I saw a Death Note trailer, and had a Thought ™.
I’m not going to address the whitewashing since many people more knowledgable on the matter have already done so. But if you’re going to take Light, the charismatic, intelligent, handsome antihero, and make him white…
…why is he so ugly?
I’m not being shallow here. What makes Light so insidious is he’s attractive and charming and smart, so he puts people at ease. He’s an expert at earning people’s trust. But beneath that charisma, he thinks he’s better than everyone else, that he’s the chosen one, a god. Light uses his attractiveness and charm to ingratiate himself with the right people and avoid detection. His duplicity to his loved ones and his inflated sense of self-worth makes him a force to be reckoned with.
This narrative could work really well for a white dude. I’m sure the world hasn’t forgotten the likes of Brock Turner, or the hundreds of other guys like him who hurt others and never expect to feel any consequences because they are white, affluent, and male. An Americanized retelling of Death Note–a Light who used his whiteness as a cloak as well as his charisma–could’ve presented a great opportunity to interrogate that entitlement.
Based on the trailer, this movie is positioning Light as some sort of outcast at his school. The actor isn’t just unattractive; he looks untrustworthy, dressed in grubby clothes and hanging out alone in the schoolyard.
Netflix!Light isn’t just whitewashed. He’s been scrubbed of the traits that make him so powerful.