'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.
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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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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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Severus Snape Is The Worst, And Here's Why

Albus Severus, sweetie, I'm so sorry...

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I grew up being absolutely obsessed with the Harry Potter franchise. I read the books for the first time in second and third grade, then again in middle school, and for the third time in my last year of high school. Recently, I had a somewhat heated argument with a fellow fan of the books about Severus Snape. As I've reread the Harry Potter books, I've noticed that, although J.K. Rowling tried to give him a redemption arc, he only got worse because of it. Here's why I still think Severus Snape is the absolute worst.

His love for Lily Potter was actually really creepy. When I was younger and reading the books, I always found the fact that he held fast in his love for Lily to be very endearing, even noble. However, rereading it after going through a couple of relationships myself, I've come to realize that the way he pined over her was super creepy. It was understandable during his time at Hogwarts; he was bullied, and she was the only one who "understood" him. However, she showed zero interest, and if that didn't clue him into realizing that he should back off, her involvement with James Potter should have. She was married. He was pining after a married, happy woman. If he truly loved her, he would have realized how happy she was and backed off. Instead, he took it out on her orphan son and wallowed in bitterness and self-pity, which is creepy and extremely uncool. When a girl is kind to a boy during high school (or in this case, wizard school), it's not an open invitation for him to pine for her for the literal rest of his life and romanticizes the absolute @#$% out of her. It's just her being a decent person. Move on, Severus.

He verbally abused teenagers. One of the most shocking examples of this is in The Prisoner of Azkaban when Snape literally told Neville Longbottom that he would kill his beloved toad, Trevor if he got his Shrinking Potion wrong, and then punished him when he managed to make the potion correctly. Furthermore, poor Neville's boggart was literally Snape. The amount of emotional torture Neville must have been enduring from Snape to create this type of debilitating fear must have been almost unbearable, and even if Snape was simply trying to be a "tough" professor, there is no excuse for creating an atmosphere of hostility and fear like he did in his potions class for vulnerable students like Neville. In addition, he ruthlessly tormented Harry (the last living piece of Lily Potter, his supposed "true love," btw), and made fun of Hermione Granger's appearance. Sure, he might have had a terrible life. However, it's simply a mark of poor character to take it out on others, especially when the people you take it out on are your vulnerable students who have no power to stand up to you. Grow up.

He willingly joined a terrorist group and helped them perform genocide and reign over the wizarding world with terror tactics for a couple of decades. No explanation needed as to why this is terrible.

Despite the constant romanticization of his character, I will always see the core of Severus Snape, and that core is a bitter, slimy, genocidal, manipulative trash being. J.K. Rowling's attempt to redeem him only threw obsessive and controlling traits into the mix. Snape is the absolute worst, and romanticizing him only removes criticism of an insane man who just so happened to be capable of love (just like the vast majority of the rest of us). Thank you, next.

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