Jared Leto and Netflix face whitewashing accusations over Yakuza thriller ‘The Outsider’

Critics have labelled it "figurative" whitewashing

Jared Leto’s new Netflix film The Outsider has faced a backlash and accusations of whitewashing.

The movie stars Leto as Nick Lowell, an American soldier imprisoned in Japan following the end of World War II. His Yakuza cellmate helps to free him, but Lowell must then fight to join the crime group in order to pay him back.

It will be available on Netflix from March 9, and also stars Emile Hirsch, Raymond Nicholson, Tadanobu Asano and more. Tom Hardy was originally connected to the role of Lowell, before Leto signed on to the project.


Following the release of the movie’s trailer this week, many have spoken out to criticise the film for its focus on a white role in a story set in Asia.

Jared Leto
Jared Leto

“There is literal #Whitewashing (Dr Strange, Ghost in the Shell) and figurative #Whitewashing when shows set in Asia center around a white actor,” author Nancy Wang Yuen tweeted.

Another Twitter user added: “It’s different because the film’s creators created a white role for a white actor that appropriates another culture rather than, say, cast a white actor for an asian character? The transgression is all the same.”

One person asked: “Seriously, how hard is it to hire an Asian-American actor for this type of shit? Still gets the outsider point across.”


Neither Leto nor Netflix have responded to the backlash.

Watch the film’s trailer below. “In life, sometimes we fight the current, and other times it’s important to flow the river,” Leto says in it, which shows him being held at gunpoint by the Yakuza.

Meanwhile, Leto is set to tour the UK next month with his band 30 Seconds To Mars. The rock trio will play a series of dates in March, kicking off in Cardiff on March 23.

30 Seconds To Mars will play:

Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena (March 23)
Manchester, Arena (24)
Glasgow, SSE Hydro (25)

London, O2 Arena (27)
Birmingham, Arena (29)

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