Five years ago, ‘Ghost in the Shell’ accidentally destroyed a racist Hollywood tradition

Five years ago, ghost in the shell it became a major release that changed Hollywood. As an English adaptation of the influential Japanese anime and manga, the film has a legacy, just one that its filmmakers didn’t intend.

ghost in the shell it opened on March 31, 2017. Despite boasting the star power of Scarlett Johansson, its paltry $169.8 million box office was matched only by lethargy from critics, who called it “flat, monotonous” and “lack of soul”.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME TRAVEL MOVIE? Click here to help us rank all of the ones on Netflix.

Half a decade later, ghost in the shell should be a footnote. But its failure marked a change in the racist tradition of the undercover casting industry, where white actors play minority roles or characters are rewritten to be white under the auspices of mass-market appeal. Time ghost in the shell he was not him latest film to cover up an Asian character, his radioactive remains remain in the air. It’s a powerful warning about a racist practice that, before 2017, was just Hollywood doing business.

“That was the moment when a lot of people clicked and said, ‘This is unacceptable,'” Phil Yu, creator of the Asian-American blog. angry asian man and co-author of Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the 1990s to Now, it says Reverse. “It was one of the last gasps in Hollywood when it came to people being tolerant of money laundering. After Scarlett Johansson, people started saying, ‘We’re not going to take this anymore.’

In 2017, Scarlett Johansson lent her star power to ghost in the shell, a live-action remake of the Japanese franchise. The controversy and poor performance of the film have made Hollywood think twice before whitewashing it.Paramount Pictures

“It’s kind of a joke now,” sociologist Dr. Nancy Wang Yuen, author of Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racismhe says Reverse, noting how the film and even Johansson herself are jokes on social media. revisit a 2019 tweet: “Colin Jost was actually in love with an Asian-American woman… but the producers told him that Scarlett Johansson would bring more guests to the wedding.”

Yuen says that the effect ghost in the shell had in the industry was “immediate”.

“Bleaching was totally fine up to that point. Then [Ghost in the Shell]Because of the social media buzz, protests, and poor box office performance, studios have become concerned about the portrayal of Asians.” Yuen now inquires about productions asking about efforts to cast Asian actors.

The change began in 2014 when Johansson, whose action vehicle Lucy enjoyed tremendous box office success, was cast in the role of Paramount Pictures ghost in the shell. An adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga, the story follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, an android special agent who questions her humanity, or lack thereof.

After Johansson’s casting was announced, negative sentiment from the Asian-American community was swift. Requests were made, YouTube explainers were uploaded and, of course, hashtags were tweeted. #whitewashedOUT, by colored nerds editor-in-chief Keith Chow and comedian Margaret Cho cemented stories of overlooked Asian-American actors for the roles and educated audiences about whitewashing and its power to dehumanize an entire group.

In February 2017, filmmaker Chewy May released “Ghost in the Shell PSA,” a short film showing a young Asian woman in a comic book store, where she is swamped by white superheroes. She finds joy in ghost in the shell manga, until she is left despondent when confronted with the movie poster.

“That gets into the question of why representation matters,” Casey Mendoza, pop culture reporter for News, it says Reverse. “It’s important because we need to be seen as human, rather than caricatures, stereotypes or merchandise.”

In 1956, Marlon Brando wore prosthetic eyes and spoke with a fake Japanese accent for the 1956s. The August Moon Teahouseone of many historical examples of Hollywood caricatures of Asians by white artists.MGM

The film was a missed opportunity for an Asian actor to star in a Hollywood blockbuster, thus becoming a star equal to Johansson.

“How can you have ‘Best Actor’ for a role when you’ve never had a chance to see Asian actors in this role?” Yu asks. “The system is broken and busted.” Even now, Yu says, “The most talented Asian actor doesn’t get the same opportunities early on to build a career and become a star.”

While the 1995 original ghost in the shell The anime film is loved: James Cameron is a fan, and the Wachowskis cite him as an influence for Matrix — the release of the Hollywood remake prompted Asian Americans to speak out against the historical exclusion of Asian talent, which according to Phil Yu has existed “since the beginning of filmmaking.”

“Each generation has its sticking point, but it kept happening,” says Yu, citing movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s (with Mickey Rooney playing the cartoonish Mr. Yunioshi) and the 2008 drama twenty-one, which reimagined the real-life story of Asian-American college students. “The studies brushed aside the criticism. Like, ‘Who cares? It’s just a movie,’” says Yu.

In 2008, Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth starred in twenty-onean adaptation of the 2003 book tear down the housewhich told the true story of Asian-American MIT students who took millions out of Las Vegas casinos playing poker.

It wasn’t until a “confluence” of moments, like #OscarsSoWhite and #StarringJohnCho, that led to “a heightened awareness of diversity and inclusion.” “When this movie comes out in 2017, it will be on people’s minds,” says Yu. “We don’t always have to accept the way Hollywood represents or excludes racial minorities.”

While any movie could have ultimately informed the public, ghost in the shell “It seemed like the perfect example to hold,” says Yu. “Maybe the fact that Scarlett Johansson is such a big star allowed her to have the legs that she had.”

Since then there has been increased visibility of Asian actors in major productions. The romantic comedy of 2018 crazy rich asians it was a huge box office success. On The CW, a modern remake of Kung Fu, which originally starred David Carradine as a Chinese monk, now features actress Olivia Liang. Summer 2021 saw the release of two Asian-starring action movies: Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins with Henry Golding and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with Simu Liu and Tony Leung.

Time ghost in the shell was a bombshell, Dr. Nancy Wang Yuen says it barely affected Scarlett Johansson’s career, despite the actress saying she could “play any person, tree or animal”.Paramount Pictures

The progress continues, but Asian Americans recognize how much has changed in just five years.

“It happens where it’s going to happen,” says Phil Yu. “Who knows what will catch people’s attention? We are in a constant battle of who can tell stories. Who can tell stories about us? Do we tell our stories? For too long, it was someone else who created stories about us. It’s always been about having a voice and having agency in how our stories are told.”

Adds Yu, “Invisibility has consequences.”