The Witches: Warner Bros apologises for 'shockingly out of touch' depiction of people with disabilities

Film features ‘new interpretation of cat-like claws’ featured in Roald Dahl’s book

Jacob Stolworthy
Thursday 05 November 2020 08:10
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The Witches remake trailer

Warner Bros has apologised for its “shockingly out of touch” depiction of people with missing limbs in The Witches.

Campaigners have heavily criticised the latest adaptation of the Roald Dahl book after Anne Hathaway's lead character – the Grand High Witch – is shown with what appears to be Ectrodactyly, a limb abnormality sometimes referred to as "split hand".

This detail is not a part of the character's description in Dahl's novel and was added in by the makers of the film, who “worked with designers and artists to come up with a new interpretation of the cat-like claws ”mentioned in the original text.

In addition to this, a trailer for the film suggests you can “identify” a witch by their claw-like hands and lack of toes.

Disability campaigners, including TV presenter Alex Brooker and paralympian Amy Marren, have expressed the concern that the depiction of these villains could perpetuate stereotypes that physical defects are something to be feared.

The Paralympic Games’s official Twitter account wrote: “Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised.”

In apology, Warner Bros said it “regretted any offence caused”.

A spokesperson for the studio told The Independent that bosses were “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities”.

“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.”

Children’s limb difference charity Reach said The Witches, which is directed by Robert Zemeckis, had the potential to be “extremely damaging”.

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It said: “Many limb difference children and young people have a significant challenging time accepting being different, overcoming mental health and physical challenges that many others take for granted and being subjected to bullying.”

The charity cited Strictly Come Dancing as a mainstream show where limb differences were now commonplace. In comparison, they described The Witches as "shockingly out of touch with what’s going on in the world".

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