By Takuma Okada
Weekend box office sales are in through Saturday, and the whitewashing adaptation of the multi-media Japanese phenomenon Ghost in the Shell struggled against Beauty and the Beast and Boss Baby. Ghost took the number three spot, taking in only $20 million compared to $48 million for Beauty and $51 million for Boss Baby.
Just a couple months ago, predictions for opening weekend hovered around $40 million but are now down in the $20-30 million range. This could mean that Ghost in the Shell will only barely break even in domestic markets, and possibly even flop.
In addition to its financial struggles, the film has been widely panned by critics, currently at a 42% on RottenTomatoes and a 53% on Metacritic. Not surprisingly, the film seems to have lost what the original manga and animations had: a knack for asking questions seemingly too big to answer in an uncertain future. Instead, this version of Ghost in the Shell goes for high-budget cyberpunk action, a supposedly safer cheapening of its source material for American audiences.
But what of the whitewashing casting controversy that has been surrounding the movie for months now? Well it turns out that a plot twist near the end of the movie tried to resolve the issue. But it ended up validating the concerns raised by Asian Americans, in an almost laughably terrible way. In the film Scarlett Johansson’s character is named Major Mira Killian, but it turns out that originally she was a Japanese girl named Motoko Kusanagi; the Major’s name in the manga and anime.
So in addition to replacing what should have been an Asian actress with a White one, Ghost in the Shell literally turned a Japanese girl into Scarlett Johansson. How the writers justify that against accusations of whitewashing and cultural appropriation is seriously beyond me.
But if Ghost in the Shell does indeed flop, there could be change in the near future. Asian Americans are avid movie-goers, purchasing an overall 14% of all ticket sales when compared to the 8% of the population we make up, according to The Hollywood Reporter. These numbers are expected to continue to rise as well, if movies with diverse casts like Rogue One can continue to draw them in.
While Doctor Strange managed to be extremely successful despite Tilda Swinton’s casting, both The Great Wall and Iron Fist are now definite failures. Mass outrage is already aimed at Netflix’s take on another manga and anime great, Death Note, which will hopefully (but not very likely) be the last time major studios commit race erasure for “marketing” reasons.
In short, let’s skip going to see Ghost in the Shell and watch or read any other iteration of Major Motoko Kusanagi. Save your money for when Hollywood decides Asians can be leads too.
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. You can show your support by liking our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/asamnews, following us on Twitter, sharing our stories, interning or joining our staff.