J.K. Rowling fires back over criticism of 'problematic' decision to cast South Korean actor as Nagini
Yesterday, Harry Potter fans worldwide lost their collective chocolate frogs as it was revealed that Nagini - Voldemort's reptilian companion - is actually a "Maledictus" (i.e. a person whose blood was cursed from birth, leading them to eventually transform into a beast). The surprise reveal came as part of the latest trailer for the new Fantastic Beasts movie, during which Nagini is seen in both human and animal form.
Very quickly, though, the excitement turned to something a little more sinister, as many people took issue with the fact that Nagini as a person was being played by Claudia Kim, who is South Korean.
Negative comments about the casting decision were being passed around social media for some time after the trailer dropped, but suddenly became a huge debate when one Twitter user, Jen Moulton, directly called out J.K. Rowling by saying: "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."
Rowling fired back, saying that the decision to cast an Asian actress was not simply for the sake of making the Harry Potter films a bit less white, but because Nagini is based on an Asian myth.
"The Naga are snake-like mythical creatures of Indonesian mythology, hence the name ‘Nagini,’" the author said on Twitter. "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."
However, Rowling's defence wasn't quite good enough for some fans of the boy wizard.
"How did this address Jen's point in any way?" replied one person. "You repeatedly try to retroactively shoe horn representation into your books which did not exist in the texts, belittling the communities you're trying to take credit for championing we'd like to know why you think this is appropriate."
Others joined the discussion to say that, considering there is so little representation of minorities in the Harry Potter universe, it is disappointing that one of the few people of colour happens to be a "slave" to a white man.
"You can’t be admitted to Hogwarts unless you’re English and we don’t know if there’s any wizarding schools in Asia, home of 4.4 billion people … [and] a homicidal white man traps an Asian woman inside a snake form and brainwashes her."
Ultimately, to a lot of people, it seemed like an oversight at the very least.
Still, there were others who were totally on her side throughout the debate.
Realistically, it's incredibly unlikely that Rowling decided Nagini's character origins with the intent on offending anyone. However, it also seems unlikely that she put a whole lot of thought into the racial diversity of her novels and so, now that they're a global phenomenon, people are wondering where exactly they would fit into these stories that have been hailed as a cultural masterpiece.
Regardless of what everyone else thinks, though, Claudia Kim herself seems incredibly excited to be playing Nagini in the film, and it looks like she's done an amazing job.