deathnote

Fans have taken to social media to decry the perceived whitewashing of the U.S. big screen adaptation of the popular Japanese manga ‘Death Note’.  It was previously announced that Caucasian actor Nat Wolff would portray the lead character Light Yagami and now the female lead has been announced and it’s another Caucasian actor, ‘The Leftovers’ star Margaret Qualley.  It wasn’t specified who she would be playing, but presumably it will be Misa Amane or a character based on her.  It’s certainly not the first time Caucasian actors have been substituted for Asian characters.

And fans aren’t having it!  In addition to voicing outrage, many are predicting the film will flop and are vowing not to support it.  They also point out that unlike certain manga and anime that could be tweaked to a different culture with minimal impact, ‘Death Note’ is very much seeped in Japanese culture.

Here is a sampling:

Among those speaking out against the whitewashed casting is Asian actor Arden Cho from the hit show ‘Teen Wolf’, who joined the protest on Twitter:

Margaret Qualley in 'The Leftovers'
Margaret Qualley in ‘The Leftovers’

‘Death Note’ is hugely popular, having sold over 30 million copies and has already been adapted into an anime and three live action Japanese films.  The U.S. adaptation is being directed by horror ace Adam Wingard (‘V/H/S’, ‘You’re Next’). So far, Wolff and Qualley are the only stars announced and there is no release date slated.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is a U.S. adaptation for American audiences, so it’s sort of common sense that a lot of the Japanese cultural elements will be changed or omitted in order to draw a wider audience.  Setting the movie in the U.S. negates the absolute need for Asian actors to star.  For purists, there are already Japanese-made films that are truer to the source material.

A similar controversy surrounded Ridley Scott’s Biblical epic ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ which starred mostly Caucasian actors, even though the movie was set in the Middle East, but Scott defended his casting choices explaining that using Caucasian actors like Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver was the only way he could get the movie made.  That could be the case here as well.

What do you think?  Should Hollywood even bother making adaptations of Japanese manga if they aren’t going to stay faithful?  Or do you think cultural changes like these only make sense?  Would mass U.S. audiences turn out for a film headlined by Asian Americans?

Source: Daily Dot