'Death Note' Boycott: Why the upcoming Netflix show is stirring controversy

Source: Netflix
Source: Netflix

Netflix just can't seem to scrub away the persistent stain that is its whitewashing controversy. 

It started when the streaming service chose white actor Finn Jones as the lead in Iron Fist, missing a huge opportunity to recast the traditionally white role of the eponymous superhero with an Asian actor. The decision likely led, at least in part, to the series being the least-watched Marvel Netflix original to date. Now, Netflix is seeing a renewed round of backlash after repeating the same mistake with its upcoming series Death Note — and this time, fans are calling for a boycott.

The English-language adaptation was originally a popular Japanese manga featuring main protagonist Light Yagami, who receives a mysterious notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name is written within its pages. Naturally, Yagami is a young Japanese man in the animated version, but Netflix's adaptation cast a young white man in the role, even going so far as to change the character's name to Light Turner. 

Fans of the series are livid, and one of them decided to do something about it. Sarah Rose started a petition calling for the boycott of Death Note — and with more than 13,000 supporters already on board, Rose has all but reached her goal of 14,000 signatures. 

The Death Note manga has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. It also brought two films, a globally successful anime and a musical. The story itself is full of Japanese culture, history and identity — and the Japanese narrative is essential to the plot and storytelling. 

White actors have been cast to play the main characters in this adaptation. Death Note shouldn't be cast with all white actors — as it goes against the very soul of the story.

Other Twitter users have expressed their outrage over Death Note's whitewashing with a variety of creative tweets.

It seems Netflix either didn't learn from its mistakes with Iron Fist or simply doesn't care, but here's hoping this is the last whitewashed original we see from the streaming service. 

Mic has ongoing Netflix coverage. Please follow our main Netflix hub here.

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Brent McCluskey

Brent McCluskey is the Hype editor at Mic. He is the former deputy social media editor at International Business Times. His work has appeared on the Atlantic, the Fix, Comic Book and the documentary Deep Web. If he's not at his keyboard, he's probably on his electric skateboard, racing from one California coffee shop to the next.

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