in a fetal position. I'm only seeing this one clip of the film which is likely out of context, but regardless that character didn't pose a danger to herself or anyone around her. As we all know there was no reason to stop or control her. Comforting words and / or giving her space to be alone would have been a much better example.

  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor

    When I started special ED I was put on Ritalin for ADHD, and it made me so irritable that I had really bad meltdown where I was crying and screaming and I ended up throwing a chair (not at anyone). No one restrained me and the teachers just gave me space and kept the other kids away from me until I calmed down.

    I can't imagine how I would have reacted if the teachers tried to restrain me and it probably would have extended my meltdown and made me more overwhelmed. I don't think I'd ever try to restrain an autistic person having a meltdown if they weren't actively harming anyone as I wouldn't want to make them feel more out of control and upset.

  • @Amity said:
    Ahh .... Autism Speaks provided the consultation for the film/project.

    Edited to add a link to their famous 2009 commercial ,for anyone requiring context about the organisation:

    I’d never seen that horror film trailer before...
    Wow.
    Demonic possession tropes to the fore...
    Wow.

    Silly little me: I thought proceeding through life with an aggressive attitude motivated by self-pity was a toxic behaviour.

    @Magna said:

    @Amity said:

    @Isabella said:
    I received Curious Incident as a Christmas gift. It's not something I would normally read but my friend thinks I'll identify with the main character. I'm going to keep an open mind.

    I've never seen Big Bang Theory, Peep Show, The IT Crowd, or The Good Doctor.

    I really liked Atypical although I don't necessarily think that was an accurate depiction of autism. I just enjoyed the characters and the stories in general.

    MD's comment to me about it: (reproduced with permission)

    Thank you for that Isabella

    Yup the restraint part is difficult to watch, there is a leaked snippet of a scene on twitter

    All the trigger warnings:

    Question: What is the reason in a wide open area that they could not have left the poor girl alone??? Yes, even that little snippet was disturbing.

    Particularly when they go ahead despite the fact that the guy’s own social-awareness-cum-conscience-thingy is telling him not to...

    .../.../.../.../.../.../...

    That depiction was a bit like an over-exaggerated version of how I get, although I go into flight/freeze/fight mode and either hide, then crumple in a heap massaging my head, or if that’s not an option lock rigid with my hands on my head... floods of silent tears in both cases.
    Fight mode only comes into play if both the above are made impossible.

  • OliOli Citizen

    I don't see any problem with the film and can't understand why people are so stirred up about it.

    Clueless?

    I know autistic people who are pretty much exactly like the portrayal. In fact, I know a local girl so similar it's a little uncanny.
    Why cast an autistic actor? Would they portray an autistic person any better? Should we get bank robbers to play bank robbers? I'm not being sarcastic here, I really don't understand this thinking because acting is what actors do. Their skill in representing a character realistically is just that - a skill. An autistic person would still have to get into character, they don't get to play themselves (unless it's a documentary).
    Obviously I haven't seen the film, only trailers. I haven't seen the restraining part, but this really happens. In real life. Autistic people get restrained. I've been restrained, right or wrong.

    Is the movie harmful to us? I don't see it.

  • verityverity Administrator, Citizen
    edited January 29

    I don't have a problem with a more "severe" aspect of autism being depicted, as long as it is done well. I can understand the hesitance but that risks creating a taboo or a two tier community.

    You can't really replicate non-verbal vocalisations or all the behaviour becuase it s so individual there is no definitive guide.

    With casting what matters is what research they have done, you could get HFA actor who has not been exposed to something like this.

    I have been in a the company and prevented self harm of someone having severe meltdown where they muscle are so hyper tonic as they are jumping up and down they damaging themselves, and other property, and their distress much more greater, dynamic, and more rapid than depicted in that clip. I only ever used needed light retraint to prevent harm to them, and never tackled them or anything like that, most often I would not touch them at all, unless there is good reason to, I would at worst grab them by the arm to try slow them down, maybe grab their writs them self hard in the eye, and talk them down, I might encourage them to breathe by breathing with them. I might lead them out of a over-stimulating environment if possible.

    What is silly about that clip is the Music is on her belly, and the woman is on top of her on her back. This is very dominant position, where the person on the bottom has very little control, and would not have much ability to land serious blows that could not be avoided, but I also think thsi could cause serious issues.She could for instance start banging her head against the ground, Or kneeing the ground,

    I wouldn't recommend trying this however, without background in grappling. As it is not trivial getting someone tot htat position either you or them will likely get injured.

    I also don't think it is proportional to what is a medium meltdown. there is is sense of dread they are portraying but that doesn't match the girls actions. I guessing the is lot of context missing. Don't get me wrong could escalate, but all the more reason to de-escalate it maybe try an get her away from noises and lights.

  • I don't mind the fact that the actor isn't autistic. I don't think that's necessary. Apparently she's a great actress.

    I'd have to see the whole film to judge it better. I hope the character is sympathetic enough that the audience can relate to their struggle during meltdowns, and can learn for themselves how to help others. What we aren't seeing here is the resolution of the restraint topic. What is learned? What is the lesson in this film?

    Now I'm curious.

  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor

    I don't think anyone is upset about the fact she's portraying a severely autistic character, or saying that the issues the character has isn't realistic. It's more how the research was handled and how the creator handled criticisms about her work. She has treated critiques from autistic people as personal attacks instead of actual information and genuine concern, and some of the things she depicted, while they may happen, can be harmful for how other people treat autistic people if it isn't shown that they are harmful. Just because those things are done to autistic people doesn't mean they're right or the correct way to handle things.

    There are also times where you'd have to restrain an autistic person during a meltdown, but you don't put them in a prone position and put pressure on their back, and thus their chest, and you shouldn't really restrain them unless they are harming someone or themselves because even if you don't harm them, you could stress them out more and end up getting hurt.

    I've had meltdowns when I was younger where I wasn't being violent and family members/friends tried to restrain me, and I tried to hurt them because it freaked me out and made me feel more out of control and I wanted them to let go of me, and have also hurt myself trying to get away from them. Due to this I don't think restraining someone during a non-violent meltdown is appropriate.

  • OliOli Citizen

    I'm glad they showed restraint in the film, because as I just remarked to Isabella, the portrayal allows a conversation about restraint, and what is and what isn't appropriate to be started, not only here but in the wider community.

  • verityverity Administrator, Citizen
    edited January 29

    Agreed.

    Only ever got hit by them a few time and it wasn't really malicious they just wanted self harm in a way that could cause permanent damage, e.g their eyes.

    I don't know anything about the criticism this artist received. I think people can perceive thing a certain way and there can be a miscommunication.

    There is a style of advocacy that only focuses on the more savoury aspect of ASD, which is fine except it can sugar coat or create taboo over challenging aspects of begin on the spectrum.

  • OliOli Citizen

    @verity
    I've also worked with autistic people and have had to use restraint at times. I've never had to kneel on anyone, ever.

    I'm attempting to download the film now.

  • Ooooh, please send me the link if it works.

  • OliOli Citizen

    ^ ttyiof

  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen

    @Oli said:
    @verity
    I've also worked with autistic people and have had to use restraint at times. I've never had to kneel on anyone, ever.

    I'm attempting to download the film now.

    Did you get to watch the movie?

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