White-washing has become quite a big deal in Hollywood, with white actors playing the roles supposed to be for Asian, Black, Latino, or Indian roles. One particular anime-based movie suffered greatly because of the backlash, and that’s Ghost in the Shell. Now, Netflix’s live-action Death Note movie may be about to suffer the same fate.
And now, the movie’s producer is finally talking about it! Producer Roy Lee, who worked for Hollywood remakes of Asian movies like The Ring, The Grudge, and The Departed, admitted he had never encountered backlash before, and only received it when they revealed the new Death Note project.
Lee recently gave an interview with Buzzfeed News, where he stated that “I’ve been involved in many adaptations of content from all over the world, and this is the first time that I’ve been seeing negative press,” and added “I can understand the criticism … if our version of Death Note was set in Japan and [featured] characters that were Japanese-named or of Japanese ancestry.”
In other words, what he’s making is a “what if” version of Death Note, and this “What if” asks the question of “What if Death Note” was made in America. The producer stated that Death Note isn’t really an example of Whitewashing, and that it’s just Death Note in the context that it’s set in America. He also said that they changed up the story a bit, and instead of being set in Tokyo, the movie is set in Seattle. And to deal with the cultural changes, he turned Light Yagami into Light Turner, as well as Misa Amane into Mia Sutton.
Lee then added that “It is an interpretation of that story in a different culture, so there are going to be some obvious changes. Some people will like them, some people may not.” He then explained that the changes were necessary to “make it more appealing to the US or to the English-language market.” Basically, it’s the same treatment he did for the Hollywood adaptation of The Ring, which was quite successful. There was no outcry from fans for casting a white actress, Naomi Watts, in the lead role either.
He also said that “Saying ‘whitewashing’ is also somewhat offensive,” and added, since “one of our three leads is African-American.” He is referring to the actor playing L, Lakeith Stanfield, who is African-American. In the end, Lee said “People can criticize it, but I’d say that they should see the movie first,” and added “Then they could accuse us of not having a diverse enough cast … just judge the movie after it comes out.”
Oh, and as far as the Japanese are concerned, they don’t really care about this White-Washing thing that people abroad are so triggered about. Though we haven’t heard much about their reaction for the Death Note cast, we do know that they LOVED Scarlett Johansson’s selection as “The Major” for Ghost in the Shell.
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