One of the biggest takeaways from the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald surrounded Nagini, the pet snake of Voldemort (and final Horcrux) in the Harry Potter series. In the trailer, we learn that Nagini was not always a snake, but rather a human woman. (As we pointed out in our writeup of the trailer, she’s a “Maledictus,” or the human vessel of a blood curse that destines them to eternity as some kind of beast.) Nagini is played by South Korean actor Claudia Kim in Crimes Of Grindelwald, and, in the wake of the reveal, her casting has come under fire for being racially insensitive.
The blowback has taken a few different forms. Some, like YA author Ellen Oh, find the film’s stab at inclusivity half-baked and inadvertently offensive. “I feel like this is the problem when white people want to diversify and don’t actually ask POC how to do so,” Oh tweeted. “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.” When others on Twitter tried to dispute Nagini’s role as a servant, Oh directed them to the wiki page for the character, which makes it clear the snake is enslaved to Voldermort.
Others argued that the film’s casting of an Asian woman wasn’t consistent with the roots of Naga mythology, and called the producers and author J.K. Rowling out for a lack of nuance in the decision. Rowling defended the casting choice, arguing that the mythology that gave birth to Nagini comes from Indonesia, which has “a few hundred ethnic groups.”
Indian author Amish Tripathi disputed her claim, saying Nagin is a Sanskrit language word and Indian in origin. Others backed up his claim.
What all this really boils down to is that inclusivity requires careful thought and a sense of context. By having conversations like this, the hope is that diversity in hiring practices can transcend “diversity for diversity’s sake” and actually consider the particulars of different cultures.
Kim has yet to comment on the controversy. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she praised the character as “a wonderful and vulnerable woman who wants to live.”