Scarlett Johansson is currently filming a new movie, Ghost in the Shell, and has gained a lot of attention for the fact that she is playing a Japanese character. But a new endorsement from a surprising source has quieted some of the controversy surrounding the star’s casting for the role.
Ghost in the Shell is based on a Japanese manga series that was written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. The series revolves around a cyber counter-terrorism organization called Public Security Section 9 led by Major Motoko Kusanagi. It has been revealed that Kusanagi is a fully-functioning cyborg that uses her advanced intelligence and physical powers to stop cyber criminals and hackers. Scarlett Johansson plays Major Motoko Kusanagi in the film adaptation.
A photo of Scarlett Johansson in the role of Kusanagi was revealed recently that immediately renewed calls of Hollywood’s history of whitewashing characters. As Time reports, actors of Asian descent were especially critical of the casting news.
Ming-Na Wen, who stars on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., took to Twitter to expand on her thoughts. “Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I’m a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role.”
Constance Wu, star of Fresh off the Boat, also tweeted, “It’s like way to reduce race to mere (physical) appearance as opposed to say culture, social experience, identity, history.”
Not all of the comments coming out about Scarlett Johansson has been negative, however. The original publisher of the Ghost in the Shell — Sam Yoshiba — has come out in support of Scarlett Johansson. As Science Fiction reports, Sam Yoshiba issued a statement saying that he never saw the role leaning to a particular culture.
“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast. She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place. This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world.”
For her part, Scarlett Johansson has not said anything about her role in Ghost in the Shell as she continues to film the movie. Along with Scarlett Johansson, the movie stars Danish actor Pilou Asbaek as Batou, the second in command under Major Kusanagi. Michael Pitt is set to star as Kuze, an adversary of Section 9.
Hollywood has had a long history of taking characters that are of different races and casting white actors in their roles. Examples range from the most recent Gods of Egypt featuring an almost all-white cast portraying Middle Eastern characters to 2015’s Aloha, a film that cast Emma Stone as a character meant to be one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Hawaiian.
On the other hand of the controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese character is the fact that her acting ability — along with her martial arts fighting history in movies — makes her qualified to play Kusanagi. Discover Magazine makes the case for this, citing the previous film roles Scarlett Johansson has had as justification her casting. The argument the article makes is that with movie effects, anyone can essentially become any character now.
“Hollywood has plenty of movie magic to take care of concerns about her non-Asian appearance. We can rebuild her. We have the technology.”
In fact, there have been reports that computer-generated imagery techniques have been tested in an effort to make Scarlett Johansson look more Japanese. Just about anything can be done in post-production it seems.
Scarlett Johansson has taken on the role of Black Widow in The Avengers film series, proving that she has the ability to kick and fight her way through any trouble. Scarlett Johansson also has the experience of making Lost in Translation in 2003, a film in which she played an isolated woman in Tokyo.
Ghost in the Shell will be released on March 31, 2017, and is still in production.
What do you think about the controversy surrounding the decision to cast Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell film? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images]