'The Witches' Faces Backlash for Portrayal of People With Disabilities, Warner Bros. Responds
By Antoinette Bueno
Warner Bros. has responded to backlash The Witches has received when it comes to Anne Hathaway’s character, the Grand High Witch.
Hathaway plays the iconic villain in the latest adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved 1983 children's book, and her character is missing fingers. Some pointed out that the hands are similar to those with the limb abnormality ectrodactyly, also known as "split hand," which involves the deficiency or absence of one or more central digits of the hand or foot. Critics slammed the portrayal as helping to perpetuate stereotypes that people with disabilities are abnormal or should be feared, also pointing out that the original book did not portray the witches as having missing fingers.
Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren tweeted, "@WarnerBrosUK was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect the limb difference community?! @ReachCharity @RoaldFull." The Paralympic Games' official Twitter account also tweeted, "Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised."
In a statement to ET, Warner Bros. said it "regrets any offense caused."
"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," the statement reads. "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."
"I wanted to give a performance that felt as memorable to the children of today as her performance felt to me," Hathaway said. "It felt like it would've been, in a way, disrespectful to crib her performance. Hers is hers and it was for Nick Roeg's brilliant movie, and mine was mine and it was for Robert Zemeckis."
"Any moments that I felt, like, a little nervous about, 'Are people going to let there be two Grand High Witches in film history?'" she added. "I just went, you know what? In the last 30 years, there have been four Jokers. There have been six Batmen. There have been I don't know how many James Bonds. Like, people can do this. We're just not used to doing it with actresses."