Fans of acclaimed writer Roald Dahl had been super excited to watch the latest film adaptation of one of his works, The Witches, ever since its theatrical poster and trailer were released online. But since its premiere on HBO Max last October 22, the movie has garnered mixed reviews and the ire of persons with disabilities.
In the film, Anne Hathaway’s character, the Grand High Witch, is depicted as having “claw-like” hands where she only had three fingers on each palm — a condition similar in appearance to split-hand malformation, or ectrodactyly. This did not sit well with individuals who had that condition.
“Disappointed in the new Warner Bros film The Witches…I myself am a huge advocate of celebrating differences and especially limb differences,” wrote two-time British Paralympian Amy Marren in a tweet. “It’s upsetting to [see] something that makes a person different being represented as something scary.”
She said that though she is aware that it’s just a movie, she is concerned that kids will watch this film, “unaware that it massively exaggerates the Roald Dahl original” and be convinced that people with limb differences are to be feared or viewed as “monsters.”
In the original book, Dahl illustrated the Grand High Witch as having five fingers and with claws instead of fingernails.
— Amy Marren (@amy_marren) November 2, 2020
Many persons who had ectrodactyly began to speak out against the adaptation using the hashtag #NotAWitch and even launched a Change.org petition to boycott the film. In response to this, a Warner Bros. spokesperson explained their controversial character design to Deadline.
“In adapting the original story, we worked with designers and artists to come up with a new interpretation of the catlike claws that are described in the book. It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, nonhuman creatures were meant to represent them.”
They also stated that they are “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in ‘The Witches’ could upset people with disabilities” and “regretted any offense caused.”
Hey @wbpictures , thanks for your attempt to convince audiences people with limb difference (LD) are evil, scary and the villain. It’s not like children with LD have much against them already #notawitch pic.twitter.com/xGXFOo6vFQ
— Becky Cant (@BeckyCant) November 2, 2020
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