Hollywood starlet Anne Hathaway’s much-awaited role in The Witches has sparked controversy over its insensitive portrayal of people with disabilities. The starlet’s villainous character of the Grand Witch, who has missing fingers, drew criticism from social media users, who argued that she appears to have Ectrodactyly, a limb abnormality that’s commonly referred to as “split hand.” Now, Warner Bros has apologized in a statement, which read, “We’re deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities. In adapting the original story, we worked with designers and artists to come up with a new interpretation of the cat-like claws that are described in the book.”
It added, “It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them. This film is about the power of kindness and friendship. It is our hope that families and children can enjoy the film and embrace this empowering, love-filled theme.” Paralympic athlete Amy Marren shared she was “disappointed” in Warner Bros and questioned if there “was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would affect the limb difference community.” The official Twitter account for the Paralympic Games added, “Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised.”
Following many days of backlash, several Facebook have also weighed in on their thoughts on an article posted by Cracked.com, with most lending their support to the makers of The Witches. “As a witch, I’d like to be offended that witches continue to be cast in an evil light. All these people that are offended by being compared to witches are the real problem! Witches are people too! That said, I’m not actually offended because I understand that fiction is fake, I have a sense of humour, and I’m not a looking for things to cry and point my fingers at others for.” Another added, I usually don’t buy into the chronically offended – but I can see how this would offend people suffering from that condition. It’s not fantastic.” Others compared The Witches to The Joker, stating, “What about the joker? That shows mental illness? That’s a disability? Where’s the line drawn out and what’s appropriate and what’s not? Physical illness off limits but mental is still okay?”
A user claimed that there are many more “important issues for disable folks besides a movie,” adding, “let’s work on things like universal ramp requirements and growing up.” Another comment in support of The Witches read, “Lots of fictional characters have different body characteristics. I’m sure it wasnt intended to imitate a real disability. That would be like me being offended for the umpa loompa because im short so they did it to offend me. come on!”
The Witches, which released on HBO Max in October this year, is the second film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s popular children’s book. “It was unnecessary to make another film adaptation of The Witches anyway. The first film is awesome,” mentioned another Facebook user. Echoing their sentiments, another post read, I’d rather they just apologize for making yet another god awful Roald Dahl adaptation. “Clearly his books do not lend themselves towards good theatrical translations, so maybe just leave them alone as books and go rape the works of some other children’s books author? Been awhile since we’ve seen The Mouse and the Motorcycle get a proper film treatment.” The Witches story centres on young boy who stumbles upon a gathering of witches while staying with his grandmother at a hotel. Along with Hathaway, the cast includes newcomer Jahzir Kadeem Bruno, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock and Kristin Chenoweth. Following an apology from Warner Bros studio, Hathaway promised to “do better” in a statement on Instagram and said, “I owe you all an apology for the pain caused”.