Word of mouth is essential to a major release these days. Studios release images, clips, teasers, and posters well in advance of a film’s release date in a bid to build hype around a potential blockbuster on social media. Marketing budgets can consequently reach mammoth proportions, and often the investment pays off.
Sometimes, however, it doesn’t. Sometimes it can all go horribly wrong from the start, and then what do you do? Especially when the problem with your multi-million dollar movie is the star.
That’s the problem Paramount and Dreamworks are facing in regards to their live-action adaptation of the iconic Japanese manga, Ghost in the Shell. Today, the first image of the film was released, and already it has set Twitter ablaze — for all the wrong reasons.
In the film, Scarlett Johansson plays the lead character; Major Motoko Kusanagi. Despite shortening her title to simply Major, the film has run afoul of its potential audience well in advance of its March 31, 2017 release date.
Twitter has erupted with accusations of whitewashing in relation to the movie’s casting of a white woman as an Asian character. Studio heads were probably glad to see it trending on Twitter, with almost 40,000 tweets, until they saw what people had to say. Check out a selection of the tweets below in which users take Hollywood to task for messing up the casting of another beloved property.
Were all these women busy?? Were they contacted, Paramount? They've all acted in a superhero and/or SFF property. pic.twitter.com/YeHLbvIRJs
— clara mae (@ubeempress) April 14, 2016
the ghost in the shell casting looks so awful :-((
— shoelace dog (@spacebrat99) April 14, 2016
Hollywood is going to butcher Ghost in the Shell.
— Mike Jones (@sandniggamike) April 14, 2016
Scarlett Johansson in a real life adaption of ghost in the shell is such horrible casting it makes me want to forget ever watching the show
— Mich♡ (@MichelleAslam) April 14, 2016
would it be more or less problematic for the creepy scarlett johannsen robot doppelganger to play the lead in the ghost in the shell movie
— sarah jeong (@sarahjeong) April 14, 2016
If you're against the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character in GHOST IN THE SHELL, do your part by not seeing it.
— Rob Trench (@robtrench) April 14, 2016
As you can see, many Twitter users are already threatening to boycott or simply ignore the film. Additionally, some have even pointed out actual Asian actors that could have been cast in the role instead of Johansson. The entire scenario is reminiscent of another controversial case of whitewashing that took place last year. The movie in question was Cameron Crowe’s Aloha, and the character was half-Hawaiian, half-Chinese air force pilot Alison Ng, played by all-American actress Emma Stone. Following a fierce backlash both Crowe and Stone apologized for the “misguided casting.”
Will we be hearing the same from Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, and star Scarlett Johansson? Time will tell. It should be mentioned that a number of Asian actors have also been cast in the film, including the great Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, and Yutaka Izumihara as various members of the Section 9 intelligence department.
Set in a cyberpunk version of the future, The Ghost in the Shell manga and its anime adaptations tell the story of a counter-cyberterrorist organization (Section 9) tasked with policing the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture (aka New Port City).