Okay, Joanne.

The debate has gone beyond Rowling’s violation of the rules of good fantasy world-building (with the surprise storyline). Some have expressed qualms about the specifics of Nagini’s character, when played by an Asian woman. Some of these apprehensions are valid: In particular, writing the villainous Nagini as Asian suggests a feminized incarnation of the yellow peril, the “Dragon Lady“—a well-worn trope that portrays Asian women as predatory and aggressive.

Some have also pointed out that casting an Asian woman as an animal subservient to a white man (although traditional definitions of “animal” and “man” are rather loose in this narrative landscape) puts us in fraught territory—and smacks of an Orientalist fetishization of Asian women.

But to call Nagini’s character deferential is a stretch. If anything, Voldemort owes much of the horror of his character to her unfettered violence. And their relationship is largely co-dependent—not only does Nagini play host to part of Voldemort’s soul, but at one point he had lived off of her venom to ensure his bodily survival.

Of course, it would be easier to push back against the criticism if Kim weren’t one of just a handful of Asian actors in the franchise, as the writer Jeff Yang pointed out on Twitter:

And there’s arguably something to celebrate in an Asian actress’s casting in a villain role. It’s a first for Hollywood, which is just now discovering Asian people and their box office potential. The villain category only recently opened its doors to women, but still the meaty roles for complex female villains have mostly gone to white women—Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, Cate Blanchett in Thor, and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange within the Harry Potter universe, for example.

Clearly, the whole franchise has a long way to go before it can even begin to claim diversity. But blowback of this nature has forced actors to renounce roles, or caused production companies to cut them from the film. It would be unfortunate if the result of the internet’s outrage is a setback to Claudia Kim’s burgeoning career.

And I, for one, am looking forward to watching her dominate as an evil, magical snake.

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