Strictly’s JJ Chalmers says portrayal of limb differences in The Witches remake is ‘careless’

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Strictly’s JJ Chalmers has slammed The Witches remake for its portrayal of limb differences. 

The former Royal Marine, 33, has called the portrayal ‘careless’ and a ‘classic example of unconscious biases’. 

The Robert Zemeckis-directed Roald Dahl movie adaptation was released last month. 

'Careless': Strictly's JJ Chalmers has slammed The Witches remake for its portrayal of limb differences (pictured with dance partner Amy Dowden)

‘Careless’: Strictly’s JJ Chalmers has slammed The Witches remake for its portrayal of limb differences (pictured with dance partner Amy Dowden) 

It has since been called out by critics and disability advocates for the film’s demonising depiction of split hands, or ectrodactyly.  

JJ was caught up in a bomb blast in Helmand, Afghanistan, in 2011 aged 23 where he suffered a broken neck, lost two fingers and other serious injuries.  

Taking to Twitter, he said: ‘Whilst this depiction was not meant to offend, it is a classic example of the type of unconscious biases and carelessness that occurs in a creative environment that is lacking the insight and benefits of true diversity and representation. #NotAWitch #LimbDifferent #Witches.’

He posted a photo of himself, which featured the hashtag ‘NotAWitch’ written across his arm, alongside a photo of Anne Hathaway who plays the Grand High Witch in the film.  

Hathaway, 37, has offered an apology after significant backlash, including from prominent Paralympic athletes. 

'Careless': The former Royal Marine, 33, has called the portrayal 'careless' and a 'classic example of unconscious biases' (Anne Hathaway pictured in film still)

‘Careless’: The former Royal Marine, 33, has called the portrayal ‘careless’ and a ‘classic example of unconscious biases’ (Anne Hathaway pictured in film still) 

Unconscious biases: JJ was caught up in a bomb blast in Helmand, Afghanistan, in 2011 aged 23 where he suffered a broken neck, lost two fingers and other serious injuries, took to Twitter to call out the film

Unconscious biases: JJ was caught up in a bomb blast in Helmand, Afghanistan, in 2011 aged 23 where he suffered a broken neck, lost two fingers and other serious injuries, took to Twitter to call out the film 

She used her Instagram platform to address the issue, explaining how sorry she was for ‘pain caused’ by the film while sharing a video from Lucky Fin Project, a non-profit that exists to raise awareness and celebrate children, individuals, and families affected by limb differences. 

‘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,’ the actress said of her character. 

‘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.

#NotAWitch: He posted a photo of himself, which featured the hashtag 'NotAWitch' written across his arm, alongside a photo of Anne Hathaway who plays the Grand High Witch in the film

#NotAWitch: He posted a photo of himself, which featured the hashtag ‘NotAWitch’ written across his arm, alongside a photo of Anne Hathaway who plays the Grand High Witch in the film 

‘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 continued: ‘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.

‘If you aren’t already familiar, please check out the @Lucky_Fin_Project (video above) and the #NotAWitch hashtag to get a more inclusive and necessary perspective on limb difference.’

After the film’s release, The Witches received large amounts of criticism from the community of disabled people.  

Critics point out that neither the 1983 book, nor the 1990 film starring Angelica Huston, featured split hands. 

In fact, Dahl describes the physical appearance of the witches in detail, and refers to them having claws rather than fingernails, but makes no mention of missing fingers or split hands.

Apologising: Anne offered an apology on Instagram following criticism of the film

Apologising: Anne offered an apology on Instagram following criticism of the film

Amy Marren, a swimmer who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games, was one of the first to criticise the film and ask on Twitter if there was ‘much thought given as to how this representation of limb differences would effect the limb difference community.’

The Lucky Fin Project, a nonprofit to raise support and awareness for limb differences, also took to Twitter to criticise the movie and start a petition to boycott its viewing.

British TV actress Melissa Johns, who was born without a right forearm and hand, also criticised ‘The Witches’ for being irresponsible.

Anger: Star Paralympic athlete Amy Marren of Great Britain is leading a charge against The Witches

Anger: Star Paralympic athlete Amy Marren of Great Britain is leading a charge against The Witches

Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren was one of the first prominent people to criticise the film

Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren was one of the first prominent people to criticise the film

The British Paralympic swimmer earned a bronze medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games

The British Paralympic swimmer earned a bronze medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games

The Lucky Fin Project also took to social media to criticise 'The Witches' and start a boycott

The Lucky Fin Project also took to social media to criticise ‘The Witches’ and start a boycott 

The International Paralympic Committee also called out the movie, using ‘#NotAWitch’ on social media to generate more reactions from the disability community.  

Warner Bros. released a statement to Deadline, saying they are ‘deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in ‘The Witches’ could upset people with disabilities’ and that they ‘regretted any offence caused.’

They added, ‘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.’

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, ectrodactyly presents at birth and its severity can range for those who have it. The condition appears in 1 in every 90,000-100,000 births worldwide. 

The Lucky Fin Project raises support and awareness for those who have limb differences

The Lucky Fin Project raises support and awareness for those who have limb differences

Actor Melissa Johns, who was born with limb differences, also called out The Witches

Actor Melissa Johns, who was born with limb differences, also called out The Witches

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