The first image of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, a live-action Hollywood reworking of an iconic Japanese animated movie, appeared yesterday (April 14), and it’s got a lot of people in a lather.
And not just the usual lather people get into over pictures of Scarlett, either.
She plays Major, a special ops, uniquely fashioned human-cyborg policewoman who leads the elite task force Section 9:
So far, so badass. Scarlett looks brooding and fierce with that angled bob haircut set against a futuristic backdrop. The trouble is, the picture has also reignited the “whitewashing” row that has been rumbling ever since her casting was announced.
The movie, directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White And The Huntsman), is based on the famous Kodansha Comics manga series of the same name, written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. In it, the full name of Scarlett’s character was Major Motoko Kusanagi, and in the anime movie version that came out in 1995, she looked like this:
The new photo prompted actor Ming-Na Wen, who portrays Melinda May in superhero TV show Agents of SHIELD and was the voice of Disney’s Mulan, to tweet the following:
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
In a series of tweets posted yesterday, California-based comic book writer John Tsuei explained that the original movie is “a pillar in Asian media”:
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
Other people suggested other east Asian actors who could have played the role, such as Chiaki Kuriyama, the Japanese actress and model who starred in Kill Bill: Volume 1 or Rinko Kikuchi, who starred in Pacific Rim and was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in 2006’s Babel:
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
— ♛RunDevinRun♛ (@runDEVINrun) April 14, 2016
While others noted ScarJo’s similarity to the original character, bar one key detail:
Good to see ScarJo embracing her Japanese heritage as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell. pic.twitter.com/iAmTFJK8E4
— The Wicker Mannion (@andymannion77) April 14, 2016
This Hollywood version does at least have Mitsuhisa Ishikawa on board, whose animation studio Production I.G. was behind the original movie. Hopefully his presence will ensure some level of faithfulness to the manga world.
Ghost in the Shell opens in theaters on March 31, 2017.Read More