White-washing appears to be continuing in the worst way imaginable
At the tail-end of 2015, it was announced that Scarlett Johansson was cast in the leading role of Hollywood's adaptation of Ghost In The Shell, and the reaction was ..... mixed. To say the least.
For those not in the know, Ghost In The Shell is a hugely popular 1995 Japanese manga animated movie, set in the year 2029 and telling the story of Kusanagi, a cyborg policewoman and her partner hunt a mysterious and powerful hacker called the Puppet Master.
According to IMDb, the character name Johansson will be playing hasn't been changed, which led many to point out that this is just a further example of Hollywood's constant whitewashing of famous, non-Caucasian roles.
Chinese-American actress Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) took to Twitter to call out the situation:
Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I'm a big fan. But everything against this Whitewashing of Asian role.😒 https://t.co/VS6r6iish9— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) April 14, 2016
Similarly, screenwriter Max Landis (Chronicle, Fantastic Four) released a video explaining that while the casting was far from the perfect, it is merely a symptom of a much bigger problem, not the source of the problem itself.
But the problem doesn't stop there. Entertainment website Screengrab received word that Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks had commissioned a visual effects company to do some very specific work on the movie, i.e. make Scar-Jo look more Asian.
Paramount even reportedly replied to the accusation: "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."
This is the second claim of whitewashing in a major Hollywood blockbuster in recent days, as Tilda Swinton's character The Ancient One in Marvel's Doctor Strange is portrayed in the comic books as an old, Asian man.
While it's not something that is Asian specific, you don't have to look very far to find further examples of Hollywood whitewashing a role simply for the sake of potential box office returns.
From John Wayne in Genghis Khan to Jake Gylenhaal in Prince Of Persia, its something that film-makers have been doing wrong for over 70 years, and for some reason, continue to do so.
For the sake of Devil's Advocacy: who could Hollywood have possibly cast in the role that went to Scar-Jo in Ghost In The Shell? While there are some great actresses making big strides in Hollywood - Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim), Rila Fukashima (The Wolverine), Li BingBing (Transformers: Age Of Extinction), Bae Doona (Jupiter Ascending) - there aren't any who would be considered popular enough to carry a project like this by themselves.
On the other hand, Hollywood has never had a problem is sending a brand new star into the stratosphere off the back of a new franchise. Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White & The Huntsmen) could have insisted on keeping the movie within it's Asian roots, but the fact that he didn't, and the fact that CGI-inhanced Asian-features were checked out continues to to hammer home the bigger problem at large.
Ghost In The Shell is due out in Irish cinemas on March 31st 2017, but perhaps the best way to hammer home the point is via John Oliver's mini-segment on the topic.