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Summary:

Sia directed a movie about an autistic teen and the trailer dropped. The actress does not have autism. Sia states they tried to work with an autistic actor but it was too stressful for her. She says she included many actors who are both trans (in positive roles) and on the spectrum.

News article taking a more middle of the road approach:

https://variety.com/2020/music/news/sia-debate-twitter-disabled-film-autism-music-1234837013/#article-comments

Over the top tweet:

https://twitter.com/KatDene/status/1329892462899421185

To me, this is just another good example of the "woke" internet mob:

  • Instant judgement. Opinion is based solely on trailer.
  • Speaking for the community - Greta Thunberg calls autism her "superpower", and as annoying as I find it - it's unfair to say this movie using positive terminology instead of "disability" is an example of "able-ism" when it is a point of view that comes straight from people with Autism.

I'm critical of a lot of things Sia has done, and don't expect to like this movie (funny - no one has linked the trailer, I haven't seen it yet), but I dislike the "internet justice mob" blowing up at anyone.

You have the real people in the middle, with the arguments raging all around them. And no representation because any attempt to be inclusive is met with a raging war around the fact it's not "perfect".

Summary: Sia directed a movie about an autistic teen and the trailer dropped. The actress does not have autism. Sia states they tried to work with an autistic actor but it was too stressful for her. She says she included many actors who are both trans (in positive roles) and on the spectrum. News article taking a more middle of the road approach: https://variety.com/2020/music/news/sia-debate-twitter-disabled-film-autism-music-1234837013/#article-comments Over the top tweet: https://twitter.com/KatDene/status/1329892462899421185 To me, this is just another good example of the "woke" internet mob: - Instant judgement. Opinion is based solely on trailer. - Speaking for the community - Greta Thunberg calls autism her "superpower", and as annoying as I find it - it's unfair to say this movie using positive terminology instead of "disability" is an example of "able-ism" when it is a point of view that comes straight from people with Autism. I'm critical of a lot of things Sia has done, and don't expect to like this movie (funny - no one has linked the trailer, I haven't seen it yet), but I dislike the "internet justice mob" blowing up at anyone. You have the real people in the middle, with the arguments raging all around them. And no representation because any attempt to be inclusive is met with a raging war around the fact it's not "perfect".

41 comments

[–] Reno 27 points (+27|-0) Edited

Anyone who has ever worked on a film set could tell you, that like being a firefighter or bricklayer or gymnast, there are some disabilities that would exclude you. It's my understanding that the character in Sia's movie is more or less non-verbal. Yeah, newsflash, being non-verbal means you can't be an actor (btw I don't mean "mute". Deaf people are "mute" and can certainly be actors). Being non-verbal means you can't communicate either receptively or expressively, or your communication is very limited. Someone with this disability could not depict someone with this disability in a dramatic film. Just like someone with dual hand amputation could not be a surgeon who treats amputees.

Film sets are wet, cold, awkward, crowded, cramped, noisy, smelly, hot, brightly lit, cluttered and chaotic, and the days are 16 hours long, repetitive, demanding and intensely frustrating. Just like ERs. The Good Doctor non-withstanding, very few people with actual autism could manage in an environment like that. Nor should they be expected to. It could cause long term trauma.

Honestly a lot of these "#actuallyautistic" people are actually just #attentionseekers, and self-diagnosed weirdos who get off on attacking people online. Furthermore, none of them have ever had to care for someone with more severe, non-verbal autism with the attending behavioral issues, and it shows.

[–] femuhnist 12 points (+12|-0)

Honestly a lot of these "#actuallyautistic" people are actually just #attentionseekers, and self-diagnosed weirdos who get off on attacking people online. Furthermore, none of them have ever had to care for someone with more severe, non-verbal autism with the attending behavioral issues, and it shows.

100% this. The whole weirdo self-dx autism woke thing is huge, and apart from trans stuff, maybe one of the most annoying aspects of current woke culture.

[–] SarahTheGreen 6 points (+6|-0)

I think it is possible for autistic people to be successful actors under specific circumstances. The current business model might not work, but I suspect Greta Garbo was autistic. She seemed unable to generate a personal life or work life without other people providing it for her. However, she was taken care of by the studio, and they had rules like "don't talk to the talent" so she could concentrate.

It's a question of priorities: Hire an autistic person or hire someone who can do a particular role under particular circumstances?

[–] Reno 4 points (+4|-0)

she was taken care of by the studio,

I would argue this. She was exploited by the studio and callously tossed away when no longer needed, or...she finally quit because the whole process made her miserable.

