The new Fantastic Beasts movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald is splitting Potterheads in two, as some are running to midnight showings and others are seething in anger. The recent Harry Potter spin-off is problematic for a host of reasons that span from casting choices to plot holes to poor storytelling decisions.
The issues began when it was announced that Johnny Depp would play Gellert Grindelwald.
Despite accusations of abuse from his ex-wife Amber Heard, J.K. Rowling and David Yates defended their choice and chose not to recast, a decision that left many angry and upset. In light of the fact that Ezra Miller who plays Credence just revealed his own #MeToo moment earlier on in his career, as a long-time Harry Potter fan, the choice to include Depp is disappointing. It also feeds into the fears of #MeToo victims, namely of being brushed off and overlooked for their traumatic experiences.
Then there’s Dumbledore’s mishandled coming-out story.
In 2007, while on tour, Rowling announced that she had always imagined former Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore to be gay and had only ever been in love with friend-turned-enemy Grindelwald. While there were plenty of anti-gay, homophobic responses, there was a lot of pushback from fans themselves who believed this was yet another failed attempt by Rowling to include diversity in her books.
It would have been fine if Dumbledore had been gay from the beginning but it was never alluded to at all.
Apparently, it was decided (by Warner Bros, maybe?) that Dumbledore’s homosexuality would not play a bit role in The Crimes of Grindelwald, other than a scene in which Dumbledore hints, “We were closer than brothers.” Not only is this a missed opportunity, but once again, Rowling’s previous attempts at inclusion come off as thoughtless and out of context.
Just to mention another one, her portrayal of Harry Potter’s crush Cho Chang, a Chinese student with a name made up of two Korean last names who just had to be a Ravenclaw, played into the unoriginal stereotype of the smart Asian. In the Crimes of Grindelwald trailer, we suddenly learned that Nagini, Voldemort’s snake and Horcrux, had once been a human woman of color. Nagini was all along a Maledictus, “or the human vessel of a blood curse that destines them to eternity as some kind of beast.”
Rowling said she based this story on the Indonesian mythology of Naga or snake-like mythical creatures. This is problematic for many reasons.
Firstly, this revelation means that not only did Nagini become the slave pet of a white supremacist (an idea that plays into the fetishization of Asian women), but it also means that Rowling knowingly allowed a teenager to decapitate an enslaved person without any acknowledgment or mention of this prior.
Then there’s the fact that Nagini will be played by Korean actress Claudia Kim and that the Naga myth first came from India, not Indonesia as Rowling insisted. Including people of color in a story takes careful planning and should present them as full characters, not simply props that are there to fulfill a purpose and then disappear into the background when it’s convenient.
What’s most disappointing to me is that like so many others, I looked up to Rowling and adored the world she created. All of these additions and changes she continues to bring up in respect to the series come off as nothing more than an attempt to stay relevant and add inclusivity to a world that was clearly never very diverse in the first place.
Enjoy this silly video that explains our anger and disappointment in a much easier way: