Petition to boycott Netflix's 'whitewashed' Death Note nears 10,000 supporters

A petition calling for a boycott of Netflix's upcoming movie Death Note is getting close to its goal of 10,000 signatures.

Film based on Japanese manga series sparks backlash online after white actors cast in lead roles

LaKeith 'Keith' Stanfield and Nat Wolff star in the Netflix film Death Note, which is receiving backlash for not casting Asian actors in the lead roles. (James Dittiger/Netflix)

A petition calling for the boycott of Netflix's upcoming movie Death Note because of casting decisions is getting close to its goal of 10,000 signatures.

The move comes after a trailer for the film, which is based on the popular Japanese manga series with the same title, was released earlier this week and revealed white actors in the lead roles. Three of the film's producers are of Asian descent.

The teaser shows The Fault In Our Stars actor Nat Wolff cast in the main role of Light Turner, a student who gets his hands on a supernatural notebook that allows him to kill anyone he can identify by name and face. The character in the original series is named Light Yagami.

Playing the private detective chasing him is black actor LaKeith "Keith" Stanfield. The Leftovers'  Margaret Qualley plays the female lead.

The revelation sparked backlash from some people on social media and prompted an online petition.

"Death Note shouldn't be cast with all white actors — as it goes against the very soul of the story," wrote the petition's instigator on Care2, Sarah Rose, who referred to the American adaptation as "whitewashed."

Numbers don't lie

While the petition itself might not hold a lot of power, it points to an ongoing problem in the entertainment industry.

The lack of representation when it comes to Asian actors in particular was highlighted in a recent report from the University of Southern California.

Between 2007 and 2015, the study found only a 3.9 per cent increase in the number of Asian characters in Hollywood's most popular films.

Another study from the same university pointed out that Asian actors accounted for 5.1 per cent of speaking or named roles in 2014, making them significantly under-represented on screen.

Actors speak out

The issue has also been cited by actors in the industry.

Constance Wu, known for her role on the series Fresh Off The Boat, slammed the casting of Matt Damon in the epic film The Great Wall, about a European warrior in China during the Song Dynasty.

Actress Constance Wu was critical of the casting of Matt Damon in the epic film The Great Wall. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

"We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that a only [sic] white man can save the world," she wrote in a Twitter message last year.

Edward Zo, an up-and-coming actor, posted a video message on YouTube in 2015 claiming he was told told not to audition for the American adaptation of Death Note because he was Asian.

A spokesperson says Netflix isn't commenting on the film, which is set to be released in August.​

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