I can’t help but see all the ranting and raving about the newest photo release from the Ghost In The Shell movie and it’s driving me nuts because no one is thinking this through. I guess this is pretty standard fare for internet news these days, especially having to do with pop culture but still. Urgh. So here’s all you need to know about Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex…
It’s an anime set in a cyber-punk style future following Section 9, a counter-terrorist task force that tends to deal with political intrigue and cyber criminals. In this future, most humans have cybernetic enhancements, including implants in their brains, or even full blown cyborg bodies. This includes the main character of the show, Major Motoko Kusanagi.
Here’s why everyone is pissed off… Scarlett Johansson is playing Major Kusanagi and Scarlett happens to be white.
Now, I do understand why some people would be angry, especially Japanese fans, but I urge everyone to consider a few things including the Major’s story, her appearance, and how movie studios work.
Like I said before, The Major has a cyborg body… it’s not the body she was born with. So even if she was born distinctly Japanese, her body is whatever was given to her. It could have been produced in Sweden or Germany. It’s not outlandish to think a cyborg might look different than someone born of Japanese descent.
Let’s also think about how she looks in the show. She does not look Japanese at all. In fact, most anime don’t have very many characters with a traditional Japanese appearance. This is because the creators want their stories to translate to a worldwide audience, not just Japan. So decades ago it became customary to draw anime characters, even the ones that are supposed to be Japanese, to appear more Euro-American. Look at Spike Speigel, Vash the Stampede, Heero Yuy.
None of them appear Japanese, even Heero who is supposed to be a Japanese character.
My last point, is that if you were someone who wanted this movie to happen but are angry about Scarlett being cast, you need to understand how movie studios work. Something like this is going to be a big budget film full of extreme amounts of special effects. That means if a studio spends big, they need to make an even bigger return. As much as you may love Ghost in the Shell and think everyone MUST know what it is and how great it is… The reality is the opposite. Most audiences will not know that this was an anime or even exists until they start hearing buzz about the film. Basically the movie can’t sell itself. (This isn’t always the case… anything with Star Wars on it will always sell.) So the selling point will be in the actor/actress. They need a big name to carry this movie and get attention, and since there is no Japanese actress with a household known name, they will by default go for someone well known, which is where Scarlett comes in.
You may argue well what about Marvel? They use no-names all the time! False. Marvel movies always have a well known actor or actress in the fold if the main star is not a big name. Look at Thor. Chris Hemmsworth was unknown but they added Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård, and Anthony Hopkins. So the point is, no big name actor means the movie doesn’t get made.
Is that justification for white-washing? No, but with all the reasons considered it isn’t a stretch at all to cast someone like Scarlett. And honestly her persona fits perfectly although it means she will probably be typecast from now on. In fact how do you know that the studio didn’t screen several Japanese women? What if they didn’t embody the spirit of the character herself as well as Scarlett did? Only the casting director and studio would know, so if you want your questions answered, direct all your anger that way.
In the case of movies like Gods of Egypt or Exodus: Gods & Kings it is complete white-wash bullshit. Those are movies with very specifically Egyptian characters played by a white cast. These are those cases where the studios got greedy and said we don’t have any big egyptian actors, but screw it, let’s make some big budget money! (And they failed.) This is what’s nice about indie films; they can stay truer to the story using unknown actors because they run on such a low budget, PLUS most are made for the sake of art and not profit.
So all in all ask yourself, is she really that bad of a choice? If you still are angry about it, then at least direct it at the right people. Scarlett didn’t cast or hire herself. That’d be like you walking into Trump Tower and saying “okay this is mine now, thanks”. Be angry at the casting director, the director, the producers, the studio… because they made the decisions. So be nice to Scarlett, because she also plays Black Widow and could probably kill you.
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