There is no escaping controversy when it comes to ‘Ghost in the Shell‘. When the production does something that they think is awesome like casting a talented actress with huge box office draw like Scarlett Johansson, word gets out about the crazy CGI tests conducted to make background actors look more Asian. And now after producer Steven Paul broke the team’s silence regarding the claims of white-washing by talking about the diverse world of their film earlier this week, it sounds like they’re actually trying to pass their American leading lady with Eastern European ancestry off as Asian.
In a recent AP article about white-washing in Hollywood, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ star Kaori Momoi suggested that acting was about talent as opposed to nationality or ethnicity. She also discussed how happy she was to work with Johansson, who she described as devoted, skillful, and professional. However, the article went on to say that Momoi plays the mother of Johansson’s character, which means that The Major is either fully or partially Japanese.
Now we know why Paramount, Dreamworks, and everyone else involved has been so careful up to this point when discussing Johansson’s character. Rather than referring to her as Major Motoko Kusanagi, she has only been mentioned as The Major so as to indicate that this westernized version of the character does not have Japanese roots. And in Paul’s statement about the film, he was just talking about how there are characters that are Chinese, Japanese, English, American, and beyond because they’re looking to tell an “international story” that will honor the source material. But if Momoi’s character is The Major’s biological mother, it seems like all they were really doing was trying to make up for doing the thing that they have been accused of doing from the start by being as diverse as possible every other than the leading role.
Of course, “mother” could mean a number of different things in this case. The Major is a “full-body prosthesis augmented-cybernetic human” or a cyborg. Momoi’s character could be the person who created or implanted the technology. Or she could have taken Johansson’s character in after the procedure to act as a surrogate mother while monitoring the integration of the cybernetic enhancements. Or maybe it’s even as simple as a step-mother situation, although it would probably say step-mother in the article if that were the case. At this point, I wouldn’t put the worst possible scenario completely out of play just yet. After all, someone in Hollywood thought it would be okay to cast Emma Stone as a character in ‘Aloha’ that was part Hawaiian and part Chinese.
Regardless of what the case may be, someone involved in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ has some serious explaining to do. So while we wait for the official statement on this matter, share your thoughts on this potentially explosive issue in the comments below.
‘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.