GHOST IN THE SHELL is based on a 1989 Japanese manga (comic) by Masamune Shirow. Scarlett Johansson‘s Major is a human brain transplanted into an engineered yet human-looking body. She’s designed as the perfect soldier in a future that makes us question the limits and benefits of technology. Rupert Sanders (SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMEN) directs Juliette Binoche, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Pilau Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Chin Han and Lasarus Ratuere. The diverse cast represents eight different nationalities.
Ever since Scarlett Johansson’s casting, the Internet has been abuzz with talk of “whitewashing”. This process is substituting a white actor in place of another race, despite source material which seems to dictate otherwise. It’s actually a bit ironic that American audiences have been so vocal about the casting. Manga (comics) and anime (cartoons) are littered with characters who have distinctly Western features. Japanese cultural norms are such that an entire population of women seek to fulfill a new standard of beauty based on Western media exports.
From a sociological perspective, this is certainly an issue within the country and will likely continue to be one for the foreseeable future. However, in examining the movie from within this prism, Johansson’s casting is the perfect choice.
History dictates American audiences have no problems substituting one Asian actor for another. Twelve years ago, the distinctly Japanese story MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA cast a Chinese actress in the title role. Ziyi Zhang is undoubtedly a great actress, but isn’t her casting just as egregious as Scarlett Johansson’s?
For more about “whitewashing” in GHOST IN THE SHELL, as well how gender and Japanese culture were integrated, take a look below:
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