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Why has this photo of Scarlett Johansson in her new movie role sparked such controversy?

Johansson is playing the lead in Ghost in the Shell, a remake of the acclaimed Japanese anime movie

Published: Friday, 15th April 2016 at 4:11 pm

The first image of Scarlett Johansson in her upcoming new film has been released – and some people are not too impressed...


Johansson plays the lead in Hollywood's take on Ghost in the Shell, the Japanese franchise which includes Manga comics, a TV series and the acclaimed 1995 anime movie.

In the original, the character is a cyborg security agent called Major Motoko Kusanagi and while it's unclear whether Johansson will retain the name – she's currently being referred to simply as 'Major' – her casting is seen by many as an unnecessary and inappropriate decision.

Macau-American actress Ming-Na Wen, star of Marvel's Agents of Shield, said the move was another case of 'whitewashing'.

Comic book writer Jon Tsuei, meanwhile, pointed out that Ghost in the Shell is "inherently a Japanese story", adding that "You can 'Westernize' the story if you want, but at that point it is no longer Ghost In The Shell because the story is simply not Western".

Other fans of the original noted that there were plenty of Japanese and Asian actors the filmmakers could have turned to for the role.


This is far from the first time Hollywood has been critcised for casting white actors in Asian roles. In 2010, M Night Shyamalan was taken to task for giving apparently Asian roles to caucasian stars in The Last Airbender, while those of a certain age may wince when they remember John Wayne made up as Mongol leader Genghis Khan and, particularly, Mickey Rooney as an indefensible Japanese caricature in Breakfast at Tiffany's.


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