The First Ghost in the Shell Movie Footage Won’t Help Dispel Any Backlash

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ScarJo’s turning Japanese, I think she’s turning Japanese, I really think so.

When Scarlett Johansson was first announced for the lead role in the live action, Hollywood produced Ghost in the Shell movie, a backlash of whitewashing accusations hit the internet like something that hits something else really fast and hard. The beloved Japanese cyberpunk story – an anime on the cultural assimilation level of Akira or Spirited Away or Dragon Ball Z, meaning that even non-hardcore anime-niacs know of its existence – was being tampered with by the Hollywood establishment, and “they” were gonna get an earful.

At the time, I didn’t think too much of it, because plenty of Eastern properties have had successful Western reimaginings sans any Caucasian casting controversy. We have a white person version of Korea’s Oldboy. The Departed is a white person version of Cantonese film Infernal Affairs. We love Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa so much, we can’t stop making white people versions of his movies, usually rejiggering his samurai stories into a more white friendly cowboy story, like A Fistful of Dollars or The Magnificent Seven for Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, respectively. Japan’s Ring was some scary shit, but we needed a white lady from Somewheresville, Oregon version for America to catch on. More or less, it seems that as long as the American remake is set in America and not supposed to be white people playing Asian roles, we’re good.

The first footage for our Hollywood Ghost in the Shell movie comes in the form of 5 short teaser clips (located at the bottom of this page). I like my trailers to establish tone, atmosphere, and aesthetic and give nothing else away, so I’m really into the marketing strategy of this film already. It’s adequately ominous and sci-fi-ish. (Inevitably, we will get a 2 minute movie summary trailer like we do with everything else that I will adamantly avoid out of principle for as long as possible, which usually equates to the amount of time it takes for me to get to a device that can play videos from the internet immediately after hearing the news that a 2 minute movie summary trailer has dropped.)

From the teasers, it’s difficult to say that this is or isn’t some Neo-Tokyo setting or that Scarlett Johansson’s character is or isn’t supposed to be Asian. The Japanese influence is still readily apparent, but what’s shown could be any future city from anywhere, even if it certainly feels like it’s leaning more towards an Eastern setting. If you want to be upset still with the casting and everything, these clips can appropriately provoke that urge. If you wished for your misgivings to be assuaged, you might be out of luck.