I’m not your inspiration porn

The disability community erupted when Sia announced her upcoming film Music. Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Maggie Ziegler star in the film, which is about an autistic girl who goes to live with her sister.

The film will not release until early 2021, and it’s Sia’s directorial depute. A trailer was released a couple of weeks ago. So, you might wonder what the disability community has against Sia and the film despite the fact that none of us have actually watched it. Let me break it down:

The biggest issue is the lack of actual autistic representation. Sia claims to have spent years researching, but her research seems to have failed to work directly with the autistic community and actual autistic people.

When Twitter questioned Sia’s casting, demanding to know where the actual autistic actors were, Sia gave an answer the disabled community is sick of hearing: That no disabled actors were to be found and/or there are no good disabled actors. According to Deadline, Sia claims to have hired several “special abilities kids.” But of the single autistic actor she initially considered casting, Sia said she found it “unpleasant and stressful.”

Disability representation in the arts is just as important as representation among any other minority. Rarely are disabled performers sought out to play these roles. Rarely are disabled people hired to consult on projects. After decades of offensive portrayals, one-dimensional creations and lacking representation, we are done. We want to be reflected in the arts just as much as anyone else. We also demand three-dimensional disabled characters that serve a deeper purpose than to make non-disabled people feel better about your lives.

Sia had some ill-informed idea to address a subject she has no personal connection to, and seemingly consulted with no actual autistic people, but she wants us to believe Music was created out of love. But she turns around and states working with autistic people is “unpleasant and stressful.” This is beyond offensive, and is outright ablist. Had she said this about Leslie Odom Jr. in regard to his race, the world would leech onto this story and burn this film to the ground before it had a chance to be released. But because it’s about disability, it’s okay. And we all have been miseducated about autism, which is why non-disabled people are okay with these comments.

But it’s not okay. You cannot discuss disability without us having a seat at the table. You cannot represent us without actual disability representation. No degree, no research, no relationship will ever make you the expert on disability. Whether a physical, sensory or cognitive disability, whether visible or invisible, whether health related or not, we are the keepers of our voices. Our stories are not to be used as inspiration porn to make you feel better. We are not a metaphor or a mere sidekick. Stop making our stories disposable and excusing your behavior, because disabled people are “unpleasant and stressful.”

Perhaps we are unpleasant and stressful though, as Sia is learning. We are no longer silent, and we won’t be stifled. We will call out injustice and inequality. Sure, Music is just a film, but art often informs our perceptions. When a historically marginalized group is misrepresented over and over, we will have an opinion, and if that makes life unpleasant and stressful for you, well, so be it.

By LitMommy

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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