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. When the film opened in theaters I was not disappointed … with the look of the world.
Is it reality, or is it racism?
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 anti-Japanese sentiment, or was she simply cast for her proven ability to attract an audience?
One one hand, She may not be Japanese, but how can you resist Scarlett Johannsen? More importantly 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.
On the other hand, you simply cannot ignore a pervasive pattern of “whitewashing” when talented actors of the appropriate ethnicity are available.
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.