Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ghost In The Shell Film: A Major Motoko Kusunagi Controversy (Part III)


Politics, race and pop culture. All eyes to political correctness continue and DreamWorks caves into the pressure in sending a conciliatory message to the masses or to its few noise makers.

Has anyone actually seen the films of Scarlett Johansson and her ability to transform a role? She's a genuine talent. She is capable of heavy lifting both drama and action in large heaps (Lucy, Her, Lost In Translation, etc.). Johansson is an inspired choice for the role of Major Matoko Kusanagi and with the right make-up and production design will fill the shoes of that character with stunning aplomb. A live action version of Ghost In The Shell could be exceptional. I actually have a good bit of confidence in that decision as far as casting goes for an American version of a Japanese property, a property with a percentage financed by Americans. But really who cares?

I thought we were supposed to be color blind, ethnicity blind as we were expected to be for Fantastic Four (2015). I thought we were striving for a world where race and identity didn't matter, but that's the narrative we're supposed to believe until its convenient to forget.

In October, DreamWorks succumbed to political pressure and cries of whitewashing following the casting of Johansson in a Japanese role and have submitted casting calls for multi-ethnic extras for the upcoming film. Great. That's fine. Some groups continue to be incensed. Apparently that's not enough. I suspect race will cloud this film into the ground. God help the person selected to portray the hulking blond Batou.

The media love this stuff too and these tantrums amount to nothing more than empty cries of racism. It places companies, directors, etc. on the defensive and in a no-win situation despite their efforts.

Otaku USA actually attempted a whitewashing comparison utilizing the Tom Cruise vehicle The Last Samurai (2003), a solid film.

By the way, the comparison is apples to oranges with The Last Samurai centered on a very Japanese cultural and historical backdrop. The film is fictional and romanticizes story events of a very specific period in Japanese history. Ghost In The Shell is a fictional story set in the future wide open to science fiction possibilities and interpretation. It's also animated with a character that even appears Caucasian in some iterations of the franchise. Interpretations vary there too. The whitewashing label is simply not a clean apply when making the contrast.

Otaku USA would further compare Edge Of Tomorrow (2014) to a literary property, but single-handledly takes the position of declaring that film "racism-free" (well that opinion is valid then) and takes pleasure in noting the repeated death of Tom Cruise as something to take comfort in. I guess that's funny. I love these websites that determine what is racist and what isn't like self-righteous, almighty Greek gods from atop Mt. Olympus.

The bottom line is the application of race and cries of racism will continue. The nonsense has an audience. It's not likely to be quelled in my lifetime.

You'd think those same people would be over the moon that the live action Attack On Titan (2015) featured an all-Japanese cast, yet despite high production values people have even expressed their dissatisfaction with the adaptation of this anime.

Like the unhappiness directed toward Attack On Titan, race really should have nothing to do with any of these properties. White, black, Asian or other Ghost In The Shell will be judged, not on race, but on the film's merits, its content and execution. Race will have little to do with it nor should it.

How will we as a people find harmony when some and the media stoke tensions and prop up cries of racism at every turn even when none exists. They live through the eyes of race and identity politics. Did you know there is a war on women? Sadly, all of this has infiltrated every aspect of our culture. That is the reality. And the reality is it will likely worsen without courage to counter it.

My mother firmly believed the color of your skin should not matter and her world view was forcefully imprinted on me as a child. She very much lived by the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. without actually referring to his wisdom. She believed we should "live in a nation" where people would not be "judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character." I believe in those words too. Sadly, that messaging seems lost today and a misappropriation and mutilation of something else has culminated in something radically different. I can only speak for myself on this issue. Everyone certainly has a unique experience that shapes their world view and their core beliefs. I can't discount one's experiences, but the words my mother imparted informed me accordingly. These were righteous words of kindness and they came from a good place and a good heart. Today, the constant refrains of racism go too far, because I understand what the term actually means. Whitewashing too. I'm not saying these things don't happen, but are we taking things a bit too far?

These problems are far too complex for this mere humble blog post, but on this small issue, a film, a microcosm of a much larger issue, I will be in the minority looking forward to Ghost In The Shell without the prism of race as a filter for where things take this project. I don't really care and I know this silly piece of pop culture conflict has people torn as much as politics and race stir trouble at almost every turn today.

But when it comes to Ghost In The Shell, if it was a Japanese film with an all-Japanese cast that would be sure to delight. As it stands it will not be and I'm just fine with it.

Yes, Scarlett I'm fine with you.

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