Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi is white washing? I don’t agree.


So it’s came to light that actress Scarlett Johansson will be playing the role of Cyborg heroine Motoko Kusanagi in a live action adaptation  of  Masamune Shirow’s anime ‘Ghost In The Shell’.  Besides the obvious, “Why Scarlett Johansson?” line of questioning, some folks on the internet have already started calling out Hollywood for “White Washing” the role of the character, who’s story takes place in Japan and who is of Japanese origin.

First off, I’m not too sure about the casting of Ms. Johansson as ‘The Major’ I honestly feel like the casting director saw her in ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Lucy’  and thought those two characters she portrayed aligned with what American audiences would perceive Motoko as. Which in my honest opinion, would be doing the character a great disservice. Besides that point  there are people calling Johansson’s casting as whitewashing are using ‘Dragonball:Evolution‘ and M.Night shyamalan ‘Avatar‘ as an examples of Hollywood’s need to cast white actors in place of “clearly” Japanese characters. While I do believe whitewashing does exist ( Justin chatwin as Goku?) in Hollyweird, I don’t believe the same ridicule can be applied to a character like Motoko Kusanagi.

I say this simply because of the background and setting of Ghost in the Shell. Which, when you really think about it, could technically take place in any part of the world.Public Security Section 9 (The outfit that the Motoko leads in Ghost In The Shell) is basically an anti-cyber terrorist response group established under the Japanese government at some-point in the future.  Every aspect of that part of the story can be adapted in so many ways that’s it’s almost self-explanatory.Public Security Section 9 can be placed under any nation or this time around, be a multi-national task force with it’s members coming from around the world. If you saw 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow , Hollywood’s adaptation of the Japanese manga ‘All you need is kill’,  you know American adaptations of Japanese works can play out well on the big screen, even if character’s ethnicity’s are changed.

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow

While Motoko’s nationality is Japanese, however she isn’t drawn to look like a Japanese woman.For example in, how she is portrayed in the anime ‘Stand Alone Complex‘ her character looks like a Caucasian woman with goofy colored hair and an athletic build. Honestly, most anime characters are drawn to look Caucasian in the first place, with a few anime deviating from that (‘Paranoia Agent‘ and ‘Bokurano‘ come to mind) where the characters look Japanese.

Motoko as she is drawn in ‘Stand Alone Complex’

The character’s background as a body switching cyborg also helps to drive the point home, since Motoko  can switch to different prosthetic body (which she has done when her original sustains significant damage) she could technically have a different body if the story called for it.Hell at one point in ‘Stand Alone Complex‘ her partner, Batou, asks her why she doesn’t switch out into a male prosthetic body instead of a female one. Implying that she can just as easily be of another gender if she wanted to. So why would her ethnicity matter either?

I don’t agree with the alleged “White Washing” of Motoko Kusanagi, I get some of the outrage but I honestly feel it’s been misplaced this time around. With the recent releases of ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings‘ and the noise THAT casting created, I don’t blame people for being wary of Hollywood’s trickery but in the case of ‘Ghost In The Shell‘, I’m going to look past the actresses ethnicity and  just hope Ms. Johansson will do The Major and ‘Ghost In The Shell‘ justice.


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One Response to “Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi is white washing? I don’t agree.”

  1. Flame-X Says:

    I actually had the same kind of argument with a lot of purist fans of Ghost in the Shell. So I definitely agree with your thoughts on this.

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