I got this comment on my Ghost in the Shell Live Action Movie Thoughts video. I thought it was interesting.
No, I don’t get offended every time an Asian is not cast in a movie. I am especially not offended in this case of Ghost in the Shell as I’m unsure what “clearly Asian” means for this movie. This is a movie about consciousness and technology, a film about transcendence far before its time. If you love the original 1995 anime then you would not care about the race of the actor they chose to play Major Motoko Kusanagi. Her body and the bodies of the other cybernetic characters in this movie are not culturally or ethnically motivated.
Here’s one of the more powerful quotes from the film that I think really exemplifies Kusanagi and it shows that race is not one of her identifying features. That’s the whole point of the movie for me. The body is just a vessel.
There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind like all the components that make up me as an individual with my own personality. Sure I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me and I carry a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of it. I collect information to use in my own way. All of that blends to create a mixture that forms me and gives rise to my conscience. I feel confined only free to expand myself within boundaries. – Kusanagi
Going back to the idea of the comment saying that the role is “clearly Asian,” I don’t think I can agree. I look at her as I’ve always looked at her since I first saw this anime. She’s always seemed more European and western in look than Asian as do almost all anime characters.
Anime characters have wide looking eyes as they have been largely inspired by the work of Osamu Tezuka who was inspired by the exaggerated features of American cartoon characters such as Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse and from Disney’s Bambi.. “Tezuka found that large eyes style allowed his characters to show emotions expressions distinctly.”
Depending on the different drawings styles of the animator, characters can vary in Eastern visual features, mostly in the eyes I’ve noticed. In the case of Kusanagi, her eyes are very wide and blue. I don’t know many Asians who have blue eyes.
Her nose is particularly is high in nasal bone area and thin in the nostril area, features which are more commonly seen in Western/European females. Her build is particularly muscular as well which does not seem to be a common body type of Asian females. These features do not mean she’s not Japanese or Asian but I think it surely can be open for interpretation.
In addition, as I stated before, I do not think that her nationality is relevant to her character.
That being said, I do agree that it’s much more respectful when film creators try to honor as much as the original creators design as possible. It’s not always relevant as we’ve seen race bending successfully done in many movies (not so much with the gender bending. lol). I would have loved to have seen an up and coming Asian actress given the opportunity to play Kusanagi but I’m also not bitterly upset that one wasn’t cast.
There are certain films where I think national identity is very important and others I do not. For example, if they “whitewash” Akira, I’ll be ready to unravel as the themes of that movie are heavily tied to cultural ideologies…. NOT that I think Hollywood has a chance in hell of doing that film right.
And maybe that’s where the real anger should be directed in terms of Ghost in the Shell in particular. Studios greedily acquire rights to properties so they can snatch them up before other studios do. Later, they have to produce these films whether the circumstances be right or not in order to recoup costs.
It is true, the fans were not asking for this to be made and if they were ever going to be asked, they’d want it done right. As I said in my video, my concerns for this movie have far less to do with ScarJo’s race than a whole host of other issues regarding respect for the movie’s story.