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The latest movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches has been heavily criticized by the disability community, for seemingly suggesting that anyone with missing or “different” limbs is a witch.
The Grand High Witch, played by Anne Hathaway, is depicted with hands and feet that could be associated with the genetic condition known as Ectrodactyly, which is identified by the absence of some fingers or toes. (According to Wikipedia, it “involves the deficiency or absence of one or more central digits of the hand or foot and is also known as split hand/split foot malformation (SHFM).”
In the movie, the absence of fingers or toes is referenced as one of the ways to “spot a witch”, which prompted some disabled viewers to form the hashtag #NotAWitch on social media.
22-year-old Paralympic bronze medallist Amy Marren was just one of the people who called out the studio for its representation of people with limb differences…
“@WarnerBrosUK was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect [sic] the limb difference community?!” she wrote on Twitter.
“Please educate yourself on #LimbDifferences and the support the idea that you are #NotAWitch because you look different!” she added.
“You can also actively support the limb difference community by using words that describe us as PEOPLE, as it’s not the difference that defines us.”
And she wasn’t the only Paralympian to take to social media…
32-year-old Clare Cashmore has won gold, silver, and bronze medals at four Paralympic Games, and she too spoke about how The Witches made her “very confused/upset”, and brought back some very bad memories…
“‘Your arm is so scary.’ ‘Your arm makes me feel sick.’ These are just a few comments I received growing up,” she wrote on Instagram.
“As a self-conscious youngster these comments hurt ALOT and would knock my confidence. Nowadays I just feel sorry for the very ignorant people.
“Yes you could say it’s great to see someone with a limb difference on TV and more than anything I really want to see more representation in the media. However we want disabilities to…be normalised and be represented in a positive light rather than being associated with being a scary, evil, witch.
“I know a lot of children and adults who are born missing their fingers and I want them to know that this does not represent you. Your limb difference is not scary. Your difference is unique and beautiful and should be celebrated. Some may think that the limb difference community is being over sensitive. But have you lived your life trying to overcome a stigma?”
Understandably, Warner Brothers said it was “deeply saddened” by the criticism, and has apologized for the offence it caused to viewers with disabilities. It added that it did not intend to upset anyone with its interpretation of the witches’ appearances…
“We the filmmakers and Warner Bros. Pictures are deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities, and regret any offense caused,” a spokesperson for Warner Bros told E! News.
“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. 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.”
The 2020 remake of The Witches is based on the 1983 book by Roald Dahl. The original movie adaptation premiered in the 1990s.