Whitewashing in Hollywood: It’s tacky, insensitive and needs to stop

By Adit Selvaraj

The much-anticipated film “Ghost in The Shell” hit theaters March 31. Many people, including myself, are not happy with the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the titular character Motoko Kusanagi – a Japanese woman, which Johansson clearly isn’t.

From Jake Gyllenhaal playing the Arabian Prince Dastan in “Prince of Persia” to that awful Pop Chips advertisement portraying Ashton Kutcher as an Indian man in brown face, whitewashing characters and utilizing detrimental stereotypes is, unfortunately, a common practice in Hollywood.

The screenwriter of “Ghost in The Shell,” Max Landis, defended the decision to cast Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi. Landis said, “There are no A-List female Asian celebrities right now on an international level.” Landis later blew up at miffed fans, stating they do not understand how the film industry works.

The tired argument that Asian actors and actresses do not bring in a large audience has been damaged by a 2013 study done by the Ralph. J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California in Los Angeles. The study found that films with more diverse casts actually bring in more audiences and box office revenue. Conversely, films with all Caucasian casts – especially ones where the characters have been whitewashed – are regularly box office failures, often panned by critics and audiences alike. Abysmal reviews and box office statistics for films, such as the horrendous “Last Airbender” whose main character Aang was portrayed by white actor Noah Ringer, should speak for themselves.

“Ghost in The Shell” is not the only Japanese property that is getting the whitewashing treatment. The immensely popular Japanese comic “Death Note,” which spawned an equally popular anime television series and two live action films, will be adapted to a Netflix series. Some of the series’ alterations will include the main character’s surname changed from Yagami to Turner and the setting shifting from Tokyo to Seattle.

Fans are incensed over the cast reveal, and a petition for a recasting has amassed over 12,000 signatures. The petition states that the series “should not be cast with all white actors, as it goes against the very soul of the story.”

The whitewashing in “Death Note” is made less conspicuous than in “Ghost in the Shell” due to the characters and setting being Americanized, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less disappointing.

Scarlett Johansson is a great actress, but not even her acting abilities can compensate for the fact that she was grossly miscast as Kusanagi.

 

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