Anne Hathaway is urging her 18.9 million Insta followers to check out #NotAWitch.
It’s an important hashtag appearing all over social media right now that celebrates people with limb differences and calls out her latest film, The Witches, for portraying its villains with missing fingers.
You see, the Hollywood star plays the Grand High Witch in the movie, a character with three long fingers on each hand – a creative addition to the book by Roald Dahl and the 1990 film starring Angelica Houston where the witches all had five fingers with long claws.
In a statement on Instagram, Anne acknowledges the hurt her character is causing, especially to children with limb differences, and promises to “do better”:
“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 writes while sharing a video from the Lucky Fin Project, a non-profit that raises awareness about people with limb differences:
View this post on Instagram
“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 Grand High Witch when the look of the character was brought to me; if I had, I assure you this never would have happened,” she continues.
“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.”
She ends by encouraging her followers to learn more about the Lucky Fin Project “to get a more inclusive and necessary perspective” on the issue.
The organisation called out filmmakers earlier this month for using limb difference to make Anne’s character appear “more creepy and sinister.”
The community upset over this “kid friendly” film has been overwhelming. The deliberate choice to make Anne Hathaway’s character in the new @wbpictures
film #TheWitches limb different in efforts to make her more creepy and sinister is upsetting. #LimbDifferenceAwareness pic.twitter.com/q9K32LZvYS
— Lucky Fin Project (@luckyfinproject) November 3, 2020
As did the Paralympic Games who pointed out that disability needs to be normalised:
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
Anne then encourages her fans to follow the #NotAWitch hashtag so that we can better understand how using disabilities to create scary narratives in the entertainment industry does in fact have consequences for people in real life.
The hashtag introduces us to a world of people who were born without limbs or have lost them due to illness or accidents.
Beautiful, talented, smart, funny, kind, loving people who are not scary or evil.
View this post on Instagram
Thank you adaptive athletes and model @livv.stone for lending your voice 🧡 • not a witch back then…or today. the new @witchesmovie created a witch character to seem more scary by making her have “freaky” hands. her hands are similar to people i know and love. even my hands are close in appearance to the witch. growing up i didn’t want kids to be afraid of the way i look. hollywood…this is a children’s movie. stop normalizing using limb differences as a frightful part of characters. 🧙🏻♀️❌🌟 #NOTAWITCH @lucky_fin_project @zapposadaptive @runwayofdreams @nicolegkelly @alexjbarone @rebekahmarine @aannggeellll @campnolimits @cafoundation @friendsofbethanyhamilton @faithhopemaui #luckyfinproject #limbdifferenceawareness #luckyfinsrock #tenfingersareoverrated #celebrate #educate #support #unite #lfpfamily #wonderfullymade #calltoarms #luckyfin #uniquelyperfect #uniquelyunstoppable
Anne’s apology follows a statement from Warner Brothers this week who also said sorry for their major failure.
They explained that in adapting the Roald Dahl novel, their creative team worked with designers and artists to interpret the “cat-like claws” mentioned in the book.
“It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them. This film is about the power of kindness and friendship.”
And while an apology is an important step forward, the question remains – what other proactive steps will Warner Brothers take to properly address this?
The Lucky Fin Project suggests a disclaimer before the film begins as well as links directing viewers to learn more about limb difference:
This is a teachable moment, and the apology is empty without any action taken by @wbpictures @hbomax . How about a disclaimer before the film and links to educate viewers about actual limb different community. #NotAWitch #limbdifferenceawareness https://t.co/sT20dQZir4 @variety
— Lucky Fin Project (@luckyfinproject) November 4, 2020
They highlight that “cancel culture” is not helpful but rather an “educated, inclusive, empathetic and empowering” outlook is what is needed right now.
“Forward together is how we all learn and rise,” the organisation writes in a Twitter post.
And we couldn’t agree more.
This is a teachable moment for all who tell stories and all who create them. Words and depictions matter.
And it’s a teachable moment for the rest of us too, about what ableist narratives are and how damaging they can be.
(Feature Image Credit: Everett Collection/ Shutterstock.com)