Ghost in a Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, hit American theaters on March 31st, 2017. From the moment this movie announced its cast, it had been a subject of ridicule and outrage. Why? Because Johansson is white and Ghost in a Shell is an anime. The outrage centered around the idea that because Ghost in a Shell originated from Japan, all the characters must be Japanese. There was a huge outcry from social justice advocates claiming that Johansson’s role in Ghost in a Shell was nothing more than ‘white Hollywood whitewashing a series.’
But there’s more to this situation than any of these complainers are paying mind to.
Before I get started let me state: I’m not a fan of Scarlett Johansson and I’ve never followed Ghost in a Shell so I’m uninvested in both. Now let’s get on with it:
While people took to social media for #HollywoodSoWhite propaganda, they ignored everything else that is and makes a movie. To create a movie, especially one that’s already in existence, the studio or interested parties must purchase the rights to the story idea for their purpose. During contract negotiations, it’s insanely likely that the creative team interested in producing the film will give some ideas of what they’d like to do, though, at this point, they may not know what all they’d like to do. When the contract is signed, the studio is free to use the story, characters, and etc, however, the see fit as long as it fits within the confines of the contract.
The People Throwing the Fits Don’t Even Watch the Show
If the owners of the Ghost in a Shell copyright were so offended by the idea of white casting in this movie, they would have mentioned something and I bet you it would have been in the contract. The population doesn’th have the authority to define a private contract or dictate the creative engineering of a work of art, but I’ll get into that later.
As the controversy peaked, Kodansha, one of Japan’s largest publishers and the first to publish Ghost in a Shell back in 1989 commented on the controversy:
“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well-cast,” Sam Yoshiba, director of the international business division at Kodansha’s headquarters in Tokyo, told The Hollywood Reporter (via AnimeNewsNetwork and RocketNews). “She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.”
“This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world,” said Yoshiba.
Yoshida had the opportunity to visit the movie set in New Zealand while they shot and after visiting the set, he commented saying, ‘He was impressed by the respect being shown for the source material.”
It wasn’t only the publisher of Ghost in a Shell that didn’t have a problem with Johansson in the role, but when the movie was presented to Japanese people online, they didn’t seem to care either.
So where is all this outrage coming from?
It’s coming from the same people who look at Disney stories derived from European culture who then say the princesses need to not be white. There are people all over the internet and college campuses who talk about removing the white characters or white Disney princesses because, by virtue of being white, they’re racist. Many of the original Disney films are inspired by European fairytales and, despite what your gender and race studies courses tell you, Europe was majority white in the past, you know, like 90%+. Yet no one has problems removing these characters from their original races to turn them into other races for the sake of appeasement–let that sink in. It’s not even for the sake of telling a story in a new way or artistic expression. It’s for the sake of appeasement for the racial superiority lynch mobs because if they dared loyal to the source material by making the characters white, or God forbid they have a different artistic vision to present, we’ve got a new riot and lynch mob for #SoWhite and #WhiteFragility.
Let’s try that with any other race. What if we started complaining #SoJewish or #BlackFragility when criticizing black acting in movies? It wouldn’t go over too well, would it? I don’t even have to say, ‘what if we took the character of xxx race and revamped the story with white/European background instead’ because even just casting one character as white threw people in an uproar when it came to Ghost in a Shell.
The whole outrage surrounding #HollywoodSoWhite was the most ridiculous race baiting garbage I’d heard from the 2015 entertainment industry. From articles like this, ‘reporters’ would gather demographic information and then claim, “Look at the level of white actors still dominating Hollywood! This s a problem!” but then in the same articles or ‘research responses,’ they wouldn’t post the demographics of the entire country. If you looked at the stats in the above article and the demographics of the US, the representation for the races is fairly accurate in both. If you had a black population of 15%, but Hollywood had a black demographic o 40%, that would show racist favoritism that doesn’t reflect the population.
Artistic License, Is It A Thing Anymore?
One comment I found read, And if the publisher of the manga can’t imagine Motoko as a Japanese actress then they lack imagination, something some Japanese cosplayers like Omi Gibson luckily have.”
Yoshida never said he ‘couldn’t imagine’ her as a Japanese actress. He said he didn’t imagine her as a Japanese actress and that doesn’t mean other people can’t have their own vision. Storytelling, movies, manga… it’s all art which means it’s up for interpretation to each individual who encounters it. I’m really sick of this whole idea that “Well my idea of how this should look/work is different than yours, therefore, you’re 100% wrong because we can’t both be right.”
Art and logic are two different things. When you’re facing a creative problem, there are multiple answers. Take every rendition of any Shakespeare play ever. Everyone who approaches Shakespeare has a different vision for what his shows would look like, but no one complains. Should people be barred from mixed color casting, or casting anything but white people for a majority of the roles because Shakespeare was from England so his stories were ‘imagined with white actors,’ if we want to assume (not including Othello)? No. Art allows individuals to reimagine things how they want.
Let people reimagine THEIR version of the story however they want. You don’t like how Ghost in a Shell turned out? Save your pennies, purchase the rights, and make your own version OR write your own story altogether, but it’s nobody’s place to dictate how someone else achieves their artistic vision. I write fiction and I’ll be damned if someone reads anything I write and tells me I don’t have enough diversity so I need to write in random characters for the sake of that.
If and when my books are sold into television/movie of some kind, if the image of the character is imperative to keep the same as the book description, that will be part of the contract negotiations, but for the most part, I understand that when I sell my copyrights to someone to do what they want with, then it’s not my vision they’re creating, it’s theirs. They’re taking inspiration from the world I created and reimagining it. It’s a collaboration, and with many movies, the writer is done when the source material is done and then you enjoy it for what it is: often an AU of the original.
