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First Look at Ghost in the Shell Reminds Us Hollywood Still Whitewashes Everything

AKA Ghost in the Shell: Whitewashing Complex

This morning, Deadline shared a first peek at Scarlett Johansson as the lead in the upcoming live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. As we’ve said many, manymany times before, this is a casting decision that we are incredibly unhappy with. It’s 2016, and people from a bunch of ethnicities are still struggling with erasure from narratives for no discernible good reason. Surprise, surprise. Hollywood still has a big old problem with race, and it’s especially visible in situations like these. Take a look at Doctor Strange and how it seems to completely avoid casting any Asian actors or actresses in any major roles despite the fact that a good chunk of it takes place in freaking Tibet. How is that okay? How do people justify taking away those roles from Asian people and giving them to folks who, while they may or may not be accomplished actors or actresses in their own right, shouldn’t be in those roles?

Going back to our original topic, Ghost in the Shell, as you may or may not know, is based on a manga that became an anime that became a series of popular animated movies in Japan. It centers around Major Motoko Kusanagi, who leads a special law enforcement team based in Japan. Kusanagi is a special character in that she has, since birth, existed inside of a “cyberbody,” one that’s manufactured (hence shell). In fact, this struggle between her and her identity with regards to her manufactured shell is something the source material explores quite in depth. While the argument can be made that a part of the narrative revolves around Kusanagi’s exploration of her identity, so “technically” anybody can play her, it feels like a weak cop out at best, a tired justification for why this role was straight up whitewashed.

It feels like Hollywood just doesn’t understand or respect the roster of amazing Asian actors and actresses that are just waiting to show everybody what they’ve been sleeping on, you know? One name in particular gets thrown around a lot when it comes to talking about this Ghost in the Shell flick: Rinko Kikuchi. She absolutely stole the show in Pacific Rim, and proved that she can lead a movie in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. How was she not considered for this role at all?

Sadly, whitewashed, “normalized” roles like these are and always have been the norm in Hollywood. This is the state of the industry. It is white, it is cis, it is straight, it is everything that so much of the world is not, and it honestly feels like Hollywood just does not care.

Butand this is a big butthis does not mean we can’t or shouldn’t talk about these things. I can see the comments already: “Why are we talking about this? This is unsurprising. This just gives them press and attention, stop it. Surprise, Hollywood is racist. What else is new?” The fact of the matter is that we talk about these things because if we don’t, nobody would ever know how bad things are. Silence makes one complicit in perpetuating this systemic erasure of people of color in the media and culture we consume. Yes, it is incredibly sad that we live in a world where ridiculous casting shenanigans like these are the norm. But that does not mean we can’t keep talking about it and asking for better.

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (, and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters ( She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.