The Harry Potter fan universe is nothing if not passionate!
And the recent casting announcement for the next installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise has reignited the fire.
In the film, South Korean actress Claudia Kim will play the character of Nagini, a villain in the J.K. Rowling story who transforms into a snake and becomes Lord Voldemort's evil accomplice. The casting proved immediately controversial among some of Rowling's fanbase, who took issue with a woman of color being cast as a villain, especially since the character was not written as a woman of color in the original source material. Fans accused Rowling of falling into tired tropes and stereotypes, as a means of making up for the lack of non-white representation in her books.
"Suddenly making Nagini into a Korean woman is garbage," one fan tweeted at Rowling, specifying that representation "as an afterthought" is inadequate.
@jk_rowling listen Joanne, we get it, you didn't include enough representation when you wrote the books. But sudde… https://t.co/AYpeGzxQzu— Jen Moulton 🐍 (@Jen Moulton 🐍) 1537958269.0
Never one to shy away from criticism, Rowling shot back with the origin story of Nagini, which is based on a figure in Indonesian folklore called Naga.
Specifying that Indonesia's population includes people of multiple East Asian backgrounds, including Chinese and Javanese, she said, so casting an Asian actress was a no-brainer.
@J_A_Moulton The Naga are snake-like mythical creatures of Indonesian mythology, hence the name ‘Nagini.’ They are… https://t.co/YGToXOGBwQ— J.K. Rowling (@J.K. Rowling) 1537960291.0
But many fans were not impressed and felt Rowling's explanation was insufficient.
It probably didn't help that, as an Indian author pointed out, Rowling's origin story of the mythical character Naga is based on factual inaccuracies.
Actually @jk_rowling the Naga mythology emerged from India. It travelled to Indonesia with the Indic/Hindu empires… https://t.co/DdZ7efJmeU— Amish Tripathi (@Amish Tripathi) 1537969777.0
The flap over Nagini comes on the heels of previous criticisms of the forthcoming film's casting: Johnny Depp, the subject of recent domestic violence accusations, will play Gellert Grindelwald; and straight actor Jude Law will play the young version of Albus Dumbledore, a character Rowling has confirmed is gay--and will be depicted as not "explicitly gay" in the new film.
On social media, not everyone was so sure Kim's casting was a problem:
So she ends up becoming used by an actual EVIL person with nothing good about his actions... It makes us hate Volde… https://t.co/TsrYXE9myL— aj rafael (@aj rafael) 1537935487.0
Is it ok that I’m not mad that Nagini was cast as an Asian? I was at an event with Claudia Kim yesterday and told h… https://t.co/0EOlIYvKqo— aj rafael (@aj rafael) 1537935485.0
But nonetheless, the outrage was swift and multifaceted:
im still so disgusted by the way she wrote Credence and his condition and turns out her writing can get worse! Nag… https://t.co/OBHRO6v0bi— ⛤Natalie⛤ (@⛤Natalie⛤) 1537887905.0
now it is revealed that Claudia Kim is playing Nagini and she's blood cursed to turn into a beast and it only affec… https://t.co/R9ETvDmC85— ⛤Natalie⛤ (@⛤Natalie⛤) 1537887665.0
now it turns out Nagini is a giant evil Asian snake woman jesus christ and don't forget Nagini is also a horcrux???… https://t.co/PVOBOsuiF1— ⛤Natalie⛤ (@⛤Natalie⛤) 1537887969.0
@vohdben @eggnuggets issue isn't that nagini's a villain, but that she's barely a character at all. presumably ensl… https://t.co/qrZVXqb1cm— ryen 🦇 (@ryen 🦇) 1537949303.0
It's okay to love problematic things. I'll be the first to say that the Harry Potter series made me want to write c… https://t.co/6O2K7cQAiG— Ellen "Call Me General" Oh (@Ellen "Call Me General" Oh) 1537895957.0
I feel like this is the problem when white people want to diversify and don't actually ask POC how to do so. They d… https://t.co/8LcMOpD794— Ellen "Call Me General" Oh (@Ellen "Call Me General" Oh) 1537896275.0
With several people taking issue in particular with Rowling's depiction of characters as non-white only "after the fact":
I don't have a problem w/ Nagini being a trapped Asian woman, if SHE WERE WRITTEN THAT WAY from the start. I don't… https://t.co/LpA1wFUYwZ— Fonda Lee (@Fonda Lee) 1537974229.0
A problem I have w/ the after-the-fact diversity tack-ons is that these characters & ANIMALS were written as NOT PO… https://t.co/BLluw5cTIJ— Kat-Cho'-Lantern 🎃 🦊 (@Kat-Cho'-Lantern 🎃 🦊) 1537901358.0
Look, the original 7 HP books and their characters are a predominantly straight, cis white fantasy. LET THEM BE THA… https://t.co/Ce2ur1irh5— Fonda Lee (@Fonda Lee) 1537973814.0
For her part, Kim expressed her excitement about the character of Nagini in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "It will be so interesting to see another side of Nagini, she's a wonderful and vulnerable woman who wants to live," she told EW. She wants to stay a human being and I think that's a wonderful contrast to the character."