I actually consider just about anything NOT written by the original author/creator as fanfiction, regardless of how close it is to the original. The Silent Hill movies? Fanfiction, because they weren’t done by the original creators, but were inspired and written in that universe. This rule can be applied to literally anything and people might calm down if they consider that way.
One more thing I wanted to cover with the ‘whitewashing’ people though… Where are you on the historical dramas the BBC is producing where white historical figures are being replaced with black actors and actresses? If any of this was about staying true to the source material, then there should be outcry when any race is removed from their story, but it’s only ever when a white actor or actress is cast in a role–and it’s not always in a role that was a different race in the original. I’ve seen outrage because the character would have been any race, but the director cast a white person.
I literally have no response to that other than fuck you. Do you see major uproars when a random black actor/actress is cast in a role that could be anyone? No, because it’s freaking ridiculous and you’re actually a racist for throwing a tantrum that a white person got a job that anyone could do. Either consistently fight this for EVERYONE or you are a racist hypocrite.
A couple years back, a gag article was going around the internet stating that Leonardo DiCaprio would play MLK in a movie and people got so outraged because “historical black man being played by whitie!!” Then, of course, asked, “What if we cast a black person to play Lincoln?” Quite honestly, as long as you don’t push it as historically accurate, I couldn’t care less, but do be aware we have retards out there claiming Lincoln was black–and he was not. As long as people are upfront about their changing facts, no longer calling it ‘historical’ or ‘based on a true story’ but rather, “this is just fiction” then I don’t care. People are allowed to do what they want–and sending out misinformation is something private citizens are legally allowed to do. I won’t like you for it, but if you want American fanfiction with races reversed, it’s well within your rights to write and produce it, but don’t demand money from me and I don’t have to enjoy it.
Japanese Name = Japanese, Bitch
Another argument that kept popping up against Major’s character being portrayed by a white woman was her name was Japanese so clearly, her ethnicity was Japanese. I’m going to keep this point short because it’s really not complicated. There are two things at play in a person: ethnicity and nationality. Ethnicity has to do with blood and genealogy. Nationality has to do with citizenship.
The author of the manga stated Major was based on a western person concept, and the commenter from above stated:
“Irrelevant, if he wanted to create her as a western character he would have called her Sophia or Emma (just like the characters from Cowboy Bebop are all westernized), she IS a Japanese character from Japanese parents living in Japan and working for the Japanese government, the only thing western about her is the cyberpunk influences in her art design, that doesn’t make her a western character, stop being so superficial please.”
Talk about arrogant. This guy dares respond saying someone else is being superficial when apparently all it takes to make someone Japanese is give them a Japanese name.
So according to this commenter, it doesn’t matter what the original artist imagined or thought because this commenter’s interpretation is clearly right. Feck man, I bet this guy thinks if he changes his name to Sasuke, he’s suddenly Japanese because name defines everything, huh?
Let me give you a scenario to see if we can make sense of this situation:
As an American, if I moved to Japan and legally became a citizen there, even with an Americanized name, I’d be a Japanese citizen, but I wouldn’t have Japanese genes. If I had completely white child over there, but named by child Sakura or something, so she fit in with the local culture, she would be white with a Japanese name. Her Japanese name wouldn’t make her Japanese by blood. Because of her genealogy, she would never be Japanese by blood.
Major is a robot, built in Japan. Of course, she was given a freaking Japanese name. That belongs to the culture that surrounded her. That would be true anywhere. If she were created in Italy, she’d be named something like Sofia because of the surrounding culture. If she were created in Sweden, she’d be named Mohammad because of the surrounding culture. Would that mean she’s ethnically Swedish or Italian or whatever? No. She’s a robot. She has no genes. Her name has literally nothing to do with her ‘ethnicity’ because she doesn’t have one.
Secondly, look at her picture: no nationality has red eyes and purple hair. She’s racially ambiguous in some ways and if the author/publisher/fans/the whole dang country say they don’t care, then why do you? Seriously, why?
Americans (and parts of Europe) are the only ones that give this much of a damn about race. The rest of the world thinks you’re stupid and reactionary for getting hung up on race for existing.
Does Audience Matter? The Country That It’s In?
The final thing I’d like to ask, about this whole ‘race outrage’ debacle… is what about the country in which the film is being produced/for?
Recently I’ve seen a video post moving around social media saying, “Look at the Full Metal Alchemist movie! It’s being produced right with Japanese characters!”
I’d just like to respond with: No shit they’re Japanese, the movie is being produced in Japan. What a lot of these whiners and virtue signaling race baiters don’t even pretend to acknowledge when waving around the above flags of success is that country of production matters. Of course, a movie produced in Japan is going to be mostly, if not all Japanese people. That’s what their population mostly is. However, when America makes a film showing it’s majority? #HollywoodSoWhite.
Cripes you guys.
Other countries buy and borrow ideas from other countries and reproduce those films/stories with their native population because their country will connect more with it if the people look like them. America has had movies taken from it and refilmed overseas with different race casts too and they don’t always turn out well. In fact, America spends… so much more money than other countries when it comes to making movies. Most often they try to interest local audiences and retain original content, other countries? Not always as successful…
So are you mad a majority white country remade a foreign film with a white lead? You’re dumb. What’s wrong with you?
Get off your high horse and stop lecturing everyone who doesn’t care about race about how racist they are. Your constant focus on race and predisposition to lecturing everyone about it shows your real state of mind.
You’re nothing short of a race baiting racist who wants to stop freedom of expression because someone else’s ideas aren’t the same as yours. If you can’t handle someone’s imagination being different than yours, then I hope you’re not in any creative field… because sooner or later, you’ll kill yourself. You can’t force creativity into your box. That’s the freaking point.
Now shut up and enjoy the movie or DON’T SEE IT.