Earlier this week, we saw the release of the first trailer for Rupert Sanders’ ‘Ghost in the Shell.’ By all accounts, the preview looks pretty amazing. The visuals are unlike anything else out there right now and the overall tone conveyed in the trailer is enough to get people excited for the movie. However, many fans are still finding it hard to look past the whitewashing controversy that saw Scarlett Johansson land the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi (who is now just simply known as The Major) because the classic manga and anime is so deeply rooted in Japanese culture. But if you were to ask producer Avi Arad, it would seem that basically nothing of the sort is even going on.
In a recent interview with New Zealand Publication Stuff, Arad spoke about a number of topics regarding the upcoming live-action adaptation of the seminal anime from Masamune Shirow like the production’s visual style and their time in the country. However, when the conversation shifted towards the casting controversy surrounding the film, the producer talked about not being able to make everyone happy and creating their own fan base.
“[You’ve] sort of got to just chase your own fandom. We don’t think we’re misaligned with the fans in terms of what we like about it, but I guess you don’t know until you show it to them. Some fans I talk to think it’s great. Everyone I know personally who is a fan thought it was awesome, and there’s people online who didn’t think it was great.
Here’s the thing, the movie’s going to come out and either they’re going to feel like, ‘Wow, I loved this in one format, and I feel really inspired by how it became a live-action version’, or they’re not gonna like it, and casting will be a piece of that, but it’s not going to be the only piece. The internet is frequently sort of a one-way thing right now. I am not a big social media guy so I don’t know. We’ll see, we really just hope to win them over because they like the movie.”
Obviously, a producer isn’t going to talk about his film being bad in any way. That would be counter productive to their job. But how can someone just gloss over the erasure of Asian culture from an iconically Asian character like that? I mean, of the people that he’s talked to, how many of them were actually Asian or Asian-American? While many are quick to defend the movie since a huge international box office draw like Johansson has elevated it’s public profile or that the Major’s race and gender “doesn’t matter” because of the themes in the story, the bottom line is that this is messed up. There are no Asian leading men and women in Hollywood that compare to Johansson? Well, how can Hollywood even create Asian stars of that caliber when Asians (who are criminally underrepresented in media already) are being replaced for the only starring roles that they should be getting?
Listen, this film looks like it could be amazing, but a movie being good only helps so much. There are much bigger problems here that need to be addressed and since ‘Ghost in the Shell’ is practically in the can already, we’ll have to shift focus to the future and hope that Hollywood can learn from this situation instead of glossing over it like Avi Arad did. In the meantime, let us know what you think about the producer’s comments below.
‘Ghost in the Shell’ starring Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Kaori Momoi, Danusia Samal, Yutaka Izumihara, Tuwanda Manyimo, and Chin Han hits theaters on March 31, 2017.