Scarlett Johansson’s will be Major Motoko Kusanagi in an upcoming film adaptation of The Ghost in the Shell. This decision, to put it mildly, stirred up an amount of controversy and debate among fans.
It’s difficult to compress all the arguments into this brief news piece, so I’ll summarize.
Perspectives and Arguments
One side maintains that casting an American actress is emblematic of “whitewashing.” In brief, white actors fill historically non-white roles. Jon Tsuei added to the debate, arguing that Ghost in the Shell represents a specifically Japanese cultural context. On the other hand, many argue, like Max Landis, that no A-list Japanese actresses working in Hollywood are capable of filling the role. In this case, Johansson is in the film simply to maximize profits. Others argue that Ghost in the Shell is a universal fable. The story speaks of the relationship between cybernetic technology, artificial intelligence and the human soul. Such weighty themes, some argue, transcend categories such as race altogether.
However, information that Kaori Momoi (Memoirs of a Geisha, Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald, Kagemusha) will play Motoko’s mother, changes things.
While Motoko could simply be adopted, geektyrant has other ideas. Two separate explanations within the canon explain Motoko’s cyborg-status. One suggests that the Major suffered injuries to her body so grievous that vital surgery placed her brain in an artificial body. Another suggests that the conversion happened due to an accident while still a foetus. In both cases, Motoko’s brain is removable and often switches bodies in the anime as needs be. This is where it gets interesting: Many of us heard a while back that Rila Fukishima will be starring in an undisclosed role. We all shrugged and thought nothing of it. However, this opens up the plot for debate. Perhaps Johansson isn’t truly the Major, but one of her false bodies, controlled by the real deal from afar? The film is slated for a March 2017 release.