The casting of South Korean actress Claudia Kim as Lord Voldemorts pet snake in the latest installment of the Fantastic Beasts series has sparked yet another debate over typecasting in Hollywood.
Kim, whose Korean name is Soo-hyun, sounded excited Tuesday when she revealed on her Instagram account that she would appear in the upcoming Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald as Nagini, originally described as Lord Voldemorts right-hand snake in the books and films.
New Fantastic Beasts film sparks dispute over casting of Korean actress as pet snake
However, the news that the submissive snake character will take the form of a young Asian woman in the high-profile film has landed the actress in headlines, drawing criticism over what many see as a politically insensitive casting choice.
On Wednesday, Twitter saw a flurry of heated posts between a fan and JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, over the casting decision.
Listen Joanne, we get it, you didnt include enough representation when you wrote the books, one Twitter user said, slamming the decision. But suddenly making Nagini into a Korean woman is garbage.
Rowling has repeatedly indicated that she is the supreme overlord of this universe and that anything that happens within it, even its histories, are not subject to questioning by outsiders, even those who lives are intimately wound up in, and affected by, the very stereotypes and myths she seeks to utilise. Time and again, she intervenes through social media and other platforms, retroactively inserting diversity into the world – telling her fans that Dumbeldore is gay for instance, while safely leaving it out of the books, or that Anthony Goldstein, a barely-mentioned character, is Jewish.
Rowling hit back in a Twitter post saying, 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.
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
Rowling has made history, it is true. She created a world that has entranced children and adults across the world, encouraged many to read, and even been the inspiration behind real world action (fan groups like Lumos and the Harry Potter Alliance have taken up charitable causes and effected change in various communities). Yet she refuses to accept that her position as creator does not entitle her to rewrite cultural histories and rebrand different mythologies according to her own convenience, especially when this rebranding is so fraught with political implications.
The criticism stems from racial stereotypes in Hollywood and the West that Asian women are submissive. Mantis, a fictional superheroine from the Guardians of the Galaxy series, also faced similar criticism for perpetuating submissive and exotic female Asian stereotypes.
Piecing together the bits of information available in the trailer, we know that Nagini was once a human woman, a maledictus who showed off her talents at the Circus Arcanum. Rowling claims that she has held on to this secret of Naginis human identity for twenty years. If so, she knew she was a woman trapped in beast form for the entire duration of the Potter books; worse, she knew she was a woman of colour (one of the very few in the books) – and still reduced her to an evil wizards wet nurse, assassin and soul receptacle.
Nagini can be whatever she wants to be! Shes a strong woman/snake, the actor wrote on Twitter, lending support to Rowlings view.
Hey @jk_rowling Im with you! Nagini can be whatever she wants to be! Shes a strong woman/snake. Also, can you write me into the next movie? Im Macaulay Culkin (From Home Alone: The Movie) and I was also a Pagemaster (experienced with magic)…
Some Koreans refrained from jumping to conclusions. A user of the countrys biggest web portal Naver asked, Does nationality really matter when it comes to acting?
The Fantastic Beasts series has had no shortage of controversy. In 2016, when the first installment, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was released, the films all white cast came under fire despite the Harry Potter books enjoying unprecedented global success.
Last December, Rowling had to defend the casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald after domestic violence allegations surrounding the actor emerged.
When questioned about this discomfiting plotline and casting choice, Rowling immediately tweeted an explanation about naga being a part of Indonesian legend, ignoring the probable importation of said legend from Buddhist preachers who travelled from South Asia to Indonesia and the fact that the actress playing Nagini is not Indonesian in any case.
While acknowledging concerns, the author said in a statement that she and the filmmakers would keep their original casting based on their understanding of the circumstances.
In 2017, popular US animated series The Simpsons came under similar criticism after documentary film The Problem with Apu starring comedian Hari Kondabolu took issue with the shows Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
Shopkeeper Apu, voiced by white actor Hank Azaria with a thick accent, was accused of being a racial caricature and has been slammed by South Asians as providing material for bullying.
The controversy over Naginis casting comes just over a month before the new Fantastic Beasts film hits the big screen in the US on November 16.
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