White-washing in the Shell? On the ScarJo rumors for live-action anime

I’m as ecstatic as anyone to see Scarlett Johansson’s career of “badass female kicks ass and takes names in a way no one can even touch” take off. She’s a talented actress, and dedicated to boot. Yet she’s constantly reduced to her looks.

Which is a little what I’m about to do. I’m not pleased that she’s been offered the lead in the long-awaited “Ghost in the Shell” live-action remake, specifically because she’s white. Helmed by Steven Spielberg, the rights to the Hollywood recreation of the anime about a group of Japanese counterterroism folks who fight cyber-crime in some sort of futuristic backdrop have been tossed around since the anime’s popularity in 1995.

Seeing as how (at least publicly) this role has been discussed with two, white, blonde actresses it seems that there has been little–if any–consideration of Japanese women. Or women of color in general. It wouldn’t be the first time that Hollywood enacted racist practices when it came to casting. It may not be new, but (as a white person) the invasion of “Ghost in the Shell,” which holds a special place to the anime community, feels strikingly unpleasant. The character’s name is Motoko Kusanagi, for God’s sake.

Ghost in the Shell protagonist Motoko
“They’re thinking about casting who?”

Who knows if that detail will make it to the film. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a shift coming to the Ghost in the Shell world. Which can be interesting, and it’s exciting to see women-lead action flicks leading the box office of 2014, I’m just tired of it coming at the cost of people of color. Instead of getting a taste of these cultures we are clearly and absolutely appropriating them; sampling what suits our white tastes, and using eyeliner to fix the rest.

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