Anne Hathaway is a witch whose spells only succeed in causing offence | Rebecca Nicholson

The star of the pointless remake of Roald Dahl’s classic could take lessons from the original witch, Anjelica Huston

While watching the tiresome Robert Zemeckis remake of The Witches for a Halloween treat, it started to dawn on me that, at 38, with no children in the vicinity, I was probably not its target audience. Given that I am old enough to remember going to see the 1990 adaptation at the cinema when I was an actual child, I am probably its least welcome one, too.

My Grand High Witch will always be Anjelica Huston, one of the most chilling ghouls in a children’s film. Anne Hathaway had a steep hill to climb and she never quite made it. Which is ironic, given that over the top is a pretty accurate description of how she approached it.

The film sparked a backlash from disability campaigners, who objected to its depiction of the witches’ hands with two long fingers and a thumb. Paralympians posted pictures of themselves with “#NotAWitch” written on their bodies, while the charity Reach has tweeted some of the many stories it received, patiently explaining why the film’s portrayal of limb differences as a symbol of evil might have an impact on children with limb impairments.

Warner Bros Pictures said it was “deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities and regret any offence caused”. I am sure there is some grumbling about cancel culture, about it being a fantasy film etc. Hathaway addressed this in her apology on Instagram, which she issued “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… 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.”

It was so unnecessary. The book describes witches as having claws instead of fingernails, but neither Quentin Blake’s illustrations nor the 1990 film removed their fingers. When it came to the witches, everything was so cartoonishly “hideous” that it wasn’t scary. Even in disguise, they had scars up their cheeks, which peeled back to unveil sharp, monstrous mouths; the point of the witches was that you didn’t know they were witches unless you were trained in how to spot them.

Anjelica Huston was far more frightening in her wig and gloves than she was when she peeled her face off. Come to think of it, perhaps children’s films were utterly terrifying in 1990, after all. .

Lottie Bedlow: a mix-up mix-tape cake does for star baker

Lottie Bedlow
Lottie Bedlow: a nation mourns; well I do. Photograph: Love Productions

The race was unbearably tense, the stakes were high and when the results finally came in the outcome was not what anyone expected: Lottie Bedlow, standout of this series of The Great British Bake Off, became the seventh baker to leave the tent.

Maybe it is because they all had to bubble together to film this time around, but the contestants and presenters have seemed particularly tight this year; every time Matt Lucas or Noel Fielding issued a wobbly-lipped eviction notice, the upset seemed real. Except last week, I felt it from my sofa.

Lottie was my favourite contestant in years – droll, metal-loving and embodying the perfect blend of caring just enough to be impressive and not being totally ridiculous about competitively knocking up a cake in the shape of something that is not a cake.

After getting star baker in the previous Japanese challenge, “80s week” saw her off, via an ice-cream cake in the shape of a mix-tape that appeared to have been chewed up by the Walkman. It wasn’t her finest hour.

Bake Off often has a problem with its biggest characters leaving too early (Linda, I still miss you). As someone who left a pre-lockdown “last supper” early just so I could watch last week’s episode when it was on, I realise I care a little too much about it, but when I read of fans vowing not to finish the series now that Lottie had gone, I can sympathise. I would like to formally shift my backing to Marc and I thank you all for your support at this difficult time.

Beyoncé: Queen B’s sweet buzz words

Beyoncé: the bee’s knees.
Beyoncé: the bee’s knees. Photograph: Kevin Winter/PW18/Getty Images for Parkwood Entertainment

Beyoncé gave a rare interview to British Vogue this month, revealing that she loves Christmas, Cajun seafood and, most intriguingly, that she keeps bees. The Queen B has two beehives, a fact that she admits is “random”.

“I’ve had them at my house for a while now. I have around 80,000 bees and we make hundreds of jars of honey a year,” she said, explaining that its medicinal properties are useful for two of her children, Blue and Rumi, who both have allergies.

I am not sure if pop fans refer to themselves by their fandom names any more or if that’s something that young people scoff at now, like Facebook or eating meat. Still, the fact that Beyoncé’s fanbase is “the Beyhive” has made this most unexpected of pop star hobbies particularly amusing. Rihanna has her “Navy”; it’s the equivalent of her announcing that she commands a fleet of warships in her spare time or that Mariah Carey, whose fans are known as Lambs, has a sideline as a shepherdess.

It’s been a long week. Let’s just leave it with the thought of Beyoncé, in a full beekeeper suit, making hundreds of jars of honey, chuckling at the coincidence.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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