“My hope for The Ghost in the Shell is that some of the principal roles do end up going to Asian actors and this doesn’t turn into Exodus Part II,” I said last year, when Scarlett Johansson was announced as the lead of the live-action remake of Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell. Well, thanks to CinemaCon we have our first image of ScarJo as Motoko Kusanagi—they didn’t bother changing her name, so have fun with that cognitive dissonance—and we know the movie, which is currently filming in New Zealand, stars a lot of white people. It’s Exodus Part II.
The first photo shows off ScarJo’s wig and her crazy profile, but beyond that, there’s not much information here. She’s joined in the film by Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek (who plays Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones this upcoming season), and Michael Wincott. Japanese actor/filmmaker Takeshi Kitano is part of the cast, but so far, this is a very Euro-centric production. Why do people still think this is a good idea? After the blowups over Exodus and Gods of Egypt, and the side-eye being levelled at Marvel with Doctor Strange, why do producers persist in this? You know you’re just going to spend your whole press tour defending the casting, and isn’t that just exhausting? Who wants to do that?
Following the Oscars and the anger stemming from Chris Rock’s joke involving Asian children during the show, the question of whom, exactly, Hollywood inclusion is helping came up. In America, the diversity question is almost always, implicitly if not explicitly, a black/white issue. But representation is bad across the board, and it’s REALLY bad for Asians. (Joe Starr wrote this great piece about the frustrating sidelining of John Cho.) There’s no equality Olympics, but you can’t ignore that Asian representation is too often not part of the conversation, even though it’s also a dire situation.
It’s great that we’ll be getting a major blockbuster action movie starring a female protagonist, but like with Tilda Swinton and Doctor Strange, it sucks that inclusion is still seen as an either/or proposition. We can have female leads, but not diverse female leads. It feels like an insidious way to maintain the status quo—force us to fight amongst ourselves, instead of allowing everyone to come to the table, equally. We’re never going to make real strides toward equality as long as we’re leaving someone behind. We have to do this together. It’s the only way.