Netflix’s “Death Note” is the latest adaptation under fire for whitewashing.
On Wednesday, the first trailer sparked outrage after it featured a cast of white actors, despite the fact that it’s based on a Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba.
— Netflix US (@netflix) March 22, 2017
More than 2,600 people have now signed a petition to boycott the movie.
“The story itself is full of Japanese culture, history, and identity — and the Japanese narrative is essential to the plot and storytelling,” writes petition creator Sarah Rose on Care2. “‘Death Note’ shouldn't be cast with all white actors — as it goes against the very soul of the story.”
The original manga follows a Japanese character named Light Yagami who stumbles upon a supernatural notebook that allows him to kill anyone by writing down their name. While the Netflix remake appears to follow the same storyline, the characters have been westernized, with white actor Nat Wolff playing the lead Light Turner.
I already knew they was gone whitewash the fuck outta death note but dis tew much pic.twitter.com/O8xs7XEYKs
— LA RITTY (@METALTEARSOLID) March 22, 2017
In addition to whitewashing, the petition states that Asian-American actor Edward Zo auditioned for the movie but was not cast, which only adds “fuel to the fire.”
Zo previously spoke out about this in 2015, claiming he did not land a role because he is Asian.
“I've been told to my face that I can't audition for certain big Hollywood projects because I'm Asian. #DeathNote being one of them,” he wrote on Instagram. “Hollywood is one of the few industries that can get away with this type of blatant racism. It is a common occurrence that you will not even have the chance to audition because of your race or ethnicity & yet Hollywood loves to parade under the guise of multiculturalism; It's a complete facade.”
Hey, want a bite?🍰Tag someone that I should take out on a date👅💦 | ps if we ever go on a date I would like to talk about deep subjects with you. One subject I might talk about are the politics of race. Yes i am working my tail off & making strides in Hollywood, but I must also confess that I've been told to my face that I can't audition for certain big Hollywood projects because I'm Asian. #DeathNote being one of them. In 2015 this is happening & it happens a lot. If you are ethnic & you want to succeed in this town you must be OK with working 20x harder than your peers to even be on the same playing field & even then the playing field is definitely not even. In a previous post I mentioned that if you rely on other people to make your dreams come true you will be disappointed: case & point. Hollywood is one of the few industries that can get away with this type of blatant racism. It is a common occurrence that you will not even have the chance to audition because of your race or ethnicity & yet Hollywood loves to parade under the guise of multiculturalism; It's a complete facade. I made a video about what it's like being an Asian actor in Hollywood in 2015- tap on the link in my bio to watch it. | #Whitewashing | #Racism
That same year, Zo also took to YouTube to express his dismay over the whitewashing in “Death Note.”
“This would have been an amazing opportunity for an actor of colour, for an Asian actor, to take the global stage and break barriers and break stereotypes,” he said. “They were not looking to see Asian actors for the role of Light Yagami.”
In addition to the petition to boycott the film, fans on Twitter were quick to call out Netflix.
hey netflix if u wanna whitewash death note u could at LEAST get the actors to look SOMEWHAT LIKE THEIR CHARACTERS
— N0R5K1 (@kittuazoldyck) March 23, 2017
This is so sad. Why did y'all whitewash Death Note? This could have been a masterpiece smdh. https://t.co/AuSuEeg2gK
— zabree (@nochillzabree) March 22, 2017
Please tell me they whitewash *the names* of the Netflix Death Note characters they whitewashed. 🙄
— Catt Small is in NYC (@cattsmall) March 23, 2017
— april (@april_yim) March 22, 2017
In response to the backlash, one Twitter user noted that some of the producers of the film are Asian.
— A. Fox 🦊 (@whaterintowhine) March 23, 2017
Another argued that Netflix “made it clear it’s an American version.”
They made it clear its an American version based on death note go away with your whitewashing stuff the Japanese versions are there for you
— Chrollo Lucilfer (@MiloticSama) March 22, 2017
While the user is right that there are Japanese adaptations out there — including four live-action films, an anime TV series and a musical — many quickly pointed out the biggest flaw with the argument.
Why does "American version" mean "white"? There are plenty of Asian-American people in this country. @MiloticSama
— Claire (@CCSell) March 22, 2017
@MiloticSama Japanese Americans exist
— Chef Baize'ardee (@baizeodu) March 22, 2017
This is not Netflix’s first whitewashing controversy. The company was previously under fire for casting white actors in Marvel’s new show “Iron Fist.”
CORRECTION - Mar. 24, 2017: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Netflix's "Death Note" is a show. The post has been corrected to state that it is a movie.