Since she joined the project in early 2015, there has been a lot said about Scarlett Johansson starring in ‘Ghost In The Shell’. While fans and critics were quick to call out the production for whitewashing an iconically Asian character and story, those involved in the production have all weighed in on the controversy and have even defended the casting choice. But now, it looks like the star herself has finally entered the conversation and it isn’t exactly going to change any minds about this being the right move.
During a recent interview in the latest issue of Marie Claire that hits newsstands this week, Johansson discussed a number of topics including her daughter watching her work, a night on the town with her breast pump, and the wage gap in Hollywood. But the most interesting thing about the conversation was the bit about the reaction to her playing the main character in the upcoming live-action adaptation of the seminal 1995 anime and the acclaimed manga. Though she does make a good point about female-led franchises, the actress doesn’t really address the main problem:
“I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive. Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that—the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”
Though I may be a fan of ScarJo’s work, I think that it would be safe for her to presume that a character named Major Motoko Kusanagi is Asian before taking the role. And she’s absolutely right when she says that big blockbusters with female protagonists are really important. However, when you look at some of the biggest ones from the past few years, they’ve mostly been fronted by white women.
In this same interview, Johansson says that “women in all positions struggle for equality” when talking about the wage gap in her industry and calls it “an uphill battle and fight”. But does she not see that the same phrases apply to people of color scoring leading roles? Hell, it often applies to them getting roles with lines in general. When was the last time an Asian woman was the face of stand-alone film let alone a franchise? How often are Asian men the romantic lead rather than action stars, disposable henchmen, or doctors? Whenever Asian stories break through into the mainstream, there almost always is a white person inserted into the story front and center for one reason or another. Don’t even get me started on ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’, ‘The Great Wall’, or the plethora of other movies I could bring up from the last two years alone. And going back even further, the less said about ‘Dragonball Evolution’ or ‘The Last Airbender’ the better.
The real uphill battle here is a whole group of people fighting to be represented in the media that they consume so that it accurately resembles the world around them. Feminism is a great reason to cause to take up since it means believing that the sexes would be equal. But if your feminism excludes or ignores people of color and allows you to be okay with taking roles that could have and should have gone to an Asian actress, then maybe you should revisit your “feminist” ideals, especially if you’re the highest grossing actress in Hollywood today and can land practically any leading role in a heartbeat.
What do you think about Scarlett Johansson’s comments regarding her role in ‘Ghost in the Shell’? And will your feelings about the casting keep you from enjoying the movie if it turns out to be good? Sound off in the comments.
’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.