Ghost in the Shell: Johansson (and Hollywood) Criticized for Whitewashing

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) has criticized the casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, which opens this weekend.

The group condemned the movie’s “whitewashing” of Johansson’s character Motoku Kusanagi who first appeared in the Japanese manga of the same name.

The organization also criticized Johansson’s recent interview on “Good Morning America,” in which the actress said she “would never attempt to play a person of a different race, obviously.”

It denounced the casting of Michael Pitt in the role of Kuze in the film, which MANAA said “is revealed to have originally been named Hideo, meaning he too was Japanese.”

“In Hollywood, Japanese people can’t play Japanese people anymore,” MANAA President Robert Chan said. “There’s no reason why either Motoku or Hideo could not have been portrayed by Japanese or Asian actors instead of Scarlett Johansson and Michael Pitt. We don’t even get to see what they looked like in their original human identities — a further white-wash.”

MANAA vocalized their opposition to the casting of Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange.” In the film, Swinton played “The Ancient One,” who in the original comic book is portrayed as a Tibetan male.

“Hollywood continues to make the same excuses, that there aren’t big enough Asian/Asian American names to open a blockbuster film,” added Founding President of MANAA, Guy Aoki. “Yet it has not developed a farm system where such actors get even third billing in most pictures. Without a conscientious effort, how will anyone ever break through and become familiar enough with audiences so producers will confidently allow them to topline a film?  When will we ever break that glass ceiling?”

Negative Impact on Box-Office

The organization cited films based on anime and mangas that featured non-Asian actors including “Dragonball Evolution,” “Speed Racer” and Matt Damon’s “The Great Wall.”