Aaron Murray’s review published on Letterboxd:
I am autistic. I was diagnosed around the age of 4 after months & months of schools & nurseries telling my parents I was a problematic child. When I went into nursery it was a new environment where I felt alone, abandoned. Everything felt so tall and oppressive and yet I was small, a speck that felt everything closing in around me. I cried, tore things apart and was out of control but the truth was I didn't mean to be. My brain simply couldn't handle what was happening around me and I was scared.
When I began school properly, it wasn't easy. School work was a mixed bag in terms of difficulty but if there's one subject I struggled with most it was Mathematics. Every time I try to do a worksheet on Math, I would break down. The numbers and symbols just looked like a foreign language to me and when schools & society beat you over the head with the importance of Math, it made me feel like a less valued member of society. I felt like an idiot & completely worthless yet I could never figure it out. my brain was just unable to process it no matter how hard I tried. I still don't have my GCSE in Math and I know that's looked down upon. Basic Math isn't a problem for me but anything more than that is a challenge I don't think I'll ever be able to crack no matter how hard I try.
I made friends in school thankfully. I never went to any places of education that specialised in teaching people like me but I don't regret that necessarily. I learned a lot of valuable skills during this time and even with the support my schools gave me, I never felt like they saw me as less of a person. I have strong friendships with people who understand what I have and yet they treat me as a normal person. I know i'm different from them and after hanging around me for so long, they know that too but they don't care. They just accept who I am as a person.
Being autistic for me personally means every emotion I experienced is enhanced & amplified. This isn't always a bad thing of course. When I watch a piece of media that excites me, scares me or makes me happy, I feel like i'm on another world. It's part of why I view film purely on an emotional level rather than its objective qualities. Despite the good that comes from this however, there's a lot of bad things that come with it. I have routines that when they change result in me feeling overwhelmed. The lockdown we all experienced in 2020 and even now aren't easy for me and people like me in particular because of this. My social skills (while they've slowly gotten better over time) aren't perfect and I often feel like a freak when I'm around others.
That's the devastating part of being autistic sometimes. You feel isolated and different from everyone else. When you hang around with people who aren't autistic it's a lot more noticeable. When I've told people i'm autistic the most common response I get is "You don't seem autistic" but what does that mean? Autism affects everyone in different ways. I mean, there's a whole spectrum after all. While some people aren't able to figure out that I am autistic, I know I am.
I've tried dating apps before but with limited success. Love & romance with autism is a challenge and one that i'm still truly scared to face. I can't do flirting and the "signals" you get or you're supposed to give to another person is just a foreign concept to me. I've done long distance and the challenges that brought were massive on top of the challenges that autism brings. While I'm no longer with that person, I still created a friendship with this person that I will forever cherish. They've done more for me than I think they will ever realise or understand.
When people ask me what autism is, I often don't have an answer for them. Of course there's a definition for it after a quick google search but it's such a diverse "disorder" with everyone having a wildly different experience with it that it's hard to really explain what it is without visualising it to people. I find it tough to read people and figure out emotions and yet there's likely people out there who are autistic and don't have an issue with that. I find maths difficult and yet there's many autistic people out there who are experts in the subject. Does me not having the textbook signs of autism make me invalid? Absolutely not but what it does do is showcase just how different this "disorder" can be for different people.
I only learned about the existence of Music near the end of 2020. I don't listen to Sia and i've never had any interest to. The trailer had released for the film and it looked awful. It was an absolute embarrassment to behold and as much as I wanted to laugh at how bad it looked, I was struggling to let that out. I was mad, angry and all I could see was red.
When she said that she had no idea "Autism Speaks" was a polarising group, I knew she didn't do the research she said she did. A quick google search makes it clear that this is an organisation that people with autism don't align with so why did she work with them? Autism Speaks has even denounced the film since which just makes this even more embarrassing.
When an autistic actor confronted Sia on Twitter about why she didn't make the effort to cast someone who is autistic in the film, she called them a bad actor. From that point on I knew what was going on. Sia didn't make this as a love letter to people with autism as she claimed. She didn't do this to bring some representation in a community that desperately needs it. Sia did this because she's a nepotist, a scumbag that wanted to use people like me so she could look like a hero. A shining saviour for representation of my community no matter how shallow it really is.
Sia even admitted that casting Maddie Ziegler in the main role was ableist but she didn't give a shit. She clearly thinks we should be grateful she's even doing this film at all and we should silence ourselves for speaking out against it. Her fanbase has also been on a mission recently to silence many autistic people & critics speaking out against the film because if there's one thing that's gonna make this ableist twat look better, it's to silence & bully the people she's being ableist towards ://
Recently, a scene of the film was leaked that shows the main character being restrained, a common tactic to stop autistic people from having meltdowns. A tactic that is also completely fucking dangerous and should not be practiced by ANYONE. Once again, Sia's research into autism is shallow but even worse than that, it's extremely dangerous. I don't know just how successful this film will be but just knowing that some people are gonna think that this form of representation is anything but completely fucked up is incredibly worrying.
I just want to be viewed as normal. I want representation that doesn't use me as a way to inflate an ego. What Sia is doing here is an absolute disgrace and she should be ashamed. If you're defending this film then you should be ashamed too. I want nothing to do with anyone who thinks this is right. It's harsh but this directly affects how people might perceive me so I think I have a right to be mad at this.
I wrote so much about my experiences here because I want people to know what having autism is like. I want people to read this and understand not just who I am as a person but who people with autism can be and what autism can do for a person which is something that Sia has neglected to research.
Please, don't watch this. Spread the word that this is not the answer to autism representation. Here's a few links that are well worth looking to for some additional context about what's happening right now as well as a brilliant thread that offers some actual representation of autism that are well worth watching. Thank you for reading :)