entertainment

Petition to boycott Netflix adaptation of 'Death Note' reaches Japan

29 Comments
By KK Miller, RocketNews24

On March 22, Netflix released a teaser trailer of its upcoming film "Death Note," an adaptation based on the popular manga by Tsugumi Oba and Takeshi Obata.

Fans were quick to reignite the outrage regarding the whitewashing of the main character Light that arose when the casting was first announced. In the entire cast, only a few non-white actors have significant roles, with Masi Oka being the only Japanese-born cast member announced so far.

A petition on Care2 Petition urging people to boycott Netflix’s "Death Note" has almost reached its 15,000-signature goal, citing the lack of Asian-American actors in a story that is “full of Japanese culture, history, and identity” as another example of whitewashing by the entertainment industry.

The petition has garnered enough attention in the West that Japanese netizens have made note of the story and are offering their comments. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, similar to the "Ghost in the Shell" casting controversy, some of them have posted that the casting of a Hollywood adaptation featuring a predominantly white cast isn’t a problem.

“If this takes place at an American high school, then having white actors isn’t an issue.” “It’s a Hollywood version, so it’s okay to have white people.” “It’s like the Hollywood Godzilla. It’s the Hollywood version so having foreigners isn’t a problem.”

However, despite the mostly laissez-faire attitude on that issue, there were comments by some questioning the casting of Keith Stanfield, a black actor, as L. While the character of Light is likely fully Japanese, it’s rumored that L is only a quarter Japanese at most meaning the character could be played by basically anyone. However, that’s not how some netizens saw it with comments like:

“The thing that’s out of place is L being black.” “Going by the original manga, L being black is by far stranger.” “It just doesn’t feel like it fits his character.”

Also, while the online petition asks that Asian-Americans be given their place in main character roles, Japanese people felt different. One point that was repeated over and over is that if producers were going to hire Asian actors for the roles, they should be Japanese actors:

“I think all of this is way less of a problem than when the actor for the main character in Speed Racer was switched from Japanese to Korean.” “As a Japanese person, I’d be much more offended if a non-Japanese Asian person were playing a Japanese role.” “Honestly I’d much rather have a white or black actor in an American setting than a Korean or Chinese actor pretending to be Japanese.”

Oddly enough, it seems that the two sides differ on this point. While those behind the petition are calling for a boycott because of Netflix not hiring Asian-American actors such as Edward Zo, it seems that many Japanese netizens would be more upset if if they had hired Asian actors who weren’t Japanese.

In the end though, arguably the most important part of "Death Note" is the story, and with only a teaser trailer, we haven’t seen enough to judge this version yet. The main thrust behind "Death Note’s" compelling story is how it strives to answer the question, “is it ever okay to kill people?” It’s a psychological thriller at its core, and whether this version will live up to the source material will largely depend on the script and the acting chops of the cast.

Source: Care2 Petitions via Yurukuyaru

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Producer Masi Oka announces first Japanese actor in Netflix Death Note movie -- Kodansha’s Sam Yoshiba supports Scarlett Johansson casting choice for Ghost in the Shell -- Do you know the actors behind your favorite cartoons and anime?

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29 Comments
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should I boycott the Japanese version of Annie with a lead actress being Japanese with a red wig??

13 ( +17 / -4 )

@Dango - No. You can only get upset when white people portray people of other ethnicities.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All this whining over fiction makes me hope the entire planet gets colonized by a much highly evolved race of aliens!!

18 ( +19 / -1 )

I tend to mostly agree with the Japanese point of view. Who cares which roles go to who. Unless they trying to portray a Japanese character with a non-Japanese person, it doesn't matter. I'm really not sure why they have a problem with the L character, though.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@MikeH Yes, and whenever people get their panties in a bunch.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So 15,000 people boycott Netflix? Big deal, with their millions of subscribers, I don't think Netflix will be too worried about that!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I saw this in the news a week ago, all of the actors calling for a boycott are Chinese.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

People get offended so easily! If you don't like who is cast in a movie, by all means complain and whine. Don't see the movie. Or, better yet - make your own version! In any case, people tend to whine more when it's a white actor(ess) playing a non-white role, than when reversed. But it goes both ways.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

“It’s like the Hollywood Godzilla. It’s the Hollywood version so having foreigners isn’t a problem.”

