A few days ago, Paramount Pictures released the first look at their live-action adaptation of the popular Japanese manga and anime Ghost in the Shell in the form of a picture of Scarlett Johansson as the main character, Major Kusanagi. On top of that, the studio reportedly carried out VFX tests to make her look more Asian, although they eventually decided against the procedure.
The image sparked online outrage, as fans took to social media to denounce whitewashing — the process in which a story featuring non-white characters is adapted to Hollywood as a mainstream, big budget movie with an all-white cast.
'Ghost In The Shell' Is 'Inherently A Japanese Story'
Set in a futuristic Japan in the mid-21st century, Ghost in the Shell follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, cyborg and leader of the counter-cyberterrorist organization Public Security Section 9. First published as a manga in 1989, it's been adapted into several animated films and TV series, in addition to video games.
As Twitter user and comic book writer Jon Tsuei pointed out, the issue with Johansson's casting was that it was moving away from the inherently Japanese nature of the story.
He went on to explain that to him, "the story is simply not Western" and "a pillar in Asian media," which is why the live-action adaptation is such a big deal to many fans.
The casting choice was also deplored by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Ming Na-Wen, who tweeted a disappointed reaction to the announcement.
How About Japanese Actresses?
Other complaints about Paramount's casting choice revolve around the fact that it wasn't like there weren't any talented and popular Asian actresses who could have played the part. A fan favorite seems to be Rinko Kikuchi, a Japanese actress who is well known for her roles in blockbuster movies such as Pacific Rim.
Some have even photoshopped Kikuchi in place of Johansson, pointing out that the results look much more in line with the original material.
More satirical takes on the debate include Freddie Wong's video (below), which, despite its mocking tone, ends up pointing out the main reason for Johansson's casting: the box office numbers generated by name recognition.
'If You're Mad About 'Ghost In The Shell' You Don't Know How The Movie Industry Works'
Meanwhile, screenwriter Max Landis (American Ultra) shared two YouTube videos in which he didn't defend Johansson's casting, but asserted that the outrage was directed at the wrong people.
For him, the root of the problem is that "there are fewer and fewer stars who mean anything," but studios will still unlock a movie budget based on an actor's fame. Considering there are "no A-list female Asian celebrities," Landis says, the Ghost in the Shell movie wouldn't even have been made without a white star.
All in all, we'll have to wait and see if the Ghost in the Shell movie can bring in the expected numbers despite the controversy, or if critics will effectively boycott it in order to prove that A-list stars won't always make a movie profitable.
Would you watch 'Ghost in the Shell' with Scarlett Johansson, or would you rather see a Japanese actress play Major Kusanagi?
via The Wrap