The Oscar-winner plays the Grand High Witch, a role once occupied by Anjelica Huston. While Roald Dahl’s original source material describes the titular witches as having ‘square feet with no toes’ and ‘claws instead of fingernails’, the movie goes in a different direction.
Hathaway’s villain has two fingers and a thumb on each hand, similar to a condition known as ectrodactyly or ‘split hand’, with which fingers or toes are missing. Following the resulting controversy, she’s issued a lengthy apology.
Hathaway, 37, addressed the backlash in an Instagram post while sharing a video from the Lucky Fin Project, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of limb differences. She urged people to watch the movie and check out the the #NotAWitch hashtag, trending due to the backlash, ‘to get a more inclusive and necessary perspective on limb difference’.
Hathaway wrote: ‘I have recently learned that many people with limb differences, especially children, are in pain because of the portrayal of the Grand High Witch in The Witches.’
Let me begin by saying I do my best to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others not out of some scrambling PC fear, but because not hurting others seems like a basic level of decency we should all be striving for.
As someone who really believes in inclusivity and really, really detests cruelty, I owe you all an apology for the pain caused. I am sorry. I did not connect limb difference with the GHW when the look of the character was brought to me; if I had, I assure you this never would have happened.
Hathaway, a mother of two, added: ‘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.’
Limb difference is not scary. Differences should be celebrated and disability has to be normalised. #NotAWitch calls out ‘#TheWitches’ movie for portrayal of disability 👉 https://t.co/aSY1U6TymE pic.twitter.com/UCU87bUeV8
— Paralympic Games (@Paralympics) November 3, 2020
A number of disability advocates have slammed the movie, with Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren also tweeting: ‘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.’