First, it's conflating nationality with race, and second, it's a movie made in America so they are not "foreigners" over there. A Japanese person who went to American would be a foreigner (外人/外国人) over there, but many Japanese people just don't understand that concept. To them "foreigner" = non-Japanese person, anywhere in the world.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Can this NOT be called appropriation because it is not ethnically Japanese? I am not hip to you youngsters' lingo, but I guess nobody in the US cares because it is the kind of story that could happen anywhere, right?

I guess I am wondering what the outrage is all about. The guy who owned the rights to the story sold them. And that is that. If he is ok with it, who has any standing to dispute it? I am shrugging so hard I dislocated my shoulder. They call it intellectual PROPERTY not intellectual communism.

If you don't like it, go make your own property and don't sell it to anyone. Problem solved.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yes, it is strange that the Chinese actors who usually play the Japanese roles are the ones who are mad. When did this 'whitewashing' become a thing? and how soon can we link it to Trump so that he can be blamed?

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Don't really see what the deal is, as long as they make it their own. No problem with having the same plot or even characters.

..didn't see this reaction over the Magnificent 7 (aka 7 Samurai remake)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Wow... how do you spell "losers"? Just don't watch it. A boycott and all this shaking of little fists will only increase interest in it and make the people angrier. Besides, I know plenty of Japanese adaptations of things that don't feature a SINGLE non-Japanese cast member. Who cares?

Let these people with too much time on their hands go watch Death Note: The Stage Musical -- yes, it's real! if they think a Western adaptation is "outrageous".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The people who sold the rights to make the movie are not butt hurt over it. If you want to choose who to cast, buy the rights and throw down the money for production yourself.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

should I boycott the Japanese version of Annie with a lead actress being Japanese with a red wig??

If there was a large pool of white actresses in Japan that could sing and act in perfect Japanese you would have a point.

I tend to mostly agree with the Japanese point of view.

Their point of view is that of a homogeneous society. They think it's okay if Hollywood casts mostly white actors because Japan's media industry casts mostly Japanese actors. They think it's a fair representation of their misconception that America is as homogeneous as Japan.

Who cares which roles go to who.

Asian actors who rarely get a break care. Asian Americans who'd like to see representation in media care. They get passed up for every other role, so it's even more disappointing when a seemingly obvious opportunity gets away.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

MrBum: "Asian actors who rarely get a break care. Asian Americans who'd like to see representation in media care. They get passed up for every other role, so it's even more disappointing when a seemingly obvious opportunity gets away."

It's more than that. The Japanese fans don't care one wit that it's not Asians, they care that it's not Japanese when the original of the source material is Japan. Take Memoirs of a Geisha; people went ballistic when a Chinese was cast as the lead role, but she's Asian, right? Or Unbreakable; the Japanese actor who played "bird-man" or whatever his nickname was, has been basically ex-communicated by the country because they were ashamed of the content of the movie, forgetting about the fact that many Japanese were given the chance to play roles in a Hollywood movie. It's just nationalism, not representation. They feel entitled to the lead and other roles.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@smithinjapan

Yeah, that's the point of view of Japanese fans, which I think is misguided in a lot of ways. Just look at their double-standards for the black actor and the white actor in the article. I was just talking about the Asian-American community's response.

Japanese responses like those in the article and Japan's misconceptions about America likely come directly from this sort of whitewashing in Hollywood.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This was all started by a bunch of bored white people with entirely too much time on their hand. So of course it crossed over to Japan quite easily.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

MrBum: "I was just talking about the Asian-American community's response."

