Warner Bros. has been accused of ‘using disability as a costume’ in its eagerly anticipated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.
The film has come under fire from Paralympians and other prominent members of the disability community for its representation of physical impairments in a negative light.
Retired Paralympic bronze medallist Amy Marren accused filmmakers of representing limb differences as something scary.
‘Disappointed in the new Warner Bros. film The Witches. I am a huge advocate of celebrating differences and especially limb differences,’ she wrote in a post shared to Twitter.
Addressing Anne Hatheway’s character, who has two fingers and a thumb on each hand, Amy continued: ‘It’s not unusual for surgeons to try and build hands like this for children/adults with certain limb differences and it’s upsetting to see something that makes a person different is 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 original and that limb differences are to be feared,’ she added.
Meanwhile, other disability advocates have been quick to point out that the limb differences used in the Warner Bros. film are in no way affiliated with Quentin Blake’s illustrations of The Witches in Roald Dahl’s book.
Sharing a picture of her own limb difference, disability advocate Shannon Crossland asked, ‘When you see my hands, what do you think? Do they remind you of a monstrous being? Apparently Warner Bros. thinks so.’
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When you see my hands, what do you think? Do they remind you of a monstrous being? Apparently @wbpictures think so. Thanks to @witchesmovie , a 2020 film adaptation of @roald_dahl book The Witches, my hands are now associated with a witch. Used to frighten children and spark fear. Used to demonise a fictional character and make her appearance more grotesque. @wbpictures and @witchesmovie either haven’t done much research or they simply disregarded the harmful impact that giving this character a real life limb difference would have. The limb difference which has been added to the witch’s evil image is called Ectrodactyly – a disability I was born with. This is by no way a reflection of the original novel written by Roald Dahl. This is a PG rated film – they have a young audience. Is this the kind of message we want the next generation to receive? That having 3 fingers is a witch’s attribute?It is an extremely damaging portrayal. Disability should NOT be associated with evil, abnormality, disgust, fear or monsters. @limbbofoundation @lucky_fin_project @theiampossiblefoundation @reachcharity1 #notawitch #limbdifference #limbdifferenceawareness #disabilityactivism #disabilityawareness #ectrodactyly #thewitches
‘Thanks to The Witches, a 2020 film adaptation of Roald Dahl book The Witches, my hands are now associated with a witch. Used to frighten children and spark fear. Used to demonise a fictional character and make her appearance more grotesque,’ she added.
‘Is this the kind of message we want the next generation to receive. That having three fingers is a witch’s attribute? It is an extremely damaging portrayal. Disability should NOT be associated with evil, abnormality, disgust, fear or monsters.’
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. has since responded to the criticism, saying the organisation was ‘deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities,’ and ‘regretted any offence caused,’ as Deadline reports.
The spokesperson added:
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.
Dahl’s book describes the witches has having claws instead of finger nails, however Blake’s illustrations on the cover show them with human-esque hands, with four fingers and a thumb.
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