Video response to whitewashing in "Ghost in the Shell"
March 12, 2017 6:39 AM   Subscribe

From Buzzfeed, These Asian-Americans Made A Powerful Video About The Effects Of Whitewashing In "Ghost In The Shell"; on Kotaku, some comments from internet users in Japan (in English); and some of Constance Wu's comments on whitewashing and (lack of) diversity in film.
posted by bile and syntax (153 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really liked this video, but as many have already pointed out elsewhere, maybe don't sell a child that age GitS.

The response really does underline that we need to be mindful of avoiding the lazy thinking that conflates the cultural experience of Asians with Asian Americans. Individuals within these groups will certainly have their own responses, each of which is coming from a different place.
posted by selfnoise at 7:30 AM on March 12, 2017 [10 favorites]


everything wrong with the live-action GITS has been distilled into steve aoki's remix of the theme song
posted by murphy slaw at 7:36 AM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Has anyone noticed the actual race of the original players in the original GiTS anime?

White people. In that regard maybe the film is staying true to the anime.

Just putting that out there.
posted by jaded at 7:43 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I was going to write something really snarky here, but i'll resist and be perfectly candid...

If you don't like that the Major is played by a white woman instead of a Japanese woman, i get that. HOWEVER. In three months' time when the first Dark Tower movie comes out and the nerds are saying "Idris Elba was the wrong choice to play Roland, because Roland is white, not black" -- you have to let it pass.

Because you need some kind of consistency. It can't just be "white people bad, always."

That being said, i'm looking forward to both films and think that Scarlett and Idris are both great choices for these roles. Say thankyah.
posted by ELF Radio at 7:52 AM on March 12, 2017 [13 favorites]




If you think that people speaking out against whitewashing historically underrepresented races out of roles that were originated by and for people of those races is in any way similar to the one time in a generation we can point to a non-white person take a role that was originally white by default (not white because it was a white story, or white for any particular reason), I don't know what to tell you.
posted by tocts at 7:56 AM on March 12, 2017 [186 favorites]


If you don't like that the Major is played by a white woman instead of a Japanese woman, i get that. HOWEVER. In three months' time when the first Dark Tower movie comes out and the nerds are saying "Idris Elba was the wrong choice to play Roland, because Roland is white, not black" -- you have to let it pass.

Because you need some kind of consistency. It can't just be "white people bad, always."


Difference between punching up and punching down. White people are over represented so it's okay to change characters away from being white to increase diversity, but going the opposite direction decreases diversity and is bad.
posted by Apoch at 7:57 AM on March 12, 2017 [80 favorites]


Has anyone noticed the actual race of the original players in the original GiTS anime?

I mean, it's an anime, most of the characters are cyborgs with replacement bodies. I'm pretty sure the Major's last name isn't Japanese by accident, though.
posted by selfnoise at 7:59 AM on March 12, 2017 [17 favorites]


Because you need some kind of consistency. It can't just be "white people bad, always."

You actually don't need any sort of consistency other than "representation matters". At this point in cinema history, unless a part has to be white, casting people of color instead of white people is always preferable to me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:04 AM on March 12, 2017 [45 favorites]


Has anyone noticed the actual race of the original players in the original GiTS anime?

White people. In that regard maybe the film is staying true to the anime.


Say what? Do you mean the original voice cast from the 1995 film? Because they're Japanese. As are the characters they portray. They then got a new voice cast to dub it when it was brought to the US.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:04 AM on March 12, 2017 [28 favorites]


the one time in a generation we can point to a non-white person take a role that was originally white by default

I count at least two, Roland and Hermione.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:05 AM on March 12, 2017


None of the main (Section 7) characters in the original anime are coded as white.
posted by Drexen at 8:06 AM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


It is problematic, sure. Still looks good and I love Johansson the actress, so I'm in, probably going on opening Thursday night.

There's only so many articles that one can read about issue before one just starts ignoring them and the writers struggling to make their daily quota of click bait.

Also not sure this comment by the filmmaker of the video in the link works for GiS: "Whitewashing Asian people out of stories created for and by and about us makes it hard for other people to see us as full, dimensional people". It's been a while since I've read the manga, but I don't really it being specifically about Japan or Asian folk, rather than simply being set their.

A film about the Ming dynasty should totally be starring Asia folk. Don't think GiS has to be, though it certainly would have been nice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:10 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's not just the offensiveness of the whitewashing. It's a clear signal that the creators of the movie didn't understand the source material. Same thing with the live-action Avatar. Avatar: The Last Airbender is not European. Its narratives and world do not come from a European tradition. There is no reason for there to be white people in that world, or at least no reason for white people to be native, instead of foreign.

Likewise, Ghost in the Shell is a profoundly Japanese anime and manga. It is a world in which Japanese people face Japanese problems in Japanese ways. It's really weird for the Major to have a European cybernetic in Japan. She's an intelligence agent and counter-terrorist operative. She would at the very least prefer not to stand out by being obviously alien beyond her prosthetics.

It's possible that GitS could have cast a white actress to play Major Motoko Kusanagi and made a movie that was consistent with the anime and manga. It's possible that the Europeans were the only ones making top-of-the-line military cybernetics. It's possible that this is a challenge for the major to overcome.

But it's not likely. And it's convincing me that the movie is a half-assed action flick made from source material that is poor action movie fodder because the studio thought it looked cool. And I really like the story of GitS, I'm going to have to take a hard pass on a movie like this.
posted by Bobicus at 8:13 AM on March 12, 2017 [34 favorites]


White people. In that regard maybe the film is staying true to the anime.

The original work is very Japanese, set in Japan, featuring a whole lot of Japanese characters. This is nonsense.

If you don't like that the Major is played by a white woman instead of a Japanese woman, i get that. HOWEVER. In three months' time when the first Dark Tower movie comes out and the nerds are saying "Idris Elba was the wrong choice to play Roland, because Roland is white, not black" -- you have to let it pass.

No, you really don't. Roland's whiteness is an implicit and very second-hand factor in his character; Stephen King as white author writing, while thinking a bit about Clint Eastwood and westerns, writes character who defaults for lack of a specific effort otherwise to Basically A White Dude from a time-fractured magic-imbued collapsing fantasy future/past ouroboros in a world that isn't really ours culturally or racially in the first place is about the least solid mooring for an argument that his being white-I-guess is culturally central to the story or its setting.

King himself would very likely laugh/spit if confronted with the idea that people whinging about Elba as Roland is some kind of worthwhile expression of injury by fans. And also probably at the idea that "no, let's talk about Dark Tower" is a good direction to take a discussion about whitewashing Ghost in the Shell.
posted by cortex at 8:13 AM on March 12, 2017 [47 favorites]




I don't really it being specifically about Japan or Asian folk

It is specifically about Japan and Asian (specifically Japanese) folk. (Also I mis-typed, they work for 'Section 9').
posted by Drexen at 8:16 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


None of the main (Section 7) characters in the original anime are coded as white.

Batou (or Bateau, depending on what romanization you go with) has an arguably French surname and is an ex-US Army Ranger, so I always assumed he was the token white-European guy in the group.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:18 AM on March 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


It's been a while since I've read the manga, but I don't really it being specifically about Japan or Asian folk, rather than simply being set their.

It's odd to me that people always pivot to these sorts of things as an excuse for white washing, but it rarely seems to work in favor of minorities leading "default white" roles.

I'm reminded of the Mindy Park issue in the Martian (where the white washing was less overt than the GitS and Dr Strange situations) where a character that many people assumed was Asian due to the last name found it odd that a white person was cast in her place.

The response was always similar to this one, "I don't see anywhere in the story where it says she's Korean." Well by that measure, would white people have complained that Mark Watney was played by Daniel dae Kim instead of Matt Damon? After all, there's no explicit mention that the character is white. Yet somehow casting rarely goes in that direction.
posted by Karaage at 8:19 AM on March 12, 2017 [40 favorites]


Americans are black. Americans are white. Americans are a lot of things. There's no reason to complain about someone of any race playing an American role in an American film, unless that person's ethnic background is plot critical.

There certainly is cause to complain if roles are filled disproportionately with white people. And Asian folks are way underrepresented in American film.

So if this is a Japanese film, there's cause for complaint. If it's an American film, there's still cause for complaint.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:20 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


What Japanese Think of Whitewashing (Ghost in the Shell, Death Note, Interview).

This is what I was talking about above re: the difference between Asian and Asian-American perspectives. The video in the OP is clearly coming from an Asian-American or Asian-Canadian perspective.
posted by selfnoise at 8:22 AM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm just gonna throw out here a possible solution, for the usual crowd of people who want things to be fair to white people:

Go back through the history of film. Count up the literally hundreds (thousands?) of times a role that was intended to be cast as a person of color was instead re-cast white, or literally played by a white person in blackface/yellowface/redface/etc.

Got that number?

OK, well we can talk about being "fair" to white people with regards to color-blind casting when the number of times a person of color is cast in a specifically "white" role is even 1/100th of that.

So I guess we can talk about it in about 100 years, is what I'm saying.
posted by tocts at 8:23 AM on March 12, 2017 [41 favorites]


I liked the initial video, and it makes a solid point, but, if I were staffing that comic shop, and I had a Asian American girl customer looking for representations, I'm not sure I'd send her to superhero comics at all, given that they are kind of a lost cause at this point. I'm not sure Ghost in the Shell is where I'd go, either; it was never a favorite of mine, but I remember it as kind of pretentious and fan service-y. So what are the options?

Gene Yang and Derek Kirk Kind have done work for younger readers. Peter Watson's Over the Wall is an all-ages story where the characters, at least to me, don't read as particularly White, much like Faith Erin Hicks's new series. I suspect there are others of which I'm unaware. Any recommendations?

To get back to the original point, if you want proof of the pernicious limitations on Asian American actors, just look at the film and TV career of the excellent and accomplished Randall Duk Kim, one of the best stage actors I ever saw relegated to pretty grossly stereotypical "Asian" roles.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:23 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


The original film was recorded by Japanese actors because it was a Japanese film, released in Japan, based on a Japanese manga.

A Japanese actor voiced Batou, and whooo doggies, I don't know how you get more stereotypically beefy white guy than that dude.
posted by gsh at 8:24 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Batou (or Bateau, depending on what romanization you go with) has an arguably French surname and is an ex-US Army Ranger, so I always assumed he was the token white-European guy in the group.

He was a ranger in the JGSDF, not the US Army, and his name is just as plausibly Japanese as French.
posted by Drexen at 8:26 AM on March 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


Because you need some kind of consistency. It can't just be "white people bad, always."

Hello, fellow white guy. Let's you and I talk for a second.

So this is maybe the time when you want to shut the hell up, and read the thread, and learn.

You and me, we get to see guys who look a lot like us all over the damn place. We're Superman, we're Thor, we're Jame Bond, heck we're even Voldemort and the Joker.

But men who aren't white (and women of all colors) are vastly, vastly unrepresented. Quick, name 5 Asian heroes and villains in Hollywood blockbusters. I came up with my list in about 5 minutes. Bet it takes a lot longer to come up with the Asian list.

So when "we" take one of "their" roles, it's like taking a big bite out of someone's cookie. There wasn't a whole lot to start with, and now there is even less. But when "they" take one of "our" roles, it's like taking one cookie out of a giant cookie jar. There's a whole lot of deliciousness left.

That's the consistency you're looking for.
posted by Frayed Knot at 8:31 AM on March 12, 2017 [72 favorites]


There's a (even more unfortunate) precedent with asian robots with her face on, soooo... yeah.

Can't say I'm convinced with the rest of the casting choices, either. Togusa from the promo photos he looks far more older than the character suggests. IIRC he's supposed to be on his early 30s, with his youth being somewhat unprecedented on PSS9, while in the filme he looks, what, 50? Also, give him an outrageous mullet. Togusa must have a outrageous, near glam metal mullet. Batou seems way off. I always imagined him as a bit of a Roy Batty-esque, character and whatshisname doesn't exactly look the imposing presence Batou kinda requires, and unless there's a lot of Tom Cruise camera tricks involved (and padded jackets) I don't he can pull it. It's the one character you could actually choose a 6ft3 caucasian brick shithouse and people would be ok with, and they messed it up.

