Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the man who has been hired to pen the screenplay for an upcoming live-action adaptation of the popular anime Cowboy Bebop, has a bone to pick with the 2017 film Ghost in the Shell. Talking to reporters over at io9, the Puerto Rican screenwriter criticized the Scarlett Johansson-led picture, which is also based on a famous Japanese intellectual property, for being too whitewashed.
Based on the manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell is a science-fiction story set in the future where law and order are enforced by a group of cybernetically-enhanced cops. The protagonist, Motoko Kusanagi, is a human consciousness in a robotic body, and her story explores the epistemological conundrums that such a duality entails.
When the western adaptation of the 1995 anime appeared, a considerable amount of fans were dissatisfied with the fact that Kusanagi, a woman of Japanese origins, was played by the American Johansson, especially while many of the film’s supporting characters were still chosen to be portrayed by actors from Japan.
Sharing in the opinion of these fans, Grillo-Marxuach told io9 that his adaptation of Cowboy Bebop, which stars South Korean actor John Cho, will not be as whitewashed.
“Spike Spiegel has to be Asian. Like, you can’t Scarlett Johansson this shit,” the screenwriter said. “We are making a show that takes place in a future that is multicultural, that is extraordinarily integrated and where those things are the norm.”
Casting a film that’s based on an anime or manga is not easy, and Ghost in the Shell was no exception. On the one hand, Johansson’s starring in the lead role was emblematic of the Eurocentric tendencies that dominate the Hollywood system of filmmaking. On the other, the American actress arguably made a decent fit for Kusanagi who – like most other anime characters – looks more European than Asian.