After the surprise success of Lucy this past summer, Scarlett Johansson is now an internationally bankable action movie star. It’s not just Marvel, Lucy proves people like watching ScarJo punch things in the face with or without the presence of capes. And with that now-proven track record, she has closed a deal to star in DreamWorks’ live-action adaptation of the anime movie The Ghost in the Shell. What is that? It’s about a cyborg lady-cop in futuristic Japan. You can watch the Nineties-tastic trailer here. That’s a gross oversimplification of one of the bigger manga/anime series, but you really don’t care about that part.
What you should care about is that Scarlett Johansson is now In The Ranks alongside Angelina Jolie as a female action hero. That’s no small feat in a post-Movie Star world. And also, Johansson is playing a character named Motoko Kusanagi—I’m assuming that will be Anglicized for the movie. I actually brought this up on Twitter yesterday and got condescended to for a while by people who seem to think that it’s okay to whitewash Japanese stories because Japan has a healthy film industry of their own and sometimes they adapt American movies and they don’t cast white people (hat tip to Matt for the link). But I don’t think that excuses us from our own diversity problems.
My issue is less about Johansson and more that apparently no Asian actresses were considered for the role, too. If she honestly beat out others for the part, fine. But only white actresses emerged in the running for the role of Motoko—before Johansson, Margot Robbie was in talks. THAT is the problem (ditto for the languishing Akira project that may or may not star Kristen Stewart). I don’t begrudge actors taking roles that they’re offered, but I do side-eye an industry that systematically does not consider minority actors for minority-origin roles.
Asian representation is especially piss-poor in Hollywood. As bad as it is for women and African-Americans, it’s way worse for Asians. So to take a project that could prominently feature Asian actors and start whitewashing rubs me the wrong way. You can’t tell me that Rinko Kikuchi or Rila Fukushima don’t at least—AT LEAST—deserve some consideration. 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.
Oh, another thing to keep in mind about this project: Rupert Sanders, who directed Snow White and the Hunstman and lost his head over Kristen Stewart, is directing The Ghost in the Shell. Can you imagine what directing Scarlett Johansson could do to this guy?