Anne Hathaway in Witches, the 2020 adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl book
Anne Hathaway in Witches, the 2020 adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl book

Disability campaigners criticise new Witches film for depicting villain with no fingers

Film ‘shockingly out of touch with what’s going on in the world’, says charity

Joanna Whitehead
Wednesday 04 November 2020 14:16
Comments

Disability campaigners have criticised the new Roald Dahl film The Witches as stigmatising those with missing limbs.

In the new version of the popular children’s book, Anna Hathaway, who plays the Grand High Witch, is depicted with missing fingers on her claw-like hands which she hides with gloves, a detail that is not part of the original text.

A trailer accompanying the film shows the star-studded cast giving a tutorial on “How to Identify Witches” and highlights claws and a lack of toes as typical characteristics of witches.  

Following the film’s release in the UK on 26 October, the hashtag #NotAWitch began trending on social media.

TV presenter and comedian Alex Brooker, who has upper limb differences, has joined a number of charities in condemning the adaptation.

The comic said: “As someone with missing fingers, it’s made me so sad to see how this is portrayed as something to be scared of.

“The story is that the witches wear gloves to hide what is horrible underneath. I’ve been that kid who wanted to wear gloves to hide so it’s heart-breaking to see that stigma reinforced for other children who have different hands to everyone else.”

He added: “I know it’s just a film, but I want disabled kids to celebrate who they are, not feel like they have the same hands as a fictional monster."

Children’s limb difference charity Reach supported the comments, stating that the film had the potential to be “extremely damaging”.

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”.

“Roald Dahl is a much loved British author around the world," it said.

"We think he would be equally as horrified about how one of his beautiful novels has been misconstrued at the cost of some very special and unique children,” it added.

A Warner Bros. Pictures spokesperson told The Independent: "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. 

"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.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in