‘Ghost In The Shell’ whitewashing controversy

Matthew St. Clair – Special to the Southern News

When the first still of the film adaptation of the Japanese manga “Ghost In The Shell” that featured Scarlett Johansson in costume was released, the film started trending on Twitter. But for the wrong reasons because Johansson, a white actress, is playing a character that is Japanese. There has also been speculation that the film’s visual effects team would shift Johansson’s ethnicity to make her appear more Asian. So “Ghost In The Shell” is yet another victim of Hollywood whitewashing which is a practice that should be put to a close.

Now, whitewashing is something that has always happened, going back to the days of when John Wayne played Genghis Khan and Laurence Olivier donned blackface to play Othello and the problem goes back even further.

But it’s 2016. We have talented names of color like Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Rami Malek, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, and Gina Rodriguez gaining recognition for headlining their own television shows. So the film industry should take more significant leaps to reflect the diverse representations that support their products.

While the people behind “Ghost In The Shell” would’ve been taking a huge risk on an unknown Japanese talent, look at “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Its young main trio: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, were all relative unknowns before the film’s release and it’s now the third highest-grossing film of all time.

Even if “Star Wars” would’ve done well regardless of who was cast, seeing a woman and two men of color, since Boyega is black and Isaac is Latino, in such a huge property is a sign of progress.

If they picked a Japanese actress to play the lead in “Ghost In The Shell,” audiences who are Asian would probably look at the trailer and be like, “Wow! We can headline Hollywood movies!”

Now Scarlett Johansson herself isn’t the one who is to blame for this whole uproar. Acting is like any other job where you go where the money is. It’s the studios who decide what movies get made and who stars in them that people should be wagging their fingers at.

If the backlash against other recent whitewashed films like “Aloha,” “Pan,” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” taught us anything, it’s that audiences are hungry for more representation and opportunity.

But Hollywood doesn’t seem to be getting that message quite yet and how much longer are audiences going to keep supporting Hollywood films if they keep getting underrepresented on the big screen? It’s like they’re being teased with a bone and almost beaten over the head with it.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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