Sia is defending her new movie Music after receiving backlash over its casting along with other accusations.
According to Variety, the film tells the story of Zu, who has an estranged relationship with her family and then finds herself as the sole guardian to her half-sister Music, a teenager on the autism spectrum.
But when the trailer was released on Thursday, Nov. 19, many viewers were disappointed to see that Sia's longtime collaborator Maddie Ziegler had been cast to play Music rather than an actor who is autistic.
"This is totally unacceptable and there are no excuses, you should know better than to allow able bodied & neurotypical to represent the disabled community," one follower wrote. "It's incredibly offensive as is the infantalisation of the character. Sickened. And not even captioned. Don't release this."
Sia then explained she "actually tried working with…a beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum" and the actress "found it unpleasant and stressful," which is why she cast Ziegler.
Still, many social media users believed there was more the "Chandelier" star could have done, even on short notice.
"Hi! I'm an #ActuallyAutistic professional actress that could have been cast & hired on short notice," another follower wrote. "I once acted in a film the same day I was contacted. So this reasoning is 100 percent false. The fact is that they did not want to hire an actor with autism. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs."
Sia then apologized that they were never introduced. "My character was pretty low functioning," she wrote, "and after attempting a few actors on the spectrum they suggested I use Maddie."
The criticism didn't end there. "Several autistic actors, myself included, responded to these tweets," added another commenter. "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."
Sia then replied, "Maybe you're just a bad actor." She also stated "there are thirteen people on the spectrum in the movie." The performer's responses grew fiercer as she continued to defend her project.
"I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as f--king prostitutes or drug addicts but...as doctors, nurses and singers," she tweeted. "F--king sad nobody's even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place."
Others accused Sia of ableism. And when one follower asked if the nine-time Grammy nominee made efforts to "do any research or consult the community," Sia replied, "Duh. I spent three f--king years researching, I think that's why I'm so f--king bummed." In addition, she claimed Autism Speaks "came on board long after the film was finished, four years in fact." However, she said she "had no idea it was such a polarizing group."
"Again, I worked very closely with two neuroatypical friends," she also wrote. "I learned so much and wanted to share it with the world."
Some supporters urged Sia to disregard the criticism. "Please ignore them Sia," one fan wrote. "I'm a disabled person and am not offended by the premise of your film. I have been criticised by some of the disabled community for my opinion but my opinion remains unchanged. I look forward to seeing it and judging it on its merits."