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Asian American Media Group Accuses Scarlett Johansson of ‘Lying’ About ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Whitewashing Controversy

Variety logo Variety 3/31/2017 Sarah Ahern
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The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) has blasted the casting choice of Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell” just ahead of the film’s opening weekend.

In a statement released Friday, the group condemned the movie’s “whitewashing” of Johansson’s character Motoku Kusanagi who first appeared in the Japanese manga of the same name.

The organization also criticized Johansson’s recent interview on “Good Morning America,” in which the actress said she “would never attempt to play a person of a different race, obviously.” MANAA responded by writing that “she was lying.”

Additionally, the group denounced the casting of Michael Pitt in the role of Kuze in the film, which MANAA said “is revealed to have originally been named Hideo, meaning he too was Japanese.” © Provided by Variety

“Apparently, in Hollywood, Japanese people can’t play Japanese people anymore,” MANAA President Robert Chan said. “There’s no reason why either Motoku or Hideo could not have been portrayed by Japanese or Asian actors instead of Scarlett Johansson and Michael Pitt. We don’t even get to see what they looked like in their original human identities — a further white-wash.”

Last year, MANAA vocalized their opposition to the casting of Tilda Swinton in “Doctor Strange.” In the film, Swinton played “The Ancient One,” who in the original comic book is portrayed as a Tibetan male.

“Hollywood continues to make the same excuses, that there aren’t big enough Asian/Asian American names to open a blockbuster film,” added Founding President of MANAA, Guy Aoki. “Yet it has not developed a farm system where such actors get even third billing in most pictures. Without a conscientious effort, how will anyone ever break through and become familiar enough with audiences so producers will confidently allow them to topline a film?  When will we ever break that glass ceiling?”

The organization later indicated consequences of the casting on the film’s profit, citing films based on anime and mangas that featured non-Asian actors including “Dragonball Evolution,” “Speed Racer” and Matt Damon’s “The Great Wall.” Aoki finished by point out that “Ghost in the Shell” is looking at a moderate opening for its budget, and should trail behind “Beauty and the Beast” and possibly “Boss Baby” in its opening weekend.


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