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Hardcore fans of the anime have been pissed ever since the announcement of an Americanised version of Death Note. Can’t say I blame them. After all, whitewashing (and blackfacing) has been a Hollywood staple since your grandmother was a little kid. 

Remember that fantastic David Fincher film, The Social Network? Yeah, the Indian character Divya Narendra was played by a white guy, Max Minghella. And most recently, Major in Ghost in the Shell was played by Scarlett Johansson. So it’s only natural that fans of the Death Note anime would be angry at the fact that their favourite characters were going to be whitewashed.

But is this case really whitewashing, though? Or is it slightly different? In an interview with IGN, director of Death Note, Adam Wingard had this to say:

In the early stages of the film, I was rereading all of the manga, really just looking at how does any of this translate to the United States. Ultimately, Death Note is such a Japanese thing. You can’t just say let’s port this over and it’s going to all add up. They’re two different worlds completely. Ultimately, whenever I say it’s about America, I’m looking at it like, what are the main kind of core issues going on in America. What are the things that people chalk up to conspiracy theories? What kind of weird underground programs does the government have? How do those work in the world of Death Note?

 

Wingard then goes on to elaborate:

It’s one of those things where the harder I tried to stay 100 percent true to the source material, the more it just kind of fell apart… You’re in a different country, you’re in a different kind of environment, and you’re trying to also summarize a sprawling series into a two-hour-long film. For me, it became about what do these themes mean to modern day America, and how does that affect how we tell the story. Ultimately, the cat and mouse chase between Light and L, the themes of good, evil, and what’s in between the gray area. Those are the core things of Death Note, and that’s really what we went for.

While the issue of whitewashing is pretty subjective, this particular case does not scream whitewashing. For example, it would be wrong to cast Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Mulan if the movie is set in CHINA and it involves CHINESE soldiers kicking ass. But it would be okay to cast Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Mulan if the movie, inspired by the original Mulan, is set in AMERICA and it involves AMERICAN people kicking ass.

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The latter concept applies in here as well. I don’t consider this to be whitewashing because Adam Wingard and his team of writers – Charley Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides, Jeremy Slater – are making a movie set in the US that is INSPIRED by the original Japanese anime. They are not making a film about a bunch of white people with Japanese names being saviours in Japan.

So how about everyone calm your tits and judge the movie on its own merits.

  • orenji

    Because we all know when you tell someone to “calm your tits” it goes well… *eyeroll*

    • Felchmeister777

      Enough with the cynicism. Chill your vulva…

      • orenji

        I’m not sure “cynicism” is the right description. I’m in no way implying they have some self-interested motives by using the phrase “calm your tits”… Sarcasm, yes 🙂 So why don’t you calm your balls.

  • sara

    This guy is right. It’s set in America. It can’t be the same. I love this story. I wanna see how it plays out in an American setting. Netflix has a good track record. This might be the first adaption that doesn’t suck.

  • mitotsu

    My tits are calm. My tits are calm!

  • Nescor

    This is EXACTLY what I thought when I first saw the news articles about this film’s “whitewashing”. I absolutely loved the anime and dreamed of a “Westernized” version (Actually, I just thought of terming it a “cross-cultural adaptation”…what do you think?) since first seeing it. It was frustrating to see the uproar. It made me think, “Well, hey, what about L’s character? Why aren’t they angry about the fact that the actor playing L isn’t a mix of Japanese, English, and Russian? That’s how the creators made him!”
    Anyway, thank you for publishing this article! I hope more people see it and follow your advice!