There was a lot of hubbub last week around the first look we got at Scarlett Johannson as Major Motoko Kusunagi in the upcoming feature film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. As Kervyn pointed out, while she looks quite good in the part, Johannson is about as Japanese as he is a French poodle. And by no means was this the first WFT reaction we’ve had around Johannson’s casting, but the release of this picture has really brought it home. Hollywood really doesn’t want to cast Asians in anything, do they?
Look, I’m all for respecting that an actor can take on a role and make it their own regardless of how they look, but there are some things that are just so fundamental to some roles that it can’t be ignored. I think that Jon Tsuei explained it better than I ever could in this series of tweets, which basically boils down to how Ghost in the Shell is an inherently Japanese story, and “Westernising” the casting for any reason undermines one of the core themes of the story. For me personally, I love Ghost in the Shell, it’s what got me in to anime and manga when I was a pre-teen so it holds a special place in my heart. To see it essentially undermined like this is saddening, and makes me not want to support a movie I should theoretically love.
Then there’s also the furore surrounding the first look we got at Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange – a character from the comics which is Asian, and male, and Swinton is decidedly neither of those things. As Angie Han over at /Film pointed out, this has come at a time where Marvel’s erasure of Asians is more apparent than ever, and it’s frustrating to say the least.
Both Ghost in The Shell and Doctor Strange could have, and really should have, been excellent opportunities for proper representation, but instead they’re just more high-profile examples of a Hollywood problem that’s just not getting better.
So what do you think about the latest examples of Hollywood’s whitewashing problem? Are you outraged, saddened, or don’t you think there’s a problem at all?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: April 20, 2016