The studio behind the live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga series Ghost in the Shell released the first image of star Scarlett Johansson in the role of Maj. Motoko Kusanagi, leading to a new wave of accusations of "whitewashing" the Asian character.
First look at Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell..thoughts? pic.twitter.com/9IQlnnIqZM— @FanBrosShow
Ghost in the Shell is a dystopian crime story set in 21st-century Japan, in which Maj. Kusanagi is a cybernetically enhanced counter-terrorist operative hunting a dangerous hacker.
But despite the setting and the provenance of the story, most of the roles in Dreamworks' adaptation were given to non-Asian actors.
Ming-Na Wen — who, like Johansson, plays a character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — was one of the most prominent voices speaking out against the casting, which was originally announced in January 2015.
Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role.😒 https://t.co/VS6r6iish9— @MingNa
I like Scarlett Johansson as an actress, but she already has Black Widow. She didn't need to take an Asian heroine from an Asian actress.— @HelenaWayneBlog
I'm a huge Scarlett Johansson fan, don't get me wrong, but really, Hollywood? You couldn't find an Asian actress for Ghost in the Shell?— @ChrisWarcraft
Nina Mohan, a writer at BuzzFeed, wryly referenced another movie, Aloha, recently criticized for casting a white actor, Emma Stone, in an Asian role, Allison Ng.
Honestly, why couldn't they have gotten an actual Asian actress? Is Emma Stone that busy? pic.twitter.com/0UZySSN4vb— @NinaLMohan
Asian actors, filmmakers particularly stung by the casting
As an AA actor, I won't be watching GHOST IN THE SHELL. I love ScarJo, but there are no Asian stars of her caliber b/c they don't get CAST.— @realabrahamlim
Ghost in the Shell was one of the most important movies to my brother and me growing up. It really does hurt to see it get this treatment.— @jfwong
Scarlett Johansson is a good actress. But when's the last time you saw a major Hollywood film with an Asian lead not named Pacific Rim?— @ShizukaSam
The Asian lead in Pacific Rim was played by Rinko Kikuchi, whom many named as their preference to play Maj. Kusanagi.
But honestly there should be an Asian actress as the Major. Lots of great ones to choose from. Such as... (2/2) pic.twitter.com/1oZAv9fkcX— @VenomousFatman1
I love Rinko Kikuchi too, but she isn’t carrying a big budget SF movie. I’d rather have live action GiTS w/Scarlett than no live action GiTS— @PG_jp
There were some who didn't see an issue with casting a white actor in a Japanese role, with this person pointing out that Kusanagi as drawn in the manga and anime doesn't look particularly Asian.
"Hmm I think an Asian actress could come the closest" said no casting director in the history of ever pic.twitter.com/hJCtggDOpC— @Nwanu
But this observation ignores the historical influence of Western animation, particularly of Walt Disney, on Asian illustrators and animators.
The movie is scheduled for release on March 31, 2017.