‘The Witches’ Depiction of Disability Draws Criticism
When Warner Bros. shifted Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches from theaters to HBO Max because of the coronavirus pandemic, they were hoping to give their new streaming service a big-ticket movie to compete with competitors like Netflix and Disney+. They got that — but the film’s witch characters have begun to draw criticism from members of the disability community. Specifically, they are upset with the way The Witches depicts its title characters as having “limb difference.” (Dahl’s original novel describes the witches as having claws but does not mention them having fewer than five fingers.)
British Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren tweeted “I am fully aware that this is a film, and these are Witches. But Witches are essentially monsters. My fear is children will watch this film, unaware that it massively exaggerates the Roald Dahl original and that limbs differences begin to be feared.” She also tweeted a picture of Anne Hathaway’s character’s hands. Her tweet was eventually shared by the Paralympic Games, who wrote “Limb difference is not scary.”
In response to the criticism, Warner Bros. provided a comment to Deadline, saying the studio was “deeply saddened to learn” that The Witches had “upset people with disabilities”: Here is their explanation for the design of the characters’ hands:
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,” they added. “It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.
If you want to see the film and judge it for yourself, The Witches is currently streaming on HBO Max.
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