Scarlett Johansson has been cast as Motoko Kusanagi in the live film adaption of the Japanese anime classic Ghost in the Shell.
In response, a petition has been launched, signed by over 24,000 people as of this posting, accusing DreamWorks of whitewashing and calling for a recast of her role.
So Plotters, Opinions? Is Hollywood Whitewashing Asian Roles?
We here at PlotCulture say the answer is a resounding YES.
First off, I like Scarlett, but I feel like she’s becoming Hollywood’s go-to for female action heroes, and honestly its getting a little…. dull. I suppose some people will point to the influx of female action roles in recent years as a sign of a progressive shift, but if those roles are all played by one woman, does that really point to an industry shift? Or does it point to Hollywood milking a cash cow? Cash cow being “Put Scarlett in spandex = guaranteed success”. I don’t think this is fair to either Scarlett or the fans.
Secondly, and I think correctly, the petition points out that Motoko Kusanagi is a Japanese character of Japanese heritage. Hollywood has a tendency to ‘default’ to white if a character’s race isn’t stated and has whitewashed Asian characters many times in the past: i.e. Dr. No, Charlie Chan, and worst of all AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER OMGWTFASDF. While the first two examples were straight up yellow face, whitewashing damages our culture because it actively limits the diversity we see and thereby skews our view of the world in an inaccurate way.
A lot of studios seem to think that if you cast someone who isn’t famous, the movie won’t do as well, but in this instance I cry Bullshit. There are several Asian actresses in Hollywood that have the cultural cache and filmography to back up this movie. Sure they don’t have the same following as Scarlett, but they never will if Hollywood never hires them.
My top two actresses for Kusanagi are Rinko Kikuchi and Lucy Liu.
Rinko, who played Mako Mori in Pacific Rim is my top choice and is CLEARLY the first person DreamWorks should have considered when they went to hire someone for this role. She’s brilliant, an amazing actress, and has a super successful geeky film credit to her name.
Lucy Liu, while Chinese and not Japanese, is more of a long shot, as it has been a while since she did an action movie. However, Charlies Angels did very well and her recent success with Elementary has kept her fan base alive.
Clearly there are other Asian actresses in Hollywood and in the film world at large and its a massive oversight not to consider them.