Why Disability Groups Are Condemning 'The Witches' Remake

The Witches Controversy: Remake Condemned By Disability Groups
November 4, 2020 - 18:31 / Lucas Anderson

Disability groups have condemned the 2020 remake of The Witches starring Anne Hathaway. This week, prominent voices in the community—including the Paralympic Games and notable activists—spoke out against the film's problematic depiction of limb difference. The backlash comes after The Witches premiered in late October, featuring representations of witches with only three fingers. Warner Bros has since apologized and described them as an attempt at "cat-like claws."

The disability community swiftly condemned the 2020 remake of The Witches, prompting an apology from the film's studio, Warner Bros.

The film, a new adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel, was released on HBO Max on Oct. 22 and in a limited theatrical run on Oct. 28. But it attracted attention for the wrong reasons, with disability groups highlighting the film's problematic depiction of limb difference.

The Witches: Disability groups condemn the 2020 remake

Since the Anne Hathaway-starring film was released, leading voices in the disability community have spoken out against the movie. Specifically, they take issue with the film's "Grand High Witch" character (Hathaway) having only three fingers—and that being portrayed in a deviant and frightening manner in both the film and its ads.

The Witches (2020 remake) condemned by disability groups

Leading the wave of condemnation is the Paralympic Games, who, on Twitter, wrote: "Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised." They added the hashtag "NotAWitch," which they have been using to criticize the film's association of "physical impairment with witches."

At the organization's website, they assembled responses from advocates, Paralympians, and people with limb deficiencies. The statements range from expressions of offense to disappointment and calls for The Witches to prompt discussions on disabled representation. Some also observed that Dahl's source material did not include the limb difference portrayed in the movie.

The Witches studio, Warner Bros, apologizes to disability groups

In response to the backlash, Warner Bros made a statement to Deadline, saying they are "deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities" and that they "regretted any offense caused."

The statement continues: "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."

The Witches, starring Hathaway, Octavia Spencer and Stanley Tucci, was directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film was otherwise met with a mixed reception that usually praised the lead performances amid some missteps.