Last week Paramount released an image of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi, the hero of Ghost in the Shell, the popular manga series and groundbreaking anime the mid-90s. It did not go over well.
I wish I could say the criticism will have a positive affect, that a Japanese actress will assume the role, or that future projects based on Japanese and other Asian cultures will employ people more suitable for them. However, when Chris Rock can trot out onto the Oscars stage little children dressed as accountants to make a Asians-good-at-math joke, yet face no repercussions; when the new Doctor Strange movie casts the more-translucent-than-Bible-paper Tilda Swinton as a Tibetan monk (or whatever she is supposed to be); when the backlash to every other whitewashing example you can think of has gotten nowhere — I feel barely a smidgen of hope. Hollywood has a bad track record of taking Orientalism into horrible places, and will carry on the tradition for the foreseeable future. So long as our political and business elites want to extract resources from the Middle East and labor from Southeast Asia and China, so long as Japan and China remain competitive economically or militarily, our cultural production machines will churn out racist product for us to consume. After all, the casting of Swinton is probably the least of Doctor Strange‘s problems
I had fun drawing this. I made a Friday evening of watching Ghost in the Shell and much of Saturday reading Arise. If you’re wondering why I didn’t try to replicate the drawing style of the series more, all I can say is that my hand is very, very provincial. I had more success with the Photoshop half tone and action line effects. In the end, though, my MAD magazine influences will out.