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Paramount confesses that whitewashing controversy hurt Ghost in the Shell

04.05.2017

Brace yourselves, readers, I'm about to go on a bit of a controlled rant in just a few moments. Today, Paramount's domestic distribution chief Kyle Davies has released a statement regarding the lackluster box office performance and whitewashing of the live-action anime adaptation of Masamune Shirow's GHOST IN THE SHELL

First, let's take a look at the quote, and then we'll get into the nitty gritty of it all. In an interview with CBC News, Davies stated, "We had hopes for better results domestically. I think the conversation regarding casting impacted the reviews. You’ve got a movie that is very important to the fanboys since it’s based on a Japanese anime movie. So you’re always trying to thread that needle between honoring the source material and make a movie for a mass audience. That’s challenging, but clearly the reviews didn’t help."

First of all, "fanboys"? I happen to know a great deal of women who also adore the cybernetic capering of Major Motoko Kusanagi, so let's make an effort to be all-inclusive there, Kyle. Honestly, your film is already a bomb, you might not want to add alienating an entire gender with your narrow-minded terminology. Second, what you're basically saying here is that Scarlett Johansson was allegedly cast to draw big numbers, but that then implies that an actress of Japanese or Asian heritage stood no chance of bringing in the big bucks for your film ... that is based on a legendary Japanese anime. Perhaps it would have been best for Paramount to clear the drawing board and really think this one through, instead of prioritizing a presumed bottom line with no regard to the cultural fallout GHOST IN SHELL could and would create. 

As it stands, GHOST IN THE SHELL opened with a staggeringly-disappointing return of $19 million in box office receipts for its opening weekend. Considering that the film cost a reported total of $110 million to make it's safe to say that this feature is dead on arrival with very little hope of being resuscitated in the weeks to follow. 

Be sure to read up on our own Chris Bumbray's review of the film here. You can also peep Arrow in the Head's review by Eric Walkuski as well. 

While I realize that the dual-purpose of Hollywood is to both entertain and make money from its audience members, it's my opinion that studios are going to need to adjust to the cultural climate of today's audience if they want to see huge returns on properties featuring characters of color and so on. We live in a time when internet backlash can make or break your project before it's even had a chance to hit theaters - that's a fact. It's time to smarten up, and to start casting and planning your films accordingly. Be the change that Hollywood needs. Either you're a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Your audience will thank you both in dollars and praise. Let's make it happen!

GHOST IN THE SHELL is in theaters now

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Extra Tidbit: This is just my opinion, but this movie should have never been made in the first place - the same goes for AKIRA, I don't care who's being tapped to direct it.
Source: CBC News

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12:24PM on 04/19/2017

Asians don't draw Asians with slanted eyes

Yes there is whitewashing. They only people who say there isn't are non Asians who don't understand animation in Japan. My wife is from Japan, my kids speak Japanese and watch Japanese cartoons. Non of the characters are drawn with slanted eyes and buckteeth, the way Asians are drawn in Western Culture (which is quite racist!). So yes they could be easily mistaken for white people. And of course they creator wants the film to be a success, so he tries to ease concerns of whitewashing. But
Yes there is whitewashing. They only people who say there isn't are non Asians who don't understand animation in Japan. My wife is from Japan, my kids speak Japanese and watch Japanese cartoons. Non of the characters are drawn with slanted eyes and buckteeth, the way Asians are drawn in Western Culture (which is quite racist!). So yes they could be easily mistaken for white people. And of course they creator wants the film to be a success, so he tries to ease concerns of whitewashing. But it's quite narcissistic to believe a comic will be written in a foreign country and portray the main character as a Caucasian. Her name is Kusanagi for christs sake.
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11:24AM on 04/08/2017

Their is NO whitewashing, here.

