J.K. Rowling has been known for her Twitter clap-backs and progressive viewpoints, but the iconic author has also been known to have problematic lapses. This week, Rowling is under fire for the casting of a Korean actress in the role of Nagini — Voldemort’s pet snake and final horcrux — who it was revealed in the final Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald trailer Tuesday was at one point a human woman.
Some critics took issue with the casting online, calling it “after-the-fact diversity” at best and flat out racist at worst.
@jk_rowling listen Joanne, we get it, you didn’t include enough representation when you wrote the books. But suddenly making Nagini into a Korean woman is garbage.
Representation as an afterthought for more woke points is not good representation. https://t.co/UIrR7yiKQD
— Jen Moulton (@J_A_Moulton) September 26, 2018
A problem I have w/ the after-the-fact diversity tack-ons is that these characters & ANIMALS were written as NOT POC. But now that they’re being made POC their behavior doesn’t sync up. Like Wormtail MILKED Nagini to feed gross baby Voldemort in HP4 and now she’s an Asian woman?!
— Kat Cho 🦊 (@KatCho) September 25, 2018
im still so disgusted by the way she wrote Credence and his condition and turns out her writing can get worse! Nagini is basically Voldemort’s SERVANT and PET forced to do his bidding for life because it’s a giant evil snake right
— Natalie (@wednesdaydreams) September 25, 2018
now it is revealed that Claudia Kim is playing Nagini and she’s blood cursed to turn into a beast and it only affects women and of course she picks an Asian woman like that’s not stereotypically disgusting enough
— Natalie (@wednesdaydreams) September 25, 2018
I feel like this is the problem when white people want to diversify and don’t actually ask POC how to do so. They don’t make the connection between making Nagini an Asian woman who later on is the pet of a white man. So I’m going to say it right now. That shit is racist.
— Ellen “Call Me General” Oh (@ElloEllenOh) September 25, 2018
Before the trailer, the mysterious role of actress Claudia Kim was billed as simply “the Maledictus,” which the Harry Potter Wiki defines as “a female individual who was a carrier of a blood curse that would eventually lead her to turn into a beast permanently.”
It would appear from the trailer and the information unearthed by Potterheads — gotta give the fandom credit for their dedication and deep knowledge of the mythology — Kim’s character is capable of transforming into a snake when Crimes of Grindelwald starts and is working in a circus, performing her transformations for astonished muggles. It’s understood that at some point, her curse turns her into a snake permanently and she somehow becomes the pet of Lord Voldemort.
In her customary fashion, Rowling jumped to the defense of the decision on Twitter, citing Indonesian mythology as the origin for the character’s storyline and casting.
The Naga are snake-like mythical creatures of Indonesian mythology, hence the name ‘Nagini.’ They are sometimes depicted as winged, sometimes as half-human, half-snake. Indonesia comprises a few hundred ethnic groups, including Javanese, Chinese and Betawi. Have a lovely day 🐍
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 26, 2018
Some of those critics were not very receptive of J.K.’s comment which seemed a little out of context and to be making the wrong point. Indian author Amish Tripathi even pointed out that her statement might even be a little misleading.
sorry i don’t mean to erase any Korean Indonesian folks or Koreans who reside in Indonesia atm, but the caucasity here is astounding……….
— Princess Diana 👸🏻 (@linhtropy) September 26, 2018
Actually @jk_rowling the Naga mythology emerged from India. It travelled to Indonesia with the Indic/Hindu empires that emerged there in the early Common Era, with the influence of Indian traders and Rishis/Rishikas who travelled there. Nagin is a Sanskrit language word. https://t.co/cXHSlDD7Kc
— Amish Tripathi (@authoramish) September 26, 2018
I’m not offended, @lalisa_you. I was just clarifying something to @jk_rowling. That’s all.
And Indonesia is a cousin culture of India’s. We have learnt many things from them too. Both our countries tend to like each other.
My limited point: Naga traditions have origins in India. https://t.co/ZxdqcXLeKt
— Amish Tripathi (@authoramish) September 27, 2018
While the controversy rages on online (as it tends to do) some fans are just happy for the optics of a Korean woman being represented in a huge mainstream movie franchise. They spoke out in support of Kim and a few pointed out that since the story is a fantasy and Nagini is enslaved by someone who is supposed to be a purely evil villain, the casting was not offensive to them.
So she ends up becoming used by an actual EVIL person with nothing good about his actions… It makes us hate Voldemort more. Which is why he’s a VILLAIN, right? It’s a reach that this casting decision was racist, in my opinion. #FantasticBeasts
— aj rafael (@ajRAFAEL) September 26, 2018
I feel bad for Claudia Kim. She seems really excited about the role only for the internet to ruin her moment by arguing all day that her character is racist or something. Everyone has rained on her parade. https://t.co/f7ltKVEvWn
— JACQUES (@arcadeyblog) September 27, 2018