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Ghost in the Shell controversy and Hollywood’s whitewashing of Asian character

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Hollywood loves creating movies with plots and characters involving ethnic minorities. These movies usually entail a ceremonial dumping of white paint on the movie to erase all semblance of racial diversity—aka whitewashing.

The Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell has recently been added to Hollywood’s easel. American studios Paramount and DreamWorks decided to make a live action version of the popular anime and cast Scarlett Johansson, a very white woman, to play the role of Major Kusanagi.

Understandably, the studios have faced much backlash for the decision. Many Americans are fed up with the whitewashing of racial minorities and lack of representation for the Asian-American and Latin-American communities. When these racial groups are cast in movies, they are usually background characters—and stereotypes, to boot.

Somehow, possibly by the unknown biology of some nonexistent universe, every Asian-American knows martial arts, speaks broken English, eats dogs and is extremely intelligent and all-knowing—at least that’s what Hollywood would have us believe.

Fans, upset at the casting choice for a movie that has a very Japanese story and background, came together to create a Care2 petition entitled, “DreamWorks: Stop Whitewashing Asian Characters.” The number of signers grew from 65,000 to 96,000 after it was revealed that the studio ran visual effects tests on Johansson’s character to “shift her ethnicity.”

Making Scarlett Johansson look more Asian is the most idiotic solution possible to the backlash. Not only does this show that studios think of race as no more than physical features, and not the communal history, culture and experiences members of a racial group share, but that Asian-American actors are not good enough to play lead roles in movies.

Hiring an actual Japanese actress who is badass (of which there are many) may have been too much for DreamWorks and Paramount to handle. Instead, they went the “easy” route, one they assumed would lead to more money, and hired a big-time white actress.

Kristina Balbin, a member of the Filipino Student Association at Texas State, had some choice words for the Hollywood portrayal of Asian characters.

“Scarlett Johansson may have been cast to make the movie more appealing and popular among American viewers,” Balbin said. “It would have been more reasonable to cast a Japanese actor, since it is a Japanese anime.”

However, many Hollywood movies fail to prove whitewashing will always lead to big bucks, especially when faced with controversy. These flops include, and are not limited to: Gods of Egypt, Pan, Aloha and Lone Ranger. Surprise, surprise—people aren’t happy when you erase a character’s race.

It’s laughable that whitewashing is pretty much acceptable to the American population, but heavens forbid you place an actor of minority racial background in a role “reserved” for a white character. All hell broke loose when Amandla Stenberg was cast as Rue in The Hunger Games and Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione Granger in the stage play. Yet, it’s A-OK for a white person to play a character of a different racial background because that is just “acting.”

Balbin brought up a Facebook post that asked girls if they found Asian men attractive. Many responders did not, and Balbin believes this is what leads to the denial of roles for many qualified Asian actors—Americans don’t find them appealing.

To be clear, Asian men are perfectly capable of being fine af, as are men of any other race. People need to stop comparing other races to the “American” standard of beauty —aka white, tanned and blonde—and accept all the magnificence diversity brings.

Hollywood needs to stop by Hobby Lobby and pick up some new colors because this whitewashing needs to stop.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Pretty sure major Kusanagi is a robot! Have you seen robots or fetishes in Japan?
    It is an american made movie, there are asian actors. would it be better if they were asian or Japanese… because not all asians are aline Chinese does not equal Japanese.

    over all, people in japan are excited about it…. it is americans who want EVERY thing to be offensive and sue.

    Granted it will still suck, but that is because they will try to put as much effects and cut out on the story line, they are just trying to cash in on as many topics as they can.

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