Ever since Scarlett Johansson was cast in the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ earlier this year, the production has been surrounded in controversy. First, many spoke out against the white-washing of an inherently Japanese character. Then, word got around about the preposterous CGI experiment that essentially made a caucasian actor look more Asian. And once the first photos began to circulate, the conversation about Hollywood’s lack of diversity, especially when it comes to Asians and Asian-Americans, opened up even further. However, it sounds like the people working on the film are pretty confidant that their critics will be pleased with the westernized version of the story despite the race-bending of the main character from Masamune Shirow’s seminal manga series.
During the initial backlash, those behind ‘Ghost in the Shell’ have largely remained silent. But in a recent interview with Buzzfeed News, producer Steven Paul shared that he thinks that the general public will have a change of heart once they actually see the movie. And not only does he say that it will stay true to the feel of the source material, but it will take an international approach by spotlighting people from around the world:
“I think everybody is going to end up being really happy with it. They’re going to be very, very happy with it when they see what we’ve actually done with it, and I don’t think anybody’s going to be disappointed. There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in ‘Ghost in the Shell’. We’re utilizing people from all over the world. There’s Japanese in it. There’s Chinese in it. There’s English in it. There’s Americans in it. I don’t think it was just a Japanese story. ‘Ghost in the Shell’ was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world. That’s why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it. I think we’ve done the manga comic great honor. As I said, the fans will be very happy, because there’s a great respect that’s been paid to the manga. We’ve been very, very careful. Obviously, there’s some new imagination, as well. I mean, like anything, when you’re making a movie, you’ve gotta bring your own.”
I’m glad that those involved in the production have given this controversy a lot of thought and that it sounds like they went the extra mile to make the world that they’re creating with this film very diverse, but hiring the highest grossing actress of all time to play a role that was tailor made to create a new Asian star in Hollywood is still incredibly disappointing. ‘Ghost in the Shell’ still could have been an international story without a white lead. I understand that it’s called the movie business for a reason, but that’s hardly an excuse for excluding a group of people for decades (despite being an integral part in building the country into what it is today) and then overlooking them for the roles that would have given a chance to shine.
What do you think about Steven Paul’s comments about ‘Ghost in the Shell’? Are you still upset that the production went with Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi (who will apparently be known only as “The Major” in the film)? And how long do you think it will be before we see leading roles in Hollywood diversified? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments.
‘Ghost in the Shell’ starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Kaori Momoi, and Chin Han hits theaters on March 31, 2017.