I don't think I'm going nowhere near this. The original was a masterpiece, and this reeks of Robocop 2014 all over.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:32 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Derek Kirk Kind

Derek Kirk Kim. Jesus, autocorrect, give it a rest.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:32 AM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


The films creators handled the whole situation horribly though. They were never going to make people happy, so just be honest about it. "We're adapting this for an American audience and Johansson is a popular and well respected actress for that audience. We're hoping to build on that appeal to draw in people who may not be familiar with story or genre. "

But this adaption film should have been set in LA.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:35 AM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


As a Filipino child growing up in Manila in the 70s and watching giant robot shows like Voltes V or Gaiking (or later Macross) I was accustomed to seeing them dubbed into Australian or American English and the names of the characters changed from "Kenichi Go" to "Steve Armstrong" and in my mind I just grew into a habit of coding pale skinned characters with dark hair and a Japanese origin as just being Japanese people who are given 'white' names by white people because white people needed that to feel like it was worthy of their attention.

And it's interesting to see how some parts of that theme present themselves in this thread. We've been seeing white names forced on anime characters for decades to help ensure commercial success, and it's just amusing seeing people twist themselves into knots trying to justify it in terms of story.

(and yeah, count me in as someone who's giving this film a pass)
posted by bl1nk at 8:37 AM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


It's kind of mind-bending. It's a Japanese anime set in Hong Kong where the characters are originally supposed to be white. Japanese audiences AFAIK don't object to Johansson being cast in the lead role, but because this is an American production that sort of goes out the window. An American production of an originally Japanese anime means the sensibilities of American audiences have to be taken into account. Does that mean the opinion of Japanese audiences doesn't matter?

Like the Boston kimono controversy, it is mind-bending.
posted by My Dad at 8:39 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


We're adapting this for an American audience and Johansson is a popular and well respected actress for that audience.

"American audience" does not only consist of white people.
posted by Karaage at 8:39 AM on March 12, 2017 [34 favorites]


"American audience" does not only consist of white people.

Very true! But it overwhelmingly does, so it's not surprising that white a lot of the lead roles are filled with white people. Disappointing at times, but not surprising.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:41 AM on March 12, 2017


For a pretty long and nuanced discussion of whitewashing in general and The Great Wall in particular this episode of Yo, Is This Racist has Andrew Ti and Jenny Yang talking about it, including how this sort of thing affects Asian and Asian American people differently. I'm pretty sure they touch on Ghost in the Shell.

Japanese audiences AFAIK don't object to Johansson being cast in the lead role, but because this is an American production that sort of goes out the window.

I think part of what goes on is Japanese audiences and creators, much like the Chinese audiences and creators of The Great Wall, don't having trouble finding representations of themselves in the media of their own countries, So the occasional insertion of Matt Damon or Scarlett Johansson doesn't really rankle because it's an aberration. For Asian-Americans on the other hand, there are almost no representations of them in the media of their own country, and so the situation is a entirely different.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:45 AM on March 12, 2017 [61 favorites]


One important message you could take from the OP video WITHOUT descending into a dumb argument about GitS character nationalities which will be a really deep and messy rabbit hole is:

Asian American kids who walk in to a comic shop looking for heroic representation are in for a rough time.
posted by selfnoise at 8:46 AM on March 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


What Japanese Think of Whitewashing (Ghost in the Shell, Death Note, Interview).

This Yuta guy asked exactly the questions I would be curious about—particularly why characters are so frequently depicted as blond and blue-eyed (which, tangentially, the other day I learned the word xanthochroid for.) The next question I'd be curious to know the answer to is why I've never come across a character who is unambiguously Japanese but is depicted with dark skin and tightly-curled hair. Though maybe more voluminous consumers of Japanese media than I can offer examples.

Like, if it was Lupita Nyong'o rather than Scarlett Johansson in the Hollywood Ghost in the Shell, would that one interviewee still have said "It will look more anime-ish if actors aren't Japanese"?

Not that it would have any bearing on the fact that discrimination is endemic to Hollywood and they should have cast someone else, but I wonder if the Hollywood whitewashing is actually compounding a separate racist phenomenon in Japanese society.
posted by XMLicious at 8:47 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


If Major Motoko Kusanagi is supposed to be white then why did they cast Kaori Momoi as her mother?

When I saw this on the front page of Metafilter my heart absolutely sank. Wondered if I was overreacting. Read the comments. Was not overreacting.

There are few comments (I count three) about the short film itself. I have never seen Ghost in the Shell and don't care particularly about it, but it resonated with me because this keeps. happening. The Fifth Wave, The Last Airbender, Doctor Strange... The thing is, the film was supposed to give us a different way of talking about all this, instead of jumping straight to arguing whether the character is actually white in the source material and does it matter and can you Asians stop complaining and look these Japanese people like it and what about Idris Elba CHECKMATE. It is supposed to give you an idea of the emotional experience of being confronted with the fact, yet again, that Hollywood, your white friends, and your favorite online community all think people like you are not fit for film.

Why am I even explaning this? I'm really disappointed in Metafilter right now.
posted by sunset in snow country at 8:55 AM on March 12, 2017 [71 favorites]


It's a Japanese anime set in Hong Kong where the characters are originally supposed to be white.

No it isn't. Not only will 10 seconds of research confirm that not only is every iteration of the franchise prior to the 2017 movie set in Japan, 10 seconds of thought ought to suffice to tell you that they didn't call the characters "Motoko Kusanagi", "Togusa", "Saito", or "Tachikoma" because they were all supposed to be white!
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 8:55 AM on March 12, 2017 [31 favorites]


Somehow I'm not surprised that this turned into a garbage fire on this site, given its history.
It's a Japanese anime set in Hong Kong where the characters are originally supposed to be white.
Ghost in the Shell was not set in Hong Kong, but in New Port City, a fictional Japanese city that was inspired, artistically, by Hong Kong. And if the very Japanese names of Kusanagi, Aramaki, Ishikawa, and Nakamura were meant to be white...
posted by anem0ne at 8:56 AM on March 12, 2017 [34 favorites]


Fuck it, why bother.
posted by anem0ne at 8:57 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Has anyone noticed the actual race of the original players in the original GiTS anime? White people.

There are about nine million web pages that will explain to you that this mostly just isn't so, and that generally those characters are drawn by Japanese people to appear Japanese to other Japanese people.

Two sentence version: You, probably a honky, look at a character drawn without obvious and exaggerated stereotypically-Asian features, and see another honky. Japanese people look at a character drawn without obvious and exaggerated stereotypically-European features and see another Japanese person.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:57 AM on March 12, 2017 [58 favorites]


Asian American kids who walk in to a comic shop looking for heroic representation are in for a rough time.

I've shared this story a few times on MetaFilter. Many years ago, late 80s, my sister turned to me in the middle of a toy-store and asked with a very sad face: “Why aren't there any Indian dolls?”

I realize times have changed, things have improved. They have all manner of toys and dolls now from a variety of cultures, representation, etc. But there's still a lot of work to be done. I will never forget the look on her face. These things matter.

With stories and discussions of this type. You always here the old, “Pffft....it's not a big deal, why are you making such a huge thing out of it?” Here's the thing. It's not a big deal to you. Because you see idealized and normalized versions of yourself throughout the society you live in.

I cannot tell you how excited my sister was when she was randomly surfing channels and stumbled upon the cartoon series Sanjay and Craig. Here we have an Indian-American kid who is just living his life, doing normal things. He's not talking with a hyperbolic accent, he's not living inside of a stereotype. THESE THINGS MATTER TO PEOPLE. My sister said, “We never had this growing up.” And while she smiled, there was also a sense of sadness.

I'm going to let myself out of this thread because a few of the comments up above have already made me want to throw my keyboard against the wall. Just know that the way that our cultures are portrayed on screen, how we are perceived and represented. These things cut deep. You internalize emotions and ideas. I realize its a complex thing. But maybe listen a bit more from the people who are speaking about why they have concerns, why they feel hurt or harmed by what is happening on the screen.

Listen.
posted by Fizz at 8:58 AM on March 12, 2017 [80 favorites]


[Anyway, yes, I was too grumpy and its-daylight-saving-time when I saw the thread to jump straight to this but: hey, maybe watch the actual short film in the link and talk about that and let's drop the "well but actually they look white to me" line of discussion entirely because it's not like we haven't had previous chances for generic hot-take-on-GitS stuff before and it'd be nice to rerail this to discussing the actual interesting thing the post was built around.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:59 AM on March 12, 2017 [10 favorites]


No it isn't. Not only will 10 seconds of research confirm that not only is every iteration of the franchise prior to the 2017 movie set in Japan

Sorry, I'm pretty old and I have only ever seen the 1995 film, which is most definitely set in Hong Kong. That's based on ten seconds of research, though, so I could be wrong.

I do agree that whitewashing exists, and I do think Asian Americans have every right to protest casting decisions in Hollywood.
posted by My Dad at 9:01 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched 'Ghost In the Shell' since I was in college. I self identify as white. I've had a few significant relationships with Asian American women. I have zero skin in this game.

That said, I always read the characters in GiS as 'Obviously Japanese, to be read as Japanese to a Japanese audience, set in a fictional cyberpunky SE asian city, a la Hong Kong.'

When I heard about the movie, I thought to myself, 'Boy, what an exciting opportunity for some interesting Asian-American casting, a la 'Snowpiercer' or 'Cloud Atlas [sort of :\]''

lol no. I mean what do you expect? Stuff has to sell in Iowa City. I'm sure all this stuff is test marketed and powerpointed to death by data models to the nth degree long before any casting decisions are made. Does it suck? Oh yes. Does a casting decision effect net profits? Oh yes.
posted by mrdaneri at 9:04 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]




I do agree that whitewashing exists, and I do think Asian Americans have every right to protest casting decisions in Hollywood.

Sorry to pick on you here, but why does every thread like this have to turn into a referendum on whether it exists (as you so generously admit, it does) or whether Asian Americans have the right to protest (Trump hasn't taken it away yet, so we do)? That's not what any of the links are about, and yet all non-Asians want to talk about is whether our reactions are appropriate. YAWN.
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:07 AM on March 12, 2017 [41 favorites]


if you'd spent more than ten seconds reading that paragraph, it explicitly states "based off Hong Kong".
posted by anem0ne at 9:08 AM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


I want to touch on the "casting POC in white roles is as bad as casting white people in POC roles" argument. This is an (obvious) point that I don't see blatantly stated in this way, so I'm going to say it:

Those roles are white because of racism. They are not white for any meaningful reason. Placing people of color in these roles is a small, small way to make up for decades of white people silencing non-white voices. It was an active, ongoing decision in the art industry to deny and discredit artists of color. For about 100 years white people had the money and resources to control the film industry, and because they were racist, they only selected other white industry professionals. We are not "giving white roles" to people of color, we are letting people of color participate with a platform they had been denied that they had been denied.

Film is not in inherently white place where people of color get to 'join in'. They have as much right to it as whites do.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:19 AM on March 12, 2017 [54 favorites]


I think the issue with "engaging the arguments" is that they've been repeated and recycled multiple times on this site, and many of us have come to feel after the nth iteration that these sorts of engagements are not worth our time or effort.
posted by bl1nk at 9:24 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


FirstMateKate I don't disagree with you on any substantial point.

However, for this particular hugely budgeted sci-fi epic, I imagine that somebody's Excel spreadsheet had 'Break-even analysis' with leads casted by different leading race/age/demos and the cost of 'Leading-Asian-American Actress X' showed '-N%' for 'US Domestic' and that was that.

The 'whys/hows/because/cutural/racism' arguments are simply too complex, and as others have keenly noted, far too tired, for this white guy to even touch.
posted by mrdaneri at 9:26 AM on March 12, 2017


[Folks, just to save some frustration, go ahead and be sure to reload before replying in case you're ending up putting effort into a reply to something that's already been nixed.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:38 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


However, for this particular hugely budgeted sci-fi epic, I imagine that somebody's Excel spreadsheet had 'Break-even analysis' with leads casted by different leading race/age/demos and the cost of 'Leading-Asian-American Actress X' showed '-N%' for 'US Domestic' and that was that.

