Ghost in the Shell, featuring Scarlett Johansson

When I first learned this adaptation of Ghost in the Shell was in production with Scarlett Johansson in the lead roll, I was somewhat disappointed. All I could think was great, More Hollywood white-washing. After seeing the trailer and behind-the-scenes look at the film’s special effects by Weta Workshop, I was sold on the industrial design. When the film opened in theaters I was not disappointed with the look of the world, just the look of the major.

Is it reality, or is it racism?

You simply cannot ignore a pervasive pattern of “whitewashing” when talented actors of the appropriate ethnicity are available.

I’m never sure what to think about Hollywood controversy anymore. Of course there are genuine issues. But they are often difficult to evaluate objectively. We have a habit of making social justice mountains out of logistic molehills. Case in point: Was a white actress cast in Ghost in the Shell because of racism or was she simply cast for her proven ability to attract an American audience?

One one hand there is the reality that she just is not not Japanese. On the other hand, teenage boys cannot resist Scarlett Johannsen and movie studios cannot resist ticket revenue. I don’t think she will be bad in this role. Mamoru Oshii, the director of the Ghost in the Shell anime films seems to agree. He said Scarlett Johansson exceeded his expectations for the character from beginning to end.

Unfortunately the film did not fair well at the box office. Probably because of some perceived racial bias. Personally I don’t think there was any bias involved. It’s a shame more people didn’t give this movie a chance because great pains were taken to get that “Neo Tokyo” look just right.

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