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Monday, 18 April 2016

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell -The Controversy?

Well, "Japanese do not care about Scarlett Johansson -she's an ugly European!" is what Riuchi wrote on one site has an interesting item by Brian Ashcraft.

The Japanese Internet Reacts to Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell 

The Japanese Internet Reacts to Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell 
[Image: Paramount Pictures | Production I.G]
Last week, the world got its first look at Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi in Hollywood’s upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie. The decision has been controversial in the West, and here is what some, certainly not all, of the folks online in Japan are saying.

The decision to cast Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi, an augmented-cybernetic Japanese woman, has led to whitewashing criticism. The movie’s producers even considered making the film’s white lead look more Asian via CG special effects. Yikes.

Via threads on Japan’s biggest bulletin board 2ch (here, here, and here) and My Game News Flash, one of Japan’s biggest game blogs, below is a cross-section collection of some of the comments floating around Japanese cyberspace.

A couple of things to unpack. While My Game News Flash writes that there has largely been indifference in Japan to the decision to have a white actor play Kusanagi, do keep in mind, these comments should ultimately be seen as representative of the individuals who made them, so your mileage might vary.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many Asian people living in Asia might have a different perspective on race issues than those living in the West. Also, opinions of the Japanese internet might not reflect society’s at large, but regardless, here we go.....

You want to see those comments and who some think should be playing the character?  You'll need to go to

You really do have to ask what Hollywood thinks it is doing? I did like the comment that "ten years ago it would have been Mila Jovovich".  But we have recently endured the "Whiting" of ancient Egyptians in Gods Of Egypt -and you need to go to You Tube and check out Comicbookgirl19s review of that!

But none of this is new. Howard Hawkes' 1955 epic Land of the Pharaohs had British actor Jack Hawkins as the Pharoah -you could go on page after page about this but it won't change anything. Hawkins and his fellow Brits were used because they "sounded foreign with their clipped British accents" -why is it "racial stereotyping such as making British actors all villains goes unmentioned? - and, of course, they were "White".  
I once got into a conversation about Land of the Pharaohs with an American who did film reviews for UK magazines and he put it simply: "1955. How many Americans -the ones Hollywood counted as important at the box office- would have gone to see that movie if there had been Black or mixed race actors in those parts?  1956. Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments -how many Americans would have gone to see that if it was even a Jew as Moses instead of Charlton Heston? Yul Brynner as Rameses was a Black as they were willing to go. ****! Black actors and half the States would have banned the movies!"

2015 and 2016 and we are STILL doing this?  Hey, they were thinking of CGI to make Johansson, who I like, look "more Japanese" which is a step up from using tape and take up to "slant eyes".  I have always found Japanese horror movies, such as The Ring far more atmospheric and scary than the US versions but people do not like reading subtitles.  They want American voices speaking English -hey, make 'em in America!  I was going to say "Look how 'well' the Godzilla movies went" but realised they fecked up King Kong in a MAJOR way so.

But we are in the 21st Century, folks.  We ARE in the 21st, right?  Well, anyway, and let's not go into 1970s or 1980s examples here, "blacking up" an actor is no long correct (even the Jazz Singer -the first "talkie" with Al Jolson which was relevant to that period when Minstrel shows and "blacking up" were part of entertainment and, oddly, these performers were on the same stages as "blacks" when "allowed" later on -calls to never show it again. That argument is going to rage on for a while).  Yet "Black" comedians (I use that words very loosely) can "White-up" and even portray, very badly, women in a sexist manner (White Chicks, 2004).

You see, this could be a major debate and I am not going to get involved since I've already been called (by people out to cause trouble on CBO) a racist three times this year over my writing that for me Steve Rogers is the Captain America.

We've had Chinese actors playing Japanese and Japanese playing Chinese (again, I am stepping well away from the arguments those portrayals caused in China and Japan). "Looks Asian -she/he can be a Jap!" I can't remember the actress that was said about but I read, many years ago now, that when the producer and director asked her "Can you play a Jap?" she replied "It will be difficult but I'm sure you can guide me" -no one had pointed out (probably because of her Westernised name) or even asked but she was Japanese.  

British actor Burt Kwouk has appeared in James Bond films, TV shows and more over more than 50 years and he has portrayed Japanese, Korean as well as Chinese -in fact it came down to the most awful racism at times what parts he got because some director would say "We need some actor with slant eyes" or even simply "You're a Korean in this!"/"You are a Fillipino"/"You are Japanese" or "You are Chinese in this" -and not the merest hint of irony.

People are suggesting that a better choice than Johansson would have been Ming-Na Wen "She's smoking!" at which point I need to point out that she is from Macao a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
So Chinese playing Japanese again -if people realise Ming-Na wen is Chinese or Macaoan.

Seriously, Japanese actresses could be found but Hollywood is "catering for its audience" and Johansson is a good actress and has a following and as one Japanese person pointed out: "Johansson does shampoo commercials in Japan so she's known" Yes. But not Japanese. If a movie studio in 2016 cannot be bothered to find a Japanese actress to play a Japanese woman then it is because of its, and its intended audiences, perceived prejudices.

It's caused an uproar.

It's created huge amounts of publicity for a movie not many had heard of before.  Almost as though planned....

Win-win for the studio.

1 comment:

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