When Asian women are objectified and dehumanized, this reinforces the idea that Asian women lack agency. By Linh Cao Worldbuilding is tricky. Creators have to spend hours researching before they can even begin writing. And once they start writing, they might run into a obstacle that can only be addressed via more research. After the story is written—what then? The real world isn’t stagnant. The readers grow as people. One would assume the author does so as well. But once stories are written, they’re done. It’s been told and you can’t take it back once it’s out there in the world, rattling around in the global conscious. And any attempt to make changes to it will often be met with scrutiny. When it was announced that Claudia Kim was cast as Nagini—Voldemort’s snake in human form—in the upcoming “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”, people of color worldwide understood right away what the implications would be. Some supported the casting, on the tail of “Crazy Rich Asians” and the Asian American representation movement, saying that “all representation is good representation.” But what if that representation meant she would be a cursed, possessed object for wizard Hitler? Up until this creation (and I truly do believe JKR decided this recently), Nagini was the pet snake and a horcrux to Voldemort. Neville Longbottom ultimately beheads her, which is seen as a satisfying victory for those who oppose the Dark Lord. Some supporters of the casting think we’re angry and disappointed because a woman of color is cast a villain. No. We’re angry and disappointed for two reasons.
- No care was taken to understand the ramifications of casting a woman of color as a white man’s pet.
To understand the first reason, readers must understand how power and privilege work and how Nagini’s casting fits into the current real world we live in. Asian women are hypersexualized, objectified, and seen as either meek and quiet or as dangerous “dragon lady” types. People view us in this regard because of stereotypes perpetuated by white media, and because of where we sit at the intersection of Asian and woman. To cast Voldemort’s pet turned horcrux as an Asian woman plays into many of these stereotypes. She’s literally objectified by being turned into a man’s physical possession.
- The lack of research and thought put into Nagini’s character and her curse.
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