The first picture of Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming American remake of “Ghost In The Shell” has sparked a backlash from fans who complain its another example of Hollywood whitewashing.
For those not into anime, “Ghost In The Shell” is widely regarded as one of the all-time greats of the genre. Starting out as a worldwide-bestselling manga by Masamune Shirow, the franchise has expanded into several critically-acclaimed animated adaptations, including a 1995 film.
The lead character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is a cyborg working for the counter-terrorist organization Section 9. Her unit is tasked to bring down the Puppet Master, a sentient virus program that has the ability to “ghost hack” into cyborgs and take over their bodies, hence the title of the film.
Now anime fans have taken to social media today decrying the decision to have Johansson play Kusanagi.
Scarlett Johansson staring in “Ghost in the Shell”?! This isn’t MARVEL. Stop with white washing already.
— Aaron Toponce (@AaronToponce) April 14, 2016
Heres the thing about the ScarJo casting in Ghost in the Shell, it’s all about upholding this idea of white being palatable for the majority
— Aiah Samba (@Dualityman81) April 14, 2016
Seriously, Ghost in the Shell is an Japanese story about Japanese characters. Making the characters white invalidates the point of making it
— Graham Johnson (@jyrenb) April 14, 2016
This Ghost In The Shell stuff is not going to go over well now that we know, with certainty, that it’s white-washed.
— Siddhant Adlakha (@SidizenKane) April 14, 2016
@FanBrosShow oh hey I didn’t know Ghost in the Shell was about the white woman savior. (Nope)
— Alberto Lima (@AL_Write) April 14, 2016
Cultural adaptations aren’t uncommon in film. There are countless examples of films that take stories from other countries and place them in new settings with different characters while leaving the spirit of the narrative intact. “The Magnificent Seven,” for example, is a cultural adaptation of “Seven Samurai.” Samurai become cowboys, Japan becomes Mexico, katanas become pistols.
Cultural adaptations work the other way too. The Chinese film “A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop” is a remake of the Coen Bros.’ “Blood Simple.” Bollywood has built a lucrative industry around making Indian remakes of famous American films.
But fans complain that the “Ghost In The Shell” remake isn’t a clear cultural adaptation. The setting is still the same, and the main character still has a Japanese name.
This isn’t the only American anime adaptation that’s been getting heat recently. Netflix is currently working on a live-action version of the manga “Death Note,” with Adam Wingard playing the Japanese lead character Light Yagami in a story that is based around shinigami, spirits of death in Japanese culture.
Other “Ghost in the Shell” castings will draw less criticism. The chief of Section 9 is being played by Takeshi Kitano, one of the all-time greats in Japanese cinema. Other roles are being played by Japanese actors like Kaori Momoi (“Memoirs of a Geisha”) and Yutaka Izumihara (“Unbroken”). Still, it’s now up to Dreamworks to make sure that this backlash doesn’t sink the film before its release, as we are seeing happen with Zoe Saldana and “Nina.”
“Ghost In The Shell” will be released on March 31, 2017.