You're right that people with disabilities, including autism, can work as actors or in any role in the film industry under specific circumstances. The question is, how are those circumstances to be achieved and at what cost. There comes a point wherein a film--a typically exorbitantly expensive undertaking (mainstream Hollywood shoots often cost a million dollars PER DAY)--becomes untenable if adjustments need to be made.

My point is, if people with disabilities are to participate in the film industry at this level, a lot more things need to change than just casting. Attention hounds on Twitter don't know anything about that though, nor, I think, care.

[–] SarahTheGreen 1 points (+1|-0)

I agree that it's a lot more than casting.

With Garbo, I see that she got to work for a couple of decades (fifteen in Hollywood), which was pretty good. The studios exploited everyone, but the A-listers at least weren't prostituted, they got work, they got paid, they got publicity etc. And I think she wanted to continue to work, but was unable to put any projects together herself, unlike Mary Pickford, who was very capable on the business side of things (so it wasn't that Garbo was a woman). Careers fizzle, they die out, and she was no longer in fashion in the 1940s, so of course she got dropped by her studio. (I've read five or six biographies of Garbo, so this isn't just a casual impression about her. I was surprised when I started to wonder if she'd been autistic, but she seemed unable to network on her own, needing other people to provide work and social opportunities, so it looks like it. Also, wasn't the "don't talk to the talent" rule brought in for her? I think so. The studio definitely wanted to invest in her. They kept people off her when she was working so she could concentrate.)

[–] Verdandi 1 points (+1|-0)

Daryl Hannah has autism (diagnosed as a female child in the 70s, so you know it's significant) and she seems to do just fine. It really depends on the person—exactly like it would for someone without autism.

Autism isn't a condition that would prevent someone from being an actor—how they cope with those stressor is what would prevent someone from being an actor. There are plenty of non-autistic people that can't handle hot, uncomfortable, noisy, awkward 16 hour days.

[–] Reno 2 points (+2|-0)

It's so unhelpful to keep bringing people like Daryl Hannah or Greta Garbo up in these conversations. Obviously these are highly functional people who have complete or near complete control over their communication or behaviour and can't even be compared to the highly functional Temple Grandin, who is obviously autistic, much less the many thousands of non-verbal, very behaviourally challenged autistic people.

And Daryl Hannah didn't "do just fine". She was so unreliable due to anxiety that she was blacklisted and hardly worked beyond her twenties.

Yes, someone who masks their autism so well that people don't even notice can be an actor. Just like someone with mild paralysis of one limb can probably ballroom dance. But someone paralyzed from the neck down probably can't.

I want people with disabilities, include severe autism, to be included in the film industry as much as possible. My point is a lot has to change before that becomes practical.

[–] ludicknitting 20 points (+20|-0) Edited

I don't like disabilities being peddled as "superpowers" (yes I have a diagnosis) but at the same time it's been a very important part of my journey to accept my disability and see the beauty in how my brain works differently from those around me. I think representation matters and even with some issues, it's still another movie with diverse representation. Hopefully we are getting closer to the tipping point, to where it's common to see diversity in film.

[–] wildpansy 9 points (+10|-1)

How is the superpower thing even supposed to make sense? Are disability rights not supposed to be about gaining support and services to help people with disabilities? People with superpowers don't need help from the rest of society, rather the other way around. It's wonderful to see people with these conditions thriving and even making a name for themselves as being braver than your average "normal" girl, but the point is, she can do it despite autism. Someone whose autism renders them unable to speak or so sensitive to sound they can't enjoy even going to parties could hardly be described as superpowered. For them the superpower would be living a normal life despite the autism. It's understandable that when there's no cure for something the only thing you can do is accept it. But the superpower here would rather be being raised by supportive, well to-do parents in a country with famously strong and well-funded services for those in need of help. And it ought to be fine to acknowledge that in other circumstances having autism won't work out all that well for you, just like being blind or paralyzed won't. The superpower rhetoric and trying to define disabilities into some sort of identity just feels kind of condescending and insulting for those who don't appreciate their superpower so much and don't see their disability as some sort of advantage or something that defines who they are.

[–] ludicknitting 5 points (+5|-0)

Oh I agree. That's why I don't like it being portrayed as a superpower. But at the same time I can understand the appeal. There's definitely better ways to portray it but I would rather flawed representation than no representation.

