While I was walking with a friend of mine we were talking about notoriously bad shows we’d seen. Jokingly, I mentioned the new live-action version of Death Note. When she didn’t know what Death Note was, I immediately launched into a whole crazy explanation all condensed in a short walk to Panera bread on Northeastern’s campus. And by the end, we were having a very interesting conversation about race and television.
So it’s no lie that race and media have always had problems with one another. My friend brought up a Masters of None (2015) episode, Indians on TV. In this episode, Aziz Ansari’s character, Dev, is seen auditioning with his friend (also Indian) for a role. Dev is immediately discounted by the casting director because of his refusal to do an accent for the role. This episode has received critical praise for its attempt to address the problems of race, especially for Asians/Asian Americans on screens.
Dev relegates that there could never be more than that one Indian friend because that would turn white people off as they would not be able to relate to the characters. But in a sad moment, Dev and many Asian Americans understand that detachment - that is literally how we feel all the time.
Only in July news erupted that two high-profile actors in the popular show, Hawaii Five-0, were leaving the show. Later, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park (two prominent Asian American actors in Hollywood) confirmed the rumors that they left the show due to issues of unequal pay. This erasure of Asian culture and the Asian American people are getting to such a ridiculous point that I had to write a second article about it in less than a year.
And even in historical events, Asians/Asian Americans have been erased. Dunkirk (2017) was set for a spectacular release with Christopher Nolan as the director, and while the show received mostly positive reviews, many noted there was a distinct lack of something in the film. Was it just a Je ne sais quo? No, it was the numerous colonial soldiers that fought with the Allies and were trapped with them on Dunkirk.
The movie was overwhelmingly white (there was one African French soldier if I remember) despite the fact that the war wasn’t. See, despite the fact that the Allies were fighting for freedom of oppression, these same Allies had colonies (even America, see the Philippines).
And when the call for war came for the men in Great Britain and France, so did the call in India, Algeria, Tunisia, and all their other colonies. It actually came as a surprise to me that several of my friends did not know this. This brings this issue way past media, and all the way to popular memory and the education here.
Source: The National
But, back to the main point. Death Note! Netflix’s Death Note should have been written in the actual Death Note. I think the actual Light Yagami would have had Ryuk kill him before the events of the anime/manga just to avoid this monstrosity from being produced. When the initial trailer was released, a few friends and I cringed, we were mostly the people who grew up with the original manga and anime.
But, the movie that ensued was worse than our nightmares. I didn’t want to see Light Turner, set in some weird suburbia-type thing that all teen dramas are set in these days. The show took a lot of the elements that made the manga so popular, and basically tossed them in a dumpster fire. Light Turner lost all the intelligence, and sharpness of Light Yagami.
The moral questions that Yagami was faced with were sacrificed and rushed. Netflix took the whole concept of Death Note, and tried putting it in an American setting to see how the situation may change accordingly, but by removing the Japanese culture out of the show, they seemed to have lost the concept entirely. And as a result, it flopped.
I always have a keen interest in this issue, not just because I am Asian, but because it always astounds me. In this weird media age, we get shows like ‘Dear White People (2017)’ and this version of Death Note coming out from the same company.
Where actors like Ed Skrein are being socially-conscious and bowing out of roles meant for an Asian American, but also in a time where despite so many previous controversies, Ed Skrein was hired for the role in the first place. When will these white demagogues in Hollywood realize that we have moved way past the ‘token POC friend’, and they’re way behind on that?