Regarding the Ghost in the Shell casting controversy [Part 1]

I don’t understand where people get the idea that Motoko Kusanagi looks like or is “typically Japanese”, I wonder if the people being outraged at the moment regarding the casting choices of the upcoming live action movie even read the Manga which the movies and series are loosely based on. Here is a pretty typical cover from the manga just to illustrate my point. And if you are in any way familiar with the art of Masmune Shirow, his ideal of feminine beauty incorporates “typically” European, Japanese, Chinese, and Latina features. This is true for most of his character including: Deunan in Appleseed and Leana in Dominion as well as Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell.

13006658_10154086743822192_9092875593672423563_nGiven that all we know about Motoko Kusanagi’s origins in the Manga and the Anime was that she was orphaned in a plane crash before the age of six and received a full-body cybernetic replacement, she could be anyone, of any original race or nationality or even an AI. Her self-identity issues are a major theme in the Manga and Anime. She herself doesn’t even remember her original name. Scarlett Johansson looks a great deal like the character, both in her body type and her facial features. I think she is a good choice for the role. Considering the very nature of the mythos of the Ghost in the Shell franchise where the “Ghost” can be transplanted into any cybernetic body.

I won’t be surprised if this was addressed and explained to some kind of satisfactory conclusion. When you are dealing with a franchise like Ghost in the Shell where gender and race and even spirituality are considered more fluid, because of the advancements in cyborg technology. Then some allowances must be considered in casting but only to a point and not at cost of story. Scarlett Johansson is a fine actress and a socially conscious person and no doubt if issues like this were raised in her mind, I suspect she might have had second thoughts about accepting the role. If the scriptwriters know the source material enough I am sure the fans will forgive the casting choice.

12985396_1113788191992836_677596830049373943_nThese days it seems we constantly speak about casting choices based on their ethnicity and not talent. Scarlett Johansson has proven she can carry a leading role of this significance all on her own. I would rather they gamble on a renowned actress, which I will be confident will knock it out of the park versus a potential unknown. That the problem today people overly-judge studios for not being multicultural perhaps that true in some cases but there first priority is get the big name actors signed up, because that is what fills up the movies theaters and gets the money rolling in. Hollywood is a business, they make casting choices based on the amount of money they will make off a certain movie.

That is why so many A list stars are extremely attractive white people, that is what sells, and unfortunately that is the truth and some people cannot seem to accept that. Do the people who complain and scream on social media expect Hollywood to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for a movie with actors that no one has ever heard of just because the original story “might” have Japanese people in it? They are adapting Ghost in the Shell for an worldwide audience in case you haven’t noticed. And this adaptation will be no different than the remakes of Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, Infernal Affairs, The Departed, Oldboy etc. But you did not hear these people complain about those movies casting choices.

795982-promo2-scarlett-johansson-to-star-in-ghost-in-the-shell-critics-call-it-whitewashing-jpeg-215128Majority of the people complaining are the narrow minded fan-boys and Social Justice Warriors.  It makes me a little crazy when people assume that because it is a Japanese Anime/Manga, all the characters must be Japanese. I would argue that Motoko Kusanagi is somewhat race-less, and that she could therefore be played by any actress with something of a physical resemblance. Give her a purple wig, and I am pretty sure that the physical resemblance will be actually quite striking. Scarlett Johansson is one of the biggest female stars of the moment, and adding her name to a movie guarantees a certain draw. Bigger names mean bigger audiences, which means bigger box office figures simple as that.

It is not Hollywood’s fault that Asian actors and actresses don’t draw money in, it’s the consumers. Ghost in the Shell is going to be a big budget production, and that justifies the casting of a major star known to a global audiences. The goal in adapting existing properties is to expand the audience, beyond the niche market that Ghost in the Shell currently occupies. And just for the record I am a massive Ghost in the Shell fan, and I seriously don’t mind the role being played by Scarlett Johansson as long as she delivers the performance. We know she can act, she can do action, and Hollywood knows she has the star power to fill the movie theater seats.


