When actress Scarlett Johansson was cast in 2015 to play the protagonist in the upcoming film “Ghost in the Shell,” fans were outraged that Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks chose a white woman to play a Japanese character. Now, after the studios released the first photo of Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi, fans have reignited the discussion of why whitewashing in Hollywood has been a serious problem.
“Ghost in the Shell” will be a live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga by Masamune Shirow and the 1995 anime of the same name. It is set to be released in March 2017.
There is already a lack of non-white actors and actresses in Hollywood, and whitewashing is a common practice that needs to stop in mainstream media.
Johansson is not the only white actor in the movie; Michael Pitt and Pilou Asbæk were cast to play other Japanese characters, Hideo Kuze and Batou respectfully.
A Western adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell” is a great opportunity for Asian actors and actresses, who get little to no attention otherwise, to be casted in main roles, but the whitewashing of the movie has now made it even more difficult for them to be recognized.
Asian-influenced adaptions have been notorious for not casting Asian people to play the roles of Asian characters.
Casting white actors and actresses in Asian roles has been around in Hollywood as early as 1937 with the film adaption of the novel “The Good Earth.” We also cannot forget about the more modern examples such as “The Last Airbender” and “Dragonball Evolution,” which casted white actors to play the main protagonists.
As if whitewashing the movie is not bad enough, Screencrush reported that Paramount and DreamWorks commissioned post-production visual effects tests that would “shift her ethnicity” to make Johansson and others look more Asian.
DreamWorks denied the claims, but Paramount released a statement saying, “A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded.”
To be Asian is not just a look that can be enhanced with technology. It is an insult to Asian actors and actresses, who can sometimes barely secure a background character role, to have visual effects replace them.
Shame on Paramount and DreamWorks for furthering the concept of whitewashing. Studios need to realize they cannot default to whites to play non-white roles when there are plenty of talented non-white actors and actresses waiting for their time to shine.