Anne Hathaway has apologized after her Grand High Witch character in The Witches reboot was met with backlash over its portrayal of people with physical disabilities.
Over the past few weeks, the movie, which was released on HBO Max on October 22, was criticized after Hathaway's character could be seen with three webbed fingers on each hand — more commonly known as “split hand,” or ectrodactyly. Critics argued that portraying a character with limb differences as a "scary" villain perpetuated harmful stereotypes, especially since the Roald Dahl book on which the movie is based did not specifically feature characters with limb differences.
On Thursday, Hathaway shared a video from Lucky Fin Project, a nonprofit raising awareness of limbic differences, writing, "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," she continued. "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 directed her apology to children with limb differences, writing, "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."
Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren said on Twitter on Monday that while she is "fully aware that this is a film," she worried about the implications of limb differences being represented as "something scary."
Earlier this week, Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, also issued an apology, writing that they were "deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities" and "regret 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," the studio said. "It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them."
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