Article by: Seo Young Oh
For many years, the film industry has been largely white-dominated across the globe. From the directing of the movie down to the actors on screen, there is a ratio greater than 3:1 of white males to every other color/gender there is (UCLA). While unfair proportion has been noticed for a long time, it wasn’t until only recently that people have really begun to speak out. Jada Pinkett Smith’s 2016 Oscar Boycott was heard all across the world and seemed to echo the million voices of those who have taken notice.
Fortunately, these voices have been heard and there has been a slight effort to increase diversity in the past decade. However, it is evident that there is still a long way to go for the myriad races and ethnicities to get their chance in the spotlight.
One major complaint that many are pointing out is when a Caucasian actor or actress is cast as a character who is meant to be a person of color. For example, Christian Bale played an Egyptian king in Exodus, Rooney Mara was a Native American Lily in Pan, Emma Stone a Hawaiian pilot in Aloha, and most recently, Scarlett Johansson in a Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell.
Ghost in the Shell is Paramount’s live-action adaptation of the much-loved anime and manga franchise that was released in the 90’s under the same name. Scarlett Johansson was cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi, the cyborg protagonist of the franchise.
Some argue that casting Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell isn’t whitewashing as her character has “white features” with big blue eyes and a muscular build. However, many fans of the manga and anime, particularly Jon Tsuei, a comic artist, state that Ghost in the Shell is “inherently a Japanese story, not a universal one” (Independent) as its core themes are centered around Japan’s cultural relationship to technology that evolved after World War II.
Sophomore Katya Z. says, “As someone who has watched the anime version of Ghost in the Shell, I was disappointed to see that the protagonist was white-washed. It’s a step down for Asian representation in Hollywood. I was really excited when I heard they were going to remake the 1995 animated version into a live-action one but I was kind of sad to see that they had casted Scarlett Johansson as the main character instead of someone who was Japanese. So, I guess I won’t be watching it anytime soon. To be honest, Scarlett Johansson is better off as the snake in The Jungle Book.”
Hopefully, in the near future, the film industry will progress into one that further accepts and showcases all races and ethnicities, becoming a more conscious and worldly industry.