“Scarlett Johansson has been plunged into a fresh Twitter storm over her casting in the Hollywood remake of classic Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell.
The first image of the Hollywood star as cyborg policewoman Major Kusanagi hit the web on Thursday as production began on the live-action reworking, reigniting a “whitewashing” row that has been rumbling ever since her casting was announced.
Last year, campaigners angered at the paucity of roles for east Asian actors in Hollywood launched a petition calling for Johansson to be dismissed from the forthcoming remake. It has thus far been signed by more than 65,000 supporters.
High-profile critics of the first image of Johansson included the actor Ming-Na Wen, who portrays Melinda May in superhero TV show Agents of SHIELD and was the voice of Disney’s Mulan.
“Nothing against Scarlett Johansson. In fact, I’m a big fan. But everything against this whitewashing of Asian role,” she wrote.
California-based comic-book writer Jon Tsuei said Hollywood had failed to comprehend the totemic nature of Ghost in the Shell within Asian culture.
“Ghost in the Shell, while just one film, is a pillar in Asian media,” he wrote. “It’s not simply a sci-fi thriller … This casting is not only the erasure of Asian faces but a removal of the story from its core themes.”
Others noted Johansson’s appearance in the film was almost identical to the original anime’s presentation of Kusanagi, apart for her race. There were also suggestions of east Asian Hollywood actors, including Oscar-nominated Pacific Rim star Rinko Kikuchi, who might have been cast instead…”