Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Pictures’ live-action Ghost in the Shell film has not been without its detractors since production started with its lead, Scarlett Johansson, filling the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi. Many lamented the decision as just another in a long line of Hollywood whitewashing, where a non-White character is recast with a White actor or actress.
Essays on the topic, citing both Ghost in the Shell and Tilda Swinton’s role as The Ancient One in Marvel’s Dr. Strange have discussed the practice at length and the current state of Asian actors in show business. Anime News Network‘s own reader poll showed about half (52.0%) would consider the film based on its own merits to make a viewing a choice, while 18.9% avowed not to see the film based on the casting, and 18.8% stating they would see the film to support Hollywood adaptations of anime and manga.
An article by ScreenCrush citing anonymous sources close to the production claims that CGI was commissioned that would have altered Johansson in post-production to “shift her ethnicity” and appear more Asian. Paramount Pictures denied the claim that it was meant for Johansson and stated that the test was only applied to a background character and ultimately not used.
The mixed reactions have not gone unnoticed by Japanese partners for the film and Japanese netizens.
Sam Yoshiba, the director of the international business division at Kodansha‘s Tokyo headquarters, commented on the controversy with support for Johansson.
“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast,” he said. “She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.” He added that the adaptation is offering an opportunity for a Japanese property to be seen worldwide. Yoshiba recently returned from the set of the film in New Zealand and said he was impressed by the respect the production was showing for the source material.
Japanese manga fans have commented that if viewers wanted a Japanese cast, the film should be made in Japan. Another Japanese fan mentioned how casting a non-Japanese, Asian actress in the role would be more offensive to Japanese viewers but would still probably placate most American audiences. Twitter users also pointed out how the reverse took place when adapting Hajime Isayama‘s Attack on Titan, and that the themes of Ghost in the Shell were more important than the actress.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
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