White Washing?

In case you don’t know, Netflix recently released a trailer for an upcoming movie called Deathnote (an American adaptation of Deathnote, based on Deathnote, the popular manga/anime series) and wow, was I excited because first of all, NETFLIX. I’ve come to expect a lot of good great things from Netflix because of how they did Daredevil and A Series of Unfortunate Events (I think these are the only Netflix things I’ve watched? And they’re both based on popular literature and had a good show produced).

Second of all, Deathnote is such a good, complex, interesting story that has so many concepts in it that are really important to address. I won’t try to spoil it for you, but one of my favorite things about Deathnote is the entire of concept of “if you had the power to deliver direct justice, should you?”. But we won’t be discussing the story today, but the casting.

In case you haven’t seen the trailer, you can check it out here!

Whitewashing is a casting practice in the film industry of the United States in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles. The film industry has a history of frequently casting white actors for roles involving people of color, including African Americans and Native Americans.

This isn’t the first time this word is being thrown around when a movie is about to be released. This word was used a lot when Hollywood brought out an adaptation of Ghost in the Shell with Scarlet Johansson playing the lead character. I can’t really comment much about Ghost in the Shell since I haven’t read the manga, watched the anime or watched the movie, but all I want to say is that all the people who are getting offended FOR the Japanese people need to calm down and see if any Japanese people are actually upset about Scarlet Johansson being the main character.

Cause guess what? The average Japanese person thinks Scarlet looks like the character she’s supposed to portray, that she’s pretty and would give the ‘anime’ look and that they don’t think it’s a problem having her there as long as she’s a good actor (which she is). So why are all these American people getting mad about it?

Kinda reminds me of the whole Youtube-Pewdiepie-Nazi thing, where Wall Street Journal accused Pewdiepie of being a Nazi for making anti-Semite jokes, to which a Jewish Youtuber answers with “As a Jewish person, I’m not offended (by Pewdiepie’s jokes) and this is the problem with this manufactured outrage: people getting offended for people who are not offended! You don’t need to get outraged on my behalf”

Of course, the situation isn’t exactly the same, but it, nevertheless, carries a similar concept. People getting mad and bashing on Ghost in the Shell purely because Scarlet is in the lead instead of an Asian actor (although I wouldn’t have minded seeing Mako Mori there instead… I don’t know her real name sorry xD but Scarlet isn’t bad! And again, I haven’t seen the movie and I probably won’t, but she must’ve done a good job at it) and Wall Street Journal bashing Pewdiepie for making ‘anti-Semite’ jokes taken out of context- both situations involve a third party taking it upon themselves to correct something that isn’t hurting anyone and doesn’t need to be corrected.

That’s what I think anyway. But that’s just me getting started. Let’s move on to Deathnote. The main character, Light Yagami will be portrayed by some guy (who was cast in Paper Towns and is a Nickelodeon actor) who looks pretty white. At first, I didn’t really see what the problem was. I didn’t really care about the race of Light’s actor because honestly, it’s an originally Japanese story being lifted up and placed in an American setting- of course some things would be different! And I really wanted to see how Netflix would do that because the thing about Netflix is that it’s not chained down the way Hollywood is chained down.

Netflix has a specific freedom where they can focus on content creation and bring out new things which Hollywood can’t do because Hollywood is forced to spend a lot of money on advertising in order to get an audience to come to theaters and watch the movie. Netflix, on the other hand, doesn’t need to advertise because for most of it’s consumers, it’s a monthly/yearly service with unlimited content to watch, it’s much easier to access, nobody needs to go to the theaters and Netflix gets the actual statistics of what content is being viewed the most. Instead of focusing on the wham and bam of Hollywood trying to pull in audience for one movie, Netflix works on building an audience through good, consistent work.

So that’s one reason I was really looking forward to seeing how Netflix would handle all of that because their projects are great! They have good things, their series/seasons are good and they’re giving movies a shot, they probably thought this through very well.

Until I found out two new facts. First, that an Asian actor had applied to get the role of Light Yagami (the main character) and didn’t even get to see the audition because he was Asian.

“through the grape vine I was told to my face that they were not looking to see asian actors for the role of Light Yagami”
This is completely different from the whole Ghost in the Shell problem, because while Scarlet’s character can be argued to be foreign and non-Japanese, Light Yagami is a Japanese teenager in a Japanese high school. What Netflix has done is essentially made “Light Yagami, an American teenager in an American high school” which is totally okay except… if you really want to make him white, why is his name still Yagami? If you really want to erase the Asian origin and tell Asian actors they can’t apply to be this Asian character, do it right?? And even if Light Yagami was switched from “Asian character” to “can be anything, but we’ll make it white” character, there should still have been a level playing field where Edward Zo should have been able to audition for being Light Yagami.

Instead of people complaining “why is Light Yagami white”, people should be like “why is Light Yagami NOT Edward Zo?”. Instead of yelling about white-washing, people should be more productive and try to push Asian actors up so producers and directors realize that the audience wants to see correctly portrayed characters when they should be correctly portrayed.

The second thing I learned about this Deathnote adaptation is that one of the other main characters, a world famous detective named L will be played by a black person. Which is, in my opinion, kinda maybe worse than Light being white? Because even if this black actor is able to act like L, it doesn’t change the fact that he won’t LOOK like L at all. L is a pale, white, sickly looking male because (1) he’s European, has pale skin tones in the anime and manga illustrations and (2) his already white skin is made whiter because he spends his time indoors and in front of computers instead of going out and being a normal human being. L’s appearance is important to his character and I honestly can’t see how a black person would be a good choice to portray L.

But people are more okay with bashing Light’s actor because wow, whitewashing is a crime that happens in every other entertainment series and it’s the average SJW’s job to hate a movie because it’s got white people, but when it comes to black people being put into movies and films where they’re kind of ruining the character (ESPECIALLY if it’s an adaptation from cartoon/anime/comics which already have a visual set for a character), no one is going to complain because “diversity”.

This isn’t the kind of diversity I want, where people are shoved on to the screen just so the audience can say “oh! a black person! I feel validated!”. I want a diversity where it’s “oh! that person looks just like how the they looked in the anime/comic!” or “I didn’t really imagine how this character would look in the books, but I like this movie interpretation of them!”.

So yeah, I’m really confused about what kind of message Netflix is trying to send through their movie adaptation of Deathnote. Are they trying to say “diversity!” by introducing a black character to play a light-skinned character while simultaneously telling an Asian actor that they can’t apply? Sounds pretty hypocritical! But I’ll wait till the movie is out. Here’s to hoping Netflix doesn’t disappoint me with this!


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