After all of the drama and uproar that followed this movie, the trailer for the live action of Ghost in the Shell has finally dropped.
Looking past the drama that has been attached to this movie, the visuals are stunning to say the least! If you’re like me, when you hear “live action” there is usually a knee jerk reaction. A lot of live action movies that are produced in the U.S. tend to miss the mark, ranging from Avatar: The Last Airbender to Dragon Ball Z Evolution. That’s not a lot of marks to judge from, but you can follow where I’m going with this.
When making a live action film, it’s hard to translate a fictional world to a realistic one. In anime, you get the freedom to create flying cars or magical creatures because art and CGI allows you all the creative freedoms to let your imagination run rampant. In reality however, it all depends on the budget and the studio you have backing your vision. In this case with GitS, it seems like the studio is all in when it comes to creative visions. From the less than 3 minute trailer, I can see that the creative team took the time and effort to make the GitS world look as true to the manga/anime sources as they possibly could.
Major Motoko Kusanagi is the main character in the movie and is portrayed by Scarlett Johansson. She is a cyborg who is a field commander of Public Security Section 9. One of the things I loved about this trailer, when dealing with her, is that they show her body being opened or repaired. The graphics were impressive and it brought to life what I remember seeing in the manga with a bit of modern flare. I have the impression that this movie is a live action remake to Ghost in the Shell movie circa 1995, or at least is drawing elements from it.
The real knee jerk for me is the dark cloud that follows this movie since it was announced that Johansson would be playing Major…the whitewashing. The lack of representation when it comes to people of color or minorities, besides stereotypes and niche roles, isn’t new to Hollywood. It’s almost expected that roles such as Motoko would go to someone who is white versus someone who is a person of color.
For too long, minorities have gone underrepresented in major films and TV shows in favor of white actors. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Johansson’s acting. I’m not sure if it’s her personality or her acting method, but when it comes to the strong and determined characters for women, she has a technique down that works for her. Her portrayal of Black Widow is pretty good in my opinion. That kind of personality or character is her thing, I get it, but I feel when it came to Major she should’ve turned it down.
I’m not saying she can’t portray Major because she is white, but this role was a great opportunity for an Asian actress, preferably not mainstream, to get the limelight that is often not given to Asian actresses. Women of color, depending on your ethnicity or race, get typecast into specific niche roles. If you are a black woman, it can either be a loud and ghetto character, a strong yet not sexual woman who is super independent, or you’re the sex-starved character who has no real backstory. With Asian women, unlike their Asian male counterparts, they are overly sexualized or very submissive; all while being excellent fighters, villains, or playing second fiddle to a lead character.
Motoko is a highly intelligent, mature, physically strong, and beautiful woman. Her most iconic look, from GitS: Stand Alone Complex, is a bodysuit with a jacket that shows off her physical assets, and yet she isn’t sexualized or ridiculed by her team. She is seen as a strong leader and a person of trust and respect. She does have sexual moments, but that is never the full focus of her character or the story line. That kind of character would have been great for an Asian actress to portray to give hope to young Asian girls and women that you can be everything Major is and then some. It would’ve changed the game for how Hollywood deals with Asian actresses and the ways they choose to cast them. It also could’ve changed the minds of those who don’t see a problem with Major being portrayed by Johansson.
The ball Hollywood dropped is not showcasing the very diverse talent that they have at their disposal in favor of going with something that has been done and overdone for years; overlooking the minority in favor of the majority.
The movie is set for release on March 31, 2017.