[–] SarahTheGreen 5 points (+5|-0)

so sensitive to sound they can't enjoy even going to parties

Sorry, this made me laugh. How about so sensitive to sound that going outside and walking around where there is traffic is exhausting?

The superpower thing is in the sense of being very good at one thing, and bad at others, or in the sense of a double-edged sword. You can have superpowers and still need help living a normal life because you also have deficits.

[–] I_am_so_over_it 5 points (+6|-1) Edited

Are disability rights not supposed to be about gaining support and services to help people with disabilities?

Well, the same crowd says trying to cure autism or teach autistic children to speak is ableist, so unfortunately, some would say no. The woke crowd is increasingly proud of "neurodivergence" even when it is obviously harming one's quality of life.

[–] FilthyHomo -2 points (+1|-3)

Ok trying to cure autism is just flat out a bad idea. If every single thing that was ever invented or discovered by an autistic person suddenly disappeared overnight, the rest of society would notice that. Most of the things that make being autistic difficultare because our society is only set up for one neurotype. Like I have had to work on my reaction to it but hearing how many people just don't want people like you to exist? Imagine how hard that cuts.

[–] sapphireaqua 18 points (+18|-0)

Greta is very controversial as I have read an expose done on her, by the BBC I believe. Greta has some severe mental health problems and was going to a special school for that and had stopped talking altogether for quite some time and her mom says her food intake went down to like 100 calories a day as Greta would eat only a very small quantity of one specific food only and her "fridays for climate" was part of it, like she became so hyper focused on global warming that she, along with a teacher from the school, would just sit with the sign all day every Friday with the sign and it was only after her school and her parents indulged her in her hyper focus on global warming did she start talking again and eating more food... so the "woke" crowd hails her as having a "superpower" and a "super kid" when actually her severe mental health issues are being exploited

[–] AmyHousewine 11 points (+11|-0)

Yeah, GT is obviously a severely mentally unwell child who almost had to be hospitalized for force-feeding. Her autism caused her to obsess over the climate, which has retroactively been used to 'explain' her prior self-harming behaviour, which in itself doesn't make sense: lots of activists are disturbed by the problems they work to solve, but starving yourself to death doesn't exactly help you be the change you wish to see in the world. But lots of trans kids are autistic and laser-focus on being "born in the wrong body" instead of "HOW DARE YOU" and we don't consider them prophets, we consider them disturbed children who need mental health help, not having their delusions indulged.

The fact that she succeeded in getting people to pay more attention to a vital issue shouldn't eclipse the fact that she's as mentally unwell and as exploited by adults with a cause as Jazz Jennings. If we're principled about not exploiting unwell kids for a cause, we can't then do it ourselves for the right cause.

[–] salty-tomorrow 2 points (+2|-0)

This is an interesting take... I struggle with avoidant/restrictive eating related to my autism, and from what I’ve understood, she was very unhappy/bullied at school/ I guess probably worried about the planet dying or whatever, and that was made it difficult for her to eat. Before I got help for my eating disorder, if I was stressed or upset, I literally couldn’t eat. I think rather than “indulging” her, they were allowing her to explore what made her happy, so that she was less stressed, so that she could eat...

Then again, I obviously don’t know her personally, I can only project my own experiences onto the stories I have heard about her. But I like to think that it is possible to acknowledge autism as significantly disabling as well as celebrate how passionate we can be about our special interests.

[–] yikesforever -3 points (+2|-5)

It sounds like she was fasting (or near it) for a cause? Which people do, idk. Doesn't sound that bad.

[–] Mikkal [OP] 11 points (+12|-1) Edited

Greta stopped eating - her parents had to put their careers on hold to get her to specialist care to get her to eat. I think that's extreme, but food issues may be related to the sensory problems associated with autism:

https://www.marcus.org/autism-resources/autism-tips-and-resources/eating-habits-when-to-worry

Her autism almost killed her. So - celebrating her autism seems wrong.

It's the whole, minor engaging in self neglect due to a hyperfixation (i.e., not performing activities of daily living) thing that is the issue. If it wasn't global warming, would any other issue make it okay to behave this way? It is worrying to say the least especially if she was already thin and lost a lot of weight due to this. For adults to positively reinforce this for (what is for better or worse) a political cause does not sit well with me. My two pence

[–] sapphireaqua 4 points (+4|-0)

i wonder if the adults are financially benefiting from it somehow.. mama greta quit her job as a performer as it would look bad that the mom does air travel

[–] AmyHousewine 3 points (+4|-1)

If adults choose to "fast" for physical health or spiritual reasons, we still call it mental illness if they reach the point of involuntary hospitalization.

