Earlier this week, I learned about the portrayal of the witches in the new movie version of Roald Dahl’s book, “The Witches.” I shared the following on my facebook and instagram:
“Fellow parents, I just have to take a minute to share something that’s weighing heavy on my heart. Many of you probably know that the new version of “The Witches” movie starring Anne Hathaway was recently released. In it, they alter Hathaways hands – giving her only two fingers and a thumb – to make her “more creepy.” There is no mention of this in the original book by Roald Dahl (where it is described as just “claws.”) Parents, my daughter (10) was born with a hand just like this. So were hundreds of other people. Today I had to pull my daughter aside and warn her about what the makers of this movie had done. If any child at her school sees this movie and then makes a comment to my daughter about having a “witch hand” I needed her to not be blindsided by it. When I told her this, her face broke my heart. She looked devastated. Until today, she had only ever heard positive messages from us about her limb difference, innocent questions about it from other children. She’s been proud of her unique “3 hand” her whole life. But today I had to explain to her that other people used a hand like hers in order to portray “evil” and “creepy.” Please, if you let your kids watch this movie, I am begging you to please have a talk with them about how it was wrong for the movie makers to do this. That limb differences are not creepy or scary. That there are very real, amazing, beautiful people in this world who happen to have hands that look like this. Do it for my daughter.”
When I told Zoey about the portrayal in the movie, she was visibly devastated. We discussed how wrong it was of the movie makers to choose to do that, why it was hurtful to so many people. We also talked about the hundreds – if not thousands – of people calling them out for doing it, standing up for Zoey and other people like her. We talked about her perfect she is, exactly the way she is. Lastly, we talked about different responses Zoey could have should any kids ever say anything mean to her about her hand (or anything else).
As I told Zoey, I wasn’t the only one speaking out. So many people did (including the awesome advocates at Lucky Fin Project), that Warner Brothers made a statement (I won’t call it an apology, because it was really weak in that regard) acknowledging it. A day later, Anne Hathaway also released a statement, with a very good apology:
“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.
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.
I shared this with Zoey as well, and she expressed to me that she appreciated the heartfelt apology and that Anne Hathaway was using her fame to help spread awareness about limb differences. I then showed Zoey the myriad of images shared by others under the Not A Witch hashtag and Zoey decided she wanted to participate in that as well. Here is my brave, strong, beautiful girl’s image: