With release of the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer, a long-held fan theory from the Harry Potter universe was confirmed. Nagini, Lord Voldemort’s serpentine sidekick, was once a witch.
(If were going to be technical about it, she’s a Maledictus – ie. she carries a blood curse, passed from mother to daughter, that turns a human into a beast… Which is almost certainly the nerdiest sentence ever written. But moving right along.)
Yet after the crows of “we knew it!” died down, some fans came to a rather disappointing realisation about the casting of the snake’s humanoid form.
The trailer revealed that Nagini is played by South Korean actor Claudia Kim, which some are arguing is problematic and even potentially racist.
See, when rumours first surfaced that the 33-year-old would have a role in the J.K. Rowling-scripted sequel, it was hailed as a major boon for the franchise and a step-forward for representation of Asian actors in Hollywood.
But now that we know she is essentially playing a white man’s pet… well…
In the film, set roughly 70 years prior to the Harry Potter series, Nagini is a star attraction in a wizarding circus/freak show, in which a sinister ringmaster exploits her transformative powers for entertainment.
Those familiar with the Harry Potter books/movies will know that she is destined to become the loyal pet of the series' arch villain, Lord Voldemort. So loyal, in fact, that she plays host to part of his soul, which makes her a target of the good guys trying to destroy him. [Spoiler: in the end, she's killed = he's killed.]
"This feels like a problem," young adult author, Ellen Oh, wrote on Twitter of Kim's casting. "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."