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Disability Community Calls Out The Witches Remake for Depiction of Ectrodactyly

anne hathaway looks fabulous in the Witches

The 2020 remake of The Witches has garnered mixed reactions from fans of the original and the book, but one of the more important criticisms has come from disability advocates taking issue with an addition the film made in terms of the depiction of the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway).

The Grand High Witch is shown with hands that are similar to ectrodactyly, which is sometimes known as “split hand,” in which a person is missing one or more central digits on their hands or feet.

According to Deadline, British Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren was among the first to call out the film for the imagery, along with disability advocate Shannon Crossland.

Crossland stated on Instagram that the imagery in the film was “no way a reflection of the original novel written by Roald Dahl,” and that the message was harmful. “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,” she wrote.

A Warner Bros. spokesperson told Deadline they were “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.”

“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.”

In the books, the witches are depicted as having “square feet with no toes” and “claws instead of fingernails,” which seems fantastical enough.

Of course, some are saying that this is not a big deal and that people are choosing to be offended (which is big NXIVM energy), but as someone who grew up horrified by the original movie (in a good way), I have forever associated pointed shoes with “witches.” In the book, witches don’t have toes, but because they are trying to blend in, they wear pointy shoes, rather than comfortable ones, for … reasons.

Even as I got older and was no longer frightened by it, I still think of pointy shoes as “witch shoes.” This is all part of a larger representation issue. We rarely get depictions of differently bodied people in a normalizing way. It is always to signify them as othered or to make them punchlines. One of the most lasting images left in my mind by pop culture is of someone with different limbs as the manservant in Scary Movie 2.

That is the limited space in which we have placed limb differences. Pointing that out isn’t choosing to be offended; it’s asking people to do better.

(via Deadline, image: Warner Brothers/HBO Max)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.