Death Note Adaptation, Political Correctness in Cinema and Missed Opportunities.

death note

Death Note doesn’t have to be diverse, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.

Oh yes, the preeminent race debate that has become the hottest topic of discussion and a competition of who can use the most creative reaction images under someone’s twitter thread. We’ve heard the opinions of redneck right-wing racists living in Kansas and Tumblr babies thinking that every asian adaptation needs a full asian cast.

Unfortunately actual discussion is often lost and boils down to memes born out of the exasperation of both parties not understanding where the other is coming from. Now I’m not telling you to listen to racist right-wing racists from Kansas and I’m not expecting them to take anyone outside of their subreddit seriously – but I think it’s interesting to see both extremes of the anime adaptation melting pot and why it’s so important for them to have it their away.

One argument is that ‘whitewashing’ (a term so mistreated by both extremes that it has lost all its punch) of originally asian stories is socially irresponsible and sending a message out that we don’t love asian people as much as we love their culture. This re-enforces a painful history of invisibility and ridiculization of people of colour in the media.

Meanwhile in the depths of Trump fandom twitter and Reddit users with a dick-stepping fetish is that this and that have nothing to do with one another. It’s an adaptation by the United States, and therefore don’t need to appease to a group of people in the name of political correctness, but should instead judge the adaptation for the product it becomes.

Naturally I took the liberty to delete all the Kermit memes, replies telling them to kill themselves, replies somehow involving Trump, people telling each other to kill themselves and racial slurs while defending themselves saying they’re not racist. With all of this out of the way, both arguments seem decently comprehensible and understandable, right?

See, the thing is, Death Note doesn’t have to be diverse, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.

In the middle of all of this things become all the more confusing when actor Edward Zo (Yes, Japanese-American) comes out with a twenty minute long video telling his rejection story which basically boils down to, ‘yeah, you’re too ethnic for the lead role, but a background character might be fine.’

Death Note was always meant to be white. These are the facts we’re given. Hollywood isn’t colourblind and race clearly does matter when asian actors weren’t ever considered in the first place.

This is not me saying that Hollywood is inherently racist (you know, after the 00s) – I’m sure there are a lot of kindhearted spirits that are simply too scared of progress and change in the film industry which is getting caught up by the internet and a generation of social awareness, social changes and progress.

They’re scared of moving on from an expired mindset and formula which basically says: Yeah, everyone can relate to white people, yeah, stereotype-based comedy is funny, if the movie is good they’ll watch it anyways.

Death Note doesn’t have to be diverse,  but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.

Take a step back and look at the course of history. The first mainstream black film, Carmen Jones, was released in the 60s in the same decade Marilyn Monroe had to fight for Ella Fitzgerald to be allowed to sing in the white clubs. In the 80s and 90s people of colour either had their own films or were reduced to stereotypes – see the legendary and ever so offensive Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles.

All things considered, this cry for diversity is a quite recent. I’d go so far to say we’ve reached amazing results with the little time we’ve been on it – Yes, Hollywood, like all industries that need to survive, will have evolve and realize that casting people of colour will not affect the results like it did thirty years ago.

Simply put, reality is not white. We’re realizing and more importantly, appreciating this difference now more than ever with the fast globalization at the hands of the internet. Society is constantly changing and if you ask your local Kansas racist why the mere suggestion of an asian lead offends them so much they’ll most likely say that it’s an American production.

The thing is, as we’ve long since established, the American reality is far from white. At this point in time, fifty percent of the American youth is white, and this percentage is only set to drop down to a fourty percent in the next twenty years.

Society is changing and evolving and this is neither good or bad, but simply a reality that Hollywood is going to have to catch on to. Nobody would’ve been mad about Death Note having an almost all-white cast if Asians got their corresponding representation in the rest of Hollywood in the first place.

This, unfortunately, is far away from the truth, and I’m less mad about them casting a white guy as the main character, and more mad about how much of a missed opportunity this is for change.

No, by all means, Death Note doesn’t have to be diverse.

But it’d damn sure be nice if it were.

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