White as a Ghost: on the casting of Scarlett Johannson

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Scarlett Johansson as "The Major."

Scarlett Johansson as “The Major.”

Scarlett Johansson is an immensely talented actress.  This is not up for debate.  However, what should absolutely be up for debate is the fact that she probably should not be cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi, the leading role in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell film adaptation, out in March of next year.

In the first released promotional still, Johansson’s character is referred to only as “The Major,” though the IMDB page for the film specifically calls her “Kusanagi.”  Following the nasty backlash at Emma Stone’s casting as Allison Ng in Aloha, Rooney Mara’s inappropriate casting as Tiger Lily in Pan (a role she regrets taking, and probably only partially because the film bombed,) and the idiotic whitewashing of Gods of Egypt, it seems that the studios aren’t learning anything yet.  They’re casting whomever they want, and apologizing only after it looks like the movie will fail (and all three of the previously mentioned films did fail.)

When casting a person of color, there is often a small but vocal Twitter backlash from, well, racists.  See also the people who complained that the canonically “dark-skinned” Rue was cast as a young black girl, or the people who complained when Hermione was cast as a black woman in the upcoming Cursed Child play even when her skin color has never been mentioned.   Not to mention the backlash at the idea of casting Idris Elba as James Bond.

Asians have long been excluded from media entertainment and whitewashed. Dreamworks is making a huge mistake attempting to bet the property on a “bankable” star- before this, their first choice was then lesser-known-but-no-less-white Margot Robbie, best known as Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie.

After so many attempts at whitewashing have failed spectacularly in recent memory, why are the studios still sticking by it?

Respectful dialogue welcome.

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