Netflix’s ‘Death Note’ accused of ‘whitewashing’

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Some fans are not happy with casting

It's the latest accusation of "whitewashing"

CNN  — 

It’s not a good time for Netflix and Asian-adapted projects.

On the heels of the streaming giant facing charges of “whitewashing” by casting a white actor to play a martial arts expert in “Iron Fist,” a new controversy has emerged.

‘Iron Fist’ star responds to ‘Oriental’ controversy

“Death Note,” a Netflix film based on a Japanese manga series, quickly drew social media backlash when its trailer debuted Wednesday.

Starring “The Fault in Our Stars” actor Nat Wolff and “Atlanta” actor Lakeith Stanfield, “Death Note” tells the story of a Japanese high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook.

Wolff is white and Stanfield is African American, causing some to question why Asian actors were not cast in the lead roles.

There’s a widespread lack of Asian representation in Hollywood projects.

Asian actors made up just 5.1% of speaking or named characters across film, television and digital series in 2014, according to a University of Southern California study released last year.

Constance Wu, who stars in the ABC comedy “Fresh Off The Boat,” wrote about the value of Asian representation onscreen when Matt Damon was cast to as the lead in the film “The Great Wall.”

“Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon. They look like Malala. Ghandi. Mandela. Your big sister when she stood up for you to those bullies that one time,” wrote Wu.

In 2016’s “Doctor Strange,” Marvel was slammed for having Tilda Swinton play the Ancient One, a mystical Tibetan character.

“Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life,” a statement from Marvel read at the time. “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic.”

More recently, there has been debate over Scarlett Johansson’s casting as a Japanese character in the forthcoming film “Ghost in the Shell.”

But Mamoru Oshii, who directed the 1995 anime classic the new film is based on, told IGN on Tuesday “there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.”

“What issue could there possibly be with casting her?” Oshii told the publication. “The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one.”

The casting controversies come as more Asians are going to the movies.

A study published this week by the Motion Picture Association of America found “the Asian/Other category overrepresented the most of any group in share of movie tickets purchased (14%) relative to their share of the population (8%).”

Some have defended the casting in “Death Note” by pointing to the film’s Seattle, Washington setting, while still others reject that argument given that “American” doesn’t exclude actors of Asian descent.

In a statement to Collider last summer, “Death Note” producers Roy Lee and Dan Lin said they view the project as inclusive.

“The talent and diversity represented in our cast, writing, and producing teams reflect our belief in staying true to the story’s concept of moral relevance – a universal theme that knows no racial boundaries.”