Following the HBO Max release of its remake of The Witches, Warner Bros. became the target of intense criticism from the disability community, which took issue with the way the film starring Anne Hathaway depicted limb deformities. Disability advocates and organizations like the Paralympic Games called out the studio and director Robert Zemeckis for stigmatizing ectrodactyly, a limb abnormality more commonly known as “split hands.” In the film, when Hathaway’s character’s true witch form is revealed, she only has three fingers, and the disability community did not appreciate this aesthetic choice being used to signify evil.
European Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren is one of the more vocal critics who called out Warner Bros. studio for the offensive depiction. Via Twitter:
It’s not unusual for surgeons to try and build hands like this for children/adults with certain limb differences and it’s upsetting something that makes a person different being represented as something scary. Yes, I am fully aware that this is a film, and these are Witches. But Witches are essentially monsters. My fear is that children will watch this film, unaware that it massively exaggerates the Roald Dahl oriiginal and that limbs differences begin to be feared.
You can see Marren’s tweet below along with criticism from disability advocate Melissa Johns:
@WarnerBrosUK was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect the limb difference community?! @ReachCharity @RoaldFull pic.twitter.com/kiTEAuYt7i
— Amy Marren (@amy_marren) November 2, 2020
Why missing fingers??
Here we go again…Using disability as a costume and to highlight a character as a “baddie”.
Children with limb differences rarely get to see themselves represented truthfully. But instead get shown as scary monsters?
Not what we need #TheWitches pic.twitter.com/AApqu1Nodx
— Melissa Johns (@Melissa_Clare_J) November 2, 2020
In response to the backlash, a Warner Bros. spokesperson told Deadline that the studio is “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities.” The spokesperson also clarified that “It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them.”