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scarlett johansson discusses the whitewashing in 'ghost in the shell'

The actress explains that for her the role was about feminism, not race.

by Georgie Bretherton
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08 February 2017, 10:13am

Last year Scarlett Johansson was caught up in a conversation about whitewashing following her casting in Ghost in the Shell, the film adaptation of Masamune Shirow's classic Japanese anime. Scarlett, the highest grossing actress of all time, was brought on to play Major Motoko Kusanagi, despite the actress clearly not being Japanese.

At the time, Johansson kept quiet about the controversy. Director Rupert Sanders defended the choice saying, "I think whenever you cast someone, someone's going to be critical of it. To me, I stand by my decision... She's the best actress of her generation, and I was flattered and honoured that she would be in this film." He later referred to her "cyberpunk aesthetic" as being central to the choice.

But now, in a conversation with Marie Claire, the actress has weighed in saying, "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 explained that she approached the role with a focus on gender, not race. Adding, "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."

Later in the chat she touched on Hollywood's wage gap problem, and her decision to speak out about the issue last year. While it's great to see someone with such a high profile shedding light on gender inequality, it's a bit of a bummer that she failed to see how those issues are compounded by giving diverse roles to white actors.