Recognized globally for portraying the iconic Black Widow character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scarlett Johansson is undeniably a tour de force in the film industry.
While she’s endeared to fans worldwide through her superhero role, her wide-ranging filmography extends well beyond that realm. It encompasses diverse projects like “Lost in Translation,” “Lucy,” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” among others.
In 2017, however, Johansson faced backlash for her role as Major Mira Killian / Motoko Kusanagi in the film “Ghost in the Shell.”
Critics accused the movie makers and the actress herself of whitewashing the role, which was sourced from a Japanese manga, hence expected to be played by an Asian woman.
, Mamoru Oshii, the director of the “Ghost in the Shell” anime, stepped forward to back Johansson.
“Ghost in the Shell,” a creation of Masamune Shirow, has been adapted into various forms over the years, from anime films and television series to video games and even live-action movies. Johansson’s casting as the lead in the latter triggered the whitewashing controversy.
Oshii, the director of an anime series based on the manga, offered his perspective on Johansson’s casting.
He emphasized the character’s cyborg nature, asserting that her race isn’t a defining characteristic, making her open to the portrayal by any actor.
Oshii questioned the controversy: “The Major is a cyborg, and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.”
Citing historical cinematic conventions, Oshii pointed out numerous instances where actors of one ethnicity portrayed characters of another without significant backlash. He firmly believed that Johansson was the optimal choice for the role in the live-action film.
He continued, “In the movies, John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, and Omar Sharif, an Arab, can play Doctor Zhivago, a Slav… I believe having Scarlett play Motoko was the best casting for this movie.”
Additionally, Oshii argued for the director’s creative freedom, saying the live-action adaptation must not faithfully mirror the anime version.
“As long as it’s a remake of the anime, it’s not necessary to stick strictly to its form of expression. The director should exercise his directorial freedom. If not, remaking it loses its point.”
Oshii’s defense brings a fresh viewpoint to the ongoing controversy around Johansson’s casting in “Ghost in the Shell.”
As Hollywood continues its journey towards inclusivity, his insights ignite further discussion on balancing artistic freedom, fair casting, and representation.
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