Casting ignites controversy

By Sophia Phillips

The live action movie adaption of the Japanese anime, “Ghost in the Shell” has faced criticism for “white-washing” because Scarlett Johansson was cast as the main character of the film.

The movie, which is set to release March 31, stars Johansson playing the lead role of Major Motoko Kusanagi. In the anime, the character is a Japanese woman whose brain has been put in a synthetic robot body.

Johansson’s casting caused people to question why a white woman was cast instead of a Japanese woman. Many people who questioned the movie’s casting took to Twitter, including Asian-American actor Ming-Na Wen, who voiced Mulan and currently stars in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

“Nothing against Scarlett Johansson, in fact, I’m a big fan,” Wen tweeted. “But everything against this white-washing of Asian roles.”

Members of the Anime Club at NIU had differing opinions from one another on the controversy.

Anime club members Patrick McGinty, senior engineering technology major, and Jacob Groth, freshman computer science major, were more concerned about how Kusanagi would be portrayed than the race of the actor playing the character. They want the movie to be true to the anime.

However, Jasmine Cannon, senior hospitality major and member of the Anime Club, thought that race did play into the authenticity of the character. She said the character would be more authentic if the movie had cast a Japanese actor.

“I just don’t think [Johansson] fit because she isn’t Japanese,” Cannon said. “The character’s name is Motoko Kusanagi — she’s just straight up Japanese, and they cast a white woman for it.”

Kirstin Wetzell, junior communicative disorders major and Anime Club member, recognized that directors choose top actors for their films and that Hollywood tends to use more white actors.

David Frey, senior mechanical engineering major and president of the Anime Club, questioned the practice.

“It could just be a result [of] the American film industry, but being the melting pot that I think we’re supposed to be, I think it would still be better to respect the character more than the actor,” Frey said.