We got our first glimpse of Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell last Thursday when Paramount and Dreamworks Pictures released an image from the upcoming film.
Her casting as a live action version of a Japanese anime character was already controversial when it was first announced, and that was renewed with the release of the image. Of course, social media was merciless with its response.
It's astoundingly uncomplicated. Ghost in the Shell takes place in 21st century Japan, and Kusanagi is written as Japanese
— Kwame Opam (@kwameopam) April 14, 2016
Can't wait for the new Ghost in the Shell movie so I decided to cast dream roles for my other fave animes too!! pic.twitter.com/1eo4uJpp7b
— H. Caldwell Tanner (@caldy) April 16, 2016
Good to see ScarJo embracing her Japanese heritage as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell. pic.twitter.com/iAmTFJK8E4
— Andy Mannion (@andymannion77) April 14, 2016
Some were a little bit more understanding
I REALLY like Scarlett Johansson. She'll do great in Ghost in the Shell. But it bothers me Hollywood STILL overlooks a lot of Asian actors.
— Meghan Sullivan (@Meghan_IGN) April 14, 2016
While some took matters into their own hands and decided to manipulate the image to place the actress they want for the role:
— Mashable (@mashable) April 18, 2016
It seems though that the producers of the film are paying very close attention to the public outcry, and it is reported that they are working on a way to dampen the controversy -- but not in a way that fans will like. In fact, it could be considered mildly sinister and underhanded.
Instead of reconsidering their decision to cast a white actress in a iconic Japanese role, ScreenRant has reported that Paramount and Dreamworks have green lit 'visual effects tests' to alter Scarlett Johansson's appearance to make her look more Asian.
Paramount Pictures did confirm that tests were done, but they have insisted that Johansson was not involved in any way. Speaking to ScreenRant, they issued this statement;
"A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded. Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so."
Despite the denial, ScreenRant is standing by their sources and asserts that Scarlett Johansson was the focus of the test, despite the actress not being aware of what was being done.
This controversy may fan the flame even further, already there is a petition to replace Johansson as the lead actress in Ghost In The Shell, and, so far, it has gained more than 90,000 signatories -- its goal is to garner at least 95,000. The petition's overview reads:
"The original film is set in Japan, and the major cast members are Japanese. So why would the American remake star a white actress? The industry is already unfriendly to Asian actors without roles in major films being changed to exclude them."
It seems strange that Hollywood insists on keeping the 'white-washing' tradition alive; from a business standpoint, that wouldn't be good in the long run. After all, emerging nations propelled Hollywood blockbusters to new heights, and China -- and, by extension, Asia -- is poised to become the World's biggest movie market.