First Picture of Scarlett Johansson in 'Ghost in the Shell' Reignites Whitewashing Controversy

Her casting as a Japanese woman named "Motoko" has many animé fans angry.

First Picture of Scarlett Johansson in 'Ghost in the Shell' Reignites Whitewashing Controversy
Paramount Pictures

Scarlett Johansson is one of Hollywood's most beloved and bankable action stars, but her casting in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell — a movie adapted  from Japanese manga and animé — has fans feeling divided. While some can't wait to see how Johansson plays lead character Major Motoko Kusanagi, others have taken the production to task for casting Johansson to play the Japanese character, whose name will still be Motoko in the movie.

In the manga and the TV show, Motoko's mind inhabits an artificial cyber-body, which conceivably could explain a Japanese woman inside a European body. But that definitely doesn't absolve the casting choice.

The complaining hasn't been limited to just fans either. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress Ming-Na Wen tweeted her displeasure with the casting Thursday morning:

The upset comes on the heels of a similar controversy over Marvel's upcoming Doctor Strange movie, which appears to treat Asian culture with an exotic mystical other-ness many find off-putting. It also seems to completely erase the story's Asian-ness in its casting, especially with Tilda Swinton playing "The Ancient One," a character traditionally portrayed as Asian (and male, but honestly that doesn't seem like a problem). Both incidents together have more people talking about Hollywood's troubling tendency to erase Asian cultures and characters. The topic was also hotly debated when Aloha hit theaters last year and many took exception to Emma Stone playing a woman of partially Chinese and Hawaiian descent.

So far, Johansson hasn't weighed in on the sensitive issue, but some fans have defended her while taking offense at the choices being made by producers and director Rupert Sanders, who also directed Snow White and the Huntsman.

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