This controversy is irrelevant, and by acknowledging what doesn't even exist in the first place, Paramount is just stupid !
And the people are blaming the film for the same things they praised the manga and japanime for. That alone proves most of them never saw or read them.
This controversy is irrelevant, and by acknowledging what doesn't even exist in the first place, Paramount is just stupid !
And the people are blaming the film for the same things they praised the manga and japanime for. That alone proves most of them never saw or read them.
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12:25PM on 04/19/2017
Yes there is. see above.
Yes there is. see above.
8:32AM on 04/06/2017
I've heard more reviews criticising the film's lack of depth than the casting. I get why they cast Johansson - if the rest of the film had been up to standard I think it could still have been a success. Still, if they choose to learn a lesson about racially appropriate casting from this, that's not a bad thing - just that that's not really the problem that's made this particular film tank at the box office, as far as i can tell.
I've heard more reviews criticising the film's lack of depth than the casting. I get why they cast Johansson - if the rest of the film had been up to standard I think it could still have been a success. Still, if they choose to learn a lesson about racially appropriate casting from this, that's not a bad thing - just that that's not really the problem that's made this particular film tank at the box office, as far as i can tell.
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8:30AM on 04/06/2017
The problem is there's no whitewashing since the original Kusanagi isn't even really asian. Oshii himself said that and she doesn't look very asian even in the original manga. I think Scarjo is a miscast cause she doesn(t fit the character but Motoko isn't even asian.
The problem is there's no whitewashing since the original Kusanagi isn't even really asian. Oshii himself said that and she doesn't look very asian even in the original manga. I think Scarjo is a miscast cause she doesn(t fit the character but Motoko isn't even asian.
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8:12AM on 04/06/2017

Another possibility?

I'm going to go ahead and say it in case no one else has - could it be that Scarlett Johansonn's recent political escapades have anything to do with the low box office attendance? People who get paid large sums of cash money to pretend in front of a camera so that folks like myself can be entertained for 2 hours and forget about the real suck-ass world should pick their battles carefully and with a lot more class. Jus' sayin'
I'm going to go ahead and say it in case no one else has - could it be that Scarlett Johansonn's recent political escapades have anything to do with the low box office attendance? People who get paid large sums of cash money to pretend in front of a camera so that folks like myself can be entertained for 2 hours and forget about the real suck-ass world should pick their battles carefully and with a lot more class. Jus' sayin'
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12:32AM on 04/06/2017
All these people saying the Asians don't care why should we. Asian American actors care and are underepresented . Period. Major was referred to as a Jap in the Magna. Fact. It was white washing even if Major likes European Shells, that is not always the case and the Major is distinctly Asian compared to white characters in GITS. It's nice Paramount is acknowledging this and hopefully Scarlett won't be cast in Disney's Mulan :-P
All these people saying the Asians don't care why should we. Asian American actors care and are underepresented . Period. Major was referred to as a Jap in the Magna. Fact. It was white washing even if Major likes European Shells, that is not always the case and the Major is distinctly Asian compared to white characters in GITS. It's nice Paramount is acknowledging this and hopefully Scarlett won't be cast in Disney's Mulan :-P
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12:09AM on 04/06/2017

