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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

curated: good rundown of Hollywood whitewashing as exemplified by ‘Ghost in the Shell’

All of this cannot be repeated often enough.

posted in:
easter eggs
  • Bluejay
  • Danielm80
  • Bluejay

    An older piece from Teen Vogue, getting it dead right as always:


  • Bluejay

    Another good discussion here:


    A couple of key passages:

    The dystopian world [of GiTS] is for all intents and purposes a post-racial society, where individual identity doesn’t appear to be constructed predominantly along racial lines. That’s (almost) a lovely idea. But every film of course must bridge the gap between the world it depicts and the world we’ve got. In a more equitable situation, Johansson’s claim that her character is “identity-less” might ring less hollow. But in an industry that is only just beginning to tell stories about people who are neither white nor black, it inevitably smacks of celebrity privilege.

    Maybe we collectively need to find a more inclusive umbrella term for it. But whether you call it yellowface, white saviorhood, race-bending, erasure — it’s all whitewashing if a story rooted in Asian origins or an Asian setting defaults to a white normative reality.

    Spot-on. People who argue that Johansson’s Caucasian appearance makes plausible sense WITHIN the plot are ignoring the fact that whitewashing is also about the real-world biases of the filmmakers OUTSIDE the plot — biases that influence how stories are written or adapted, and who gets cast.

    It would be wonderful if all films truly had “color-blind” casting, where any actor can play anyone. But in practice, this usually translates to “whites get to play ‘race-neutral’ characters AND characters of other ethnicities,” while minority actors rarely get the same opportunity. The result is we get even MORE whiteness on our screen, and Asians are rendered even more invisible, even in stories about us.

    When Hollywood casting directors no longer automatically default to “white” — when it’s just as easy for Asian actors to get cast as Black Widow, Lara Croft, Superman, Wonder Woman, James Bond, Doctor Who, Iron Man, and hundreds of other lead roles, as it is for white actors to get cast in Asian roles — THEN it might be okay for Scarlett Johansson to play Major Motoko Kusanagi. But not before then.

  • Danielm80

    I wonder if it’s time to put all the articles we’ve linked together in one lengthy bibliography. Then we can just refer the people who defend the film to that list. But I’ve really appreciated all the thoughtful responses in the comment thread. Your comment (which I’m replying to now) and all of MaryAnn’s comments this morning were excellent—particularly when I contrast them with the insane arguments you’ve been responding to.

  • Bluejay

    And for those who like podcasts, here’s a good hour-plus roundtable conversation hosted by Jeff Yang and Phil Yu. A fascinating deep-dive that explores issues both much-discussed and little-noticed (to my knowledge). Worth listening to in full (though I had to skip over some Get Out spoilers in the middle), but in the last 10 minutes there’s also a look at the bright side of things, in terms of what Asian-American creators and communities are coming up with.


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