Unfortunately, the recent uproar against Hollywood’s penchant for whitewashing their movies is a completely valid one. Far too often we have seen more well-known white actors in the leading roles in movie adaptations of books, comic books, etc. that were originally another race. The only reason for this is because they feel that it will put more butts in the movie theater seats. Frankly, the practice is wrong and should be stopped.
Case in point, in 2015 we heard that Paramount was going to bring us a live-action movie of Ghost in the Shell, which is super exciting for those of us who love the manga and the animated movies. In the same breath, they announced that they had cast Scarlett Johansson as the lead character Major Mokoto Kusanagi. WHAT?!?! Needless to say, this brought out the fires of hell from fans in every country. If that isn’t blatant whitewashing, I don’t know what is. Continuing on that train of thought, pictures of Johansson were released recently, and the haters started hating again. Understandably.
This brings us to the current topic, which is, this could have been much, much worse.
Screencrush unleashed the info that a studio insider told them that Paramount did some ultra-inappropriate visual effect manipulation to try to appease the masses. Here is what they had to say:
According to multiple independent sources close to the project, Paramount and DreamWorks commissioned visual effects tests that would’ve altered Scarlett Johansson in post-production to “shift her ethnicity” and make the Caucasian actress appear more Asian in the film.
It’s the latest, and most extreme, case of “beauty work,” the new trend in Hollywood to discreetly use visual effects to tweak an actor’s appearance, making them thinner, younger or stronger. The Ghost in the Shell tests were conducted by Lola VFX, the same company that aged up (and down) Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and is considered the industry leader in so-called beauty work. Though the tests were requested by the production team, once they were developed and reviewed, the idea was rejected “immediately,” says an insider.
Screencrush reached out to Paramount, who claimed that the tests had nothing to do with Johansson.
"A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded. Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so."
The report goes on to say that their sources are adamant that the screen test were done on SJ and the studio is trying to deflect the fury that is headed their way once this statement is released.
I supremely dislike that the studios feel the need to bring in the biggest star instead of keeping true to the integrity of the original body of work. What makes this whole situation feel so much slimier is the fact that there are a lot of Asian actors who could have played this role. That could have brought more validity to the movie. Please don’t get me wrong, Johansson is a great actress and will probably put everything she has into this role, unfortunately this whole situation could have been avoided had they cast someone else.
We as a fandom are extremely protective of our favorite properties and feel that anyone doing an adaptation of said properties should take as much care of them as we would. In the past, casting someone against the norm has been successful due to expert care and consideration of what we as fans will think of the finished product. When that care is not taken, the project usually fails.
I certainly hope that the group responsible for Ghost in the Shell makes something so fantastic with this movie that it won’t matter who was cast as the lead. I guess only time will tell.