Claudia Kim as Nagini in "Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Gindelwald" (Image courtesy of StudyBreaks Magazine)
Glendora High School

Opinion: Asian Representation in ‘Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald’

Following the release of the “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Gindelwald” final trailer, fans across the globe rallied together in protest at the reveal of an Asian actress taking on the role of Nagini.

In the sequel, Claudia Kim plays a Maledictus — a witch who carries a blood curse that will, with time, force her to inhabit a permanent state as a beast. Her storyline in the film closely intertwines with that of Ezra Miller’s Credence Barebone and leaves little explanation of her origin.

What fans were outraged about was that there was a South Korean actress playing a part that was deemed “unfitting” for the ethnic background that the snake held in the original Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling took the time to make a statement about her casting decisions stating that “the Naga are snake-like mythical creatures of Indonesian mythology,” later adding on that “Indonesia comprises of a few hundred ethnic groups, including Javanese, Chinese and Betwai.”

However, author Amish Tripathi took to stand and tweeted back, “Actually @jk_rowling the Naga mythology emeged in India. It travelled to Indonesia with the Indic/Hindu empires that emerged there in the early Common era… Nagin is a Sanskrit language word.”

2018 has been a record-breaking year in terms of Asian representation in film with the release of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” the former becoming one of Netflix’s most viewed original films ever with a strong repeat viewing to date and the latter becoming the highest-grossing romantic comedy in the U.S in the past decade.

Considering the progress already made in the world of Asian Representation, to have one of the most reputable authors of today’s age release a film that continues it’s Asian stereotyping is disheartening. Many were quick to point out how Nagini not only echoes a dangerous “dragon lady” with her skintight clothing, but also a submissive, as she ultimately ends up as the pet of a supremacist that was inspired by the Nazi era.  

This is not the first time that Rowling was faced with backlash on her incorporation of Asian characters. Cho Chang was displayed as a delicate beauty, serving as an initial love interest to Harry Potter. Unfortunately, by the conclusion of the series, she’s associated with being weak for her poor judge of character and dependence on others. Thus, the audience is left with a distasteful impression for the Asian character at Hogwarts.

With the Harry Potter universe having such a massive fanbase in places like Japan, China and Korea, the love for J.K. Rowling’s creation — globally speaking — is what has made the books so idiosyncratic.

The fans are the ones who continuously re-read “Harry Potter.” The fans are the ones who connect with globally connect with others to share in riveting emotions that J.K Rowling has created. The fans are the ones who have brought the magical world to life.  

With that being said, it is important to mention that the fans have affected J.K. Rowling just as much as J.K. Rowling has affected them. With over two decades of experience, the author owes it to Potterheads everywhere to see that not only is justice is done to the world before Harry Potter, but justice to the characters and the implications that they carry both on and off screen.

“Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” may not be a prime example of cultural representation, but the legacy that it has been born out of is monumental nonetheless. With three more films contracted with Warner Bros., all that can be hoped for is that J.K. Rowling finds it within her to realize just how crucial it is to stand by the fans of cultures across the globe — now, more than ever.