Veteran Japanese actress Kaori Momoi (Memoirs of a Geisha) is set to appear in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell live-action adaption as The Major’s – read: Scarlett Johannson’s – mother. I think it goes without saying that the latter isn’t Japanese – and now everyone is really confused.
This came to light in a recent article from Associated Press (and via Slashfilm) about how Asian actors (not Asian-American actors) view the Hollywood white-washing phenomenon that’s been getting a lot of attention lately – and Ghost in the Shell in particular with its casting of Johannson as Major Motoko Kusanagi.
This is also after producer Steven Paul told Buzzfeed, when addressing the controversy of Johannson’s casting, that in their adaption Major Motoko Kusanagi would simply be known as The Major because:
I don’t think it was just a Japanese story. Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world. That’s why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it.
There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in Ghost in the Shell. We’re utilizing people from all over the world. … There’s Japanese in it. There’s Chinese in it. There’s English in it. There’s Americans in it.
And looking at the people cast, which you can see further below, the movie does indeed have a very diverse mix of races and nationalities.
Right now I’m reminded a lot about the furore surrounding Michael B. Jordan’s casting as Johnny Storm in the recent Fantastic Four movie that to this day still gives Kervyn nightmares and has him waking up shouting, “DOOM WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS!”. Jordan’s Human Torch was one of the few highlights of the movie and everyone simmered down once it came to light that Sue Storm, played by Kate Mara, was his adopted sister.
Granted, this isn’t the same situation – but it is a reminder that we shouldn’t rush to judgement without seeing anything. We haven’t seen the movie and I’m sure there will be reasons why the very non-Japanese Johannson will have a Japanese mother – I’m just hoping they’re really good reasons and not cop-outs. It would really throw the cat among the pigeons if the main reason for a Japanese-born Kusanagi to inhabit a Caucasian shell would be to play on peoples’ biases in the movie.
What do you think?
Ghost in the Shell will be released in the US on 31 March 2017. Directed by Rupert Sanders, it stars Scarlett Johannson, Michael Pitt, Kaori Momoi, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Michael Wincott, Rila Fukushima, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano, Joseph Naufahu and Chris Obi.
Last Updated: July 12, 2016