Scarlett Johansson's casting in the upcoming big-screen adaptation of formative Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell was met with fervent criticism. The 2016 release of the first photo of Johansson in character as Major Kusanagi — simply renamed The Major in director Rupert Sanders's film — prompted not only a public conversation about whitewashing in Hollywood, but also a petition to recast the seminal role with an Asian actress.
Despite the controversy, later fueled by damning reports that the studios ran CGI tests to alter the white actors' appearances to appear more Asian, Johansson kept relatively mum. Until now.
In a new interview with Marie Claire, Johansson insisted that she "certainly would never presume to play another race of a person" in the film. "Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive," she said.
Sanders and producer Steven Paul have since clarified that their film, due out March 31, is an "international" take on Ghost in the Shell, implying that some of the characters in the anime are no longer Japanese — like Johansson's cyborg, The Major.
However, some argue that Ghost in the Shell's Japanese origins are imperative to the narrative and make it a uniquely Japanese story, not a global story. Johansson, however, was just psyched to lead her own action franchise — an opportunity that Marvel has yet to give her with a stand-alone Black Widow movie.
"Having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity," she said. "Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders."
While it would be unfair to criticize Johansson for seizing such an opportunity, it's important that we hold those in charge of casting decisions to a higher stander. If Ghost in the Shell's aim was to create a multicultural world, then shouldn't it have led by example with an Asian star?