In what has to be a Guinness World Record for distance by which someone has missed the point, Steven Paul – a producer on the upcoming cinematic adaptation of Japanese manga series Ghost in the Shell – recently spoke with Buzzfeed in defense of the film’s decision to cast Scarlett Johansson, a white actress, in the lead role of the film. Many fans consider the casting to be an issue due to the character being Asian in the source material, especially since whitewashing is an ongoing issue in modern cinema.
Paul’s takeaway from fan complaints seems to be that everyone is worried that casting Johansson will affect the quality of the movie. To this, he’s done his best to ease their worries.
“I think everybody is going to end up being really happy with it. They’re going to be very, very happy with it when they see what we’ve actually done with it, and I don’t think anybody’s going to be disappointed.”
If that reassurance isn’t enough for fans, fear not. Paul continued, touching on the role that race plays in the film and why it’s totally fine to cast a white actress in a role created for an Asian woman.
“There [are] all sorts of people and nationalities in the world in Ghost in the Shell,” he insists, “We’re utilizing people from all over the world…There’s Japanese in it. There’s Chinese in it. There’s English in it. There’s Americans in it.”
In his comments, Paul completely failed to explain why exactly it is that any of the Japanese actresses that are apparently in the film couldn’t have played the role taken by Johansson.
“I don’t think it was just a Japanese story. [It] was a very international story…it was supposed to be an entire world,” he said. “That’s why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it.”
While you can’t blame a guy for trying, Paul’s comments do very little to actually address Hollywood’s rampant whitewashing in mainstream cinema or the role that Ghost in the Shell is playing in that problem. It’s tough to imagine these comments will do much to sway viewers who have already opted out of seeing the movie due to this choice, especially given that we’ve now seen the effects that whitewashing might have on box office results. The next time the Ghost in the Shell team wants to address these issues, it might be wise of them to send somebody that has actual intentions of talking about the problem itself instead of just reassuring people about how great the movie is going to be.