I adore Ghost in the Shell in all its iterations and was over the moon when a live action movie was announced. Then they announced the actress and my heart fell.

Scarlett Johansson.


Now the first images of Scarlett Johansson in the title role have surfaced and my heart has fallen a little further.  I am reminded why I was so disappointed when the casting was first announced.  I also realized there was a part of me that was hoping someone would realize how wrong this is and it wouldn’t actually come to fruition.

Nothing against Ms. Johansson, except maybe her poor choice in accepting this role. I love her as Black Widow, I think it’s a crime she doesn’t have her own movie. I even loved Lucy (for my own reasons that would probably take its own article to explain) but the point is, I love ScarJo. So it’s not her acting chops that are in question, or her ability to carry an action movie. It’s because she is white and Major Motoko Kusanagi is most certainly not.

The original Ghost in the Shell manga, written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow, was released in 1989. It was then adapted into an anime movie with the same title, released in 1995. The characters and world being so popular the manga and anime both spawned sequels. The animated world spun further off into Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex television series and film, as well as Ghost in the Shell: Arise OVA and TV series. Both Stand Alone Complex and Arise telling stories from the manga series.

All of these stories were created by Japanese, starring Japanese characters, set in Japan.

Now it is being adapted into a live action movie releasing in 2017, staring a white woman in the lead role. Excuse me while I roll my eyes and direct your attention to a set of tweets by Jon Tsuei that can explain why this is a problem more eloquently than I could ever hope.

However, despite all this, a battle has raged internally since the casting was announced. To see the movie in theaters or not to see the movie in theaters, that has been the question. I am a big proponent on voting with my money. Don’t like a restaurant? Don’t go. Don’t like a store? Don’t shop there. Don’t like a game studio? Buy nothing from them. You see where this is going. I understand my small contribution doesn’t even show on their bottom line, but it’s the principle. If more people voted with their money we wouldn’t continue to have the DC Murderverse helmed by Zack Snyder.  I still haven’t seen Batman v Superman and have no plans to.

On the one hand you have Ghost in the Shell, an IP I have loved for literally decades and an action movie with a female main protagonist. On the subject of voting with my money, I see every female led action movie in the theater, even if I’m unsure if the movie will be good or not. I want Hollywood to be aware there is a market for these movies and to make more of them. This is the exact reason I saw Lucy in the theater on opening weekend.  It is also the exact reason I will see Wonder Woman opening weekend, despite my loathing of the current DC movies.

On the other hand, you have yet another case of whitewashing which absolutely has got to stop. Hollywood needs to be taught a lesson that this kind of behavior will not continue to be ok.  The only way to send this message is with money.  Honestly, it’s the only thing the studios will listen to.  If we continue to see these whitewashed movies Hollywood will not care about the criticism, they will only see there is a market for it and they can continue to make money.  No matter if people see the movie out of curiosity, fear of being left out, or genuinely interested in the material, by buying tickets we are telling Hollywood this is ok.

The backlash has been fierce ever since the photo of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi released, however, we now have a new wrinkle. ScreenCrush is reporting that the producers of Ghost in the Shell ran VFX test to “shift the ethnicity” of Scarlett Johansson to a more asian appearance.  Sources do maintain this was all the work of the studio and Scarlett Johansson did not participate and had no knowledge of the tests.

Here’s a crazy idea, maybe if you hired a Japanese actress from the beginning you could save some time and money and stay true to the story.  Absolutely bonkers idea, I know.

As much as I want to support, with my money, any female led action movie. I cannot, in good conscience, do so in this case. Bad behavior should not be rewarded and I, for one, will vote with my money.  Or lack thereof.  Unfortunately, Hollywood will probably take the wrong lesson from this, as it has so many times before, and blame the lack of revenue not on whitewashing but on a female led action movie.

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