How did Kathy Griffin 'save' Sia?
by Ana Walia | Sat, 22 Jan 2022 18:28:53 GMT
Image Source: HuffPost

The Australian singer-songwriter, Sia recently spoke to The New York Times as a part of a profile on comedian Kathy Griffin and revealed that she entered rehab following the extreme outrage that took place in 2021 over her feature directorial debut ‘Music’.

The backlash over ‘Music’ was followed because Sia decided to cast neuro-typical actress, dancer, and longtime collaborator Maddie Ziegler as the lead of the movie who was supposed to be a nonverbal autistic teenage girl. The audience did not like the artist's decision to cast Maddie as the lead as several artists with autism spoke against ‘Music’ and labeled her decision of both ableism and nepotism. An online petition was also launched which was aimed to cancel the premiere of the movie because of the movie’s “inaccurate and hurtful betrayal of the [autistic] community” and including scenes in which the lead character (autistic character) is restrained.

Ashley Wool called the movie, “something that’s doing active harm to people.” Actress Chloé Hayden also shared her opinion and said, Sia’s casting is undermining autistic people’s capabilities and making us out to be infants. Second, if your film is about inclusion, but you’re not making the actual film set inclusive, it completely belittles the entire point.” Matthew Rozsa called ‘Music’ as “a baffling and patronizing cringefest of ableist minstrelsy”, while Joseph Stanichar wrote, “Even doing research and writing an essay on the film’s problematic elements pre-release were not enough to prepare me for how harmful ‘Music’ is to autistic people.” One person on social media wrote, “Several autistic actors, myself included, responded to these tweets. We all said we could have acted in it on short notice. These excuses are just that — excuses. The fact of the matter is zero effort was made to include anyone who is actually autistic”, to which Sia replied, “Maybe you’re just a bad actor”, which followed more criticism from the audience and actors, and especially actors with autism

Sia initially defended the casting choice by saying via a statement, “I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folks, and not as f–king prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers. F–king sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.” But later she apologized for her choice before deleting her social media. According to reports by Rolling Stone, Sia tweeted, “I’m sorry. I plan to remove the restraint scenes from all future printings. I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough.”

During the interview, the artist shared “I was suicidal and relapsed and went to rehab”. However, Sia credited Kathy who helped her to recover after the comedian orchestrated a dinner date in Hollywood in November so that paparazzi would spot them together and create a healthy media buzz for her. Sia added, “She saved my life. We were joking that we were on ‘Survivor: Hollywood”.

Sia shared that Kathy Griffin saved her life. Image Source: 

Kathy faced public backlash following an infamous 2017 photo of her holding a bloody mask that was meant to resemble former President Donald Trump. Sia had previously explained that she tried working with a beautiful young girl nonverbal on the spectrum but she found it unpleasant and stressful because the character as written was too demanding. According to Variety, Sia explained that because fantastical dance sequence was an integral part of the movie which is why Maddie was finalized for the role. She said, “The character is based completely on my neuro-atypical friend. He found it too stressful being nonverbal, and I made this movie with nothing but love for him and his mother.”

The movie, ‘Music’ received a nomination for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Kate Hudson received nomination Best Actress In A Motion Picture at Golden Globes 2021. Sia wrote shortly after the announcement, "I promise, have been listening. The motion picture Music will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie. Music in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. There are autistic occupational therapists that specialize in sensory processing who can be consulted to explain safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help w meltdown safety."

A shot from 'Music'. Image Source: CNN 

Kate appeared on Jimmy Kimmel in 2021 and said that the movie was generating an important conversation among people, which was important to have. She added, "The spectrum is so wide and should be approached with far more conversation and understanding [of] how can we be more representative, what are the best ways to do that. We really want to tell the best stories, and when people feel upset about anything, it's our job to listen and encourage more conversation with other people who want to tell these stories."

Last January, Sia admitted that maybe her decision of casting Maddie was misguided. She said, "I realized it wasn't ableism — I mean, it is ableism, I guess, as well — but it's actually nepotism because I can't do a project without her. I don't want to. I wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her.” She further shared that Maddie was scared and cried on the first day of rehearsals because she did not want anybody to think that she was making fun of them. "I realized I couldn't really protect her from that, which I thought I could”, Sia added.