Paramount Pictures’ latest attempt to drum up support for its upcoming adaptation of Ghost in the Shell has not gone according to plan.
Over the weekend, Paramount launched an image generator that allowed fans to upload pictures and write a few lines of text to create an “I am Major” photo. In Ghost in the Shell, the Major is the central figure; a cybernetic android who leads an anti-terrorism group under the banner of Section 9.
When Scarlett Johansson was cast in the role, many Asian-American actors and fans voiced their displeasure over her involvement in the film and the whitewashing of Japanese culture. As part of the retaliation, fans have started to use the generator and the “#IAmMajor” hashtag on Twitter as a way of calling out both the film and Paramount.
Many of the images created became platforms for people to bring awareness to Asian actors who might not be as well known as Johansson. Rinko Kikuchi, for example, appears in many of the images, with similar captions to the one above. The actress is best known for her work as Mako Mori in Pacific Rim, but there are number of other actors whose names and photos were uploaded as a way of bringing awareness to Hollywood’s diversity problems.
Last month, Johansson finally broke her silence on the controversy surrounding her role during an interview with Marie Claire. The actress said she didn’t want to offend anyone with the role and saw the position as a win for women in Hollywood.
“Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive,” Johansson said. “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.”
Johansson isn’t the only white actress in the film, but as the lead, she’s been at the center for most of the controversy. British actor Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, 21) is also in the movie, along with Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire) and Juliette Binoche (Godzilla). The actors in question have not voiced their opinions on the issue.
The Ghost in the Shell generator is still online and people are continuing to use it as a way to protest Johansson’s role. Ghost in the Shell will be released on March 31.