Warner Bros issues apology after The Witches sparks criticism from disabed community
Warner Bros new film version of Roald Dahl's novel The Witches has been criticised for its depictions of limb impairments.
Warner Bros. has apologised after being criticised by people with disabilities over the depiction of Anne Hathaway’s character in The Witches. Ahead of movie’s release on 22 October on HBO Max, many members of the disability community have spoken out about the characteristics that the witches in the Robert Zemeckis-directed adaptation are portrayed with.
The witches in the trailer are shown to have three-fingered hands — a disfigurement notably similar to the real-life limb abnormality ectrodactyly, otherwise known as “split hand.” Many disability champions, including para-athletes, objected to the imagery and called out the film’s studio, Warner Bros.
The Witches backlash led to Warner Bros. issuing an apology expressing deep “regret” over the depiction.
British Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren was one of the first to point out the fallacy.
@WarnerBrosUK was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect the limb difference community?! @ReachCharity @RoaldFull pic.twitter.com/kiTEAuYt7i
— Amy Marren (@amy_marren) November 2, 2020
Disability advocate Shannon Crossland also criticised the studio on social media. She put up a picture of herself and relayed how the new vision of The Witches considers the disability to be a trait of being a witch.
View this post on Instagram
When you see my hands, what do you think? Do they remind you of a monstrous being? Apparently @wbpictures think so. Thanks to @witchesmovie , a 2020 film adaptation of @roald_dahl book The Witches, my hands are now associated with a witch. Used to frighten children and spark fear. Used to demonise a fictional character and make her appearance more grotesque. @wbpictures and @witchesmovie either haven’t done much research or they simply disregarded the harmful impact that giving this character a real life limb difference would have. The limb difference which has been added to the witch’s evil image is called Ectrodactyly - a disability I was born with. This is by no way a reflection of the original novel written by Roald Dahl. This is a PG rated film - they have a young audience. Is this the kind of message we want the next generation to receive? That having 3 fingers is a witch’s attribute?It is an extremely damaging portrayal. Disability should NOT be associated with evil, abnormality, disgust, fear or monsters. @limbbofoundation @lucky_fin_project @theiampossiblefoundation @reachcharity1 #notawitch #limbdifference #limbdifferenceawareness #disabilityactivism #disabilityawareness #ectrodactyly #thewitches A post shared by Shanny (@crosslandshannon) on
The official Twitter account of the Paralympic Games also gave their view on the matter.
Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised. #NotAWitch calls out ‘#TheWitches’ movie for portrayal of disability 👉 https://t.co/aSY1U6TymE pic.twitter.com/UCU87bUeV8
— Paralympic Games (@Paralympics) November 3, 2020
The Witches is the second big-screen version of Ronald Dahl's novel about disguised witches plotting to turn children into mice. In the original book, the witches are described as having "thin curvy claws" instead of fingernails, and feet that "have square ends with no toes on them at all".
A spokesperson of Warner Bros gave a statement in response to the criticism to Deadline. The spokesperson said the studio was “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities” and “regretted any offense caused,” adding: "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."
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