Based on how the filmmaker's responded to the complaints, they never really considered casting an Asian as a lead. Which sucks, but makes a certain demented sense from strictly a narrow business angle.

I'm really curious to see how the film does, whether the complaints will materialize into an effect that will make studios pause in the future or not. Most films are structured to turn a profit no matter what, so it's just a question of how big a hit the film will take from the whitewashing. A quick glance at the Box Office Mojo and Wikipedia page didn't give a budget for it, which sounds odd.

Representation totally matters, but it's rarely part of the business calculation, which is a shame.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:41 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


hey, maybe watch the actual short film in the link ... and it'd be nice to rerail this to discussing the actual interesting thing the post was built around

major kudos to genjiandproust who tried to rerail it twice.

as selfnoise said:
Asian American kids who walk in to a comic shop looking for heroic representation are in for a rough time.

it's pretty fucked up that Asian-American kids often have to turn to Asian media--Asian media in a language they may not understand at all without translations/subtitles, let alone be fluent in--to see themselves even remotely reflected in the first place, so when those Asian things are "adapted" and whitewashed to an inch of their life, like this movie, it's doubly fucked up.

Which was the point of the short film.
posted by anem0ne at 9:43 AM on March 12, 2017 [12 favorites]


It'd be great if there were some kind of 'role randomizer' button for every casting director that would spit out an arbitrary race and gender for each role cast. The best I've see of this is in SMBC, where I swear he rolls a D10 every time before he draws a cartoon.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:47 AM on March 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


Budget is a lazy excuse and a way that white supremacy self-perpetuates. I'm not sure there was a suitable Leading Asian American Actress X at the time they were casting (had Constance Wu yet achieved total world domination at that point?), so probably Lucy Liu or whoever they had to put into their analysis did result in less projected $$$. That's a direct result of the film industry closing its ranks to Asian Americans, so that very few have the chance to rise in their careers to the point where they are considered a box-office draw.

I know comparing this to a behemoth like Ghost in the Shell is laughable, but if you'll bear with me, my company published a picture book about two Chinese American siblings a couple years back, and it didn't do well. Going into the post-mortem meeting, I held my breath. But the discussion was largely along these lines: It didn't do well because the cover wasn't eye-catching, and the title didn't do a good job of explaining what the book was about. We lost money on it, but it helped us meet a non-budgetary goal, which was to publish more diverse books. It was a worthwhile exercise, and next time we publish an Asian American book we will work extra hard to design a compelling cover and make sure it has a clear hook. Boom. Done. This is not to say my company is so great (I think we still have major issues with diversity), but we are at least open to trying, and that's one way the discussion can go when the people in the room are not actively trying to push people of color out.
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:48 AM on March 12, 2017 [25 favorites]


Anyone who accedes to the systemic racism that exists, regardless of practical rationales or excuses for acceding to it like film profitability, should be called out for embracing systemic racism. That's whether it's in Hollywood against ethnic minorities there, or in the Chinese film industry against ethnic minorities there.

The principle or non-principle of aligning the racial composition of present works of fiction with past works of fiction or with history is really only tenuously relevant here and is pretty much a red herring. It's just the thing that tends to end up starting the conversation. Either principle is insignificant next to the importance of opposing racism, so litigating someone's reactions as either consistent or inconsistent in those ways as if it would be meaningful, or would somehow disprove the existence of racism, is stupid and pointless.
posted by XMLicious at 9:53 AM on March 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


Let's just say that if certain major spreadsheet programs included 'Lazy Excuse' and 'Close Ranks' functionality out-of-the-box [and they may very well someday soon!], well, agile decision making would be even more agile.
posted by mrdaneri at 9:54 AM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


How do you square this statement:Representation totally matters, but it's rarely part of the business calculation, which is a shame.

With this one?

Still looks good and I love Johansson the actress, so I'm in, probably going on opening Thursday night.

If representation matters to you and you want to say it's a shame the budget is what led them to cast Scarlett, it's not hard for you to send a message (and affect future budget calculations) by saying representation matters enough to me that I won't give these people money.
posted by Karaage at 10:05 AM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


I've seen and liked Under the Skin, Lucy, and Her. I liked Johansson's role as Black Widow, and actually wanted and still want a Black Widow film. So, it was great for her to get lead role in a major blockbuster, based on something similar (something with geek, sci-fi, and anime cred).

But it's still unfortunate that the role was cast the way it was. And it isn't an argument specifically against her or the fact she's done a lot of good work in related roles. For me, it's about individual decisions becoming a trend, and trends eventually changing into an almost unconsciously decided common practice.

It is be better to have more representation. I don't see a downside to it. And this is something should have been started a long time ago. They should have been casting Asians and Asian-Americans 30-40 years ago in smaller movies or smaller but interesting roles in big films and building this up.
posted by FJT at 10:17 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm curious, despite myself, what the alt-right style white supremacists, who, I gather, as a group, are fans of anime, think about this issue. Do they see the casting choice as tantamount to race treason on Ms Johannson's part, playing an Asian character? (Or: a character originally conceived as Asian, or whatever it is.) Or is whitewashing some sort of acceptable form of cultural imperialism for them?

(A quick web search gets me articles about the movie being racist, but not commentary from the white nationalist racists.)
posted by bertran at 10:32 AM on March 12, 2017


Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, and now Ghost in the Shell) is on my boycott list, along with Emma Stone (Aloha, La La Land).

I'm very tired of white "feminists" taking on "strong female" roles by exploiting and trampling on PoC culture and PoC women. If you are a female, or feminist, I would encourage you to think very long and hard about what you are supporting (ideologically and economically) by watching this movie.

(also, there actually are native Japanese that are not happy about the whitewashing.)
posted by aielen at 10:33 AM on March 12, 2017 [25 favorites]


And the old "We have to cast white actors because there aren't enough Asian-American actors who are famous enough to carry the box office" saw!

Start casting Asian-American actors in good roles, and in a few years you'll have a bigger pool of famous names to draw from.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:44 AM on March 12, 2017 [26 favorites]


what the alt-right style white supremacists think about this issue
I'm going with the opposite of whatever post-Gawker, HuffPo, etc, because that seems the depth of their opinions on a lot of topics.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:46 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Representation matters to me from a different angle: I don't know how many times I've been told I 'look like a terrorist.' Never mind white guys shooting stuff up or blowing up shit, I'm a brown guy with a beard.

Diversity in stories is needed because a lot of people are, frankly, very stupid and learn everything about who people can be from television and movies and comic books. This is especially true for white people who don't live in areas with much in the way of minority populations. This is not me spitballing, I have met these people. Plenty of them.

I don't personally need heroes who look like me, though I acknowledge that many others do. What I want is for dumb people to see heroes who look like me so they fucking unclench.

It's been my experience that people like that aren't any better about Asian women, or anyone else who isn't a cis het white man, and I'm just as unhappy about that. All this movie had to do to help with that was cast correctly. Instead? Whitewashing. In the grand scheme of things, their help would've been small, so my response is proportionate: I'm not going to watch it, even for free.

Also, I really wanted to do more than favorite this:
Film is not in inherently white place where people of color get to 'join in'. They have as much right to it as whites do.

Yeah, that.
posted by mordax at 11:07 AM on March 12, 2017 [45 favorites]


Batou (or Bateau, depending on what romanization you go with) has an arguably French surname and is an ex-US Army Ranger, so I always assumed he was the token white-European guy in the group.

I read Batou this way at one time, too (I think because back in the Dark Ages, his name was typically spelled Bateau by English-speaking audiences, not the much-more-Japanese-looking Batou), but there are enough hints that he is Japanese littered throughout each iteration of the series. It's grey enough that you could plausibly go in either direction (which I like), but his character is intended to be Japanese.

I've always read the movie's version of Newport as being analogous to Hong Kong (and I'd have to think about the sequel, but it's certainly not just "Japan"). It's not exactly a 1:1 parallel, but more the kind of place that exists in dreams as a blend of different settings. The Hong Kong bleeds through a lot more strongly than the Tokyo.

Anyway, I know that much of anime is stylistically such that white people read characters as "default white" a lot, but Oshii's films at least are a lot more explicit about racially coding characters, so it blows my mind that anyone could see the original movie and think everyone is white.

I am not looking forward to this movie.
posted by byanyothername at 11:12 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


How do you square this statement:Representation totally matters, but it's rarely part of the business calculation, which is a shame.

With this one?

Still looks good and I love Johansson the actress, so I'm in, probably going on opening Thursday night.

If representation matters to you and you want to say it's a shame the budget is what led them to cast Scarlett, it's not hard for you to send a message (and affect future budget calculations) by saying representation matters enough to me that I won't give these people money.


My $10 is going send absolutely zero message to the makers of this film. On the the other hand, I do want to see it because I liked the source material and want to see how well it translates. Plus in the months and years after the film debuts, I want to be able to discuss it intelligently on whether it was a step forward or a step back. Because not having an Asian lead doesn't automatically mean it's a total step back, IMO.

IF the film does well and shows (yet again) that a female lead can carry an action film, then overall this might be a small, stumbling step forward. With a lot of the minority centered books coming out of Marvel Comics, hopefully setting up minority centered shows and/or movies, am curious to see this film would help or hurt that.

Plus I like Johannson, so I'm usually game to see anything she's in, even if I know nothing about it
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:19 AM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Plus I like Johannson, so I'm usually game to see anything she's in, even if I know nothing about it

This. This is why the filmmakers don't care about whitewashing. It's lazy casting. With 6 Marvel movies and counting and Lucy she's somehow become the go-to female action movie star. She has range and it's not like she only does action movies and but like everyone she's got bills to pay and is unlikely to say no to a paycheque for a decent movie. I'm sure that there are other actors of all sorts of ethnicities who could have done equally well.
posted by GuyZero at 11:33 AM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


God, so many people on here are bending themselves into a pretzel to explain why it's ok to cast the Asian characters in GitS as white. I somehow doubt this would be the case if we were talking about a Shaft remake starring Ron Perlman.

Unrelated but while I love the video, holy shit the original GitS comic was basically just porn. Of course when I was that girl's age, I was probably reading porn already too.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 11:38 AM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


Further research on alt-right opinion on this issue revealed a brief relevant thread at stormfront. The posters there -- a small sample -- prefer white people in all roles and are not happy about black people playing Hamlet or Lancelot, say, but are also not happy about this casting choice because Ms Johansson is, of course, not a white person, given her having Jewish blood.

One of them opines -- as an index of the dire state of things in Hollywood -- that the casting of a black woman in this role would not have been as controversial as casting Johansson. I don't know if that's true; would have been somewhat different set of issues. But it's a pretty good suggestion, actually, in an out-of-the-box kind of way.
posted by bertran at 11:47 AM on March 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


[Commenting to note that you got a comment deleted and that you expect your new comment to be deleted, on a moderated site where in-thread metacommentary about moderation is routinely deleted, is just wasting my damn time and extremely worth skipping. If you need to talk to the mods, use the contact form.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:49 AM on March 12, 2017 [15 favorites]


What next, they'll remake The Magnificent Seven with ninjas or something?!? Sheesh
Sorry. It doesn't need to be remade, it's perfect in the medium it exists in, like a Thunderbirds remake with live action characters would make zero sense
I'll go and watch the interviews now

posted by davemee at 12:02 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I loved the video-- it was gorgeous and well-put together-- and I would encourage everyone to see it. Comics are so, SO overwhelmingly white, and I really hate how superhero movies whitewash even Asian media.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 12:03 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


What next, they'll remake The Magnificent Seven with ninjas or something?!? Sheesh

...not sure if joke, but The Magnificent Seven was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai?

or was that the joke?
posted by anem0ne at 12:07 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Kurosawa's work suffered the same fate when Ran was rewritten set on the island of Britain.
posted by bertran at 12:10 PM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


Just a note on the name Batou: it's really バトー Batō. Using ou for ō is a common thing in translations of anime to avoid the diacritic, but corresponds to nothing in the original Japanese. Wikipedia suggests it's a reference to 馬頭観音 Batō Kannon, the Horse-Headed (Buddhist deity) Kannon."
posted by zompist at 12:33 PM on March 12, 2017 [13 favorites]


Japanese audiences AFAIK don't object to Johansson being cast in the lead role

However, polling data isn't the arbiter of right and wrong. Lots of American people don't seem to object to harassment of Muslims, for example. That aside, the reason why Johansson is potentially less objectionable in Japan is because the objectionable issue is different in Hollywood and Japan.

