Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cybernetic cyberspace operative in Section 9. Casting a white actress in the role of this Japanese character is called whitewashing and is a regular practice of movie producers.

Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cybernetic cyberspace operative in Section 9. Casting a white actress in the role of this Japanese character is called whitewashing and is a regular practice of movie producers. Photo: NeoMythos.

Hollywood has a race problem. The film industry likes to pretend that white people are the only race, or at least the only race that can play leading characters.

Whitewashing is a common problem in entertainment. This practice often happens behind the scenes and most audiences never know it happened, especially if the didn’t read the book that inspired the movie or video.

Producers cast light-skinned Jennifer Lawrence as olive-skinned Katniss Everdeen. Other producers cast the white-as-the-driven-snow Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell.

In case you aren’t familiar with the source material, Ghost in the Shell was a Japanese manga written and drawn by Masamune Shirow in the early 90’s. Set in a futuristic Tokyo its centers on a Japanese cop, Kusanagi, who is a cyborg.

Kusanagi is a Japanese character that is supposed to blend in with her Japanese peers and neighbors. And it’s a story with a lot of fans in Japan and around the globe. There’s a whole generation of anime fans in the U.S. for whom the animated movie was THE movie you had to see.

Dreamworks cast a white woman to play a Japanese character, kept the character’s Japanese name, and tested CGI techniques to make white actors look more Asian.

Not only did they whitewash a beloved Japanese character, when there are thousands of Japanese women who could play her. The producers considered putting white people in yellowface.

Hollywood used to do this in the 30’s when everybody thought racism was just okay. It’s inexcusable today, but people like Max Landis, and hoards of angry young white men who hate everybody online, continue to make excuses.

They claim that manga characters aren’t drawn Japanese because they don’t understand Japanese art, or that there aren’t enough famous Japanese actresses, but it all comes to the same thing: Hollywood producers are cowards who would rather reinforce racism than risk not making, even more, millions of dollars on a movie.

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