‘Ghost in the Shell’ tanks at the box office
Cultural appropriation is not paying off for directors choosing to white-wash their casts.
It showed earlier this year in low ratings and reviews for the movie “The Great Wall,” starring Matt Damon, and now most recently on March 31, “Ghost in the Shell” starring Scarlett Johansson.
The original “Ghost in the Shell” movie came out in 1995 and was based on a Japanese manga and anime franchise.
It was directed by Mamoru Oshii and gained a cult following in both Japan and the U.S. and is accredited for changing the sci-fi genre and giving inspiration to many classics, most notably “The Matrix,” which shares a similar plot line.
With the incredibly popular original, money-making powerhouse Johansson as the lead, and an incredible production value at $110 million, the movie was sure to be a hit —except it wasn’t.
Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell” reboot has earned under $19 million domestically, falling to the bottom of the box-office rankings.
Perhaps the reason behind its low ratings is the simple fact that audiences are no longer comfortable with Hollywood’s tendency to cast white actors in non-white roles.
The original protagonist, Motoko Kusanagi, is a Japanese woman who’s one of the most iconic women in an anime series, and in anime in general.
For the Hollywood reboot, they renamed the character Mira Killian and cast Johansson to play her and included an even further disturbing plot twist, explaining the reason behind her “traditional” white features.
It begged the question, why not cast a Japanese actress for the Japanese role?
Casting white actors in Asian roles has come under fire recently in the box office with “The Great Wall,” starring Damon, receiving criticism.
Despite Damon’s defense of the movie, telling the Associated Press, “I didn’t take the role away from a Chinese actor… it wasn’t altered for me in any way,” critics quickly pointed out that the movie was inherently white-washed.
“Fresh Off the Boat” star, Constance Wu tweeted, “We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that a only white man can save the world.”
Though it is not clear whether or not the movie suffered from its cultural appropriation, the movie didn’t do so hot in the box office in the U.S., earning $45 million domestically, far from it’s $150 million production cost.
Earlier this month, on March 17, the Netflix-Marvel collaboration, “Iron Fist,” released to much white-washing controversy as well.
Though the comics did originally feature a white boy who becomes orphaned and is taken in by Kung Fu master-monks, many people pointed out that it was a good opportunity for Netflix and Marvel to cast an Asian actor and diminish this troublesome, white-washing plotline.
The series received a slew of negative reviews including a 17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Vanity Fair calling it “staggeringly incompetent” and Hollywood Reporter referring to it as “a major disappointment.”
So directors everywhere need to learn a lesson from their viewers: Stop white-washing your movies.