Most progressive Americans that I know are not intrinsically opposed to race-neutral or race-bending casting. In my personal opinion, it's wonderful, all other things being equal, although I'm sure there are others who find it categorically objectionable. The problem is that all other things are not equal. In the context of a Hollywood which almost never casts Asians in leading roles, it's objectionable that it rarely happens even in the very few instances where those roles become available. If Wonder Woman had been cast as an Asian female, and Theron's and Stone's and Swinton's and Portman's latest blockbuster roles been filled by Asian women, if that's what Hollywood was doing, mixing and matching and not giving a fuck about race in casting, then in that case, Johansson as Kusanagi, why not? But in the society we actually live in, with pickings so slim for Asians as strong leading characters, and with race assiduously being taken into account in very nearly all roles for white actors, it feels for some like a slap in the face when an a leading role ideal for an Asian actor comes along and, once again, denied!

On the other hand, Japanese audiences constantly see themselves portrayed in locally produced film and television. For them there is no drought of representation. Quite to the contrary, there might be a bit of pride that a classic Japanese property is being given recognition by foreigners to the extent that a top tier Hollywood actress is tackling the role. How interesting and, um, exotic, maybe.

(Oh, by the way, per another upthread suggestion: Ron Perlman as Shaft? That would 100% slay.)
posted by xigxag at 12:51 PM on March 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm curious, despite myself, what the alt-right style white supremacists, who, I gather, as a group, are fans of anime, think

I would encourage anyone in this position not to spite yourself and go with the side of you that says, "who cares what they think."
posted by straight at 12:53 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


Derek Kirk Kim. Jesus, autocorrect, give it a rest.

Maybe appropriate: I found texting something about a warriors game a couple years ago that my autocorrect DEFINITELY recognized the name Hermione, but apparently never seen the name Jermaine.

Aaaaand it just happened again typing this.
posted by lkc at 1:07 PM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


At this point, I wish people would hold off a bit on the criticism of something they haven't yet seen since it strikes me as being all too similar to the usual conservative tactic of attacking art/culture sight unseen due to imagined distance from their claimed moral code.

With the movie, judging from the trailers, cast, and clips shown so far, there is a non-zero chance that the whitewashing will actually be at least an implicit subtext to the Major's search for identity. The trailer's show some scenes of notably racially charged images, with there being some feel of them carrying weight in how the society of the movie conducts itself. The cast is multi-cultural and, judging from the voiceovers in the trailers, there is a theme of the Major seeking to understand who she "really" is in a way that gives some suggestion that she will find her given identity doesn't match her true self as she will come to know it. For example, the shots where she is reaching out to touch the face of the seemingly mixed race woman/android and the moment where the Major's face plate is removed showing her as having no race, just circuits, underneath the mask could be suggesting that her given race was a default made to order by some other, not anything natural. If that were the case, then having anything but a white actress playing the role would lose the point of the subtext.

Now, of course, it is equally or more likely the movie isn't going to go there or could be far worse than imagined as that would be typical for Hollywood. But judging it based on limited information and sort of twisted imagined lack of fidelity to source material, when the movie may not be following those sources as more than a jumping off point seems a bit, well, internetty: outrage first, facts second.

At the same time, I hold no truck with the attitude that as consumers our choices don't matter and it's all on Hollywod to "fix" perceived wrongs in the society. That too makes no sense to me. It is the responsibility of the consumer to not support racist material as much as it is the responsibility of Hollywood not to make it at the very least. As a for profit enterprise, Hollywood will make whatever they believe people will want to see, and if the people support it, they will make more like it until the money stops flowing. Demanding change is great, as long as that change is also supported. Demanding Hollywood spend a hundred million or more on films with less certain profit outcomes to make people feel better about themselves for those things existing, but not supporting those works is not going to work.

If a movie seems questionable in its handling of things like race or other moral or ethical concerns, wait to see the film until those doubts are addressed. Lining up on opening day for any potential blockbuster just because it somehow seems to fit into your past preferences is to say those moral concerns really don't matter much, spectacle is more important. The movie will still be out a week later and the movie will go streaming or to videostores sometime after that, so if the reviews suggest a more complex take than expected, wait a week, and if it still sounds bad, you can wait for the streaming option where you won't be supporting the ideology behind the film but your curiosity can be sated. Responding to Hollywood like one of Pavlov's dogs to a bell isn't helping and will only continue to foster the belief whiteness sells.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:17 PM on March 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


i get that you want to seem fair and balanced, gusottertrout, but to be honest, at this point, "waiting to see" after yet another asian character is whitewashed to see if just how bad it is is like giving trump a chance after his election.
posted by anem0ne at 1:37 PM on March 12, 2017 [25 favorites]


i mean, how many more fucking times are we supposed to wait and see after another fucking asian character is whitewashed before maybe people finally start listening?

how many more fucking times are we supposed to wait and see after another movie just gleefully uses the deaths of faceless asians for no purpose outside of giving the white main character something to look beautifully sad about?

how are we supposed to wait and see? pay for it? actually give them the money that will just convince them to continue erasing people of color? pirating the movie, which they track, so they can see the interest in the film, convincing them to continue erasing people of color?

not make noise about it, so nobody else knows how troubling this pattern is, so they just go and happily, lazily give money to see the film, which again, convinces the studios to keep erasing people of color?

telling asian-americans to simmer down here is pretty much taking away the one fucking thing we can do about shit like this.

i don't know why the fuck i keep typing this shit out, it's like talking to a fucking white wall.
posted by anem0ne at 1:42 PM on March 12, 2017 [45 favorites]


http://mashable.com/2017/03/07/steve-aoki-ghost-in-the-shell-remix/#i9W022Fu3kqD

Just listening to that song, I don't have high hopes.

Also, watching that trailer, Batou isn't imposing, everyone is extremely expressive despite being an elite squad of cybernetic soldiers who've been doing this their entire lives, everyone's movement is all very organic, human, and messy despite being military-grade cyborgs, everything is super cyberpunk-kitsch which is not how I would describe the 1995 movie.

Also just look at how she draws in a breath in triumph after the (presumably close matched) water fight seen in the trailer. Compare that to the original scene they're riffing on, where the fight is completely one-sided and the major barely reacts after it's over: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1BhezbxCPc

Also, the major is giving out grand pronouncements about "They created me, but they cannot control me." In between the 1995 film and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence the major fucks off and disappears for three years without so much as saying goodbye. No grand thesis, just drops off the grid without a word to literally anyone in the world.

In broad strokes, the major is a stoic, unfeeling soldier with a profound schizoid-like disconnect from humanity. The series and the major herself like to investigate the glimmers of humanity that are left, but ultimately to humanize the major to the degree the live-action movie has is to misunderstand her character completely.

So no, I don't think I'm rushing to judgement on this one. They are not telling the story of GitS, they are telling their story with GitS's paint. If they're willing to pervert the source material this much, why should I imagine they'll handle the major's race any better? Especially when it's so uncomfortable.
posted by Bobicus at 1:44 PM on March 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


For me, these sorts of protests make the most sense during the initial development of the project when casting can still be changed or after the release of the film when criticisms can be specific and factually based. Once the movie is completed and is only awaiting release, the value of the protests only come from the attention drawn to the history of Hollywood and US media, not so much about the film itself which is what it is, whatever that is. So I'm not saying end the attention to whitewashing, just focus it more on the long history and wait to make more specific criticisms of the movie itself so, like conservatives, we don't look foolish if the actual product doesn't match the simulacrum of it constructed in our minds.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:47 PM on March 12, 2017


like conservatives, we don't look foolish if the actual product doesn't match the simulacrum of it constructed in our minds.

There is 0.000 chance that in the "actual product," ScarJo is magically going to become an East Asian woman.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:55 PM on March 12, 2017 [22 favorites]


As it has not been mentioned yet, "Kusanagi" is a reference to Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, the Grass-Cutting Sword, which is one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. "Motoko Kusanagi" is over the top Japanese just like "Elizabeth Rose Excalibur" would be over the top English. Sheesh.

I mean, in the manga she's introduced drinking sake from a sakazuki, in a shinden-zukuri type building that looks like a Shinto shrine, while a lot of cherry blossoms are blooming in the background petals fluttering in the wind. Can it be more on the nose and people are still suggesting that she's not meant to be understood as Japanese? Really?

(On the other hand, someone give the kid the Card Captor Sakura manga or Ranma 1/2 or something more appropriate to her age)
posted by sukeban at 1:56 PM on March 12, 2017 [19 favorites]


gusottertrout, there is no "we." You are telling Asian Americans how to react. Did you watch the short film in the fpp?
posted by sunset in snow country at 2:05 PM on March 12, 2017 [10 favorites]


Speaking of 1995, this is all very reminiscent of discussions that happened when they cast Keanu Reeves as Johnny Mnemonic, only with more hyperbole.
posted by sfenders at 2:09 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Speaking of which, Keanu was supposed to play Spike Spiegel as well.
posted by valkane at 2:15 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


gusottertrout, maybe the fact that you even think "we had to cast a white actor in this lucrative leading role in a project heavily financed by the industry, because of aesthetic quality x in the movie which could be accomplished in no manner other than by casting a white actor" would be a plausible justification for embracing any of the problems associated with whitewashing or minorities being disadvantaged in Hollywood which have been articulated in this thread, is of itself a problem regardless of whether or not that proves to be the case in this instance.

I mean, it could be the best film ever made. Like Birth of a Nation was genuinely a groundbreaking film for its time in many ways. But it would have to be redemptive in ways other than aesthetic virtue, ways which would be evidenced already at this point, to make it unworthy, here and now at the beginning of the 21st century, of the criticism expressed through the OP short film or in many of the comments here.
posted by XMLicious at 2:17 PM on March 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


gusottertrout, there is no "we." You are telling Asian Americans how to react. Did you watch the short film in the fpp?

You're right, I apologize about the "we". I only meant it as suggesting an agreement with the concern over whitewashing, which I share, though seem to differ over how to approach it in specific terms. I shouldn't have used it as I'm not coming from the same place personally no matter how much I dislike the history of US media on that subject.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:20 PM on March 12, 2017


For me, these sorts of protests make the most sense during the initial development of the project when casting can still be changed or after the release of the film when criticisms can be specific and factually based.

If minorities want to complain about whitewashing in Hollywood movies we should have done it at the appropriate time, back when the plans were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:22 PM on March 12, 2017 [32 favorites]


I don't want to make this thread about my take on the issue, so I'm going to back out after this.

I just want to be clear that I'm not standing up for Hollywood practices, just recognizing where they come from. My first post tried to explain what I see as both their attitude, which I do not share, and my own in dealing with their products, which is the attitude of doubt, but with an open mind to the possibility of being mistaken in my first impression since that, to me, best fits my knowledge of the subject, where most US media products are, at best, insensitive to race, but where the occasional few actually do surprise. I don't want to judge what I don't know, so I focus on the film in the context of Hollywood history of whitewashing, but leave open the possibility this specific film may have something different to offer, which can be judged from a later date. That, to me, is the responsibility of good criticism, know where the thing you are viewing is coming from, both on its own and within the industry producing it, and then try to view it on its own terms.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:33 PM on March 12, 2017


Over 700 films were given a wide release in American cinemas last year. It won't kill you to skip this one.
posted by eamondaly at 2:37 PM on March 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen GitS in years, so all I care about is that there's an interminable 15-45 min scene in the middle where two guys sit in a garbage truck and talk about stuff, because anything else is a betrayal of my fond-ish childadulthood memories.

N-thing that ScarJo is naff, lazy casting though. The wig only makes it worse.
posted by comealongpole at 2:46 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I agree with what xigxig wrote above on the basic issue, that ideally, all things being equal such casting decisions shouldn't matter, but all things are unfortunately not equal, Asians are poorly represented in American cinema, etc., so it does matter, counts as whitewashing.

