A letter to Sia from an autistic fan: thank you for representing a girl with severe autism

Introduction by Yuval Levental: I am a person on the autism spectrum who critically analyzes autism advocacy. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Michigan State University and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from ESIEE Paris. Other hobbies of mine include recreationally solving complex math puzzles, traveling, eating new foods, and learning about different cultures.

Figure above: Madison (Maddie) Ziegler as a teenager with autism from the movie Music (Sia’s new film and directorial debut)

December 8, 2020

Dear Sia:

I first heard about your work and music approximately ten years ago.  I find your voice and lyrics to be interesting, unusual, and dynamic.  Your songs and music don’t just have a message; they really draw the listener in.

I am on the autism spectrum, and I am looking forward to seeing your film Music.  Although I am high-functioning, I see that Music the character is far more profoundly impaired.  I believe that representing different kinds of autistic individuals is important, and from watching the trailer, it seems that you have done an excellent job in that regard.

Many autistic individuals in TV shows and movies are verbal and highly skilled in certain areas.  For instance, Shaun Murphy in The Good Doctor is a highly gifted autistic surgeon.  Sam Gardner in Atypical is talented in science and drawing.  Additionally, both of them are white men, whereas Music is a girl.

Severe autism in general is a very difficult condition.  The vast majority of individuals with this condition will never live independently, and self-injurious behavior is also a common problem.  There are also potential secondary issues such as seizures.  Only a very small percentage of severely autistic individuals have savant skills.

I know that an important part of acting is being able to follow social cues.  It would be very hard for someone with severe autism to play this role, as they might not understand a lot of the requirements that they have to fulfill to follow a character role.  Personally, it can be hard for me to get into character when needed.

I am surprised that many people with far milder forms of autism would harshly judge your film based only on the trailer.  In fact, I found Music the character to be highly likable.  The dances seem to be very colorful and interesting.  I will definitely find the plot development between Zu, Ebo, and Music to be very insightful.


Yuval Levental

4 responses to “A letter to Sia from an autistic fan: thank you for representing a girl with severe autism

  1. Pingback: Music: A Colorful, Well-Written film that discusses Important Autism Issues | Cortical Chauvinism·

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