Harry Potter fans across the globe highly anticipated the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. However, shortly after its release on 25 September the trailer sparked a huge controversy concerning a particular character. It revealed that the South Korean actor Claudia Kim is going to portray Voldemort’s pet snake Nagini. Or more accurately, Nagini before she permanently turned into a snake due to a blood curse.
However, this was not received well by the Potter fandom which took to Twitter to express their outrage. A lot of people claimed that the biggest issue with this casting is that it seems to portray Asian women as deceitful villains, oversexualised and submissive to men. Part of the reason why this controversy has gained so much attention is that Kim is one of the few non-white actors in the newest instalment of the franchise.
J.K. Rowling’s lukewarm defence on Twitter read that “Naga are snake-like mythical creatures of Indonesian mythology […] Indonesia comprises a few hundred ethnic groups, including Javanese, Chinese and Betawi […]”.
However, this was later discredited by the author Amish Tripanthi whose response to Rowling’s tweet said that “[…] the Naga mythology emerged from India.” Naturally, this caused even more outrage as Rowling’s defence seems to say that all Asians are basically the same.
This story sheds light on the prominent issue of representation in media. Representation of marginalised groups is crucial because it makes fictional characters and their problems more relatable to these communities. Diverse characters can also serve as role models and inspiration to people belonging to marginalised groups.
However, there seems to be an additional underlying problem that fewer people are aware of. This concerns the lack of diversity in the writers’ room that seems to be at the root of the problem of representation. That is because white people can never fully grasp the experiences of people of colour, or alternatively, that straight people cannot speak to the experiences of members of the LGBT+ community. This problem could be solved by either asking members of marginalised groups how to diversify their cast without reinforcing harmful stereotypes, or by simply diversifying the writers and producers.
Due to the persisting issue of representation, it is a good thing that people are challenging the status quo regarding white, straight, cis, able-bodied, male actors. And while I think that the casting of Claudia Kim in one of the biggest movie franchises should be celebrated more, there is nothing wrong with calling out problematic portrayals of minorities. It is upsetting that a lot of people are underrepresented or misrepresented. It deserves to be called out because it forces producers and writers to do better in future films or series and it simultaneously educates people on stereotypes or misrepresentations of cultures.
That being said, call-out culture, where people are attacking actors who do not have control over the casting or writing process, should be abandoned as it does not add anything productive to the discussion. Therefore, if people are partaking in call-out culture they may discredit the call for more diversity by promoting unnecessary negativity on social media. This means that we need to find a way to speak out about issues concerning representation while also celebrating actors from marginalised communities being cast in major movies.
Image: Wenn via www.hollywood.com