The first image of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the live action film adaptation of cult Japanese Anime Ghost In The Shell has been released. It shows her without her signature blond locks; instead, she has dark hair and appears to be staring at a liquid-like reflective surface.
Understandably, Scarlett Johansson's casting as what is supposed to be a role for a Japanese -- or, at the very least, Asian -- actress has been met with some criticism, and that uproar has been reignited with the release of this image.
This comes at a time when Hollywood is being scrutinized for its lack of diversity with its major movie release, as well as continuing its tradition of "white-washing" -- the act of casting white actors and actresses for obviously non-white roles.
The latest incidents of such acts would include the predominantly white cast of Gods Of Egypt and of Rooney Mara playing Tiger Lily in Pan. Aside from Ghost In The Shell, another upcoming adaptation of another anime Death Note has cast Natt Wolf, another white actor in what is supposed to be a Japanese lead role.
Asian-american actress Ming Na-Wen, who plays Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., re-tweeted an article about the newly released image and added her own two cents against it. "Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role." she wrote.
Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role.? https://t.co/VS6r6iish9
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 14, 2016
The newly-released picture does show that Johansson's hair and make-up may have been done to emulate Asian characteristics, but, even if the film portrays Motoko as predominantly Asian, that doesn't make the casting any less offensive. Screen Crush even reported that producers of Ghosts In The Shell may have conducted CGI tests in order to manipulate Scarlett Johansson's image to look more Asian as an attempt to quell the criticism.
It seems a whole lot of effort is being put to make the actress fit the role instead of auditioning for someone who already does, just for the sake of white-washing.
Will it be worth it in the end? We'll find out when Ghost In The Shell opens in cinemas on March 31, 2017.