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‘Death Note’ whitewashing accusations grow as it casts female lead

Fans aren't happy with the latest casting news.


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on Nov 13, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 3:58 pm CDT

The live-action American adaptation of Death Note finally has its female lead, but fans are pushing back more than ever with complaints of whitewashing the characters from the anime.

Deadline is reporting that The Leftovers actress Margaret Qualley is in final negotiations to star in Death Note opposite Nat Wolff, who will be playing Light. Although it’s not stated just who Qualley will be playing, it’s believed she will take on the role of model Misa Amane (or someone based on Misa).

Like with Wolff’s casting before it, fans are upset with Qualley’s casting because she is not Japanese—presenting yet another case of whitewashing the Japanese source material by casting white actors to play the parts.

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The Death Note manga has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. It’s inspired two films, a successful anime series, and a musical. It’s full of Japanese culture, depicts Japanese society, and the death gods (or shinigami) in Death Note are all vital to the plot.

Actress Arden Cho, who plays Kitsune on Teen Wolf, highlighted how difficult it is for Asian actors and actresses to get a job in Hollywood when they’re even passed over for animes.

Although Death Note won’t begin production until next spring—and it may even cast Asian actors in other roles—fans are already praying for utter failure.

It’s already starting to look like the Exodus debacle. Ridley Scott’s Biblical film cast white actors to play Egyptian and Middle Eastern roles and immediately received backlash from fans—a decision he defended. Even after it flopped Scott doubled down, explaining that the film wouldn’t ever have been made if he hadn’t cast white actors to play the lead roles.

Death Note director Adam Wingard has yet to directly respond to the backlash, so we don’t know if he’s under the same type of pressure Scott was about casting white actors for the Japanese roles. 

Photo via Denise Noelle/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)

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*First Published: Nov 13, 2015, 3:03 pm CST