Death Note Live-Action Producer Pushes Back Against Whitewashing Claims

This year, the term whitewashing has been applied to more than one high-profile anime adaptation. Ghost in the Shell saw itself pummeled by the controversial word last month before it hit theaters with a dismal debut. And, now, Netflix's live-action take on Death Note is being openly accused of promoting racist casting choices. However, one of the film's producers is fighting back against the claim, and Roy Lee wants audiences to know whitewashing is not the best word to describe Death Note.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Lee said that he does not understand the specific backlash against Death Note. The series is one originally set in Japan, but Adam Wingard's take on Death Note is an overt westernized version of the story. The protagonist Light will be played by Nat Wolff, a white actor - and Lee thinks the decision is fine given the film's overall context.

According to Buzzfeed, Lee doesn't see Death Note advocating for whitewashing.

"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," Lee said.

Continuing, Lee went on to explain why he felt whitewashing is an offensive way to describe the film.

"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 […] "one of [the leads] is Asian, one's African-American, and three are Caucasian. Saying 'whitewashing' is also somewhat offensive."

Death Note does house diverse leading actors. Lakeith Standfield was cast as L, the series' co-lead who operates opposite of Light. Masi Oka will also star in the film in a yet-revealed role.

As for the controversy surrounding Death Note, Lee has asked fans to watch the movie before judging it. The producer admits the series is one of Japanese origin, but they have admittedly changed its setting to make it more friendly to "the US or to the English-language market."

"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," Lee finished. So, in the coming months, fans will get to decide whether or not they find themselves in favor of Netflix's work.

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You can read up on Death Note's synopsis below:

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What if you had the power to decide who lives and who dies? We suggest you obey the rules. Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student who comes across a supernatural notebook, realizing it holds within it a great power; if the owner inscribes someone's name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Intoxicated with his new godlike abilities, the young man begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.

Death Note will be available to stream on Netflix beginning August 25, 2017.