Fans of 1995’s Ghost In The Shell have been waiting for years for a live-action take on the anime classic, but the first look at the Scarlett Johansson film has arrived to accusations of whitewashing.
In Ghost In The Shell Johansson will play a human-cyborg hybrid who leads a task force called Public Security Section 9 against a powerful hacker.
In the source material the character was a major called Motoko Kusanagi. Although all the press materials for the photo release refer to her simply as “the major” that hasn’t stopped social media weighing in.
Twitter has erupted with complaints about Johansson, a caucasian actress, playing a character previously portrayed as Japanese in both the animated movie and the manga comic it’s based on.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, leading the charge is an actress who, like Johansson, is a key player in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Macau American actress Ming-Na Wen is a series regular on Agents of SHIELD, and she was quick to criticise Hollywood for making a Ghost In The Shell movie and ignoring its heritage.
Wen, who previously voiced the lead character in Disney’s Mulan, is the highest profile voice in a strong backlash.
Her comments may end up driving a rift in the happy land of Marvel far worse than the showdown due to unfold in Captain America: Civil War.
Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role.? https://t.co/VS6r6iish9
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 14, 2016
Any screen meeting between Johansson’s Black Widow and Wen’s Melinda May would surely bring some extra charge. At the very least there’ll be an awkward encounter at the Marvel Christmas Party.
Elsewhere, YouTuber Jimmy Wong weighted in, saying: “Ghost in the Shell was one of the most important movies to my brother and me growing up. It really does hurt to see it get this treatment”.
Fans have also been recommending Asian actresses who are more suitable for the role of Kusanagi.
— bryanedwardhill (@bryanedwardhill) April 14, 2016
Pacific Rim’s Rinko Kikuchi, Kill Bill’s Chiaki Kuriyama and Suicide Squad star Karen Fukuhara have been brought up as credible alternatives.
Ghost In The Shell doesn’t arrive in cinemas until April 2017, so expect this debate to run and run until then.