The Witches remake on HBO Max is the latest movie to come under fire, as prominent members of the disability community — such as Paralympians and the Paralympic Games organization — are taking issue with how the titular witches are portrayed. Specifically, some people in the community are unhappy with the way the witches’ hands change shape, with Anne Hathaway’s hands resembling the real-life condition called ectrodactyly. Stressing that depicting evil characters this way is offensive to those with limb differences, people within the community are speaking out on social media by way of the #NotAWitch campaign.
An advocate for celebrating differences, British Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren posted on Twitter that she was “disappointed” in the new Warner Bros. movie. “It’s not unusual for surgeons to try and build hands like this for children/adults with certain limb differences and it’s upsetting to [see] something that makes a person different being represented as something scary,” Marren writes.
Meanwhile, disability advocate Melissa Johns also spoke about how troubled she was to see the way Hathaway’s hands took shape when showing her true form. “Why missing fingers?” Johns asks, posting a photo of Roald Dahl’s original book cover depicting a witch with all five fingers. “Using disability as a costume and to highlight a character as a ‘baddie’. Children with limb differences rarely get to see themselves represented truthfully. But instead get shown as scary monsters? Not what we need.”
The official account for the Paralympic Games also weighed in on the matter, tweeting, “Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised.”
With so many other posts on social media echoing similar sentiments, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. has responded to the complaints. The company states that they are “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities” and “regretted any offense caused.”
The statement also adds, “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 was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.”
In the original novel, published by author Roald Dahl in 1983, the witches are described as having “square feet with no toes” and “claws instead of fingernails.” In the original movie adaptation from 1990, the witches look much more grotesque from head to toe, and while their digits are clawed and very long, each of them appears to have all five fingers.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the HBO Max remake of The Witches was released on Oct. 22. Along with Hathaway, the movie stars Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Kristin Chenoweth, and Chris Rock serving as the narrator. Although reviews for the movie are mixed, Hathaway’s performance has generally been receiving a lot of praise. If only her character had been designed a little bit differently, there wouldn’t be so many complaints. This news comes to us from Deadline.