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‘Ghost in the Shell’: the drawbacks of a big budget

Motoko Kusanagi, the cyborg protagonist of the Ghost in the Shell franchise is a human soul resting in what futuristic society refers to as a "shell". Photo credit: Bago Games

The trailer release of the live action remake of “Ghost in the Shell” has anime and manga fans anticipating the announcement of the film in the near future, but it is a source of concern to some who recognize the inequity within Hollywood.

The “Ghost in the Shell” franchise gained popularity in the 1990’s for its innovative portrayal of rapid technological development and the possible implications such advancements will have for humankind. The result was Japan riddled with post-apocalyptic cyber-terrorism, a concept that was a far futuristic reach at the time. Thus, the cyber-punk genre was born.

The trailer for the anticipated live action remake revealed that Scarlett Johansson would play the main character, cybernetic human Motoko Kusanagi. Although this character is a fictional cyborg, the plot takes place in Japan and she carries a Japanese first and last name. For this reason, it is logical to argue that an Asian actress should play the character, yet Hollywood chose a more profitable prospect.

“It’s all about economics,” said Mr. Roger Graziani, resident cinema expert, in reference to the lack of Asian representation in mainstream media. When approaching a high risk cinematic venture that appeals to a niche demographic, it seems the addition of a big name, such as Johansson, will compensate for any possible monetary losses.

“It bothers me that they didn’t make an effort to showcase Asian talent, and went for what was safe and easy,” said senior Emilia Huerta, president of Anime Club. The decision to cast a white, A-list actress rather than showcase underrepresented Asian talent in mainstream American media shows a lack of effort on the part of producers and director.

Some fans might allow this compromise of cinematic integrity to slide because Johansson’s name will bring more money to the studio, meaning more funding for realistic graphics. However, compromising ethnic integrity has been a historic flaw in American cinema, and should not be allowed to continue. The wealth that rests in white actors names exists because audiences perpetuate their fame, while others remain undiscovered.

Tammy Wong, senior and President of Asian Unity agreed that a lack of risk-taking within mainstream media has hindered representation.

“I was really upset when they remade ‘The Last Airbender,’ with B-list, white actors. Is it really that hard to find Asian actors and stay true to a narrative?” Tammy asked.

Although Johansson’s name will fund the cinematic project, “Ghost in the Shell” seems to be another textbook example of whitewashing in Hollywood.

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