But I'm thinking about another thing xigxig writes, that things look different to Japanese than they do to Asian Americans, because Japanese have their own culture industry, see Japanese protagonists in movies all the time, while Asian Americans aren't seeing themselves in American movies, etc. But, though this GitS movie is as American production, it's set in a sort of fantasy Japan, So the world of the movie is kind of the same as the world of all those Japanese movies that the Japanese have where the actors and characters are mostly Japanese.

I guess my question, for Asian Americans here who are really feeling this problem of poor representation and whitewashing, is: how do you relate to movies made in Japan (or China, or Hong Kong, or Korea, as the case may be.) Do these provide some substitute for the American movies with richly constructed Asian protagonists that we are missing -- because the roles in them are basically filled by Asian persons --, or are these movies alien, something from overseas that doesn't really represent you and your reality? How do you identify with them, culturally?

If the Japanese films, say, are alien to you, culturally, does it matter that this film under discussion is set in a Japanese realm, where you wouldn't be able to identify with the characters in the same way you would with Asian American characters? I don't know if it's clear -- even to me -- exactly what my question is. This film is an American production -- but it's not a film about America or American characters either way, no matter who is playing the roles. Does that make any difference here with respect to the larger problem?

(I ask this as an American of somewhat mixed European descent who doesn't identify with American culture much, and tries to understand issues of identification in the various world diasporas.)
posted by bertran at 2:47 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


In the third link in the OP, Constance Wu actually appears to be proposing that a Latina actress could have been cast in place of Scarlett Johansson.

And following through to another article linked to that comment, part of what had prompted the discussion was her objection to reports that steps were being taken to make Johansson look more Asian; so the substance there may have been an objection to her identity being used like a costume a white actor wears.

It may be especially galling in the case of whitewashing because this is essentially the lowest-hanging fruit: even if someone doesn't want to aggressively make casting decisions in the interest of providing current and future opportunities for people who are minorities in Hollywood or to ensure that people see themselves reflected in mass media or just because there are good Asian-American actors, this is the occasion where people making casting decisions even have the fig leaf of the original character's identity fitting with that of minority actors, if that's the excuse they need, because they obviously care about the character appearing to be Asian to some degree.
posted by XMLicious at 4:05 PM on March 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I just want to be clear that I'm not standing up for Hollywood practices, just recognizing where they come from.
So I already said this up thread, but apparently it bears repeating. These practices come from racism.

They want someone who is mega famous, but there are no mega famous asian actresses? there are no mega famous asian actresses because they won't ever give any roles to people of color

They want to prove women can carry an action movie? Racism made them never given a woman of color the chance and it's making them assume failure.

The list could go on. It doesn't matter why-if your actions are upholding white supremacy, its racist, period. Though, in this case, the 'why' is definitely intentional systemic racism. Hollywood is white because racism made it white. You can't have racism make a space full of white supremacy, and then when they perpetuate it because "thats just how it's been" pretend it's suddenly not racist anymore.
posted by FirstMateKate at 4:14 PM on March 12, 2017 [37 favorites]


At the height of the hype for Hamilton, I saw all these pics and videos of little kids getting super excited about the musical and thought, oh, it's a little sad that a lot of them will never get a chance to play a role in Hamilton because they're white.

Then I realized, wait, actually, that's me with so many things I loved as a kid...

Luckily, I speak fluent Canto so I watched a lot of HK TV and movies, too. Looking back, it was valuable for me to grow up seeing people who looked like me (or perhaps people with the same cultural background as me - I'm not too sure on this point) playing a variety of roles in high-quality productions that could rival Hollywood (at least the films - HK television is another matter). I think this inoculated me against a lot of the issues that I've seen other non-white people write about (e.g. wishing to become white and rejecting their cultural background) because I grew up seeing that being a fully human individual wasn't exclusive to whiteness.

I also watched a lot of anime, but while the characters were obviously Japanese, I didn't really think of them as Asian - to me, they were raceless cartoon people (I'm light-skinned, so I didn't really notice the lack of dark-skinned characters until I was older).
posted by airmail at 4:21 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Having spent a decade or so in Japan as a fluent speaker of the language, to perhaps over-broadly oversimplify, Japan Doesn't Get Race, and it doesn't actually matter what Japanese people in Japan think about whitewashing, because theirs is a fundamentally different history and lived experience from Asian-Americans. In Japan, Japanese people see themselves as an unmarked class (to the extent that the developers of the Wii famously had to be explicitly reminded that they had to add Mii features for non-Asian skin tones, hairstyles, and eye colors), and in practical effect, so far as Japan is concerned, seeing a white person playing an Asian character is only marginally weirder to Japan (if even) than seeing a person of French descent playing a character from Italy.

But yeah. Japan Doesn't Get Race. To the point of complete obliviousness, because Japan's notion of race in Japan is like a more extreme version of white people in America.

On the other hand, the Asian-American experience and perhaps even more pointedly, the Japanese-American experience has been historically fraught with being very much a marked class, to the point where Japanese-Americans were treated essentially identically to how Jews were in Germany by nominally the bad guys. Broadly speaking: listen to what the Asian-Americans are saying, especially about this, an American production of an originally Asian property, where the main character is played by someone who is clearly of a changed ethnicity. Their opinions carry a lot more weight on a topic like this.

The Boston Kimono Controversy, mentioned above, is what happens when this obliviousness shows up somewhere in a way that reads really uncomfortably — imagine, for comparison's sake, that some predominantly Jewish country was completely and obliviously spared from World War II, and as a show of friendship with Germany today they decided to share their harmless Krampus-esque tradition, where children are packed into a train car and sent off (briefly) without their parents. A whole lot of people would rightly go UM UMMM UMMMMMM as the situation awkwardly crashes into a mess of well-meaning obliviousness vs. upset people being reminded of a pretty ugly chapter in history their own living family members still remember.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:25 PM on March 12, 2017 [18 favorites]


Great question, bertran! The answer is complicated and I'm not sure I'm really representative, but growing up, I didn't really relate to Japanese or other Asian media, even though I loved anime as a teenager. It does seem like Asian Americans a few years younger than me and/or who grew up in places like San Francisco where there's a critical mass of other Asians have found it empowering to watch stuff like Japanese and Korean dramas and see Asian faces carrying the full range of representation (and particularly seeing Asian men depicted as attractive romantic leads), and it makes me glad to see that. But it is another way of fitting yourself into a space that isn't quite yours, a sort of survival tactic, and it reinforces the idea that the only way we can access our full humanity is to choose between being American or being Asian. I enjoy watching Japanese dramas and it's nice to see lots of Asian faces in my media without having to deal with all this STUFF all the time, but having struggled through an awkward couple of years living in Japan as an American, I'm very aware that the dramas don't depict a world that I can really be a part of, and what I'd really love is to see more Claudia Kishis, Lane Kims, and other characters who deal with aspects of the Asian American experience without being totally defined by it.

I'm not sure if that answers your question. As for Ghost in the Shell specifically, like I said, I've never seen it and don't care deeply about it as a franchise - what bothers me is that this is the latest in a long line of American film producers saying that they don't want to see faces like mine on film, even when the setting and situation specifically calls for one. So although I was never going to feel like I related deeply to this particular movie, I still feel a little sting, which gets more intense with each person whose defensiveness about the media they enjoy causes them to say I am wrong.

In fact, when it comes down to it, that's my only problem with the short film - I can't see an Asian American relating to Ghost in the Shell specifically in the way depicted. (But maybe some do, who knows. Can't rule it out.) But the filmmakers chose GitS because it was timely; you could insert any case of whitewashing (there are so. many.) and the emotional truth of the film would stand. Here's how bad it's gotten: A while back there were unsubstantiated rumors going around that Disney was going to cast a white actress in its live-action adaptation of Mulan, and I, though a generally skeptical person, swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. It seemed completely plausible. Because at this point, a large American film production company casting an Asian person in an Asian role is VERY MUCH the exception. Anyway, I bring that up because Ghost in the Shell is a bit of an odd duck in this discussion, but if you imagine a white actress playing Mulan, it will probably help you imagine why a white person playing an Asian (not Asian American) role is still hurtful.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:42 PM on March 12, 2017 [13 favorites]


Why are American audiences so loathe to embrace an Asian starlet? I get that because of intersectional things the actress would often be accompanied by a white leading man, but with the crossover potential, you'd think Hollywood would at least try once. Everyone's seen multiple fair-haired actresses "fail to launch," what's the harm in trying something different?
posted by Selena777 at 6:50 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Good business decision. They can take all those Black Widow figures nobody bought and just paint the skin-tight suit bodysuit white. Oh wait no they can't do that because they didn't make any Black Widow figures.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:51 PM on March 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


I'm not only not going to see it in the theater, I'm not going to bother pirating it or watching it for free on Netflix when it comes out there. I have, at this point, not merely zero interest in seeing it, but negative interest.

Among other things, they appear to have discarded all of the plots that were in the original Ghost in the Shell, or in Ghost in the Shell 2 (insofar as it can be said to have a plot), or in the spin off TV series, and gone for a boring vengence/mystery type plot. Which allows Scarlett Johansson to do that slightly pouty, vulnerable but tough, wounded but fighting, look she's all but patented.

They appear, basically, to have decided to write a standard American Action Movie, and use some of the visuals from GitS to do it. I am not their target audience.

That character Scarlett Johansson is playing is not related in any way to the character from the manga, or even the (not all that great) anime adaptation.

As for Japan and race, and Shirow specifically and race, it's important to note that Shirow has had a series that was very much multi-ethnic: Appleseed. His protagonist, Deunan Knute, was multi-ethnic with mostly white ancestry but a "cafe au lait" Sudanese grandmother, her significant other was African from an unspecified country who got sucked into the KGB as a refugee, though since he was a total conversion cyborg he looked more like a bug/alien than a black guy. There's a lot of heavy handed, and frankly clumsy at best, handling of race in Appleseed.

Ghost in the Shell, by comparison, has no multi-ethnic aspect. It's set in Japan (Appleseed was set on an artificial island in the middle of the Atlantic), the characters all have Japanese names and Japanese cultural backgrounds. Race is mentioned, one plot line involves refugee children from unspecified foreign places trying to make a space for themselves in Japan.

To argue that race in Ghost in the Shell is ambiguous is simply wrong. Shirow never explicitly stated that the characters were Japanese because he didn't have to. Unless otherwise stated characters by a Japanese guy, set in Japan, with Japanese names, who act Japanese and address Japanese problems, can safely be assumed to be Japanese unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Sometimes you'll encounter white people who argue that characters in anime or manga look white. They don't, they look like weird bug eyed aliens, not like humans at all. But if you ask a Japanese person why a given character "looks white" they'd be baffled, since they think of Japanese as normative to them the characters look Japanese. Since the features of your average manga/anime character are rather impressionist people tend to project whatever is normative to them onto those characters unless, like with black people, that blatantly won't work.

There's no justification for making Motoko Kusanagi white in the story. You can argue it was a good idea, or necessary, or what have you, from a profit standpoint. But you can't argue that somehow she was supposed to be white, or that her race was ambiguous, or whatever.

I'll leave the race discussion with the observation that as others have said, Japanese have a fundamentally different way of looking at race than Americans do. There's a lot of unthinking, unquestioned, racism in Japan. As far as they're concerned there are, at the core of things, exactly two races in the universe: Japanese and gaijin (which means "foreigner" if you're being literal, but more accurately it'd be translated as "dirty ferriners"). I caused a liberal minded Japanese friend of mine to blush and look very uncomfortable when I referred to my foreigner identification card (you are required by law to carry that, or your passport, with you at all times if you are a foreigner in Japan) as a "gaijin card". In Japan "gaijin" is a slur, like the N-word, she told me that she would never call me that, and indeed on the card it doesn't say "gaijin" it says "gaikokujin" (foreign country person), which is more polite.

The Japanese teacher at my American university once caused our class a similar moment of embarrassment with a poster he had made for his Japanese culture club. The mascot at the university was the Buffalo, and "Go Buffs" merch was everywhere. He'd made up a sign that said "Go Japs!" and proudly showed it to us and was stunned when we weren't enthusiastic. When we explained that, in America, "Japs" as a slur, his response was "I'm not offended!".