And I for one am sick and tired of this Social Justice Warrior double standard racial crap, which gets thrown around these days. I have no racial selectivity based-bias. I could care less if they have Scarlett Johansson, Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, or Shailene Woodley to play the role of the Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. Talent trumps ethnicity any day in my books when it comes to movies. While I do have some issues regarding the casting choices so far, I am much more concerned that Hollywood will come up with a half arsed plot which will be disservices to the series and its philosophical views on race and spirituality.

About larch

I am a cucumber in a fruit bowl.
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8 Responses to Regarding the Ghost in the Shell casting controversy [Part 1]

  1. Kiyoko Mori says:

    There are some major holes in your theory. Yes, she does sorta look more Caucasian at times if you compare her image against one, but that’s only because that is a fairly standard anime aesthetic. What you need to look at is the world within the anime itself. She is very typical of a female Japanese character in GOTS. Caucasian females in the show/movie have different features and skin tones, etc.

    Yes, she is a cyborg and so her appearance can be a variation but it has always been a constant that she is from Japan. Your example of Deunan (Who is south African) is way off point. Her features and and hair color are in line with her ethnicity and actually were Scarlett playing Deunan Knute in a movie I would be all for it. Shes not. Shes playing an ethnically Japanese character.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t completely have a solution because of the complete lack of Japanese actresses in Hollywood. Which is also in part due to white washing as they are seldom given the chance at a spotlight unless its a Japanese themed movie… which even then the role often goes to another Asian type. But it denigrates the issue and supports white washing when articles like this try to make it okay based on a number of flimsy excuses.

    As a Japanese American, and a fan of GoTS I am not overly okay with the casting choice, and it will .. no matter how much I love Scarlett Johansson in other things… kind of bring the movie down alot for me. In truth though Ghost in the Shell is possibly one of my top three movies of all time (The original anime) the truth is I will likely wait for the American adaption to go to blueray before I even bother seeing it. Its going to be another Dragonball movie. And that’s a damn shame.

    • Kiyoko Mori says:

      GoTs? GiTs. Sorry, was watching Game of Thrones when I wrote that and brain slipped. >.<

    • larch says:

      Just a few things to point out, she is 100% cybernetic including her body. She herself admits she does not know who or what she was before her body was cyberdized. So at this point her nationality, age, race and place of origin do no really matter. In the Manga she has had the body of a young girl, grown man and even an old lady, no where in the Manga does it state her nationality only that she works for a Japanese government branch. Major Mutako Kusanagi is an existential hero in a post-modern world. Let me explain. The world itself, the technology, questions the primacy of the individual and individual experience through incidents like hacking into another human’s brain and shared sensory inputs. Taking the individual experience and distilling it to information which can be shared questions a basic tenant of existentialism: that one’s self exists before being distilled to an essence. So for all we know she does not really exist outside of her body and that she is basically just a collection of someone else’s memories and experiences. So yet again her age,sex, nationality would not really matter at this point. I honestly don’t understand why people think that Hollywood owes anything to foreign cinemas and actors. Japan can make Ghost in the Shell movies with Japanese actors but expecting Hollywood to do that is ridiculous, IMO. Japanese cinema certainly won’t cast Scarlett or another American. Nor will Bollywood, French cinema, etc. I just don’t get the reasoning behind this retardation.

  2. Pingback: And now I will rant for 4 minutes about “White Washing” | Suitably Bored

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  5. You have some fair points, but we can all assume she was Asian… even before seeing her. That is like me questioning whether He-man was “really” white or not. Sure she doesn’t look “very Asian” in those photos, but the thing people tend to forget is that even Asians think “Asian features” aren’t attractive and we alter them in photos, pictures, and paintings… which is sad. That is why they look for big eyes on even the Asian actors.

    I agree they can use anyone they want. They are spending the bucks. But I think if you were Asian you’d get why people are upset. Asians in general get so few “heros” in ANY movie, regardless of genre, and so when one of our actual “famous” movies like GTS gets “taken” from us… it angers us. As it would you. :)

  6. Cirsova says:

    Like I said, they’ll lose their shit even harder when they find out that by the end of the story she’s a white man!

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