Japanese People Love “Ghost in the Shell” and Asian Group’s Claim of Racism Backfires
Asian-American advocacy group slams Dreamworks for casting Scarlett Johansson in a role they believe is for Asians only. The movie is released in Japan and is met with positive reviews and no apparent cries of racism.
The Media Action Network for Asian-Americans (MANAA) is promoting a petition demanding that Dreamworks “Stop whitewashing Asian characters!” Their complaint stems from the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead role in the live-action adaptation of the anime film “Ghost in the Shell.”
The organization feels that the main character, Motoko Kusanagi, should have instead been casted with an Asian-American actress and not some icky, white person. “Apparently, in Hollywood, Japanese people can’t play Japanese people anymore,” MANAA President Robert Chan said in a news release.
It bears mentioning that all this controversy is over a cartoon character that doesn’t look Japanese at all. In fact, Kusanagi has purple hair, big red eyes, and white skin.
It’s not Hollywood’s fault the Japanese whitewash their own characters.
It’s true. Look at any anime character. They all look white. Big blue eyes, pointy noses, and blonde hair. Super Saiyan Goku, Sailor Moon, and Naruto. Am I to believe that these characters accurately depict the physical traits of the Japanese people?
I grew up watching anime, and never thought twice about the race of the characters involved. As a “person of color,” I didn’t care that Dragonball Z had zero black characters. I didn’t care that when Goku became stronger and more powerful, he turned into a blonde-haired, green-eyed, white guy. The story and the action were what mattered most.
MANAA appears to be just another race-based organization patrolling the airwaves desperately searching for reasons to be offended. And when there is no controversy, they’ll create one.
“Ghost in the Shell” opened in Japan with no complaints of Johansson’s whiteness.
“She was very cool. I loved her in The Avengers and I wanted to see this because she was in it. If they had done a Japanese live-action version they would have probably cast some silly idol [Japanese girl-band member],” Tomoki Hirano said to the Hollywood Reporter.
Hirano is a Japanese fan of the original manga comic and anime series, and saw the movie in a Tokyo theater. Unlike some Asians here in the States, he was actually able to enjoy the film without regard for skin color. “It looked really cool and I really enjoyed it,” Hirano said.
Yuki, a Japanese office worker, also saw the movie. “I heard people in the U.S. wanted an Asian actress to play her. Would that be OK if she was Asian or Asian-American? Honestly, that would be worse: someone from another Asian country pretending to be Japanese. Better just to make the character white,” he said about the controversy.
These remarks are a real slap in the face to MANAA and other social justice warriors. But I guess the Japanese people just haven’t yet learned the art of perpetual victimhood.
Anime is known for having almost no people of color. Look at the casts of popular shows such as Bleach, Death Note, and Attack on Titan. Animes in general are more likely to have demons and talking cats than Mexicans or [insert non-white race here].
Perhaps MANAA should head to Tokyo and demand anime creators stop whitewashing Asian characters. There’s far more material for them over there.
My response to all this: who cares?
Understanding that culture precedes politics, Perez does not shy away from social and cultural issues, such as race, gender, and economics. In fact, he confronts these issues head on, and believes the only way to grow as a society is to allow open, and free discourse from all peoples.