Agree with you there, although putting people in simply for the sake of putting people in, if it means less talent, I don't agree with. That's not saying there isn't misrepresentation -- there absolutely is. But there are also times when fairness does not factor in. I don't know if that's the case here or not; I'm going to guess not, given what the show is.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@smithinjapan

But there are also times when fairness does not factor in.

You're right, the biggest factor for producers like Netflix is usually commercial success and money, which is understandable if disappointing. You'd think having an Asian lead would automatically differentiate it from every other show and give it some added originality. And how are you going to get audiences to accept an Asian lead without ever having an Asian lead?

As far as talent, I think Asian Americans would be more inclined to pursue acting and training if there were more opportunities and a career seemed more realistic than it is now.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hmm... Remember the old "Monkey Magic" TV series? The story of a band of Chinese played by Japanese actors? I think there was even a movie remake not so long ago, again with Japanese actors playing the Chinese characters...

In the end, TV and movies are made for a target audience. Every nation does this. To be overly defensive on behalf of one particular country, or one particular story, reeks of hypocrisy. If you don't want to watch this particular version of this particular series, then you're probably not the target audience. Get over it. Just another #weakonlinewhingefest.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

what does it say about people when they get so precious over animation. I can never understand why people get so upset or proud of "make believe!!!"

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I very much hope they're also blaming the people that sold the rights to Netflix because they're the most culpable.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

donkusaiAPR. 04, 2017 - 10:03PM JST

In the end, TV and movies are made for a target audience. Every nation does this. To be overly defensive on behalf of one particular country, or one particular story, reeks of hypocrisy. If you don't want to watch this particular version of this particular series, then you're probably not the target audience. Get over it. Just another #weakonlinewhingefest.

Exactly. America's audience is still predominantly white... but in America, people complain about anything and everything, so that's what we have here.

Honestly, this movie doesn't rely on any racial issues as part of the story (ie. any movie based on slavery or racism, or even colonization), so I honestly wouldn't care what color the characters are... hopefully, fans of the original Death Note will be able to see beyond that, and watch the movie objectively.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If majority of casts and main characters were Japanese or Asian and then that movie won't be Hollywood movie and that will be Japanese movie. Making movie was making money for producer. Making documentary was telling story of history for non-profit organization or Government back producer.

How many moviegoers will rush to the movie theater to watch Japanese movie or Hong Kong movie? I can say “not as much as” Hollywood Movie with Western stars in Movie. The movie producer and financier do not make move for lost but they make movie for profit, big profit. If you're talking about boycott “Death Note" and then you are definitely intention to see that movie for whatever reason you have. By the way, they don’t make movie for lost but they make movie for big profit. For me, I want Japanese movie maker to make that movie with Japanese casts. Unfortunately, most of Japanese movie producers have made budget movies and they don't fund like Hollywood Movie producers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So for the Japanese, a foreign actor playing a Japanese characters is not an issue if the actor is white, but it is a problem if the actor is black (or Chinese/Korean)? Reminds me of how Japanese characters in manga are so often -- usually -- outfitted with incongruous caucasian features while Korean characters -- even within the same panels -- have been drawn with exaggerated Asian features, yet it's always rationalized away in ways that don't involve racism, prejudice, and delusion.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Fred Wallace If I am an advanced alien race, I would not touch this planet and the occupants here with a 10-foot pole. I would probably use every possible way to stop the occupant on this planet from going beyond this solar system and regard them as cancer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

First, it's conflating nationality with race.

This is the case for pretty much every country outside the Americas. Race defined by physical features, especially skin pigmentation, is mainly a New World concept

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think L's behaviour is not "Black" at all. the awkwardness etc... not to say they wont change details like this...

its an adaptation and all white washing it isnt so much a problem than cutting and changing key details that made the film good in the first place.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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