Warner Bros studios and Anne Hathaway apologized this week after being criticized for their use of physical impairments in the newly released movie “The Witches.”
In the film, Hathaway’s character, “Grand High Witch” is seen with hands that are similar to Ectrodactyly which involves the deficiency or absence of one or more central digits of the hand or foot, it’s also known as split hand/split foot malformation. In the trailer, “claws” or “absence of toes” was used as a way “to spot a witch.” Viewers said the film negatively portrays limb differences and could perpetuate stereotypes.
According to E Online, after the film was released, several viewers took to social media to call out the studio with the hashtag #NotAWitch. One of the first people to was Amy Marren, a 22-year-old swimmer who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games. She tweeted on Nov. 2, “@WarnerBrosUK was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect [sic] the limb difference community?!” She later added, ”Please educate yourself on #LimbDifferences and the support the idea that you are #NotAWitch because you look different! 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.”
Another Paralympic athlete named Clare Cashmore who won gold, silver, and bronze medals while competing at four Paralympic Games shared the horrible comments she’s received growing up in an Instagram post on November 3rd. The athlete recalled, “’Your arm is so scary.’ ‘Your arm makes me feel sick.’ These are just a few comments I received growing up… As a self-conscious youngster these comments hurt ALOT and would knock my confidence. Nowadays I just feel sorry for the very ignorant people.” She added that that the movie made her ”very confused/upset.”
Warner Bros apologized on November 4th. A spokesperson told E! News, “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.” They continued, “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.”
Hathaway followed suit and teamed up with the Lucky Fin Project to spread awareness. The Lucky Fin Project called out the filmmakers on November 2, for “the deliberate choice” to make Hathaway’s limbs different to make her look “more creepy and sinister.”
The actress shared a 4-minute video provided by the project with several adults and children with a limb difference sharing statements like “I will not hide my arm, I will not hide my hands, and I will not tolerate negative assumptions.” She thanked them for letting her use the video and apologized in a lengthy caption.
The actress wrote, “I have recently learned that many people with limb differences, especially children, are in pain because of the portrayal of the Grand High Witch in The Witches. Let me begin by saying I do my best to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others not out of some scrambling PC fear, but because not hurting others seems like a basic level of decency we should all be striving for.” She continued, “As someone who really believes in inclusivity and really, really detests cruelty, I owe you all an apology for the pain caused. I am sorry. I did not connect limb difference with the GHW when the look of the character was brought to me; if I had, I assure you this never would have happened.”
Hathaway then promised to do better and encouraged everyone to check out the #notawitch hashtag to learn more, “I particularly want to say I’m sorry to kids with limb differences: now that I know better I promise I’ll do better. And I owe a special apology to everyone who loves you as fiercely as I love my own kids: I’m sorry I let your family down. If you aren’t already familiar, please check out the @Lucky_Fin_Project (video above) and the #NotAWitch hashtag to get a more inclusive and necessary perspective on limb difference.”
Supporters were very thankful for her apology. One wrote, “Thank you for addressing this and for your apology. I do believe that it was unintentional and no upset was caused on purpose. We have been trying to raise awareness to prevent something like this from occurring again - it’s great to see our voices were heard. Thank you again for your apology!” Another supporter commented, “Anne, thank you so much for this. Your words ring true and I am grateful. As someone with limb difference, I was hurt by your portrayal but it also brought attention to the issue and gives us all a chance to do better.”