Updated Friday 6 November 2020
A new hashtag has been launched in response to a new film version of Roald Dahl’s novel The Witches which depicts limb difference in a negative light.
The Warner Bros film shows the witches with distinct hand and feet impairments.
Similarly, to Dahl’s novel, the witches are seen as evil and scary, with people calling out the film for portraying limb difference as something to be afraid of.
Anne Hathaway, who plays the Grand High Witch, is shown to have three fingers on each hand. This goes against the original description of the Grand High Witch in the novel, where the witches were described as have “thin curvy claws, like a cat.”
Comedian Alex Brooker, who has had and arm impairments, is just one recognisable figure to step out to condemn the stereotype and negativity depicted in The Witches.
Within the trailer a lesson is shared on how to identify witches, highlighting their claws and lack of toes.
Paralympian Claire Cashmore has commented: “It feels like we’ve spiralled back into the dark ages where people with a disability are seen as weird, freaky and scary.”
Reminiscing being called “evil” and “disgusting” as a child simply because she was born without a lower left arm, Cashmore revealed the bullying left her feeling ashamed of her impairment and hiding her lower arm in order to “avoid scaring people.”
Alongside Cashmore and Brooker, Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren has objected to the film by writing #NotAWitch on her body, joining thousands of others doing the same as protest to the film.
Brooker also commented that the images “jarred quite a lot” and could “add to the stigma” around disability.
Speaking to the BBC, actress and TV presenter Grace Mandeville said: “The truth is children will watch this movie and some will then be scared of people that have limb impairments or ectrodactyly [a split hand] thanks to this film.
“I thought we were moving forward in this industry, but once again a movie has used scars and a disability to create a scary character.”
“I’m aware that this is just a movie to some people, but this affects the perception of disabled people more than you’ll realise.
“I dread to think how a class of children would react to a new classmate who has a scar or a limb impairment after they’ve all watched this film.”
Since the backlash, Warner Bros has commented that they “regret any offence cause by the film” and “it was never their 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.”
Even so, there are fears young children with limb differences may be ostracised or negatively impact their perceptions around what makes people different.
Anne Hathaway has since responded to the criticism and offered an apology to people with limb differences and their loved ones.
Writing on an Instagram past, Hathaway commented: “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.”
Featured image credit: Warner Bros