The casting controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s role as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie continues to bring widespread confusion. Less than a week ago, its producer responded to the controversy by seemingly distancing the Major from her Japanese heritage. Now, things are suddenly a complicated mess again.
In a recent piece about the effect of whitewashing Asian roles in Hollywood on Asian actors for the AP, Japanese actress and Memoirs of a Geisha star Kaori Momoi was full of praise for her time working with Johansson on Ghost in the Shell. The article then reveals that Momoi, whose casting was announced with an undisclosed role, will actually play the Major’s mother.
Let’s flashback to last weekend then when producer Steven Paul clarified to Buzzfeed—in an interview that was published the same day as the original AP story—that Johansson’s character wouldn’t be referred to by Motoko Kusanagi, the name of the protagonist in the original Ghost in the Shell movie and manga, but instead as “The Major,” seemingly to sidestep the awkwardness of the actor running around with a very Japanese name in the film.
And yet, the character will now seemingly be at the very least half-Japanese (if not Japanese entirely depending on her father). So why say they’re distancing themselves from the Kusanagi name, only to give her Japanese heritage anyway? It’s a revelation even more awkward with Paramount having to deny rumors that they were considering using digital effects to make Johansson appear more Asian (instead, it was apparently tested for a background character, which is still pretty bad!).
It’s sad, though, that the filmmakers being very, very confused about their main character’s ethnicity is actually the best case scenario here.