'Ghost In the Shell' Shows Hollywood's Ugly Relationship With Asian Characters

'Ghost In the Shell' Shows Hollywood's Ugly Relationship With Asian Characters

Yellowface is never cool.

Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson was announced to be cast as the leading role in the upcoming film adaption of the anime "Ghost In the Shell." Immediately, the casting fell into controversy, with many fans disappointed in the casting of a white woman as the protagonist. Namely, because she has been cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg detective working in futuristic Tokyo.

The controversy was recently revived when Paramount Studios released a look at Scarlett Johansson as the Major. As if that wasn’t enough to stir the pot, sources close to the production revealed that there had been attempts to digitally alter ScarJo into looking more Asian. This immediately resulted in accusations of yellowface in addition to whitewashing, with “S.H.I.E.L.D” actress Ming-Na Wen and “Fresh Off the Boat” star Constance Wu voicing their dissatisfaction with the casting choices.

There have been some arguments defending the casting of Johannson, including the fact that the character of Motoko Kusanagi’s status of a cyborg supposedly transcends race. Others have moved that the casting of Scarlett Johansson has not whitewashed the character, because the designs within the source material – and anime in general — seem to be plenty whitewashed already.

I don’t try to claim what the intentions are behind the highly stylized designs in Japanese animation –mostly because, you know, I’m not Japanese. However, Kotaku already published an interesting article surrounding the wide-eyed, purple haired aesthetics involved in anime. And there is already plenty of discourse surrounding the potential Westernizing of character designs. But honestly, when I’m watching a show involving characters with Japanese names speaking in Japanese living in a Japanese city in Japan, I’m going to assume that maybe, just maybe, the pink-haired chick is most likely Japanese.

Either way, attempting to justify the casting of ScarJo as the Major is flawed in that it treats the casting of a white person in an originally Asian role as an isolated incident. Unfortunately, this is not so; this year also came with the announcement that Netflix was producing an adaption of the Death Note manga with “Paper Towns” star Nat Wolff as Light Yagami.

In order to understand the Internet uproar, it should be understood that Hollywood has a very ugly history surrounding its treatment of Asian characters and storylines.

Stories with Asian settings and characters have always had a place in Hollywood films. The 1944 war film “Dragon Seed” told the story of a Chinese village during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The 1956 epic film “The Conqueror” detailed the exploits of the infamous Mongol warlord, Genghis Khan. The 1931 film “Charlie Chang Carries On” followed the adventures of Chinese-American detective Charlie Chang. In each of these instances however, the Asian protagonists were portrayed by white actors in yellowface. “Dragon Seed,” though supposedly telling the story of a Chinese village, had a white majority cast. To add insult to injury, actress Aline MacMahon was later nominated for an Oscar for her role as Lin Tang’s wife.

This is not to mention one of the most infamous cases of yellowface, Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of I.Y. Yunioshi in the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

1930’s actress Anna May Wong was snubbed for the role of the Chinese heroine O-lan in the critically acclaimed film “The Good Earth” in favor of white actress Luise Rainer. Wong was instead offered the antagonist role of Lotus, which she rejected. Earlier, Wong had stated: "There seems little for me in Hollywood, because, rather than real Chinese, producers prefer Hungarians, Mexicans, American Indians for Chinese roles.”

"The Good Earth" would later win five Academy Awards, including "Best Actress" for Luise Rainer's performance.

The phenomena of Asian actors being at worst erased and at best given antagonistic or supporting roles within films about Asian stories has continued into modern cinema. In 2008, the movie “21” which was based off a group of Asian American students, casted Jim Sturgess, Jacob Pitts and Kevin Spacey in the lead roles. Last year, “Aloha,” a story about the quarter Chinese Hawaiian Allison Ng casted Emma Stone as the lead. And of course, last year Edward Zo caused a stir when he revealed that he attempted to audition for the part of Light Yagami in the upcoming “Death Note” film adaption, only to be told that they were not looking to cast Asian actors.

When placed within this context, it is very understandable that fans are upset over the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character. When there is a history of portraying the “Orient” as a monoloith aesthetic one can simply put on, when white actors have historically benefited from playing whitewashed caricatures of Asian roles, Paramount Studios casting a white woman to play one of the most iconic anime characters of all times can be incredibly insulting.

