As the trailer for Adam Wingard's Death Note airs for Netflix, some people are already calling it "the most Netflix thing ever." Unsurprisingly, the western adaptation is already caught in a web of controversy, and #GhostintheShell will likely get off lightly compared the furor that is coming #Netflix's way. The streaming giant isn't exactly towing the line of racial sensitivity at the moment, and Wingard's upcoming #DeathNote looks like it is next in the firing line.
The 2017 original film may be based on Tsugumi Ohba's acclaimed #manga, but it is apparently a "loose" representation of the series, which was first published in 2003. Nat Wolff, Shea Whigham, and #WillemDafoe make up the cast. And it looks like some spelling errors over at Netflix HQ mean that lead character Light Yagami has come out as White Yagami.
Admittedly, 2017's Death Note can be seen as a complete reimagining, but how many times can Hollywood use that excuse? You would've thought that someone somewhere would've sent the memo out by now, "we need more asian actors in our manga adaptations." It is safe to say, Twitter responded with its usual quick-witted hilarity to the latest whitewashing controversy:
A live-action adaptation of the manga comics and #anime series has been hotly anticipated, and after a long bidding war, Netflix won the rights. Wingard was reportedly given free rein over the project, which can be seen as either a good or a bad thing. The Blair Witch director told Collider:
"We can do whatever we want. That was the cool thing about it, because it's an anime film. So, technically, it's a cartoon that you're bring to life. To me, the thing about anime is that it's so adult-oriented."
While Netflix's Death Note is certainly adult-oriented, it doesn't seem very Orient-oriented.
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'Bleaching The Soul'
Way back in 2015, Asian actor Edward Zo posted a long YouTube video on how he had been rejected to even audition for the part of Light, continuing to rant about how Hollywood was bleaching the industry:
"Dear Hollywood, please start respecting the original source material & stop #whitewashing. Bleaching the soul out of Death Note is not a good idea."
Personally, I think Willem Dafoe is a superb choice to play the spooky demon Ryuk, but the rest of the cast are a bit "meh." If you had some Hollywood superstars in there then maybe, but the choice to reinvent the source's Japanese roots for an American high school setting seems like a populist choice.
Netflix came under fire earlier this month for casting Game of Thrones star Finn Jones as the lead in its superhero show Iron Fist — talk about a rough month. Fist's Danny Rand is depicted as caucasian in the comics, but given the show's Eastern origins, many called out for the chance to reinvent the character to bring some much needed cultural diversity.
The Death Note storm is already picking up speed, while the adaptation's actor Lakeith Stanfield, who will play Detective L, has his own view on the situation. After opinions on the trailer, Stanfield responded to the claims with the tweet (which was later removed), “Currently blackwashin sh*t." For many, Detective L's race-swap to the African-American Stanfield seems to have been lost in a cast that is relatively "Light" on Asian actors.
Netflix And Chill Out
However, some are quick to point out that Death Note 2017 should be seen as exactly what it says on the tin, a reimaging. The characters' names have been changed: Light Yagami is now Light Turner and Misa Amane is now Mia Sutton. Just as Gore Verbinski did with his 2002 remake of The Ring, Death Note has completely been moved to a new locale, so unlike Ghost in the Shell, it isn't like it is still set in Japan. Also note that the success of Verbinski's The Ring would undoubtedly have drawn people to the existence of the Japanese original.
Secondly, Heroes star Masi Oka and voice actor Paul Nakauchi represent some diversity. Whichever way you look at it, Death Note's Americanization was always going to rattle up fans of the manga. Now, given that the show revolves around a mystical notebook, and anyone whose name is written inside winds up dead, I am sure a few people will be scrawling Wingard's name down. Remember that it could always be worse though, *shivers in horror* Zac Efron was once the frontrunner to play Light!
Check out the trailer for Death Note, and don't forget our poll below!
Do you think Netflix has whitewashed 'Death Note'?
[Poll Image Credit: 'Death Note' - Netflix]