To celebrate the upcoming release of Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald, let’s talk
(note: it will be way more of a rant) about JKR and her problematic history with marginalization! Please note that this will be a rant with no eloquence whatsoever, like my SJ Maas one, but yeah!
Honestly, I’m worried about putting this post out in the world, but I’m still going to be doing it anyway. I hope you guys enjoy this one. I’ll be definitely attaching some other, far better posts discussing the whole situation.
Though I have a lot of problems with JKR currently, I will still be seeing the film when it comes out. I’m still curious enough to see how the storyline goes and I’m still HP trash.
I also kind of want to see how badly JKR handles Asian representation. I’m kidding about the last one, but seriously: I’m genuinely concerned.
And why am I so concerned? Let’s examine J.K Rowling’s unsuccessful, weak, and the occasional offensive and problematic efforts to incorporate marginalization into the Wizarding World universe, with no explicit, clear evidence. Yes, like everyone else, I’m a complete Harry Potter stan, but I’m of the belief that a book is separate from its author(s) and do not work in conjunction together. Books and authors should be judged separately from each other, and that is what I’m doing.
If it wasn’t so harmful and come off as so cold and unempathetic, Rowling’s attempts at adding diversity and how she handles it would be absolutely hilarious due to how half-hearted it is. I would be delighted to see the Harry Potter Universe add some much-needed diversity to balance out its highly white-centricness. Many of the marginalizations that are “canon” now were announced after the book series had ended when the demand for representation and marginalization in media grew and the cry for representation got louder and louder.
Some of these added marginalizations include Anthony Corner being Jewish, Dumbledore being gay, and Hermione being cast as black in the Cursed Child. Theoretically, these added marginalizations are great, but there is either often very little (or no) evidence to back these marginalizations up, or in other cases, previous actions by Rowling completely contradict them.
But even with its canonical diversity, such as the case with Cho Chang, Rowling’s attempt to write Asian representation are frankly, terrible, poorly researched and highly problematic. Though I do understand that Cho Chang was written 10+ years ago, when marginalization wasn’t as prominent or regarded with the seriousness as it is now, it’s still not great, nor is it inexcusable. However, the bulk of this post will be focusing on the more modern examples of these added marginalizations and my issues with it.
The first main problem I have with J.K Rowling’s attempts to place diversity in Harry Potter is the casting of a black actress as the role for Hermione in the Cursed Child play, way back in 2016. Disclaimer: I am not black, so this part isn’t really own-voices or what. This is more about at dissecting my opinions on the matter. Though this is absolutely fantastic in another place where a character’s race was more ambiguous, and especially if Hermione was previously confirmed to be a black character. However, this is definitely not the case.
If you have watched the movies, you know that Hermione is famously played by a white actress. It is common knowledge that Rowling was heavily involved with all the movies in the franchise, including casting and script writing, and she knowingly cast a white character as the role of Hermione. Because of this casting decision, Hermione is canonically white. Let me just repeat (again) that race is not interchangeable nor fluid. You cannot be white one day and then Asian six months later. So if Hermione was white in the official Harry Potter films (which Rowling had a great deal of influence on), she can’t just be black just because. This … literally does not make sense to me.
me reading JKR’s excuses
And let me just remind you all that. consistency. is. still. required. Marginalization is a reality for so many people and it is harmful and is beyond inconsiderate (more than words can ever convey) to people to marginalized communities. It just shows that J.K Rowling merely uses diversity as a pawn to appease fans and society, much as Sarah J. Maas has. Both of them are showing to thousands of people through their massive platforms, that this kind of behavior and thoughtlessness is acceptable. This is totally not okay with me, and there is nothing anyone can say or do to persuade me otherwise.
What is the message that these authors are putting out there?
Now, let’s deep dive into the main reason for this post: the Nagini controversy and marginalization in Fantastic Beasts as a whole. With Harry Potter, you can tell me that it was a piece of its time since it was written 20 years ago. Harry Potter was created in a period which it was much more socially acceptable for media to be white-centric. However, the first Fantastic Beasts movie was released in 2016, and all the main cast is white. We live in a world where we want to see marginalization in all forms of media and a time where good representation and diversity is in high demand.
Seeing as Rowling has been adding marginalization in the Harry Potter series throughout the years, I think she and the team creating Fantastic Beasts had a very good opportunity to place people of color in leading roles, which they very clearly missed. The main cast in the first Fantastic Beasts movie is entirely all-white, with two side characters (one in the first movie, and one new one in the second) being a WoC.
This is the official Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald cast poster for your reference.
Where are marginalized characters in a story centering around oppression? Where are the main LGBTQIA+ characters? Where are the main disabled characters? Where are the main PoC? (As I mentioned earlier, we have 2 WoC, one of which had a minor role and the other of which we aren’t completely sure of yet). Why are we erasing those who should be most seen in stories like these?
In the second Fantastic Beasts movie, there was a new addition to the cast: the addition of Claudia Kim, a South Korean actress. This would be great until you take into consideration one minor factor: the role she was cast in.
In case you missed it, Kim was cast in the role of Nagini. As Potterheads know, Nagini was Voldemort’s snake companion who carried out much of Voldemort’s dirty work. Nagini is probably one of the most hated characters in the Harry Potter series, but that’s not my problem with Kim’s casting as this much-hated character.
When it comes down to it, my main problem with this casting is the implications that come with it. Why is an East Asian woman being cast in the role of the slave of a man who symbolizes oppression, evil and the Nazis? Frankly, it’s triggering and hella upsetting. People of color have been oppressed for centuries by Caucasians (hello colonialism) and we do not need a rendition of the oppression of PoCs in any shape, form or manner. Let us not only remember that Nagini had a very brutal death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but that she was also killed by a white teenage boy.
Additionally, the fact that Nagini is also a woman is deeply upsetting and further triggering to not only WoC like myself but to other women too. If there were more people of color, specifically, East Asians, in the Fantastic Beasts cast, this would likely be less of an issue and Kim’s casting would be a lot less scrutinized. But see, it’s not. And they had the nerve to bring in the first Asian woman into the cast to portray a character enslaved to a white man?
My Brooklyn 99 trash self has come out, but seriously – the hypocrisy.
Another thing I’m curious about – where was the evidence that Nagini was a human? Because I sure don’t remember there being any. It just comes across as such lazy writing. This is really Rowling’s specialty: half-heartedly inserting diversity to appease fans and the community as a whole. She justifies this by showing how there is no evidence against this marginalization, rather than showing the evidence that should be there. It does not make any sense.
All this to say – ultimately, I’m just so disappointed in how marginalization is being treated by Rowling, one of the biggest writers of our time. With marginalization being a heavily sensitive topic, Rowling and the creative team of the Fantastic Beasts franchise are definitely not handling it with the care and the seriousness it needs. With such a huge platform and the ability to heavily influence and make a positive change with specifically, Asian representation, she does not.
I guess this really shows me how far and how long we have to go to eliminate situations like this. With the Maas and Manon being Asian scenario, having TWO big authors hurt Asian bookworms like that, all in a month is not okay. This goes to show that Rowling thinks of marginalization as an afterthought and not something of importance, and in a time where marginalization is heavily valued, Rowling better do something to remedy the hurt she has caused, fast, or be left behind in a former world of white dominance.
What did you think of the whole debacle (both this one and the Sarah J. Maas one?) Are you seeing Fantastic Beasts? Are you a Potterhead like me? (You’re 99.9% are, since you clicked on this article.)
Articles for further reading: