Netflix faces instant whitewashing backlash for casting Jared Leto as yakuza member in The Outsider

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The new trailer for Netflix’s The Outsider was released just one day ago, but it’s already facing backlash for casting Jared Leto as a yakuza member.

The film stars Leto as Nick Lowell, an American soldier held captive in the final days of World War II. After being freed by his yakuza cellmate, he must join the organised crime group in order to pay them back.

But following the release of the trailer, the backlash was instantaneous, with many complaining of a story that focuses on a white man in Asia, describing it as ‘figurative whitewashing’.

There is literal #Whitewashing (Dr. Strange, Ghost in the Shell) and figurative #Whitewashing when shows set in Asia center around a white actor (The Last Samurai, The Great Wall). If you don’t understand the subtleties, do not accuse me of idiocy.

— Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) February 23, 2018

Many felt that, instead of hiring a white actor to play the lead, the film could have just as easily revolved around an Asian or Asian-American lead.

William Yu, the creator of the hashtag #StarringJohnCho which promotes greater diversity in the entertainment industry, tagged Netflix in a tweet that read: ‘STOP. WRITING. AROUND. US.’


(Seriously, how hard is it to hire an Asian-American actor for this type of shit? Still gets the outsider point across.)

— M'Shaku (@ShakExcellence) February 23, 2018

The movie is available on Netflix from 9 March, and also stars Emile Hirsch, Tadanobu Asano and Rory Cochrane.

This is not the first time there has been a backlash from white actors taking on the role of a character that could be played by an Asian actor.

Scarlett Johansson’s role in the remake of Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell in 2017 had a similar reponse, as did Matt Damon’s casting in 2016’s chinese fantasy film The Great Wall. have contacted reps for Jared Leto and Netflix for comment.

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