So yeah, I'm not surprised that many Japanese in Japan don't care about the whitewashing. Japanese in Japan are, in a very real way, living in a bubble when it comes to Americans and race.

UltraMorgnus re: porn. You may be thinking of Ghost in the Shell 2.

Shirow is a bit of an odd phenomenon. A lot of manga artists get their start drawing porn. Shirow is one of the few who started out doing straight stuff and then over the course of his career became increasingly pornified until he wound up doing nothing but porn.

Ghost in the Shell, the first, had a bit of male gaze sexual exploitation but aside from a couple of really out of place pages that were cut from the English translation, it was solidly non-porn.

Between Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2, Shirow declined. I honestly do wonder sometimes if he has some sort of senility going on. He always had a thing for plots that only sort of held together with lots of weirdness and philosophic musing. GitS was one such, Orion (which came just after GitS) is another. he did a fairly tightly plotted and comprehensible book with Dominion 2: No More Noise, then basically he stopped writing for five years and did a lot of cheesecake.

Ghost in the Shell 2 wasn't just weird with a lose plot, it was an almost totally incomprehensible jumble of technobabble and philosobabble dialog with virtually every panel featuring the nude or barely clad butt, crotch, or breasts of a woman shoved right at the camera. It was like the porn parody of TimeCube.

Since GitS2, Shirow has devoted himself to increasingly hardcore pornography, starting with increasingly nude cheesecake, then moving on to often deeply racist interracial porn.

He used to be interesting, though you had to be willing to ignore or tolerate his male gaze objectifying of his female characters. These days, there's just nothing there unless you want really overtly racist porn.
posted by sotonohito at 7:01 PM on March 12, 2017 [13 favorites]


[Couple deleted. I know this thread is intensely frustrating and some people have had terrible, boring, repetitive hot-take opinions. I also know you guys can push back on those without name-calling and rule-breaking.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:51 PM on March 12, 2017


I only meant it as suggesting an agreement with the concern over whitewashing

Yeah, you're completely misunderstanding people's reaction to this if you think that your very low level of concern means that you're in agreement with people who understand that whitewashing is an extremely harmful thing. If you think people are merely "concerned" about whitewashing, look at the little girl's face in the Buzzfeed video. She's not just concerned about whitewashing in GitS, she's heartbroken over it.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:01 PM on March 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yeah, sources from Asia are of wildly varying relevance to questions of race in America. I've always found it weirdly difficult to convince Americans that their color-based model of race is not universal, but there's been an alternative in Asia for at least three thousand years.

The Chinese model of race has traditionally been the Hua-Yi distinction. It's consistent with how people in this thread say that modern Japanese people think about race (and that makes sense considering how much Chinese thought has influenced Japan).

Like the white/colored model, the Hua-Yi distinction has a good in-group and a bad out-group, and that's about where the similarities end. E.g., for most of its history it's been a cultural rather than biological distinction. You could convert by changing your practices and your values.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:16 PM on March 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Another egregious example of this particular kind of whitewashing occured when Bringing Down the House was adapted to the movie 21. From the linked article:

" . . .according to the non-fiction book, the team’s Asian ethnicities were central to the plot and their ability to gamble huge amounts of money without notice. Here is an excerpt from the book: “The MIT team thrived by choosing [Big Players] who fit the casino mold of the young, foolish, and wealthy. Primarily nonwhite, either Asian or Middle Eastern, these were the kids the casinos were accustomed to seeing bet a thousand bucks a hand. Like many on the team, Kevin Lewis was part Asian, and could pass as the child of a rich Chinese or Japanese executive … ‘… White 20-year-olds with $2 million bankrolls stand out,’ explains Andrew Tay, one of Lewis’ teammates.”"

then this:.

" . . .though most of the actual blackjack team was composed of Asian males, a studio executive involved in the casting process said that most of the film’s actors would be White, with perhaps an Asian female.”
posted by blairsyprofane at 11:24 PM on March 12, 2017 [16 favorites]


All this rending of garments and dropping of ashes on head over whitewashing, when the truly offended should be the tachikomas, who have been completely erased from the tale. Beat Takeshi is still in the movie, isn't he?

I kid, I kid, whitewashing is a terrible thing. Still offended by the lack of tachikomas.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 11:43 PM on March 12, 2017


Another egregious example of this particular kind of whitewashing

It's been going since the never made live action Evangelion movie series (whose early concept art turned Rei Ayanami into "Ray", Asuka Langley Sohryu --half Japanese half German-- into "Kate Rose" and Misato Katsuragi into "Susan Withnall"), via the Dragonball Z movie, Speed Racer, the ATLA movie, the Neo-Manhattan Akira that never will be if there is any justice, the American Death Note live action (there are a bunch of Japanese live action DN movies, anyway), this, and James Cameron's Gunnm/ Battle Angel Alita project, which is in post-production and has Rosa Salazar to play the protagonist, who is originally named Youko when she was a little girl growing up in Mars.

The crappiest thing is that nobody is preventing Hollywood from doing a live action Hellsing with white actors, nobody is preventing them from doing a decent Rose of Versailles live action (and if BeruBara is not gritty enough, just do Shinichi Sakamoto's Innocent), nobody is preventing them from doing a live action Vinland Saga. If they want epic fantasy in the vein of Game of Thrones, they can just adapt Berserk (fun fact: Berserk sort of adapts freely the movie Ladyhawke). Why they just have to fuck up series with canon Asian protagonists is something that escapes me.
posted by sukeban at 1:55 AM on March 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


Surprise! People on Metafilter have strong opinions about anime!

I thought the video in the post was really well done and it made me sad to watch it.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:47 AM on March 13, 2017


The BuzzFeed video is really well done and I'll be signal boosting it on social media. And I won't be seeing the movie, even though I'm its target demographic. I regret that I didn't boycott Dr Strange, and will do better this time.
posted by greermahoney at 6:19 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


If the Keanu-as-Spike Cowboy Bebop movie ever made it off the ground I might tear my eyeballs out of the sockets and eat them. Just because.

A good, R-rated Hellsing movie would be awesome. Twenty years from now when there is a 1% chance Berserk is finished, a Game of Thrones type series on a streaming service would be really neat too. I mean they would ruin both but in theory it would be awesome.

I was somewhat interested in this movie but it looks so dumb. Not new Alien movie dumb, but still dumb. If the reviews make it sound like a great movie by some freak miracle I'll still go see it, I will take any distraction from reality I can get right now but meh. I'm torn between wanting to see more anime/manga stuff making it over here and wanting to support whatever we do get and hating that they fuck it up every time, casting, plot, usually even the setting is totally wrong. I keep hoping and they keep disappointing me. Death Note looks to be even worse. They could have cast all of the roles with Japanese actors and that just fixes half of the problem as they are still taking great source material, grinding it up and crapping out something generic and terrible.

One of these days Hollywood is going to finally realize that we like this stuff because we want a real escape, we want to get away from our everyday lives and all of these futuristic and fantasy settings with all sorts of different stories, usually either in a fictional land or in a place that is decidedly not American and full of non-Americans really appeal to us for the sum of their parts and changing any of that is just stupid. A movie set in a futuristic Japan with Japanese cyborgs and a culture that is largely alien to most of us sounds great to me. But they have to put the same people in every movie, take a piece of source material and force it into some Hollywood mold that basically destroys everything that made it great. Wouldn't a really good live action movie that feels authentic to the setting and story of the GitS mythos make more people excited about seeing it and more likely to go see it multiple times? Or do they even care as long as it makes a bit of profit and gives them something to fill the big budget action flick every few months? I'm rambling and I'm running on almost no sleep and I have no idea wtf I am even typing at this point, I am just irritated.

TL;DR: Keanu stay the hell away from Nanatsu no Taizai and Hunter X Hunter. I'll eat your eyeballs too.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 7:03 AM on March 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


POC, can you please take the hint already? Minorites don't get to complain until the majority decides this is an issue, which they haven't, so stfu. Pick whichever:

-The problem is not serious enough to worry about,

but weirdly

-The problem is so serious and so prevalent that why are you even trying, don't waste your time,

in fact

-This discussion is so tired I just tune it out,

and if you still want to complain:

-It's POC who have double standards because one time this black guy got a role that wasn't specifically black

and if you are still complaining:

-You are going about the wrong way, because I want to see this particular movie so give it the benefit of the doubt

and damn it, if you are STILL complaining:

- This is not even racist, it's business smart because everyone knows American people just like white characters more (don't ask why)

And finally, let me strawmanize your complaint with this gem

- "Demanding Hollywood spend a hundred million or more on films with less certain profit outcomes to make people feel better about themselves..."
posted by Tarumba at 7:49 AM on March 13, 2017 [19 favorites]


If the Keanu-as-Spike Cowboy Bebop movie ever made it off the ground I might tear my eyeballs out of the sockets and eat them. Just because.

FWIW, Keanu's hapa.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:49 AM on March 13, 2017 [10 favorites]


Batou (or Bateau, depending on what romanization you go with) has an arguably French surname and is an ex-US Army Ranger, so I always assumed he was the token white-European guy in the group.

Actually, Batou is an ex-Section Four ranger, not US army, as established in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Second Gig's penultimate episode.

As for Japan and race, and Shirow specifically and race, it's important to note that Shirow has had a series that was very much multi-ethnic: Appleseed.

Or even better, Dominion Tank Police, which is actually set in America (Newport to be precise).
posted by MartinWisse at 7:59 AM on March 13, 2017


Newport in DTP is a fictional Japanese city, not a reference to any of the US cities called Newport. This is especially obvious in the second DTP volume where there's a lot more police procedural stuff going on and it's very clearly following Japanese police procedure, not US police procedure. For example, Shirow notes that the police have to practice either Judo or Kendo in their off time, which is a requirement in Japan but not in the USA.

But even in the first, IIRC, there's a few references to Japan and quite a lot of Japanese cultural stuff.
posted by sotonohito at 10:42 AM on March 13, 2017


Newport in DTP is a fictional Japanese city, not a reference to any of the US cities called Newport.

I am so disappointed! For a brief moment I was imagining those tiny tanks trying to navigate the narrow and picturesque streets of Newport, RI. Given what I remember of the characters, they would probably knock down a Georgian steeple or blow up a tall ship.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:52 AM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Demanding Hollywood spend a hundred million or more on films with less certain profit outcomes to make people feel better about themselves...

You're right, that's a heckuva strawman since you conveniently cut out the rest of the sentence and removed it from the context of the paragraph that held the line.


At the same time, I hold no truck with the attitude that as consumers our choices don't matter and it's all on Hollywod to "fix" perceived wrongs in the society. That too makes no sense to me. It is the responsibility of the consumer to not support racist material as much as it is the responsibility of Hollywood not to make it at the very least. As a for profit enterprise, Hollywood will make whatever they believe people will want to see, and if the people support it, they will make more like it until the money stops flowing. Demanding change is great, as long as that change is also supported. Demanding Hollywood spend a hundred million or more on films with less certain profit outcomes to make people feel better about themselves for those things existing, but not supporting those works is not going to work.


Now, it's certainly possible to disagree with my thoughts on this subject, I have no problem with that and am always willing to listen to others in hopes of coming to a better understanding of things myself, but please stop misrepresenting my statements. Maybe they weren't as clear as they seemed to be to me, but they certainly aren't saying what is being claimed of them.

As I hoped was clear, I am well aware that Hollywood has a long history of racism, I've spend decades arguing such in other places, but it isn't just Hollywood that has a problem with racism, their audience does too. That's why talking about things like budgets and practices matter, because relying on stars and spectacle is what sells tickets. Ideally, from my way of thinking, people would stop flocking to these mass spectacles and find more enjoyment in more modest forms of entertainment where artists are allowed more risks and can make decisions that aren't wholly driven by some enormous bottom line that needs to be met. Instead media is driven by the money they put into deeply problematic works, often coming from equally problematic sources, in hopes of tapping into collective memory and spurring expectations of association with out past. Our past, unfortunately, is rotten, so the messages we are bombarded with are also likely to be so, but since they come from our cultural past, they also provide a sense of familiarity to the audience and unavoidably spread throughout the culture as being important due to that influx of cash and nostalgia.

