ByJerome Maida, writer at
Jerome Maida

This is all Kevin Feige's fault.

Just kidding.

A little.

But seriously, if Feige and Marvel Studios had seen fit to give fans one of the films they're absolutely clamoring for - a "Black Widow" solo film starring Scarlett Johansson - then chances are that film would be hitting in either late 2016 or in 2017.

Which means Johansson would likely have not had the time or likely the inclination to be offered, let alone accept, "Ghost In The Shell".

Which means fans would be wishing her well and tingling with anticipation that would - and by all rights should - have beaten both the upcoming "Wonder Woman" and "Captain Marvel" films to the big screen.

She would be having tingly fans calling her a groundbreaking pioneer.

Instead, from the moment Johansson was cast in early January, there have been disgruntled fans of the source material accusing Hollywood of "whitewashing" an Asian character yet again.

Which means DreamWorks may have just shot itself in the foot again.

Because instead of the reaction they expected, which was likely along the lines of the way iO9 announced the news - "Anime fans, rejoice" - there is now a petition going around asking DreamWorks to drop Johansson from the film.

DreamWorks is likely puzzled. Johansson, after all, is arguably the second-biggest box-office female box-office draw for action films today and one of the most famous actresses in the world.

So far, 29,000 fans have signed a petition stating they don't care and want Johansson off the project.

Johansson doesn't deserve this, of course. She simply took a role she thought looked interesting.

The anime film on which the live-action film will be based is centered around cyborg character Motoko Kusanagi - a name which will almost certainly be "Americanized".

DreamWorks will likely say - and even partially believe - that Johansson's star power is necessary to sell the film to domestic and international audiences.

They may even say this is an "American adaptation", that Asians only make up about 4.4% of the American population and that the way the characters in the original anime are drawn, they can easily be interpreted as white.

All of which is crap, bull, utter nonsense.

For one thing, DreamWorks was originally pursuing Margot Robbie - someone with far less star power than Johansson - for the role.

Second, it's anime..If you want to stay true to the source material, you cast an Asian woman as the lead at least, even if you want to "Americanize" the rest of the cast.

But most of all, especially in this day of bigger budgets, if DreamWorks succeeds in making an incredible movie and marketing it competently, they can MAKE someone a star.

I mean, if the Wachowskis had cast, say, Kelly Hu as Trinity instead of Carrie-Ann Moss, do you really think it would have been considered less groundbreaking and appealing to audiences? of course not.

The fact is, the lack of Asians in leading roles in major Hollywood productions is both glaring and embarrassing.

Think about it. You can name a number of African-American actors and actresses that Hollywood has confidence can carry - or at least help carry - a film.

Will Smith. Morgan Freeman. Denzel Washington. Kevin Hart. Tyler Perry. Halle Berry.

Now quick, name on Asian lead in Hollywood - especially now that Jet Li and Jackie Chan are basically retired.

It's a Catch-22. The studios don't want to bank on "unknown" Asian actors. Which, of course, keeps them unknown.

Yet they are happy to take chances on actors like Brandon Routh as Superman, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord and so many others.

In fact, Pratt is a perfect example of Marvel Studios having the confidence to "make" stars out of Pratt, Chris Hemsworth and others who were not truly stars before being given the opportunity.

This is one of the many reasons I thoroughly enjoyed "The Wolverine". Having a cast of unknown Japanese actors and actresses like Tao Okamoto - as Mariko Yashida - made the story feel authentic and fresh.

So while I do feel Johansson does not deserve any crap, she has plenty of other options and offers if she is ousted from "Ghost In The Shell" before it's scheduled April 14, 2017 release.

DreamWorks should have enough faith in the project - and in themselves - to cast an Asian lead.

Of course, many of those making the most noise about this are the same people who feel having Michael B. Jordan cast as The Human Torch in this year's "Fantastic Four" film is "no big deal", "shows a change in our society", "is a sign of progress" and so on.

Sorry, but you can't have it both ways without being hypocritical. You really can't Either race changing is okay or it's not.

Of course, the controversy over Jordan's casting as Johnny Storm has been far hotter and widespread than that of Johansson as the lead in "Ghost in the Shell".

But there's a simple reason for that. "The Fantastic Four" is a property that is much more well known to the American general public - and for over half a century.

Then, when it comes to geeks, there is really no comparison either.

Ask 100 people at a Comic-Con if they've heard of the Fantastic Four and an overwhelming majority is going to say yes.

Ask 100 people at a Comic-Con if they've heard of "Ghost In A Shell" and there's a possibility none of them will.

What, really, is gained by changing the race of a traditionally white character like Johnny Storm? Especially one who is part of a family?

Those who say "his race doesn't matter" are either being silly or proving the foolishness of the change.

If you make his race too much of a factor, you change the character. If you don't make it a factor at all, what's the point?

This type of race-changing does no one any favors. Those who want to see the Johnny Storm they've read about in comics and watched on cartoons won't. Meanwhile, Michael B. Jordan will be in the shadow of that character that millions of fans already have in their minds.

Remember, comic book fans notice if the X-Men change from yellow spandex to black leather or if the movie Spidey shoots organic webs.

Most importantly, such "progressive" race-changing sends the message that are no traditionally black characters cool enough to bring to the screen.

Which is both condescending and a lie.

Night Thrasher, for example, is a character that at one time had a solo title that sold over 100,000 monthly during the go-go '90s. He was decidedly urban, yet used his money in ways you wish Bruce Wayne would.

An orphan, he was both mentored by an older black father figure AND a mentor to a young black super hero called Rage, who was like Robin if Robin was as strong as the Hulk.

He also was the founder and leader of The New Warriors.

With his background, upbringing, relentless crusade against crime, money, leadership and fighting skills, Night Thrasher, a.k.a. Dwayne Taylor, was a cross between Batman, The Punisher and Iron Man.

Now, tell me Jordan starring in THAT film wouldn't be cool and add some flavor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the Marvel Studios brand behind it, it would be a brand-new blockbuster.

Also, Marvel could use it's TV shows to help characters gain new fans and then have them "graduate" to the big screen.

A perfect example of this would be Deathlok.

A character that has evolved a bit on the small screen since the beginning of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", Deathlok has gotten a higher profile in the past couple of years - and Marvel has just relaunched another solo comic book series

Plus, the character has decades of stories to adapt:

Now, wouldn't THAT be cool? It would also create more interest in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." if the general public knew some characters would eventually make it to the big screen.

A lot cooler than Jamie Foxx's Electro, right?

In another example of race-switching reaching new, absurd heights, it has been rumored that The Ancient One, Dr. Strange's mentor will be cast by...Morgan Freeman!

So, there's a possibility that - after The Mandarin fiasco in "Iron Man 3", that the first significant Asian character - besides Ming-Na wen's Melinda May, on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", and she is a new character created for TV - in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be "blacked out".

So they can upset a whole new group of people by not sticking to the source material!

If people would stop assuming that films based on traditionally black or Hispanic or Asian or Arabic heroes as leads would not have enough of a fan base to succeed, we would have a truly diverse slate of films -to choose from.

It is a kind of soft bigotry that assumes that only traditionally white characters can be successful.

Let's have MORE films, with a whole array of characters as leads. Let's take that wonderful leap of faith.

The rewards will be quite awesome if we do.


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