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When a still of Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming film Ghost in the Shell appeared online earlier this week, the internet was naturally pissed off. The film, based on the popular Japanese manga, has Johansson playing Motoko Kusanagi, a character that is obviously Japanese in the comics. Now, writer Max Landis has spoken up about the controversy, and believes everyone's anger is misdirected.
Landis, who most recently wrote the script for American Ultra, uploaded a video called "If You're Mad About Ghost In The Shell You Don't Know How The Movie Industry Works." In it he speaks about the decision to cast Johansson and removes the blame from the movie industry.
In his explanation of why the casting of Johansson is okay, he claims that there are no huge Asian actresses who could have played the role. He also tries to get at the root of whitewashing in the industry.
"[Whitewashing] is not the fault of the movie industry, really," Landis said. "That’s culture and movies getting more afraid because movies make less and less money."
It seems like a pretty lackluster, oversimplified explanation, especially considering that before Johansson there were other actresses, some actually Japanese, up for the role. Take Rinko Kikuchi, who was not only nominated for an Oscar for her work in Babel, but also led Guillermo Del Toro's blockbuster Pacific Rim. "No marketable Asian actresses" just doesn't seem like a good enough of an excuse.
To top things off, Johansson's casting wasn't the only huge instance of whitewashing this week. A still of Tilda Swinton in Dr. Strange emerged, and while it's great that a woman was cast in a role that was a male role in the comics, the character she plays is from Tibet. Swinton, on the other hand, is not Tibetan.
Anyway, to see all of what Landis has to say, check out his video above.