“Ghost in The Shell” puts Asian American Actors in A Box

As if whitewashing was enough of an issue now we have white actors defending their decision to tell a story that is not theirs.

Whitewashing as a topic of conversation is back on this rise thanks to Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson has been cast as Major Mira Killian in Ghost in a Shell. Ghost in The Shell recently debuted as of March 31, 2017 and people haven’t stayed quiet about Johansson’s character. The character Major Mira Killian has appeared more than once throughout the entertainment industry. She has appeared in literature, television, a video game, an animated film, and now a live action film. The only difference from the recent film and the rest of the work is that it is not played by an Asian American actor for the first time. This has caused a massive controversy considering the role Scarlett Johansson, a white actress, is playing is known for being an Asian American. The controversy began due to a press photo that was released which displays Johansson as the character. The uproar was because it showed Johansson as the character, and anime fans who have followed this story for a while were finally hit with the real life fact, that their beloved heroin would be played by a white actress. Representation is so important and now a character already people have connected with and love is being replaced by someone who is telling a story and history that is not theirs to tell. Hollywood has always been accused of whitewashing their movies, this just adds another element to it. Scarlett Johansson has recently broken her silence about this and called it “an important role for women”. She believes she did not take the role from another actor, she thinks it is a rare opportunity to have a female as the protagonist.

Johansson broke her silence on this issue with the following statement:

“Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive,” Johansson said. “Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”

Calling it a film for women does not make it any less of an act of whitewashing. An Asian American could have done everything Johansson did, and could do the role justice. Putting actors in a box and making them smaller roles in film doesn’t help anyone. In today's world many have been saying that media might be a last hope for encouraging diversity. Well, we're not off to a good start. People are speaking out and saying there should be no excuse for taking a role and telling a story that is not Johansson's to tell. There are numerous roles for powerful women throughout film, but are enough of them Asian American women? There are many powerful white women in film, but we need more empowering roles for Asian American women! Instead of blaming an important topic on needing more empowering roles, the industry just needs to adjust the way they cast and they way they treat Asian American Actors. It’s time to change the norms and give credit where it is deserved. As a straight white women living in New York City it isn’t hard for me to be represented by Hollywood unlike it is for Asian American women and that is a conflict. White actors, and Hollywood itself, need to check their privilege. A lot of reports of whitewashing in the entertainment industry have used the excuse that it is an important role for women, but I think we stop using women as an excuse for whitewashing Asian American actors. They are constricted to what they can and can’t do. This is a time for change, it is time to realize that diversity is so important. The entertainment industry needs to wake up and come to realize that now more than ever is time for change.

A recent petition has been making its way to headlines revolving directly around this issue. It is stated in the petition that in 2013 only 4.4% of Asian American actors had a speaking roles. It also claims that they request that an Asian American actor to replace Scarlett Johansson. The people fighting this battle are not being stopped. A petition to stop whitewashing Asian American actors has been signed by over 105,000 people and sent to Dreamworks. Unfortunately, even 105,000+ people doesn’t phase Dreamworks as they have completely ignored the petitions existence. Some say that Dreamworks ignoring this petition is really similar to the way they ignore Asian American Actors, and they’re not wrong. Despite Dreamworks talents for ignoring anyone who can sign, should.

The success or failure of this film should really come down to Scarlett’s decision to play this role instead of how well she plays it. Now more than ever the entertainment industry should pride itself on diversity. This film is a step in the wrong direction. This issue has been ongoing and is far from over, but it's a battle worth fighting.