WARNING: this is going to be ranty…so I apologise in advance.
So, news came about today that Scarlett Johansson has been cast as the iconic anime character Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. The announcement doesn’t please me. At all.
I don’t link the idea of a remake for Western audiences and I don’t agree with Scarlett Johansson’s casting.
I’ll tell you why.
After the whole Exodus casting saga, surely someone with half a brain cell should have taken more thought when casting one of the most iconic roles in anime. But, casting gods think they are playing it safe with someone such as Johansson, who has already proved she is more than capable in an action role from Marvel films and last year’s Lucy.
But where is the fun in that?
In a time when up-and-coming Asian actors and actresses are making an impact, there is no shortage of young Japanese actresses Dreamworks could have signed up. Babel and Kumiko: the Treasure Hunter‘s Rinko Kikuchi, Azumi‘s Aya Ueto or even Chiaki Kuriyama, famous for her roles in Battle Royale and Kill Bill’s Gogo, are some of the names that are known to Western audiences, especially those who are familiar with Japanese cinema.
But let’s face it – it’s all about the money. With an ‘established’ actress with Johansson linked to the project, it will generate more interest / publicity, invoke lively debate on social media (the majority of initial thoughts on Twitter seem to be in the negative) and probably secure more financial support. Additionally, it is probably easier to have a Western actress in the part rather than have a Japanese actress, who may have a wavering level of English.
But this is bollocks, especially with a key anime film.
However, to me, Johansson’s casting just feeds the idea that women in anime are there to represent sexualised objects. Her figure will probably suit the character as shown in the films but the whole reason why Kusanagi is a strong character is she kicks ass and holds a position of authority. Put simply, her strength is not based on looks, despite her frequent nakedness and this casting choice takes the focus away from this.
To cut a long rant short, this whole thing is uninspiring and lacks guts.
Note to casting directors – try harder. Much harder.
Thanks for reading.