Death Note? More Like Death Nope

Hopefully William Dafoe will be a redeeming factor

By Cheryl Tan

Remember how the new trailer came out around 2 weeks ago and effectively set off a whole new wave of controversy towards the new Netflix film? And in case you haven’t watched it yet (or have and would like a refresher), here’s the full trailer:

The Issue with Light Turner

The smart, popular ladies’ man from the manga can’t be found anywhere within Netflix’s rendition. The version of Light from Tsugumi Ohba’s original manga imagines him as a dedicated high school student with straight-As and was in no way ostracised by his community. Also, he didn’t harbour ill intentions toward any of his fellow students and the only reason he began using the notebook in the first place was to rid the world of evildoers and those who weren’t justly punished by the law.

Credit: Wikia

Light (Turner? Really?) in this version is portrayed as a stereotypical bullied oddball teen who seeks to use the Death Note on those who have made life miserable for him and others alike. A stark contrast from the warrior of justice the original Light claimed himself to be.

Also, the fact that they chose to cast a white cisgender male has been a source of controversy for many — not surprising given Hollywood’s long and unfortunate history of whitewashing, with an example being the amount of backlash Netflix received for Iron Fist.

Nat Wolff Credit: Polygon

Asian-American actors already have a hard enough time getting roles in mainstream media as it is; and in 2015 when the casting was first announced, Asian-American actor Edward Zo allegedly stated that he “was told to [his] face that they were not looking to see Asian actors for the role of Light Yagami.” Since anime-adaptations are a great opportunity for representation of minority actors, it certainly doesn’t seem fair for the role to be taken away.

Is This an Action Movie?

Credit: Know Your Meme

Not only is the lack of Asian-American actors an issue, the show also has plenty of unnecessary added action and stunts (crashing ferris wheels and failed helicopter rides? what?). Director Adam Wingard tells Collider, “It’s got nudity, it’s got swearing, it’s got a ton of violence,” and also adds that there’d be copious gore and other “crazy things.”

Seems pretty far-fetched to me since part of what made the original so amazing (and thrilling) was the fact that Light was living a double life — effectively as a good student and then as Kira, God of the New World. He’d play the loving older brother to his sister and a charming date to the girls he went out with — then he’d go home and pretty much murder people with a pen.

The only action scenes we get in the original anime are probably the infamous potato chip and the final scene (yeah you know the ones).

Joke version (also my favourite):

That’s Racist!

Since Death Note is set in Japan, the majority of jail cells are filled with Japanese nationals but replace that with an American setting and a disproportionately skewed population of African Americans, and you have yourself a potential race problem. [Spoiler Alert] It also doesn’t make things better that Light will eventually end up killing detective L (why is he so angry?) who is portrayed by black actor Keith Stanfield.

A whole show centered around an angry white teenager (white supremacists anyone?) with a weapon isn’t necessarily new or interesting in any context. And perhaps the only good thing to come out of this movie; William DaFoe’s version of the Death God might just be the saving grace this show needs.

How well will this movie really go? We will just have to watch it to find out when it’s released on Netflix in August.