It’s 2017, and whitewashing is still a thing. To be completely honest, I don’t know why some fans are even surprised anymore, and that speaks volumes for how far in our psyche Hollywood’s whitewashing epidemic has gone and messed things up. This time, Netflix is on trial for the teaser of their newest feature presentation.
Netflix released a new teaser trailer for their latest original film, the live-action adaption of the popular Japanese anime, Death Note. To the dismay of Twitterverse and fans on other social media portals, the Japanese protagonist Light Yagami from the original anime is being played by Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, Stuck in Love), who, to my knowledge, is not Japanese. This social media outburst very much resembles the one that took place not too long ago when Scarlett Johansson was cast as the protagonist in Ghost in the Shell, another anime adaptation. We’ve seen this happen time and again, with Dragon Ball Evolution, Doctor Strange (Tilda Swinton being cast as a Tibetan monk), and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The problem here lies with the fact that not only does this appropriate ‘white’ as the default skin colour for media that originates from an entirely different part of the world and is cultivated all over the world, but the sheer fact that Japanese anime loses its very pneuma in the process of ‘westernising’. Like Brian Ashcraft puts it in conversation with Kotaku,
“In Japan, white is not the default, Japanese is. Thus, there is no need for them to ‘look Asian,’ because no matter how ridiculous the characters look, everyone will assume they are Japanese.”
The rest of the new Death Note cast consists of Margaret Qualley as Misa Amane and Keith Stanfield as L. It’s almost like Netflix was prepared for this backlash as said, “Hey, we’ve whitewashed the protagonist, but here’s a black character in the mix, just in case you blame us for not being progressive.”
Most fans, including myself, will end up watching this film; we all know it. We’re too invested in the franchise to ignore it. For those of you who haven’t read or watched the original manga/anime already, you really should, so you can join the rest of us in our rage and also because it’s pretty good. This whitewashing business has been happening for a long time, and since Hollywood hasn’t indicated at all that they’re listening, it probably will continue to happen. But maybe, just maybe, if we make enough noise, they’ll finally listen. You can watch the teaser trailer for Netflix’s Death Note below.