Ghost in the Shell: The sad truth about Hollywood ‘racism’

Scarlett Johansson's casting in Ghost in the Shell is yet another case of Hollywood whitewashing.

The latest Hollywood ‘racism’ scandal that has ethnically minded moviegoers filling up their skivvies is a photo of a stoned-looking Scarlett Johansson gazing at what appears to be a wall of glass. The still-shot from the upcoming Hollywood remake of Ghost in the Shell, based on the popular Japanese anime, shows Johansson as the lead character — an ostensibly Japanese cybernetic policewoman.

All would probably have passed more smoothly if the filmmakers hadn’t decided to give Johansson the character’s original anime-style hair. Further, the fact that her clearly Caucasian film character goes by the name “Motoko Kusanagi” is so hokey it’s comedic — almost as if Johansson were a guest on Saturday Night Live.

Given the ongoing public distaste with Hollywood’s recent casting choices (think Oscars 2016), I’m left unphased by Twitter’s accusations over the film industry’s choice to ‘whitewash’ what would otherwise be an Asian character.

Though diluted from all the claims that ‘Hollywood is racist,’ there’s a fleeting truth that proves we activists are forgetting how the film industry actually runs. As always, it boils down to money, folks.

What’s forgotten is that the film studios acquiring super high-budget films aim to make all of that money back when the film is released. Given that Hollywood currently has only a handful of actors that we could label ‘A-list’ — roughly 95 percent of whom are white — filmmakers are aware that if they do not acquire wildly popular actors from this small group of people, then film studios will have less interest in acquiring the rights to their expensive films.

In other words, Scarlett Johansson is what’s saving this film from being bumped to the ‘B-list’ that makes only a fraction of what it would make with a white actor playing the lead role. Sad, isn’t it?

So, let’s revisit this question. Is Hollywood racist? When it comes to making money, Hollywood will be as racist as it needs to be, while playing off the majority of mindless American film fans who enjoy the same darn actors re-packaged in mildly different ways. This means Scarlett Johansson dressed as every action-oriented, superhuman character in spandex — regardless of the ‘proper’ ethnicity.

The real question we should be asking ourselves is why the pool of A-list actors comprising Hollywood’s successful films is so small. Why aren’t there currently any mainstream female Asian celebrities to fill these roles? Let’s face it, our blockbuster entertainment industry is a system run by profit and trepidation — something of which we should all be ashamed.

So next year, don’t boycott the Oscars because you think it’s racist. Boycott it because it symbolizes an industry that takes your hard-earned money to stab your eyes with the same old crap because it’s scared of delivering anything else. Every single time.

You want a proper portrayal of Kusanagi? You’ll have to download the original.


  1. I guess you missed the USC study that found that more diverse casting brings in more box office revenue. And what explains the whitewashing that goes all the way down to street scenes, showing a white San Francisco and white Vancouver, in cities that are ~50% or more Asian American? And if it’s really all about money, why is it then that Jewish males make up ~1% of the U.S. population, but get ~20% of lead Hollywood roles? Nothing against Jews, but do they seriously bring in revenue, and it’s not Nepotism at play???