‘Ghost in the Shell’ casting ignites ethnic tensions

Cassandra Martinez, Staff Writer

Hollywood tends to cast actors of the wrong ethnicity when making films with a person-of-color lead.

Specifically, they cast white actors.

In the case of ‘Ghost in the Shell’, Hollywood has gone so far as to use CGI to make the lead actress, Scarlett Johansson, appear more Asian.

Johansson may fit the archetype when it comes to tough and bionic women, such as Lucy from Lucy and Black Widow from Marvel. But Kusanagi from ‘Ghost in the Shell’ is Japanese.

‘Ghost in the Shell’ was originally published as a seinen-genre manga before it became a big hit in Japan.

This manga is important to Japan’s heritage, as it is fictionally representative of their industrialization after the war. It is Japan’s own style of comics, telling Japan’s own story.

White-washing is a cultural phenomenon in which roles that could easily be given to a person of color are given to a white one, or in its extreme, when roles that are written for someone not-white are given to white actors.

The announcement of Johansson as the lead for this upcoming 2017 live-action adaptation sparked a lot of negativity on social media websites.

On Esquire Magazine’s website, staff writer Evelyn Wang stated that the studio allegedly ran CGI tests to make Johansson more Asian, although they scrapped the idea soon after.

Apparently, Johansson didn’t know why tests were being done.

Has Hollywood not learned its lesson in white-washing films?

After failures such as ‘Pan and Aloha’ one would think they would see the trend. Many wonder if this controversy could have been avoided if the movie had changed the characters to make it more Westernized, but the answer is it wouldn’t make a difference.

‘Ghost in the Shell’ has a huge cult following, and Hollywood probably cast Johansson in an effort to appeal to the masses, and to draw in new viewers.

With her popularity in The Avengers films, there’s no doubt she was considered a great choice. But in the end, the decision devalues the cultural significance of the film.

What is the more important choice for the industry? Obviously, the idea of losing money is worse to them than possibly making progress by, horror of all horrors, casting an unknown (well, to Americans, at least) actor.

It’s not wrong to want to share something great from another culture with the world, but changing what makes it inherently theirs is unforgivable, and our generation knows it.