PopLurker Trailer Reactions: The Outsider

By Yennaedo Balloo


Yes, there’s the trailer. This week, I’m going to request you view an extra video: a segment from the Chappelle Show where Paul Mooney reviewed The Last Samurai:



Okay, ready?

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What do you know about the Yakuza? They’re a Japanese “mafia”? Because they’ve been around for centuries. While their activities are “criminal” they’re the cultural equivalent of a libertarian organization in the kind of extreme that would make Ron Swanson need to wear a diaper.


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The question I have to “Hollywood” (especially after Black Panther) is why do you need to tell the story of an organization with so much history by way of a white person “infiltrating” them?


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Mooney’s bit above is an extreme example, but seriously, a story can be interesting without a white person assuming the mantle of “way in”.


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The Yakuza have their established traditions, a long existing hierarchy and creed that is based on their culture. Is it interesting that a white man could infiltrate that? Maybe, but you’re telling the story at the expense of making that centuries long tradition a “villain” to be subverted and defeated.


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The implication with these stories is always the same: “other” cultures are great, but they’re only so great until a white person comes and learns from them and leverages them to greater effect/result. See above: The Last Samurai.

When we hear in the trailer, “I don’t give a shit about their traditions,” who do we see?


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Jared LETO is going to come to the rescue of enforcing and stabilizing this Japanese crime organization’s standing. I’m going to leave all my feelings about Jared Leto, 30 Seconds to Mars, and the Suicide Squad Joker aside, and say this: why should we care about a story of a white man defending a centuries old cultural organization? Legends of the Fall be damned.


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The problem is the lack of real plot to it. We get that Leto is joining the Yakuza, and apparently someone doesn’t like it, who tells Leto they “don’t give a shit”.

We see in the trailer that this person is immediately beaten down with a radio. That feels like an episode. Where’s the actual plot? Apparently, Leto is the great white hope who joins this crime family, and does a good job of turning on his former “family” by beating them up with home stereo equipment, but… is that a story we care about? Is that even a story at all?

Netflix definitely saw me coming, because the trailer ends with this cast list:


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So many names (five) that aren’t Jared Leto! (And not one of them is Ken Watanabe). Never mind Leto’s focus in the trailer, this is definitely a sympathetic story of the Japanese/Yakuza experience and history told by way of Jared Leto’s character.

My main beef is this: There have been millions of members of the Yakuza at this point in history (Wikipedia informs me that there are more than 100,000 active members today). Do we really need a white person as an “entry point” to an interesting story about the Yakuza? Either it’s another story about attempted cultural infiltration/appropriation, or it’s a story about the Yakuza themselves, in which case: why waste the money on Jared Leto?


I Understand

Netflix, you’re the second most #woke producer out there (Props to Disney for Black Panther, mad respect), so step up the game and release another trailer to show us what this is really about, or this is a failure to launch based on what I’m seeing here lacking both plot and any kind of substance.


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Yennaedo is a Jr. Editor and weekly columnist for PopLurker. He’s also a novelist with a pop-culture website called Optional Irony. You can also find him reacting on Twitter.

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