Parents' Guide to

Music

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Despite talented cast, drama is a misguided look at autism.

Movie PG-13 2021 107 minutes
Music Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 8 parent reviews

age 18+

An Ableist Piece of Garbage, I Thought Sia Was Better Than This

I am appalled at the ableism and audacity of this film. My 12 year old brother, who is autistic, was curious to see the film so we watched it. We both regret that decision and didn’t bother to finish it. It’s greatly insensitive and offensive to autistic people and it’s not even accessible to photosensitive and epileptic people, due to flashing scenes. The film also includes the use of prone restraint, which is very dangerous and has killed or severely injured autistic people in the past. Following backlash, Sia had said that she would remove the prone restraint scenes and add a warning, but she clearly did neither. The scenes were there and there was no warning. Music, a nonverbal autistic character, is played by Maddie Ziegler, a neurotypical actress. I feel that this is a mockery of disabled people in and of itself because there are plenty of talented autistic actors who could’ve played the role much better. Music herself is more of a caricature, her movements are over exaggerated and mock how real autistic people stim. It’s violating. I’ve heard from others that Ziegler was uncomfortable with this herself (perhaps she was aware of how wrong it was?) but she was forced to play the part by Sia. To make things worse, the movie was supported by Autism Speaks, a very ableist organization that makes autism seem like a disease and makes autistic people seem like a burden. I beg of you for your own sakes and for the sake of the autistic community, don’t watch or support this film. To my surprise and utter disgust, Music has been nominated for the Golden Globe awards. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t win because it does not deserve that sort of attention. Several autistic activists and others have spoken out against the film and their voices must be heard. For more information on ableism in the film, I suggest @theautisticats who are on Twitter and Instagram. It’s run by three autistic activists. They are really good about research and breaking down and explaining these things to others who might not understand, as well as speaking from personal experiences. @adultingwithautism is another great source on Instagram as well.
age 13+

A review from someone with autism

As an individual with autism, I found this movie repulsive and violating. The title character is simply a caricature of autistic behavior. I found her performance hurtful and misleading. The glorification of music “overcoming” her problems is just.....blegh. All the characters are one dimensional stereotypes, the dialogue feels about as graceful as a rhino in an antique store, and the artistic representation of the mind of an autistic person felt like an awkward 5th grade ballet recital. A mess of an experience you can’t wait to be over. All in all, I think this movie feels to me what blackface may feel like to a black person. Shallow, self-indulgent, and all around offensive. Stay far away from this movie.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (8 ):
Kids say (30 ):

Although its colorful, trippy song-and-dance numbers could delight fans of Sia and her talented cast, this movie is ultimately over-the-top and borderline offensive. Music has been loudly criticized for its depiction of prone restraint to subdue someone with autism: It's portrayed here as a common technique for handling Music but is actually dangerous, traumatic, and in some cases even lethal. There's also the fact that Ziegler, who's a neurotypical dancer-turned-actor, as well as Sia's self-described muse, was cast to play Music instead of a neurodiverse performer. But even worse is the way that Music has little agency in her own story outside of her reveries. She's yet another disappointing example of a marginalized character whose sole purpose is to change another character for the better -- in this case, Zu. Meanwhile, Ebo narrowly escapes another stereotype as a saintly, almost magical Black man whose chief goal seems to be to help the White sisters down the hall.

Hudson plays against type rather unconvincingly (even with the shaved head and wardrobe mostly consisting of sports bras and cut-off shorts). She does the peppy, life-of-the-party parts right but isn't believable as a gritty recovering addict who still sells drugs for quick cash. Ziegler is wonderful in the dance sequences, but her performance as Music is difficult to watch. There's a wrongness to the entire film that goes beyond the discussion of able-bodied or neurotypical actors taking away jobs from disabled or neurodiverse performers. For a much more insightful and poignant exploration of nonverbal autistic young adults, skip this and watch The Reason I Jump instead. Sia, no doubt, will survive the criticism of Music and go on to make another musical that's zany, colorful, and meaningful; this, however, is not it.

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