When Aussie singer/songwriter Sia produced her film Music, she probably hadn’t anticipated the unmitigated shitstorm from disability activists who have blasted her as ‘ableist‘.
The reason? The film centres on an autistic teenager, and shock horror, the actor cast in the lead role is not autistic. And apparently, a non-autistic producer is exercising undue privilege in making a film focused on Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
*Face palms into a semi-conscious state. *
And there’s more. The producer’s use of the term ‘special abilities’ has provoked unmitigated ire because ‘special‘ is patronising, apparently. Well, to some it is, just as ‘disabled’ is uncomfortably blunt to others. Indeed, ‘special’ slid into the lexicon of the day as a helpful euphemism for those, ahem, offended by the notion of an ‘inferior’ disability.
To those of us who are not intoxicated by a sense of psychotic indignation, these are just words, with neither ever used with any nefarious intent. But how readily slacktivists will assume the position of being ‘offended‘ and imbue the term with malice if it so suits them.
But back to the main hub of the hullaballoo, and the question of the actor’s disability status. It has become a feature of bonkers political correctness that troupers in recent years have felt the need to apologise for taking on roles. How wacko has the world become? It’s acting. The only apologies they should be making are to their studios (or themselves) for any shoddy, hammy, or wooden portrayals.
Lee Strasberg will be spinning in his grave because isn’t method acting about getting under the skin of a subject and portraying its essence to produce a sincere and emotionally expressive performance?
Perhaps the next James Bond should be played by a real MI6 agent rather than an actor? And there would have been a long wait for the first ever Star Wars film.
As it is, Sia did cast 13 neuroatypical people and 3 trans people, all portraying mainstream characters, like doctors. There is no criticism of her for that though, when you might have expected the same vociferous critics tearing her a new one to have questioned how autistic actors could possibly have portrayed neurotypical persons, or trans actors cisgender persons respectively? If anything, the film should garner some praise for opening the door to these actors, but stacktivists trouble themselves only with point-scoring, not balanced critique.
Nevertheless, in the interests of even-handedness, we should acknowledge the valid criticisms of the insensitive portrayal of disability in films – the so-called ‘cripping up’ – that fuels negative stereotypes of disability. That is undoubtedly damaging and deserves to draw fire and ire.
But that is not the argument here, and not just because Sia was closely advised by autistic consultants throughout. The shrill, social-media-dogpiling psychos are not even saying that the acting is crap. Because, quelle surprise, none of these critics have actually watched it. It is not being released until February 2021, in 3 months’ time.
You couldn’t make it up.
It is all pure, self-serving slacktivism.
For some, being oppressed defines them. They do not want inclusion but feed off the discourse of exclusion. And where adversity does not exist, they invent it.
And in doing so, they alienate all those whose education is the goal of genuine campaigns for change.