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Casting Of Asian Actress As Nagini In New 'Fantastic Beasts' Film Stirs Heated Debate

Casting Of Asian Actress As Nagini In New 'Fantastic Beasts' Film Stirs Heated Debate
Warner Bros. Pictures

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.

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.

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.

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:

But nonetheless, the outrage was swift and multifaceted:

With several people taking issue in particular with Rowling's depiction of characters as non-white only "after the fact":

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."

H/T USA Today, The Guardian