Word of mouth is essential to a major release these days. Studios release images, clips, teasers, and posters well in advance of a film’s release date in a bid to build hype around a potential blockbuster on social media. Marketing budgets can consequently reach mammoth proportions, and often the investment pays off.
Sometimes, however, it doesn’t. Sometimes it can all go horribly wrong from the start, and then what do you do? Especially when the problem with your multi-million dollar movie is the star.
That’s the problem Paramount and Dreamworks are facing in regards to their live-action adaptation of the iconic Japanese manga, Ghost in the Shell. Today, the first image of the film was released, and already it has set Twitter ablaze — for all the wrong reasons.
In the film, Scarlett Johansson plays the lead character; Major Motoko Kusanagi. Despite shortening her title to simply Major, the film has run afoul of its potential audience well in advance of its March 31, 2017 release date.
Twitter has erupted with accusations of whitewashing in relation to the movie’s casting of a white woman as an Asian character. Studio heads were probably glad to see it trending on Twitter, with almost 40,000 tweets, until they saw what people had to say. Check out a selection of the tweets below in which users take Hollywood to task for messing up the casting of another beloved property.
As you can see, many Twitter users are already threatening to boycott or simply ignore the film. Additionally, some have even pointed out actual Asian actors that could have been cast in the role instead of Johansson. The entire scenario is reminiscent of another controversial case of whitewashing that took place last year. The movie in question was Cameron Crowe’s Aloha, and the character was half-Hawaiian, half-Chinese air force pilot Alison Ng, played by all-American actress Emma Stone. Following a fierce backlash both Crowe and Stone apologized for the “misguided casting.”
Will we be hearing the same from Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, and star Scarlett Johansson? Time will tell. It should be mentioned that a number of Asian actors have also been cast in the film, including the great Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Yutaka Izumihara, and Tawanda Manyimo as various members of the Section 9 intelligence department.
Set in a cyberpunk version of the future, The Ghost in the Shell manga and its anime adaptations tell the story of a counter-cyberterrorist organization (Section 9) tasked with policing the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture (aka New Port City).