ASIAN VOICES

New 'Fantastic Beasts' Trailer Spurs Debate Over Asian Character

"I feel like this is the problem when white people want to diversify and don't actually ask POC how to do so," author Ellen Oh tweeted.

The new “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” trailer wasn’t so magical for many Asian and Asian-American viewers. 

Fans of the “Harry Potter” spinoff series got their first look at the human version of the character Nagini, who carries a blood curse that dooms her to transform into a serpent creature. She later becomes a trusted servant of the archvillain Voldemort.

But several social media users aren’t too pleased that Nagini is being portrayed by Korean actress Claudia Kim. A few Asians and Asian-Americans have pointed out that the casting is particularly problematic given that Asian actresses in Hollywood have historically been relegated to roles as two-dimensional, hypersexualized and subservient props, or as deceitful, sly dragon ladies. 

While Nagini’s origins have previously been murky, the trailer, which was released earlier this week, confirmed the fan theory that she was indeed once a human. The clip briefly shows the character amid her transformation. 

Many, including author Ellen Oh, explained that because an Asian woman was cast in the role, the character falls into a long-standing racist trope. 

Some also felt that the casting of a woman of color in the role came off as an afterthought. 

As the debate continued, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling herself defended the casting, claiming the Naga, the mythical creature Nagini is based on, has its origins in Indonesia. However, she neglected to mention that Kim is of Korean descent.

As many on Twitter pointed out, Naga’s roots lie in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. In Hinduism, the female “naginis” are said to be breathtaking serpent princesses. And in Buddhism, nagas are considered demigods who possess magical powers and wealth. The mythology is also, well, not Korean. 

 

The movie will be released in November. In the meantime, there’s always this solution.

CONVERSATIONS