[–] RadicalFrog 10 points (+10|-0)

As an aspie (diagnosed) I actually don't really see a huge problem with the movie. From what I can gage from the trailer, this movie is more so for people who have autistic children in their lives and celebrating them, not actually for autistic people. It's the same old infantilised portrayal of a lower functioning individual who has special gifts. Nothing particularly new or interesting but I don't really think its that bad. I think it was Sia's immature tweets and literally going after upset autistic people's comments - she should have just said nothing and the backlash wouldn't have been nearly as big

[–] yikesforever 9 points (+9|-0)

The internet outrage mob is tiring af but then, idk. I'm trying to think how this outrage is different from ours over the Wollstonecraft statue. Though I guess Sia even tried to have an autistic actress, but it didn't work out...

[–] Mikkal [OP] 7 points (+7|-0)

This is a GREAT question. I had to really think about it.

I was under the impression it was a public statue that was commissioned and paid for by the public. I think public comment is certainly appropriate. I don't think attacking the artist on twitter would be right. I also think that a statue is complete, it's not a work like a movie or book you need to see/read to get the whole message. I also think the entire purpose of a monument is to be representative.

That being said, I didn't really see the internet outrage over it, so I think you're right - there were probably pretentious, overblown twitter escapades I didn't see.

I think a huge change for me is we used to talk about Barbie - not because Mattel was bad and needed to be cancelled - but rather how Barbie was a symbol of a problem in society. So - the critique wasn't Mattel, the critique was the whole sum of society.

I feel the change has been to pretend society is just fine, it's Mattel that is in the wrong. The focus is getting Mattel to change - not society.

[–] FilthyHomo 4 points (+4|-0)

It didn’t work out because she hired an autistic person and expected their needs would be no different and didn’t even bother trying to make accommodations. She’s a multi-millionaire who supposedly spent 3 years “researching” to make this but couldn’t gather any info from autistic actors on making things accommodating despite making money off of our existence? Autistic people were being immediately thrown in institutions not that long ago, and were really going to pretend like the reason she doesn’t have an autistic actor is because no autistic person is good enough to do it? Please. If we can’t get disability benefits to compensate for society not being accommodating, and can’t get society to accommodate, are we supposed to just not exist? No, someone with the privilege Sia has could have been a person to make a statement about this.

[–] Feerique 8 points (+9|-1)

Working with Autism Speaks was a bad move. I don't personally think there's anything wrong with wanting a (scientifically sound and legitimate) cure for autism which I know many autists hate AS for but that organization also just has a lot of other red flags. The stuff about working with an autistic actress is stupid though. Filming is expensive and sets are sensory overloads. Is everyone else supposed to double their working time and stress to accommodate a single actress? Autists online just frequently act as if neurotypicals don't have their own mental health to consider.

I have definitely seen autists refer to it as a superpower though which yeah is annoying but it's a thing in the community so clearly there's no single autistic viewpoint on that.

[–] kalina 8 points (+8|-0)

I feel like the very concept of acting is about displaying a person that is not like yourself.

[–] SarahTheGreen 2 points (+2|-0)

It's telling a story by acting it out. Some actors like playing people who are different from them while others prefer to play people like themselves.

[–] FilthyHomo 2 points (+2|-0)

I’m sure you wouldn’t be upset then if all women’s roles in media were played by men?

[–] kalina 5 points (+6|-1)

sure I would mind.. but I do wonder where the 'cutoff' is. We are usually fine with people playing roles with personalities, disabilities etc that they don't actually have. Why does this one stick out?

[–] FilthyHomo -2 points (+0|-2)

This isn’t just a personality, disability, or even genetic condition. It’s a neurotype. It affects the way that we perceive everything on a fundamental level. I don’t think “where do we draw the line” is a question we need to be asking yet when there’s one piece of media out there right now where an autistic character is played by an autistic actor.

[+] [Deleted] 8 points (+12|-4)

I can see how such a huge project would be so stressful for an autistic person, it's no wonder they were swapped out. It would be wonderful if it were possible but I'd assume that big productions like that shoot everything quickly which wouldn't work for anyone who is easily overwhelmed by learning lots of steps, lines, movements in a pressurised timeframe. I always think if people have an issue with it, create your own thing. You don't have to consume it, like it, pay for it, etc. but art doesn't need to be approved by mob rule. I have other neurological diagnoses and I wish someone would tell me it was a positive instead of people seeing me as a lazy thoughtless shitbag.