Gawd

If the creator of the original Ghost in the Shell didn't care, if the Japanese didn't care, then why do lefties care? And besides, the actual writer of the original Ghost in the Shell has said it before: The Major is not asian . Why is there so much rabble rousing over nothing at all?????
If the creator of the original Ghost in the Shell didn't care, if the Japanese didn't care, then why do lefties care? And besides, the actual writer of the original Ghost in the Shell has said it before: The Major is not asian . Why is there so much rabble rousing over nothing at all?????
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8:55PM on 04/05/2017
As a writer on a site devoted to informing many fanboys, you of anyone should know that it is culturally understood that "fanboy" is a gender-neutral term. You just gave us a great example of the politically correct nonsense that had people in an uproar about the "whitewashing" of Ghost in the Shell. The real problem was that the movie just wasn't good not that there was a white girl in place as the lead.
As a writer on a site devoted to informing many fanboys, you of anyone should know that it is culturally understood that "fanboy" is a gender-neutral term. You just gave us a great example of the politically correct nonsense that had people in an uproar about the "whitewashing" of Ghost in the Shell. The real problem was that the movie just wasn't good not that there was a white girl in place as the lead.
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8:52PM on 04/05/2017
Most the Western fans didn't seem bothered by whitewashing for reasons that should be relatively obvious if you know the source material. Mainstream audiences didn't know the source material or the controversy, so that did not effect them. Considering both those factors, I can just about guarantee the effect was negligible. The film was poorly marketed and, apparently, not that good. THAT is what killed it. Hollywood needs to stop blaming anyone other than themselves.
Most the Western fans didn't seem bothered by whitewashing for reasons that should be relatively obvious if you know the source material. Mainstream audiences didn't know the source material or the controversy, so that did not effect them. Considering both those factors, I can just about guarantee the effect was negligible. The film was poorly marketed and, apparently, not that good. THAT is what killed it. Hollywood needs to stop blaming anyone other than themselves.
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8:52PM on 04/05/2017
It's funny that I really didn't mind The Major as a Caucasian named Mira Killian who happens to look like ScarJo. I also wouldn't really mind if she was a Japanese woman who would prefer to inhabit a shell that look like ScarJo. I would have done the same for... Reasons. But when it was established that she had no control over which body she inhabit at the beginning, it only emphasized the whitewashing as something that is real and happening in that movie universe as well as in real life
It's funny that I really didn't mind The Major as a Caucasian named Mira Killian who happens to look like ScarJo. I also wouldn't really mind if she was a Japanese woman who would prefer to inhabit a shell that look like ScarJo. I would have done the same for... Reasons. But when it was established that she had no control over which body she inhabit at the beginning, it only emphasized the whitewashing as something that is real and happening in that movie universe as well as in real life Hollywood, and that ultimately what ruined the movie.
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7:57PM on 04/05/2017
The movie was doomed when it cast Scarlett Johansen or whatever her name is. Lets be honest, shes the weakest point of the avengers movies and not very believable as a tough girl actress. He last movie where she was also some sort of genius super hero was horrible i could barely watch the entire thing. Thank god i forgot most of it already. She needs to do ROMCOMs and shit like that. Get Jessica Biel or someone like her back in the game, she looked like she could kick my ass.
The movie was doomed when it cast Scarlett Johansen or whatever her name is. Lets be honest, shes the weakest point of the avengers movies and not very believable as a tough girl actress. He last movie where she was also some sort of genius super hero was horrible i could barely watch the entire thing. Thank god i forgot most of it already. She needs to do ROMCOMs and shit like that. Get Jessica Biel or someone like her back in the game, she looked like she could kick my ass.
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6:08PM on 04/05/2017
One reason why most of us American's are dumb. Who cares about Whitewashing. If the Asian community don't mind it then why should we?
One reason why most of us American's are dumb. Who cares about Whitewashing. If the Asian community don't mind it then why should we?
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8:00PM on 04/05/2017
you'll find that this massive "white washing" controversy is just a north american phenomenon. No other countries actually care.
you'll find that this massive "white washing" controversy is just a north american phenomenon. No other countries actually care.
6:00PM on 04/05/2017
"but that then implies that an actress of Japanese or Asian heritage stood no chance of bringing in the big bucks for your film ... that is based on a legendary Japanese anime."

Hate to be the devil's advocate here but finding an english speaking Japanese actress (Japanese don't like it when Chinese actors play Japanese roles; remember Memoirs of a Geisha?) would have been quite difficult and even if they had, it would almost certainly be someone with zero star power. It's very difficult to
"but that then implies that an actress of Japanese or Asian heritage stood no chance of bringing in the big bucks for your film ... that is based on a legendary Japanese anime."

Hate to be the devil's advocate here but finding an english speaking Japanese actress (Japanese don't like it when Chinese actors play Japanese roles; remember Memoirs of a Geisha?) would have been quite difficult and even if they had, it would almost certainly be someone with zero star power. It's very difficult to believe that that would have made more money than a film with Scarlett Johansson, the rare American actress with action pedigree.

Ghost in a Shell is a cult anime. "Cult". That means that while it's beloved by fans of a specific genre, it is virtually unknown by the rest of the world. Maybe making an American live version was just not a good idea.
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5:07PM on 04/05/2017
Seems like the only people who are outraged by this whitewashing is everyone but actual Asians
Seems like the only people who are outraged by this whitewashing is everyone but actual Asians
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10:09AM on 04/06/2017
It's not true, but they're so used to it that the outrage is muted.
It's not true, but they're so used to it that the outrage is muted.
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4:40PM on 04/05/2017