“That’s all very sad,” you say, “But there just aren’t any bankable Asian stars for ‘Ghost in the Shell.’” Well. During last year’s 2015 acceptance speech, Viola Davis stated that “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” and I believe this applies to this situation. When Asian actors are literally being barred from auditioning for the roles of Asian characters, when 73.1% of characters in the top 100 films in 2014 are white, Asian American actors have the right to feel snubbed.

“Maybe Scarlett Johansson, a famous actor, cannot sympathize with those who feel they’ve been rendered invisible,” an anonymous source stated. “But she’s not above criticism for it.”

Cover Image Credit: Toronto Star

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.

Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.

Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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Picking Passion Over Pressure Is The Answer To A Fulfillng Life

Don't crack under pressure, flourish with passion.


What motivates your actions? The answer to this critical question can determine whether or not you are living a fulfilling life. Many of us follow a social script as if we are reading lines from a play. We succumb to the influence of those around us and roam aimlessly in the direction of the masses.

The concept of living within the confinement of certain "norms" is an expectation society calls us to uphold, and it is not an entirely negative idea. But when life becomes "a series of motions to go through", this expectation can become problematic. When you find yourself stressed out about doing whatever it is you think that you have to do, stop and ask yourself if it makes you truly happy. Are you pursuing your passion or are you just performing under pressure? To find true contentment in your life, pick passion over pressure.

Be an individual before an identity.

When people first introduce themselves to a new friend or group of people, they are quick to jump to aspects of their life that compose their identity. Many of us define ourselves by what it is we do, and not necessarily who we actually are. For example, this can include identifying as a member of a club or sports team or even defining yourself based on accolades and accomplishments you have achieved. While these are definitely adequate ways to distinguish yourself from others, have you ever stopped to look beneath the surface? It is important to know what unique qualities make you an individual and not just a part of a larger entity.

By viewing yourself as an individual, you will find your passions in life more easily and find genuine enjoyment in all that you do. Taking on an identity will only hold you under unnecessary pressure to fulfill a role that could leave you feeling unsatisfied later on.

Become self-aware.

To find out what makes you truly happy, you need to establish a clear sense of who you are. Fostering self-awareness is a journey, and it can be discovered through life experiences. In order to figure out what you love doing, push yourself out of your comfort zone to figure out what you don't love doing. This can mean joining a new club, taking a challenging class, or working in an environment that you are unfamiliar with. Once you begin to discover how you react in certain situations, use these personality traits to your advantage.

Don't make the same mistake twice, and avoid taking on a position that you know would not be compatible with your lifestyle. By becoming self-aware, you will discover your passion more easily and will be able to take on realistic opportunities that will prove to be fulfilling. When you try to become someone you are not, it will seem like there is always a lingering pressure to "keep up the act", and it will be harder to accomplish tasks because you don't truly enjoy doing them.

View outside opinions with a filtered lens.

Don't let others dictate your future. When you make life decisions based on what other people think is best for you, you will be pleasing everyone except yourself. Consciously decide whose opinions are valid, meaningful, and constructive to your life. This can include the wisdom of close friends and relatives, professors, or a boss that has known you for years. By finding out who knows you best and who truly desires the best for your life, you can tune out the background noise and hone in on the few voices that actually do matter.

Place value in what these people have to say, and take the words of others with a grain of salt. Avoid letting irrelevant or negative opinions linger in your mind. If you allow the influence of others to infiltrate your decision making, you will find yourself in many regrettable situations and unsatisfied with the outcome of your choices. By subscribing to the helpful advice shared by those closest to you, you can foster your true passion.

Practice positive thinking. 

You can't find out what makes you happy in life without actually experiencing what happiness is. To discover your passion, adopt a positive mindset. Get out of the habit of mentally putting yourself down, and take the word "can't" out of your thought process. The more mental blocks you put on yourself, the less likely you are to have good experiences. Release your inhibitions and train your brain seek positivity in any situation.

Don't allow minor inconveniences to disturb you, and remind yourself of the saying that "it is only a bad day, not a bad life." In doing so, the positive choices you make will lead you in the direction of your passion so that you can live a fulfilling life.

Be open to new ideas. 

Keeping an open mind will allow you to experience life from a new perspective. Even when something seems foreboding, treat it as a lesson. If you cannot think of a positive quality for the situation you find yourself in, then don't assign your circumstances any qualities at all. If you keep a neutral mindset, you will eliminate the possibility for disappointment. This will encourage learning and growth, which are essential in your journey to finding your true passion.

Being open to new ideas will help you avoid sticking to the status quo. By taking part in something you have never done before, you are less likely to find yourself confined by what others expect you to do.

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