“Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” Faces Criticism for Casting Asian Actor Claudia Kim as Nagini

Photo: Rachel Murray

“Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” Faces Criticism for Casting Asian Actor Claudia Kim as Nagini

When a new trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald dropped on September 25, fans were excited to dig into new clues about the Harry Potter prequel, whether to speculate about what Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship might look like or to analyze new information, like the fact that Lord Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, actually used to be a human.

The latter tidbit appeared in the trailer, where viewers see Credence, reprised by Ezra Miller, whisper the name “Nagini.” The camera cuts to a woman transforming into a snake as circus spectators crowd around her cage. In the upcoming movie, the character is played by South Korean actor Claudia Kim, but while Claudia’s casting might seem like a win for Asian representation (Fantastic Beasts has previously been criticized for its largely white main cast), people on social media are questioning the role’s deeper implications when played by an Asian actor.

According to author J.K. Rowling, Nagini is a maledictus — a woman with a blood curse that causes her to transform into an animal —  and the author claimed she’s been holding onto this secret for nearly two decades. The knowledge throws Nagini’s character and her actions in the Harry Potter books into a different light, with people pointing out on social media that in the books, Nagini is a submissive character who eventually becomes the property of a male blood supremacist.

Podcaster Lee Shorten tweeted: “I like Claudia Kim. I’m glad she’s getting work and it seems like she has a cool take on the role. I’m sure she will bring humanity, dignity and vulnerability to Nagini. But also… Did it have to be Nagini?”

While another viewer, @Supervinh47, called out the fact that Nagini is “brainwashed, transfigured into a giant snake and kept as a pet/slave for 60 years by white male antagonists, then decapitated by a teenager,” referencing Nagini’s eventual death in the seventh book at the hands of Neville Longbottom.

Claudia herself has spoken about the role after the casting was announced, though not in direct response to the recent fan criticism about stereotypes.

As for what to expect from her Nagini, she told Entertainment Weekly “It will be so interesting to see another side of Nagini. You’ve only seen her as a Horcrux. In this, she’s a wonderful and vulnerable woman who wants to live. She wants to stay a human being and I think that’s a wonderful contrast to the character.”

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