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movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson

curated: ‘Ghost in the Shell’ meme backfires on Paramount

Wild stab in the dark, but I’m gonna guess they don’t have any nonwhite people in powerful roles in marketing.


posted in:
movie buzz
  • LaSargenta

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH

  • Jurgan

    I see some people saying that the character is a white woman living in Japan in the original as well. Don’t know if that’s true- I saw some Ghost in the Shell movie quite a few years ago, but I don’t remember much of it.

  • Bluejay

    As I understand it, anime characters — even with all their variable features, like huge eyes, multicolored hair, etc — are simply assumed to be Japanese by their Japanese creators and audiences, unless some specific physical exaggerations or some other narrative context indicate that a character is meant to be of some other ethnicity or culture. The Major is drawn in a way that falls within the anime standards for a character that’s assumed to be Japanese. Even more telling is that her original name is Motoko Kusanagi — and that this film felt the need to change her name to “Mira.” The whitewashing is strong with this one.

    https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/08/30/guest-post-why-do-the-japanese-draw-themselves-as-white/

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Mukokuseki

  • It’s funny because way back when I first saw the original Ghost in the Shell anime, which I loved, I wasn’t sure what her ethnicity was. The Major, and the big fellow with her, both kind of seemed “Western” in design. Not drawn like typical anime characters at all. Drawn more “natural”, or even western-looking.
    I don’t remember if they mention her full name in the actual anime. Do they?
    Regardless, as has been pointed out and proven, the character IS Japanese, and the white-washing IS a problem.
    Was there ever a live action GITS made in Japan?
    I ask because there are Western remakes of foreign films all the time that change the ethnicity of characters for the new market. I suppose those are different because they are remakes of live action movies? Don’t know.
    The movie doesn’t look much good to me, no matter the controversy.

  • RogerBW

    This is the first live-action version of the GitS story. And yes, the Major’s name has been given before.

    Ethnicity, and illegal immigration, are quite important in at least some previous versions.

    I also note that in previous versions of the story, while the Major is pretty special, she’s just one of lots of people with cyborg bodies. The trailers make it look as if she’s the only one.

  • Dent

    I am not Major

    I am Lucy

  • Dent

    Which is especially foolish of them because the main threat of the original film is only a threat to people with implants, which is something like a third of all people in developed nations and almost all government and law enforcement to some extent. The Major makes a point of having an un-altered human on her team because of this.

  • For me, this article says it all: http://nextshark.com/anime-racially-ambiguous-white-actors-llag/

    “If Anime Is ‘Racially Ambiguous,’ Why Do We Always Cast White Actors?”

  • Bluejay
  • That tweet seems to have been deleted. What was it?

  • Bluejay

    Ah. It was long and movingly written, but the gist of it was that it doesn’t matter if the Japanese are okay with anime characters being played by white actors, or if the Chinese are fine with Iron Fist being played by a white actor — because Asians in Asia are already amply represented by their media. This is an Asian-American issue; Asian-American kids are starved for representation, and it’s not the same when they’re told to simply watch films from Asia, or to visit their extended families in Asia, and are somehow expected to fully identify with those communities when their personal lived experience is so different.

  • RicoSuave

    The character of Togusa is played by Chin Han , a Singaporean actor of Chinese ethnicity doesn’t seem to have raised any eyebrows, In some ways that is more disconcerting because it shows the “they all look the same” mentality in casting Asian roles.

  • Yup, all good points.

  • You think that’s an equivalent issue?

  • RicoSuave

    Do you think it isn’t offensive to Japanese people to be considered interchangeable with any other Asian ethnicity ? No different from the idea that “all brown people look alike.. Mexicans, Indians etc”.

  • Bluejay

    It’s problematic, but still not an equivalent issue. Casting a different Asian ethnicity to play a character that is STILL JAPANESE is not the same as changing a character so that she is NO LONGER JAPANESE.

  • No different from the idea that “all brown people look alike.. Mexicans, Indians etc”

    No, it’s not. The differences between Asian countries are primarily cultural and political, not “racial.” Even many Asians cannot tell who is from what country merely by looking at their faces.

  • RicoSuave

    Wow.. did you really say “Most Asians cannot tell who is from what country” ? Many Mexicans and South American people look like people from India and the Middle East. Would you then accept if you heard a politician or law enforcement person made the exact same comment you made about them ?

  • Your analogy is off. Someone from China playing a Japanese character is more like someone from Mexico playing a Guatemalan character.

  • RicoSuave

    No, it isn’t like “Casting a Mexican to play a Guatemalan”

    Here is an excerpt from an article:

    “Geisha is a part of Japan’s eternal culture,” leading Chinese director Chen Kaige (“Farewell, My Concubine”) said at a symposium on Asian values at Japan’s Kobe University last November. Chen has directed Gong in three movies, but he sharply criticized Marshall’s decision to cast her and other non-Japanese actresses as geishas.

    “Every action you make, how you walk, how you use a Japanese fan, how you treat people and what kind of facial expressions you have when you talk is going to be expressed based on your Japanese cultural sophistication. … For Hollywood, however, this does not matter. For them, there is no difference between Japanese and Chinese.”

    https://kanai.net/weblog/2005/04/memoirs-of-a-geisha-casting-controversy/

    I find it ironic that in a time when even a voice actor (as in Moana) has to match the ethnicity of the character they voice, that suddenly now for Japanese the actors’ ethnic and cultural background are of no value. Ok then.

  • suddenly now for Japanese the actors’ ethnic and cultural background are of no value

    Nice straw man. No one has said such a thing. In fact, we’ve been saying the opposite. I am done with you.

  • RicoSuave

    You made the claim that a Chinese person playing a Japanese character was not a big deal as they couldn’t be distinguished from each other, in your words.. I quoted what a well known Chinese director said. Did I misunderstand you ?

  • RicoSuave

    Perhaps you should read what a well known Chinese director said about that …

    https://kanai.net/weblog/2005/04/memoirs-of-a-geisha-casting-controversy/

  • Even when you think you’re quoting me, you aren’t. Incredible.

  • He’s talking about culture.

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