Scarlett Johansson’s upcoming science-fiction film based on a well-known Japanese anime has drawn criticism for cultural appropriation, with many believing that a Japanese actress should have been featured in the role that is being played by Scarlett Johansson.
— Ross Arrowsmith (@arrowsmith) February 9, 2017
Titled as Ghost in the Shell, Scarlett Johansson’s new movie tells the story of a cyborg commander on a mission to stop a cyber threat that attempts to sabotage the government’s artificial intelligence system. The 1995 Japanese animated film was a huge hit among audiences, and it is expected that the live-action version will be just as popular as the 1995 movie.
Scarlett Johansson will be playing the role of Motoko Kusanagi, a Japanese cyber-commander, in the film that will be directed by Rupert Sanders. The film is set in a future era in which humans’ brains and thought processes are mapped into cyberspace, while they exist in the physical world using prosthetic body parts.
It appears that the creators of Ghost in the Shell wanted to convey that the future will belong to the machines that will have the intelligence to think and control the prosthetic bodies in the real world. The futuristic scenario is reminiscent of sci-fi movies like The Matrix, Robocop, and The Bourne film series.
The film’s first trailer has been released, showing Scarlett Johansson with a steely appearance due to the special effects used. Also, the filmmakers have been criticized for using special effects and make-up to make white American actors look more Asian. Since Motoko is a Japanese character, there were expectations that a Japanese actress would be selected for the role.
On the other hand, Business Insider reports that the film’s special effects are very impressive and they have added a unique dimension to Scarlett’s personality in the film.
— JustJared.com (@JustJared) February 9, 2017
Scarlett Johansson was keen to share her views on the gender pay gap in her March, 2017, Marie Claire cover story, but she was reluctant to admit that Ghost in the Shell has an issue with whitewashing. USA Today reported that the actress had a lot to say about systemic sexism, saying that “women in all positions” fight and “uphill battle” and that “sexism is real.”
“Just because I’m the top-grossing actress of all time does not mean I’m the highest-paid — I’ve had to fight for everything that I have.”
However, although Scarlett Johansson adamantly agrees that women suffer in today’s culture, she stopped short of acknowledging compound struggles of women of color. In particular, she seemed to deny that the role of Motoko Kusanagi should properly have been played by an Asian woman.
“I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”
The filmmakers seem convinced that fans will be sufficiently entertained by the stunning visuals rather than worrying about the ethnicity of Scarlett Johansson. Forbes reports that the 1995 anime has been an inspiration to some video games and television series, all of which have had different versions of Motoko Kusanagi.
— i-D (@i_D) February 9, 2017
It is also important to note that the distinctive animation style gave each character a blank white face and this made it impossible to determine the ethnicity of each character. The newly released trailer of Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell suggests that the filmmakers have tried to be true to the anime version because almost all the actors in the movie have been depicted as white characters.
A media report in The Guardian mentions that the Hollywood filmmakers of Ghost in the Shell might have been inspired by the movies like RoboCop, but they are nevertheless taking a risk in whitewashing a Japanese film.
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) February 7, 2017
Questions of ethnicity aside, Scarlett Johansson can be considered an excellent choice to play a lead role in a science fiction movie, as she has previously appeared in sci-fi movies Under the Skin, Lucy, and The Island. Johansson has also been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing the role of the Black Widow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Iron Man 2, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The actress believes that the martial arts training she received while preparing for her role as the Black Widow in Marvel movies greatly helped her to play Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell.
[Featured Image by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]