On Supposed “White-Washing”.


Alrighty then, while I’m trying to work something out on the regular article I am preparing on depictions of different men in anime I have to take a small, but related, diversion: Scarlett Johansson playing Major Motoko Kusanagi in the Hollywood production of Ghost in the Shell, the argument being that Miss Johansson shouldn’t be allowed to play the role because of her ethnicity in particular. This is completely and utterly ridiculous if you look at the canon that the series has depicted since the original manga by Masamune Shirow.

The reason I state this is simple – Motoko Kusanagi is a pure cyborg. In the universe of Ghost of the Shell, it means her original brain and consciousness along with her spinal column was transplanted into a cybernetic enclosure when she became an adult. From this point implantable into a completely robotic cyborg body. This is stated to be illegal for children due to their incomplete development. Kusanagi’s body in particular is provided by the government and is completely custom built from the ground up, meaning her entire physical image is artificial, and as such, her skin is synthetic. This is thoroughly depicted in the opening credits of the original 1995 film.

What does this mean? It means her body and her skin can look any shape form or fashion she so well pleases. This has been shown in the multiple series, as she has been seen with different bodies. Her body needs regular mechanical maintenance. Her body…is disposable. As such, if she wants to look Asian, sure, she can do that. If she wants to look European, that’s possible too. The thing people went apeshit over with Hermione Granger makes more sense because such permanent changes in a person’s body aren’t shown to be possible in that universe. In this universe, it’s a common occurrence. A “trans-racial” person’s dream come true to be sure.

In short, this is a complete non-issue. Hollywood is going to depict their vision of the series how they want and that’s fine.  Plus at least she “looks” the part. Now for all you out there who want to say “we need more Asian leads in our films!!!” I have a proposition for you. If you want a live action adaptation of a Japanese property starring Japanese people then you could very well watch Japanese cinema. They have plenty of examples to watch, If you want a list you could listen to the most recent Honey Badger Art Stream. <insert shameless plug joke being shameless here>

Alex Tinsley
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About the author

Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.

By Alex Tinsley

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