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’.
Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role.😒 https://t.co/VS6r6iish9— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 14, 2016
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”.
And as a country that was unable to defend themselves, but was a world leader in tech, it created a relationship to tech that is unique.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
Ghost In The Shell plays off all of these themes. It is inherently a Japanese story, not a universal one.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
This casting is not only the erasure of Asian faces but a removal of the story from its core themes.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
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.— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
Respect the work for what it is and don't bastardize it into what you want it to be. pic.twitter.com/ob6ZXOS2Qi— Jon Tsuei (@jontsuei) April 15, 2016
Other fans of the original noted that there were plenty of Japanese and Asian actors the filmmakers could have turned to for the role.
Were all these women busy?? Were they contacted, Paramount? They've all acted in a superhero and/or SFF property. pic.twitter.com/YeHLbvIRJs
— Clara Mae (@ubeempress) April 14, 2016
gosh where could we possibly find a Japanese actress who kicks ass…????? NAH just cast ScarJo we can't find any pic.twitter.com/slP4pHrclo— Social DEV-stancing | 흑인의목숨은소중하다 (@runDEVINrun) April 14, 2016
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.