GHOST IN THE SHELL Trailer Drops, And Yes It's Just As Racist As Everything Else This Week
Wow, where to start with this trailer. It OPENS on a person in stylized Japanese esoteric garb to tell us how much we’re in that place Japan where things are weird. Who is this person? Don’t know, don’t care at all.
Then we get a pretty faithful live-action recreation of the original GHOST IN THE SHELL’s elegant opening action sequence, pretty much nailing the point home that the only reason you aren’t aware of this seminal science-fiction already is because it didn’t have Scarlett Johannson in it, and now we fixed that for you.
Scarjo then basically repeats her character’s problem in LOST IN TRANSLATION (another radically racist movie) which is she feels disconnected as she walks through the streets of Tokyo — cos she’s a robot — or wait maybe it’s cos she’s an insecure white girl who needs to relive a colonial fantasy to discover herself!
(Caveats: I don’t mean to imply that the Major in GitS was definitively Japanese, nor that in the future if Japan starts making lifelike cyborgs they might not, in fact, look like Scarjo. But that doesn’t begin to excuse the Orientalist ornamentalism, the cultural appropriation, the erasure.)
Then there’s some woman-woman lips touching which MAY be crass titillation or MAY be the Major exploring her humanity but DEFINITELY doesn’t involve any Japanese person! Cos that would be just TOO MUCH, right?
Then there’s some more stuff recreated from the GitS anime, Takeshi Kitano shows up thank Gawd, and a Depeche Mode song.
I also saw THE ARRIVAL this weekend, which we’ll get into at YOMYOMF at some point, which, with all its trappings of an Oscar-bait film, was startlingly racist and sexist, as if somehow ALL THAT WERE JUST OKAY NOW.
I mean, the constant erasure is the most disheartening part. The ratio of cool-Japanese-stuff to Japanese people in the trailer is like 2000:1. There is nothing easier for Hollywood to do than disinclude the Asian faces, nothing. They have special research teams working on how to option the most Asian stories while commiting to the least possible Asian people. Because they love our stories and want to have them, but they also don’t wanna ever have to see us, particularly the Asian males.
Just. Like. The rest. Of America. Today.
After going a little viral and even getting re-posted by some alt-right anime fan weirdos, people are still not really welcoming my reasoning why the live-action GHOST IN THE SHELL will probably be a very racist-white-supremacist film. The discussion seems to start and end with Scarjo playing the lead role of a Japanese-made cyborg, and how you feel about that. It isn’t only about Scarjo playing the lead or not. It’s about what this trailer is trying to do. I’ll try to rephrase the argument in a question-y way:
1) When you watch the trailer, do you think, “This is set in Japan?” ‘Cos it is not. It is a colonial fantasy of Japan.
2) Do you think the original GHOST IN THE SHELL would’ve existed without Japanese culture? It would not. No other culture could’ve birthed it. Culture is important; the story was poached from it.
3) When you see/hear Scarlet Johansson in the role of the Major, are you inclined to believe that she is the hero? Are you confident she will win, tell the truth, expose and kill the bad guy? ‘Cos she is the hero….but her function is to kill the Asians. Take their shit. And live happily ever after. It’s not her fault. She’s working for a higher power.
Is that a better way of framing it for people who are unclear on all the different ways that whitewashing can be really really racist, even apart from getting the race “right?”