Because these messages and images are inescapable, it creates a feeling of cultural norms that are harmful since, instead of avoiding and condemning their existence, people want to join them, to also be a part of the norm. That's completely understandable, and ideally would happen if somehow the whole process could be cleansed of all the rot that has built up in the system over the decades, but short of that miracle happening in one miraculous moment, the question becomes how one improves the system given all the constraints.

As I said, I'd prefer it's present form was killed myself, and have avoided going to major Hollywood movies and stopped buying most other major media products for years as my own protest against the values they represent. I support films that are either made by artists I respect or that, to my thinking, have content worth standing up for instead. That doesn't solve the issue of others feeling shunned by the culture on its own of course, and I'm certainly not saying I am any exemplar of anything, but as an individual it's the least I can do to minimize my complicity with values I don't share.

As an industry, Hollywood differs from others in that its product isn't wholly uniform, the funding behind the films has set wants, a profitable return on investment, while the individual makers have differing concerns, some aligned with the profit first model, some with more artistic or otherwise noble ends. It's that individual difference that I wished to defend in my initial claim, in case this film, somehow did seek to say something meaningful about race or the human condition in its making. Which is why I urged a little patience over the content of the film while still supporting talking about whitewashing within its context of Hollywood history. Somehow this got turned into it seeming like I wasn't supporting any part of the discussion on race, and if that was due to my unfortunate laborious method of writing or other failure of clarity I apologize, but I stand by the gist of my thoughts, save for the apology already made.

I hope this settles my part in this thread as I didn't intend to add more, but felt the misrepresentation of my statements needed correction. Again, disagreement is great, there are some objections in the thread I've noted and am thinking about, but please try to represent my point of view accurately or at least with some generosity of spirit since I am not in disagreement at all with the main issue of whitewashing and racism in the media.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:06 PM on March 13, 2017


At the same time, I hold no truck with the attitude that as consumers our choices don't matter and it's all on Hollywod to "fix" perceived wrongs in the society. That too makes no sense to me. It is the responsibility of the consumer to not support racist material as much as it is the responsibility of Hollywood not to make it at the very least. As a for profit enterprise, Hollywood will make whatever they believe people will want to see, and if the people support it, they will make more like it until the money stops flowing. Demanding change is great, as long as that change is also supported. Demanding Hollywood spend a hundred million or more on films with less certain profit outcomes to make people feel better about themselves for those things existing, but not supporting those works is not going to work.

Yeah, seeing the quote in full context does make it any less crappy. No one's misrepresenting you, they just think what you're saying is crappy and you don't think it's crappy. That's not a misrepresentation, that's a disagreement.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:28 PM on March 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


gusottertrout: "For me, these sorts of protests make the most sense during the initial development of the project when casting can still be changed or after the release of the film when criticisms can be specific and factually based. Once the movie is completed and is only awaiting release, the value of the protests only come from the attention drawn to the history of Hollywood and US media, not so much about the film itself which is what it is, whatever that is. So I'm not saying end the attention to whitewashing, just focus it more on the long history and wait to make more specific criticisms of the movie itself so, like conservatives, we don't look foolish if the actual product doesn't match the simulacrum of it constructed in our minds."

People were absolutely protesting during the initial devolpment of this project back in 2014 when reports were that they were considering Margot Robbie for the role of Major Kusanagi. Then word got out that the role was being offered to Scarlett Johansson, and people kept protesting. After Johansson accepted the role (more protesting) and there were rumours that they were considering digitally altering her in post-production to have a more Asian appearance people protested that too and satirized it [YouTube]. The protest of America's entertainment industry's history of racism is prolific and ongoing: there's no lack of focus there, and in any case history is made up of specific examples, of which this is one.

There's no good reason we should have to stop talking about this specific instance of Whitewashing, even during the window of time where the film has been irreversibly cast but has not yet been released. Scarlett Johansson isn't going to stop being White any time soon, and even if they've inserted a Plot Reason in the film for Major Kusangi not to be (or appear) Japanese that doesn't change the source material or the fact that the role was Whitewashed.

[Shout out to Angry Asian Man for thier excellent coverage of issues relevant to Asian Americans/Canadians.]
posted by Secret Sparrow at 12:34 PM on March 13, 2017 [15 favorites]


That people can be ambivalent or internally conflicted due to important cultural/historical/political reasons is actually a good point and I think is a great direction for examination.

I boycotted Ender's Game when it came out and learned two things. The fact of my choice was enough to make people upset, I wasn't even taking a stance of they should do so in solidarity or anything at that level. Second, people are incentivized to compartmentalize--the author is a homophobic activist but that is magically (by mystification if you're employing a Marxist lens) ideologically quarantined from the "cultural/artistic value" of the work.

So this narrative:
Which is why I urged a little patience over the content of the film while still supporting talking about whitewashing within its context of Hollywood history.

I don't buy it because it's the same move of content compartmentalization.

And I can also speak to ambivalence as an Asian American who likes bad sci-fi but not super into Japanese anime (at least, not lately after watching Your Name). I want to see Ghost in the Shell precisely because it looks like a dumb Hollywood scifi spectacle. It's like deliberately paying money to be exploited.
posted by polymodus at 12:50 PM on March 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


Which is why I urged a little patience over the content of the film while still supporting talking about whitewashing within its context of Hollywood history. Somehow this got turned into it seeming like I wasn't supporting any part of the discussion on race, and if that was due to my unfortunate laborious method of writing or other failure of clarity I apologize, but I stand by the gist of my thoughts, save for the apology already made.

the whole problem here is you admit that you're not directly impacted by this, and yet you're arguing to people who are that people who are should simmer down and wait-and-see.

this is a mere step away from telling people who have been hit by a racist insult that they are not actually being racially insulted, or that their anger is invalid because "it's not the right time".

do you not see how that plays at all? do you not see how that amplifies the racist actions that you "don't support"?

no matter how many words you write trying to whitesplain how this shit happens to people who already know how this shit happens because they've seen it happen and experienced it happening over and over again, it doesn't change the fact that rest of your argument boils down to, uncharitably, "sit down, shut up, maybe it won't be so bad."
posted by anem0ne at 12:59 PM on March 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


lol the fakeass Ghost in the Shell fans in this thread questioning whether the Major is Japanese. Y'all ain't never seen GitS:SAC? Take a look at this scene: it's not a coincidence that the trigger-happy Americans fall for the sniper's tricks and are the first to die while the Major and the Japanese contingent step back and formulate a plan.
posted by joedan at 1:06 PM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


My wife (Japanese) and I had a long talk about this recently. It was very hard for me to explain to her why Asian-Americans are upset by this kind of thing. I've never met anyone in Japan who is worried about cultural appropriation or even familiar with the concept (not saying they don't exist, but its not common in my experience).

Which makes sense, really. White Americans don't get upset when other countries adapt American culture, because we feel pretty secure about ourselves and generally look at it favorably (hey, they like our stuff!) or a little condescendingly. Japanese generally feel the same --- after all, they are the ones in power (in their country, from their perspective) so there is no threat or loss there. A couple friends who are big Ghost in the Shell fans in Japan were all more excited about this movie than me.

Trying to explain why Asian-Americans, who may not even be nisei/sansei/yonsei/etc or have any real experience with Japan, could be upset by this, requires a detailed discussion of American racial history that people outside this country just aren't familiar with.
posted by thefoxgod at 1:25 PM on March 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


(Also, Japan does the opposite of this with anime sometimes --- like the live action Attack on Titan, which in addition to being terrible also featured an all-Japanese cast portraying Europeans. It is however not _quite_ analogous, as it would be much harder to find enough white actors in Japan who speak Japanese to play the cast, and it would mean the only recognizable star possible would be Mikasa).
posted by thefoxgod at 1:30 PM on March 13, 2017


(The live action Thermae Romae did that, too -- even if half of the fun of the manga is that Lucius is a big blonde hunk of a gaijin. Anyway, Hiroshi Abe looks more Italian than Russell Crowe or Ciarán Hinds, so I'm not particularly bothered by it)
posted by sukeban at 1:38 PM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm personally going to punish the studio responsible by pirating this movie in uhh... solidarity.
posted by some loser at 1:57 PM on March 13, 2017


gusottertrout, for what it's worth, it was not at ALL clear to me from your initial comment that you agreed that whitewashing was a bad thing. I mean, for one thing, you didn't actually say that in your comment. I like to assume good faith here, but if you look at where the discussion was at when you came in, and at what you actually said (given that we don't know you personally and have only your words to go on), I don't think anyone was being unfair to you.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:59 PM on March 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Ghost in the Shell 2 wasn't just weird with a lose plot, it was an almost totally incomprehensible jumble of technobabble and philosobabble dialog with virtually every panel featuring the nude or barely clad butt, crotch, or breasts of a woman shoved right at the camera. It was like the porn parody of TimeCube.

I can't tell if you're just talking about the manga or the film. Shirow and Oshii have very different intentions with their presentation of GiTS. GiTS 2 had less "nudity" than the first film, and it can be a bit tough to follow but it's overarching plot is about child sex trafficking.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:47 PM on March 13, 2017


Am Asian, can confirm I grew up watching plenty of Chinese movies from China and American movies from America. Just like presumably, western kids would grow up with the idea of Batman / Superman as their "hero" character, we grew up with someone like, say, Wong Fei Hung as our "hero" character - he's a folk hero of Chinese legend who was a famous martial artist and physician, and the subject of numerous movies. So the idea of, I don't know, if Hollywood wanted to make their own Wong Fei Hung movie, I'd think they're silly for trying because they would be 99% sure to completely miss the point of a Wong Fei Hung movie regardless if they casted someone white or someone Asian as the lead, and honestly there are already over 100 Wong Fei Hung movies in existence....

Personally I am not happy with the Major's casting, but the problems run much deeper than that. If they really wanted to use Scarlett Johanssen... I guess, a much more interesting alternative would be adapting the movie to be set in a future cyberpunk New York blended with Hong Kong (kind of like what Big Hero 6 did with a blend of SF and Tokyo architecture and culture). I get that they want to "adapt" GiTS - do their own take on it - but GiTS was never about the plot anyway. It was about the art and sound design. It looks like they've missed the point entirely, they're slavishly sticking to the original art and sound design, but adapting it from a story with philosophical and existential roots in the question of what it means to be human, into some generic American action "revenge" plot ala Jason Bourne. (I am just speculating based on the trailers...)

One of the themes in the first and second GiTS movies was the juxtaposition of ancient tradition in cyberpunk setting. The temple parade sequence in GiTS2 cracks me up when I think of it, where the two main characters just stop and watch a parade silently for 3 minutes, nothing happens, there's just traditional music and imagery. It's like an intermission between the first and second half of the movie, and has nothing to do with the story, or everything to do with the story, depending on your point of view, kind of like how Tom Bombadil is related to the story of Lord of the Rings.
posted by xdvesper at 7:00 PM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


It looks like they've missed the point entirely

It does, in so many ways. And now I learn there is a live action American Death Note. FFS.
posted by juiceCake at 11:10 PM on March 13, 2017


Warner Bros meanwhile seems to be planning a live action Attack on Titan, which only has one Asian (presumably Japanese) character anyway so at least won't need white washing.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:42 PM on March 13, 2017


P.o.B. I can't tell if you're just talking about the manga or the film.

The manga. I never bothered watching the GitS2 movie.
posted by sotonohito at 5:22 AM on March 14, 2017


If the Keanu-as-Spike Cowboy Bebop movie ever made it off the ground I might tear my eyeballs out of the sockets and eat them. Just because.

FWIW, Keanu's hapa.


