The Witches: HBO Max addresses disability backlash on the remake

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

The Witches HBO Max, disability backlash

Did you watch Robert Zemeckis' remake of THE WITCHES this Halloween? If so, did you enjoy it or did something bother you about the appearance of Anne Hathaway's character? Was it her hands? You may not be alone as criticism has come in claiming the Warner Bros family film is insensitive towards people with Ectrodactyly, a limb abnormality that’s commonly referred to as “split hand.” In a statement, the studio said it “regretted any offense caused.” Those who've spoken out against the character say that they're concerned about the movie sending the wrong message to children, that people with physical abnormalities are villains or should be perceived as scary.

When calling the film out for what advocates feel is an unfortunate depiction of people with Ectrodactyly, Paralympic athlete Amy Marren said that she's "disappointed" by the portrayal and wonders if there “was there much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would affect the limb difference community.” After pointing out that people with Ectrodactyly encounter many obstacles due to their condition, Marren explained, “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 original and that limbs differences begin to be feared.”

In response to the criticism, a Warner Bros. spokesperson offered the following statement:

“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,” the statement reads. “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.”

You can follow the progression of the complaint via Twitter below:

Directed and co-written by Robert Zemeckis, with Kenya Barris and Guillermo del Toro, The Witches stars Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, and Stanley Tucci, among several others. In the Roald Dahl adaptation, a young boy and his grandmother have a run-in with a coven of witches and their leader. As you can imagine, things go poorly for the young boy after being transformed into a mouse and hunted by a group of blood-thirsty crones. The Witches is now available to stream on HBO Max.

Source: Warner Bros.

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.