On March 31, the long awaited live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell premiered in theaters. The film was met with equal parts excitement and controversy as accusations of whitewashing marred its reputation.
The film follows the story of “The Major”, a human-turned cyborg character leading a police defense squad in Japan. It is a remake based off of the 1995 original of the same name, which gained critical success and recognition as one of the greatest anime films in history. The remake was first slammed with outrage in 2015 when Paramount Pictures announced that it would cast Scarlett Johansson as the robotic protagonist.
Defenders of the film state that The Major” was never meant to be a Japanese character. Instead, the film strives to make “the shell” as ambiguous as possible with no set race. Mamoru Oshii, the director of the original Ghost in the Shell, reinforced this idea by stating:
“The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one…The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.”
When asked to comment on the whitewashing accusations, Scarlett Johansson said:
“I think this character is living a very unique experience in that she has a human brain in an entirely machinate body,” Johansson said. “I would never attempt to play a person of a different race, obviously.”