What's Behind Scarlett Johansson's Ghost In The Shell Controversy

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
For as long as Hollywood has churned out movies, directors have cast white actors as minority characters. It's called whitewashing, and sadly it's nothing new. Though, it's for this reason people have gotten increasingly pissed off with every new film featuring a white actor in a non-white character's role. It's 2016, and Hollywood should know better. At this point, it feels like a giant "fuck you" to minorities in and outside the industry when white actors continually snag roles that don't belong to them.

The latest prominent example of whitewashing is the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the main character in Ghost in the Shell, the upcoming sci-fi action film based on the popular Japanese manga of the same name, written by Masamune Shirow. The movie, due out in March 2017, stars Johansson as a human-cyborg hybrid, a special ops commander who fights cyber terrorism in a dystopian Japan of the near future.
This one role is only indicative of a larger industry practice. There are a multitude of legitimate reasons that people are pissed off about Johansson taking the starring role, and the persistence of whitewashing in Hollywood. Click through for a quick explainer.
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Photo: Courtesy of Shochiku.
Whitewashing source material is inauthentic

Whenever someone changes the ethnicity of a character in the original source material to be white, that's a problem. Why? They are co-opting a story for its value and then stripping away the nonwhite elements they don't like. Acquiring the rights to a book or a movie in another language or from another culture and then replacing the minority characters with white people is akin to cultural appropriation. It's inaccurate and disrespectful.
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Photo: Ben Rosser/BFA/REX/Shutterstock.
Whitewashing deprives minority actors of roles

This is Rinko Kikuchi, a Japanese actress whom you might recognize from 2013's Pacific Rim. She is one of dozens of Japanese actresses who would have been suitable to play the starring role that went to Johansson. Asian and Asian-America actors are already severely underrepresented in cinema. How are minority actors supposed to get jobs if they aren't even allowed to play their own characters? How are they supposed to prove their bankability if they never get the chance?
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Photo: Courtesy of Marvel.
Whitewashing tells audiences that white is better

Think of all the young people that went to see Dr. Strange on opening weekend. Think of all those young, impressionable minds that are, once again, being fed the idea that being white is more desirable, more ideal, than not being white. In this case, Tilda Swinton was cast as The Ancient One. When there is no justifiable reason to change the ethnicity of a character, the implicit message is that white is a standard.
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