January of 2015, it was announced that Scarlett Johansson would star as Major
Motoko Kusanagi in Paramount's live-action adaptation of the beloved anime and
manga franchise Ghost in the Shell. The reaction at the time was mild to
positive —” mostly because it seemed
to make a lot of sense if we're just talking about Johansson's career. The
actress starred in a slew of sci-fi roles that allowed her to delve deep into
the relationship between a woman and her body and her consciousness: she was an
AI turned omnipotent being in Her, a lonely alien turned carnivorous
sexpot in Under The Skin, and a drug mule turned omnipotent being in Lucy.
Her career was an IRL thinkpiece, and assuming the role of a cyborg
supercop seemed like the next logical step.
usual, it took a picture for the outcry to start. This month, over a year after
the casting announcement, Paramount Pictures released a still of Johansson in
costume as Kusanagi, and the internet did not take it well. The image of a
famous white actress in Kusanagi's signature black bob seemed like another
depressing example of Asian actors being removed from Asian narratives —” the insult of M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar adaptation and
Emma Stone playing a half-Chinese character in Aloha were still fresh in
our collective memory..