Scarlett Johansson is something of a darling in Hollywood these days. Between her mainstream work as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and her more abstract work in films like Under The Skin, it seems like the woman can do no wrong. Last month, Johansson was officially announced to take the lead in the Ghost In The Shell adaptation of the manga of the same name. It’s a project that, like many other anime and manga adaptations, has been in development hell for some time. With Johansson taking the lead in the film, and Rupert Sanders (Snow White And The Huntsman) set to direct, it seemed like it was finally gaining momentum.
Unfortunately, for fans of the original cyberpunk manga, casting someone like Scarlett Johansson in Ghost In The Shell is a definite no-no. As a result, they have petitioned to have her recast immediately, and are urging Dreamworks to “stop whitewashing Asian characters.”
“Fans of the iconic 1995 animated Japanese sci-fi film Ghost in the Shell have been anticipating a live-action remake for years — but now, instead of casting an Asian actress, Dreamworks has selected Scarlett Johansson for the lead role! The film revolves around Major Motoko Kusanagi, a member of a futuristic security force tasked with tracking a mysterious hacker.”
“The original film is set in Japan, and the major cast members are Japanese. So why would the American remake star a white actress? The industry is already unfriendly to Asian actors without roles in major films being changed to exclude them. One recent survey found that in 2013, Asian characters made up only 4.4 percent of speaking roles in top-grossing Hollywood films.”
“Dreamworks could be using this film to help provide opportunities for Asian-American actors in a market with few opportunities for them to shine — please sign the petition asking them to reconsider casting Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell and select actors who are truer to the cast of the original film!”
As of this writing, over 37,000 have signed this petition–and have no doubt gotten the attention of studio moguls.
While the outcry is indeed justified, diversity in Hollywood is not a new issue. Back in 1952, Marlon Brando played Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in the film Viva Zapata! And more recently, the film Edge Of Tomorrow (based on the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill) changed the Japanese male lead into an American one, played by Tom Cruise. Should the trend continue with Scarlett Johansson in the Ghost In The Shell movie?
The problem there is that adaptations of anime and manga don’t tend to fare well. As great of a movie Edge Of Tomorrow was, it didn’t get great numbers at the box office, even with the star power. While there are undoubtedly a large number of great Asian actors out there, as far as studios are concerned, they aren’t recognizable enough to sell tickets. Like it or not, Scarlett Johansson does sell tickets. But does that justify changing the source material so that it’s “white-friendly?”
What are your thoughts? Is white-washing in Hollywood a current necessity to get unique properties like Ghost In The Shell onto the big screen, or is Scarlett Johansson the complete wrong person to play the role? Let us know your thoughts below!