Ghost in the Shell meme generator repurposed to criticize whitewashing
Paramount Pictures’ Ghost in the Shell hit a glitch over the weekend as an online promotional campaign for the cyberpunk movie was repurposed by some users to renew accusations of whitewashing.
Based on the influential manga and anime franchise about an elite anti-cybercrime unit, Ghost in the Shell has faced considerable criticism for casting Scarlett Johansson in the lead role of what some consider an inherently Japanese story.
On Friday, Paramount unveiled an image generator and the hashtag #IAmMajor, encouraging fans to upload photos and emblazon them with phrases describing themselves. Suggestions include “I am strong” and “I am a fighter.”
Many Ghost in the Shell detractors instead used the generator to lambaste the film and shared the results on social media. “I am not Japanese,” one image of Johansson says. “I am Hollywood’s latest white-washed victim,” reads another.
Other images suggest Japanese actresses that could have been cast instead of Johansson, such as Rinko Kikuchi, Kaede Aono, and Keiko Kitagawa.
Some critics also used the campaign to call out other films and TV projects for erasing or marginalizing Asian characters, including Doctor Strange, 21, and Iron Fist.
A Paramount spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment about the #IAmMajor campaign.
Johansson recently addressed the casting controversy in an interview with Marie Claire, telling the magazine, “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”
She added that “having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.”
Director Rupert Sanders has also said he stands by Johansson’s casting, adding, “She’s the best actress of her generation. and I was flattered and honored that she would be in this film.”
Ghost in the Shell hits theaters March 31.