One of the biggest controversies surrounding the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is the whitewashing of the film’s biggest roles.
[Warning: There are major spoilers for Ghost in the Shell below.]
In a new 9-minute clip from the movie, those fears aren’t exactly assuaged. It starts with the Major, played by Scarlett Johansson, waking up in a medical chamber before moving over to a mission involving the members of her cybernetic team, Sector 9. In the entire clip, there are a plethora of white faces. Johansson’s is the first we see, followed by Juliette Binoche, who plays Dr. Ouelet. The next character introduced is Cutter, played by Peter Ferdinando, and then another white actor.
In the entire nine minutes, only one Asian actor can be seen: Beat Takeshi. Takeshi plays the Chief of Section 9, Daisuke Aramaki, and in essence, the Major’s boss. Aramaki is one of the most popular characters in the original Ghost in the Shell anime and manga.
In a PlayStation Blog post, director Rupert Sanders said it was important for the entire team to create a multicultural world.
“The vision for this film was to create a multicultural, multi-ethnic future world, but not one that is pristine or idyllic, but rather one in which the lines of humanity have blurred so much that even people and technology have combined to create something new and not yet completely defined,” Sanders wrote.
The issue, as many people who have seen the film have pointed out on Twitter, is Sanders’ approach to honoring the original, Japanese culture Ghost in the Shell belonged to. One journalist broke down some of those complaints on Twitter, which can be seen below.
#Spoiler The movie argues that Scarlett Johannson is actually Japanese. The whitewashing is a plot point. It still leaves me speechless.— Daniel (@sofakissen) March 29, 2017
#Spoiler The plot twist is that Scarlett Johansson is the brain of the Japanese girl Motoko Kusanagi in the body of a white person.— Daniel (@sofakissen) March 29, 2017
#Spoiler The peak of the absurdity is that they even cast a Japanese actress as Motoko for a flashback, but you never see her face.— Daniel (@sofakissen) March 29, 2017
Both Sanders and Johansson have spoken about the whitewashing controversy before, but defended the changes they were taking with the movie and the actors cast in the film.
“Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive,” Johansson told Marie Claire. “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.”
In a recent interview with Channel NewsAsia, Sanders said he believed people were “stoking controversy that wasn’t really there,” adding that fans will understand what they’re trying to do by incorporating themes from the original text and anime into the new movie.
“I am so proud of the work that Scarlett’s done. I think she — out of anyone in the world — will bring a huge audience to Ghost in the Shell,” Sanders said. “What’s important to me, is that she is a conduit … she’s going to open the door to so much of that aspect of Japanese culture.”
Ghost in the Shell will be released worldwide on March 31.