You may think that a film about a neurodiverse character being nominated for a Golden Globe is an incredible leap forward in terms of equality and diversity in the entertainment industry and you’d be correct, but Sia’s film ‘Music’ is rather the opposite.
The lead actress, Maddie Zeigler – who is a close friend of Sia herself – has no disability or experience within the community and so ‘Music’ being nominated for such an award shows a complete disregard for the disabled community and the talent within it. In fact, Sia even admitted the casting was ableist expressing “I realized it wasn’t ableism, I mean, it is ableism, I guess…”.
It doesn’t matter, that’s what acting is right? Wrong.
Film and Television that is based on real-world stories are made in order to reflect real-life, encouraging discussions on important topics whilst acknowledging the lives of the individuals whose stories are being represented. But by casting someone who doesn’t have a disability when there’s so much choice of incredible disabled talent already available, those real-life stories are immediately stripped of value. The film itself loses meaningful representation that can inspire the next generation of disabled talent.
The issue with The Golden Globes nominating the film is that it shows that they openly support ableism within the entertainment industry which is both harmful to existing performers and the next disabled talent wanting to break into the industry. Who is going to want to enter an industry in which they are publicly discriminated against and not fully supported?
In truth nominations like this will kill the arts of new disabled actors, as discrimination and ‘cripping up’ are still seen as acceptable at the highest level of the entertainment industry.
Whilst you could argue that the nomination of ‘Music’ still represents disability, it does absolutely nothing for representing disabled individuals within the industry. As a disabled person, I always find it disheartening when disability isn’t portrayed by disabled people on-screen.
We are all changed by what we see in films, disability on the big screen should help break down barriers, remove stigma and support those in the community to feel accepted and heard.
The best way to achieve that mission is by allowing real world disabled performers those roles so that disabled viewers feel a sense of pride and comfort knowing that those barriers society places in our way are slowly breaking.
‘Music’ isn’t the most inclusive or accurate representation of autism due to script writing as well as casting, because of this it paints harmful stereotypes on autistic people and those who have other disabilities that we try so hard to fight against everyday. Chances are most people who watch the film won’t have any prior knowledge of autism or disability, is this really the picture we want to paint for them?
I spoke to Alia Lynn, an aspiring autistic actress who admitted that she cried when seeing the nomination whilst adding that “the nomination sends such an awful message to the world, that the voices of autistic people don’t matter and will never matter to Hollywood”.
I also asked Alia whether she thought this would negatively impact the amount of autistic talent within the industry to which she replied: “I know it’s [acting] what I want to do, and seeing a movie like this be rewarded does plant fears in me about entering the industry that I never had before”.
Similarly I caught up with James Moore, an established actor with Cerebral Palsy who won a Soap award for ‘Best Newcomer’ back in 2019 making him the first disabled person to do so.
Speaking of the Best Musical nomination for ‘Music’ James articulates that he thinks the nomination is “a step back more than anything, especially when we’ve come so far in the past few years, we hear it a lot about LGBT+ and BAME actors, which is great but disability often feels like an afterthought in the conversation and this allows people like Sia to keep making these movies and even get applauded for it. When people who aren’t disabled ‘act disabled’ I think it just ends up feeling like a mockery even when it’s supposed to be in good taste”.
What has become apparent is that when disabled actors are cast aside in favour of an able-bodied person ‘cripping up’, we’re sending the message that disabled actors and actresses are not welcome in the industry, favouring cheap pity thrills (pun intended) that sell at the box office.
All any actor wants is a fair shot but disabled people are being disastrously left behind. The nomination symbolises that ableist ideals are still acceptable and that disabled people just don’t matter.
Image credit: Atlantic Records
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