TBH, Spike Spiegel's character design is based on Elliot Gould as Philip Marlowe in Altman's The Long Goodbye. So given the choice between Keanu Reeves and any given Japanese-American actor, I'd say "How about Alden Ehrenreich?"
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:54 AM on March 14, 2017


so just had this conversation on fb. I'm Asian, I posted the video, and a white acquaintance tried to defend the casting. The latest salvo was this exchange:

White guy: [comment after another white guy posted this video] It's interesting to see that, but he basically said the same thing numaner and I agreed on, they used Scarlett because it was probably the only way to get the movie off the ground. What I personally don't understand, is why there's any concern at all. The little girl in the video wasn't gonna be able to see that movie anyhow, nor should she be reading anything with GITS levels of adult content. I just don't get the point here.

Me: See, that was my point with my first reply: you won't get it.

White guy: Can it be explained with maybe a lengthy explanation? To me, it seems like people are only furthering the divide between themselves from everyone else in the human species by focusing on our differences, rather than our similarities. Like even racial differences, which are literally based on close or how far your original tribe evolved from the equator, and cultural differences... They'll both fade into non-existence within several (maybe hundreds) generations anyhow, so why is it important *now* that we focus on all our differences? So long as we all except the differences, and the differences are made to not mean anything in quality of life (which will take time), it makes very little sense to me to care what ethnicity an actress happens to be.

Me: I'll try, but I'm still not sure I'll be able to get my point across.

It's not so much that people of color are *now* focusing on equal representation so much as *now* we have more of a platform to make our voices heard. Hollywood, and America in general, have always preferred whiteness as the default in any setting. And to children of color, it deemphasizes their place in this country, that they're not the normal. There's a deep history of institutional racial suppression in this country. Redlining, segregation, etc. There's more progress now, but still a lot of room for improvement. Equal representation in media helps tremendously. It encourages minority children. Whitewashing minority representation in established cultural media makes them think that no matter what they grew up with, whiteness is still the default, the *normal*, and that no one cares about their childhood and their culture. They're not focusing on racial differences, rather they're focusing on a self identity. When they don't see themselves as part of popular media, they feel more excluded, like who they are isn't important to society. In this way, whitewashing is actually causing the divide.

When you assume that races will meld together in the future, you're saying that who we are now doesn't matter. In a very far (and privileged, tbh) view, you're right. But with the history of minorities in this country, it's an extremely far view. There's still vast inequality in this country, and until we're truly equal, minorities will always feel like they're treated unfairly. We still see a government that overwhemingly favors rich white men, and we still gets harassed by police (to put it lightly) and the TSA. So when you say why does differences matter now, it's because we're living it. We care about these differences because society does. You might not see it, but people of color sure do; in our government, in our prisons, and in our media. When you say, "hey, just let it go and move on", to this one incident, it's probably the latest of the many times people of color have heard that exact line. So while it's wonderful to think that our great great great (let's be honest, add a few more greats than you'd think here) grandchildren might all look the same and doesn't have to worry about these differences, that's not the reality now or in the near future.
posted by numaner at 10:33 AM on March 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


[comment after another white guy posted this video]

"Now I'm not whitesplaining..." (goes on to whitesplain his dye job off).

Also, while I think that the comic store clerk could have directed that girl toward better comics (even assuming it was 10-15 years ago), it's also pretty clear that the woman who is bummed out by the poster for the film is the girl that bought the comic, just older. That was not a hard narrative stretch. Anyway, I assume that Jes Tom or Chewy May had that experience (or one like it), and that's what sparked the film, so, just because there were better comics doesn't mean that someone didn't find GitS meaningful as a young person and feel betrayed by the casing.

For the "this is how Hollywood works" crew, one might reasonably ask why they are making the film at all if they need to strip away its Japanese elements (and, maybe the philosophical stuff that's kind of the GitS thing). I mean, why not just do a cybernetic cop film and admit one of the inspirations was Shirow?

I'm still interested in hearing answers to the question of: if you were a comic store clerk and you had a 10-12 Asian American girl who wanted to buy comics that spoke to her Asian Americanness, what would you recommend?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:44 AM on March 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


For the "this is how Hollywood works" crew, one might reasonably ask why they are making the film at all if they need to strip away its Japanese elements (and, maybe the philosophical stuff that's kind of the GitS thing). I mean, why not just do a cybernetic cop film and admit one of the inspirations was Shirow?

It was already done in 1999, it was called "The Matrix".
posted by sukeban at 12:57 PM on March 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


Well I think part of the video goes to show that race issues are complex and currently require several sophisticated ideas to understand, that your average, default person may not have access to.

Specifically, the narrative depiction in the video is incongruous with a real life 12 year old girl in the 90s buying a copy if Ghost in the Shell. The clip is a dramatization, not a documentary. For the purposes of the video, it's a metaphor or simplification: that the depiction would not literally happen in reality doesn't invalidate the message as an illustration of what the experience is like for an Asian American. When a metaphor doesn't resonate for those with unearned advantage and conferred dominance, they can just dismiss it, in reality.

So that's a pattern of disagreement where one side when threatened reflexively takes a more literal interpretation of what was said by the other while not recognizing other interpretations, concerns, and other relevant information. That's a reaction to be aware of.

The other example you had is of trying to explain the concepts of erasure and whitewashing to ignorant people:

When you assume that races will meld together in the future, you're saying that who we are now doesn't matter. In a very far (and privileged, tbh) view, you're right. But with the history of minorities in this country, it's an extremely far view.

That assumption is the cultural erasure that is being critiqued. Challenging people's ideologies is hard because it deals with their meta-cognition and reflective capacities.
posted by polymodus at 1:39 PM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


For the "this is how Hollywood works" crew, one might reasonably ask why they are making the film at all if they need to strip away its Japanese elements (and, maybe the philosophical stuff that's kind of the GitS thing). I mean, why not just do a cybernetic cop film and admit one of the inspirations was Shirow?

Brand Recognition™. Same reason why that Max Payne movie (or every terrible video game adaption from SMB to Warcraft) was made. I wouldn't watch a Marky Mark cop revenge flick. I *still* watched that piece of shit on cable once just to see if it was really as bad as everyone said, and it was, because to say it is "loosely based" on the game is a complete joke. Sure, Max Payne (the game) is a pastiche of clichés and nods, but it was written by one of the best doing that. The movie might have well been something from the stack of "grimdark undercover law enforcement revenge flicks" spec scripts, doctored with some names and scenes from the original ip and that's it.

I don't even think having a CyborgPolice LA 2192 developed by Shirow to be catered exactly to the studios' demands would have the same attention (and funding) than a film with the GitS branding, even if it has nothing on the source material after the required 3 minutes of footage that kinda look the original stuff to put on a bait trailer are filmed.

Keep in mind, I'm not excusing or making apologies for this. But from observation, seems mostly in line with the box-office results around the tentpoles. Sequel, sequel, franchise, remake, etc. I doubt the blockbuster money people are reaching different conclusions.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:43 PM on March 14, 2017


Heh. Yeah, the idea that, hey, why don't we just do a new IP? That comes from a baseline assumption that earnest artistic merit enters into the picture at some point, somewhere, instead of Hollywood being a place where Adam Sandler is a known money-maker.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:20 PM on March 14, 2017


Heh. Yeah, the idea that, hey, why don't we just do a new IP?

How odd that new IPs happen all the time in Hollywood. Not quite as commonly as adaptions, reboots, and sequels, and "new" is not the same as "original," but, hell, the way this film is being described, it might as well be "Robocop -- Ten Years Later." As it stands, they are pissing off a vocal part of their fan base for an IP that means nothing to the majority of the audience they'll need for a profit. Unless they are counting on the "haha SJW" crowd buying extra tickets out of spite. I dunno.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:49 AM on March 15, 2017


I mean, the shitty math for the audience numbers the studio is dreaming up goes something like:

25% of audience from people who love the IP
25% of audience from people who recognize that the IP exists and are like "sure let's see what this is"
50% of the audience from people who know shit about it

Percentages are obviously made up. But, the point stands: when a studio decides to use an existing IP (even just in name), they're not expecting the thing to be a hit purely based on the IP. They are, however, expecting the IP will bootstrap the numbers a fair bit.
posted by tocts at 5:59 AM on March 15, 2017


They are, however, expecting the IP will bootstrap the numbers a fair bit.

... which affects the investment in the movie. Comparing a few sci-fi ish budgets (from wiki) I've seen released this decade: SW:TFW $306M, Interstellar $165M, Prometheus $120-130M, Total Recall $125M, The Martian $108M, Robocop $100M, Gravity $100M; Lucy $40M, Source Code $32M, Repo Men $32M, Dredd $30-45M, Looper $30M, Her $23M, Ex_Machina $15M, High Rise $8M
Sure this is a limited list with my own biases into it, but it seems to me producers are happier to funnel money into IPs that had the brand legwork done for them, even if that brand is just the director and leads. This is a world that decided the bland remake of Total Recall required a budget higher than almost any combination of four movies on sub-$100M list... where only Dredd could be considered an "existing IP" (and boy, does everyone wish it wasn't).

I mean, the shitty math for the audience numbers the studio is dreaming up goes something like:
I think there's also a percentage of people that see "Scarlett Johansson" and might decide it's worth a ticket. The director too, but in this case I don't even know who this guy is. This is why there's things like these.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:02 AM on March 15, 2017


y'all I saw this tonight and it was TERRIBLE. Just straight up BAD. I mean, ignore all the problematic parts of it and it is still one of the worst films I've seen in a long time. Who the fuck wrote this? Who directed it? It's SO BAD.

Even if, like me, you're still interested because Ghost in the fucking Shell, do yourself a favor and just re-watch the original. I cannot stress enough how bad this remake is.
posted by juice boo at 11:55 PM on April 2, 2017


On the other hand, some cautious good news: it seems a Yasuke biopic is in the works.
posted by sukeban at 11:23 AM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Words cannot express how happy I am to see this movie flopping.

The whitewashing was merely the most visible aspect of a movie that had nothing but disdain for its source material. If anyone involved had given a shit about GitS they'd have used some of the plot from it, but they didn't so they didn't. And the result is exactly what you get when you have people "adapting" something they don't care about.

Result? They threw away everything except some of the visuals and the title.

We saw this with Starship Troopers, except there the people involved bragged about their utter loathing and disdain for the source, while here the people involved kept up a paper thin pretense that they were fans of the source. Clearly they were not.

So I'll be over here laughing and reveling in the catastrophe and the wails coming from the racist fuckers.
posted by sotonohito at 1:29 PM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Okatsuka: It’s not even about seeing me on the screen as a performer. It’s a bigger concern. It’s 2017 and I don’t know why these representation issues are still happening. It’s overwhelming. This means so much to our community but is so on the side, still, for a lot of people.
'Ghost in the Shell': 4 Japanese(-American) Actresses Dissect the Movie and Its Whitewashing Twist
posted by anem0ne at 2:47 PM on April 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


I want to get a drink with Keiko Agena.
posted by sunset in snow country at 2:56 PM on April 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yikes. Above and beyond the whitewashing (including literally writing the casting decision into the script), the summary of the movie sounds like they aped the visual style of the original while completely missing the point and rewriting it into a generic amnesia thriller.

I guess you can always depend on Hollywood to fuck up an adaptation in as many simultaneous ways as is possible.
posted by tocts at 6:16 PM on April 4, 2017


We saw this with Starship Troopers, except there the people involved bragged about their utter loathing and disdain for the source, while here the people involved kept up a paper thin pretense that they were fans of the source.

I'm not really fan of Starship Troopers, but it does seem more like the filmmakers actually read the book and cared about the ideas in it--but disagreed with them--and made the movie as a response to/parody of the book. That seems like a more artistically worthwhile reason to do an adaptation than simply wanting to reverently deliver the exact same story in a different medium.

Of course it sounds like the new GitS movie is neither of those things.
posted by straight at 12:34 PM on April 5, 2017


Verhoeven has openly admitted he never got past a couple of chapters into the book. Neumeier, the guy who actually wrote the thing, originally titled it Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine and then because of similarities "adapted" the book by using a all of a couple of choice paragraphs from it. The film being a satire of fascism and militarism, which Verhoeven has also openly expressed is what the movie is about and experienced in Germany when he was young, is often wrongly touted to be a send up of the book even though the extent of the similarities add up to space ships, alien bugs, and an over exuberant commander.

Even though Verhoeven was obviously making a movie about Nazis, he still white washed it.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:32 PM on April 5, 2017




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