I like Ghost in the Shell, I like it a lot. And the not so recent news that Scarlett Johansson will be playing the Major in the Hollywood adaptation has got people in flurry. After reading some of the posts and thinking on it for the day I feel like I should say what I've thought for a while.
They could have cast The Major as an African, Russian, European, Japanese or anything else and the movie could be a 100% true to form GitS adaptation. Motoko to me has never been defied by her race and neither has any of the other cast members. GitS has always been about man and machine and the merging of the two. This is the most important thing they need to hit on, number two is ACTION ACTION ACTION! Kicking ass and taking names with military precision. Number three is some kind of political and social corruption. These are all themes that can be planted in any modern culture and not unique in anyway to the Japanese, GitS to me never hinged on the fact that it was in Japan or that the people where Japanese. Yes GitS does revolve specifically around Japan’s politics and its dealings with other countries after WW3, but it's naive to think that the themes and ideas that Shirow Masamune brought to life can only be placed in Japan.
This is in comparison to other shows that do hinge strongly on culture, say something like… Avatar? What if they made an adaptation of Samurai Champloo, that's a show steeped in japanese culture and works only because of the japanese themes. But an example opposite of that would be FLCL, would it still be whitewashing if these characters had white counterparts? A show with robots, aliens and things coming out of kids heads would best be represented to an audience in a familiar setting. Hell its why we have Dubs and to an extent Subtitles.
I wish they would take the GitS name and themes and just run with it, making their own unique character that follows the same formula. The oddest thing about this situation is if her name stays Motoko, clearly Japanese, that will be weird.
Scarlet is not the best fit for this role, but a lot of people have been saying “Rinko Kikuchi” but I don’t think she is a good pic either. To me Rinko is just another popular choice, someone who is hot at the moment and “ because she's japanese that makes her a better choice”.To me she is about as bad if not worse the Scalet. They are practically the same build but moreover Rinko has not played characters similar to Motoko at all, she has not shown the same action chops as Scarlet. Problematically she speaks english with a very japanese accent. Will she be speaking Japanese the whole film? Or will she be speaking broken english? That would be odd for a american adaptation.
I get the whole “let’s call out hollywood on their shit” fad, it's good! I want to see more women and different ethnicities in main hollywood roles. But people have to remember that when they make a hollywood adaptation of something, they are making an American adaptation. They will replace the characters for the benefit of the audience if it works better. In this case It does work better, not because white actors sell better to americans but because when you adapt something the ideas need to come first. GitS is about identity, consciousness, technology, corruption, and a whole lot of ass kicking.
This is much longer than I wanted it to be, it's still not all the things I wanted to say but I have to stop somewhere. I would love to get some responses and thoughts.My last thought, if this movie is bad, it will be because they failed to tell the GitS story and not because an actor is white.