Shame

I'm a fan of first two anime movies and the SAC series. I decided to keep an open mind, to my surprise I enjoyed it. Not mind blowing but I enjoyed it. It's a definite treat for eyes and ears, I also believe that they did the anime justice aesthetically. It's was great to see some of it realized in live action. Shame because I was looking forward to seeing in which direction a sequel would go. Oh well, I'll be buying it on blu ray.
I'm a fan of first two anime movies and the SAC series. I decided to keep an open mind, to my surprise I enjoyed it. Not mind blowing but I enjoyed it. It's a definite treat for eyes and ears, I also believe that they did the anime justice aesthetically. It's was great to see some of it realized in live action. Shame because I was looking forward to seeing in which direction a sequel would go. Oh well, I'll be buying it on blu ray.
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4:25PM on 04/05/2017
It suffers from Hollywood's obsession with answering everything. The story needed to be chopped up with sections of the anime series to help introduce the Major. And thus, it also need to be brought full circle. The anime was more of a straight line into theory, with an ending worthy of hours of conversation. This live action version features a cookie cutter Hollywood character arc fresh out of the oven - and bland.
The "whitewashing" in this case is absolutely absurd so it's upsetting to see
It suffers from Hollywood's obsession with answering everything. The story needed to be chopped up with sections of the anime series to help introduce the Major. And thus, it also need to be brought full circle. The anime was more of a straight line into theory, with an ending worthy of hours of conversation. This live action version features a cookie cutter Hollywood character arc fresh out of the oven - and bland.
The "whitewashing" in this case is absolutely absurd so it's upsetting to see anything get hurt by something drummed up by complaint fanatics. The Major was always ethnicity-less. Scarlett damn near looked idtentical to the anime in many scenes but she played it like a curious robot, instead of a curious human - in a robot shell. Anyway, I think the film should have been more shadowy, with a different color grade, it could have looked twice as good with half the budget. Oh, and a better director.
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3:36PM on 04/05/2017
The general public doesnt know if its whitewashed or not. the movie failed because:
A - the true fans - ie the ones that actually know about GITS - could tell that this wasnt going to live up to it.
B - generic people probably thought this was a confusing "2001" "blade runner" etc movie. so they just didnt care. kind of like aeon flux.
C - it got crap reviews. so thats it.
Side note: i think the term" fanboy" includes all races and genders.
The general public doesnt know if its whitewashed or not. the movie failed because:
A - the true fans - ie the ones that actually know about GITS - could tell that this wasnt going to live up to it.
B - generic people probably thought this was a confusing "2001" "blade runner" etc movie. so they just didnt care. kind of like aeon flux.
C - it got crap reviews. so thats it.
Side note: i think the term" fanboy" includes all races and genders.
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3:33PM on 04/05/2017

Fanboy

I always considered "Fanboy" to be gender neutral. Meaning a girl can be actin like a Fanboy. Just like a dude can be a bitch. Iv never seen anyone use Fangirl.But studios need to start wisin up and if you are going to make a film based on an Asian property, try casting a few asians.
I always considered "Fanboy" to be gender neutral. Meaning a girl can be actin like a Fanboy. Just like a dude can be a bitch. Iv never seen anyone use Fangirl.But studios need to start wisin up and if you are going to make a film based on an Asian property, try casting a few asians.
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4:45PM on 04/05/2017
I know what you're saying, but there's actually a quite a few asians in the movie, which makes it even more bizarre.
I know what you're saying, but there's actually a quite a few asians in the movie, which makes it even more bizarre.
3:30PM on 04/05/2017

oh brother

Fanboy implies girls as well, similar to mankind includes all humans
Fanboy implies girls as well, similar to mankind includes all humans
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3:24PM on 04/05/2017

Oh don't kid yourselves. The whitewashing thing had minimal impact.

General Audiences don't know what the fuck Ghost in the Shell is, nor did they have any idea about the controversy. From a director that nobody cares about, and only might know because of him cheating on his wife with Kristen Stewart. The marketing wasn't great. Plus the movie just wasn't very good. The movie wasn't very good. And the movie wasn't very good.
MAYBE take a little of the blame, assholes.
This was never a property to do a hundred million dollar PG-13 film on.
General Audiences don't know what the fuck Ghost in the Shell is, nor did they have any idea about the controversy. From a director that nobody cares about, and only might know because of him cheating on his wife with Kristen Stewart. The marketing wasn't great. Plus the movie just wasn't very good. The movie wasn't very good. And the movie wasn't very good.
MAYBE take a little of the blame, assholes.
This was never a property to do a hundred million dollar PG-13 film on.
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3:22PM on 04/05/2017

Nah

This was hardly white washing. Silly SJWs.
This was hardly white washing. Silly SJWs.
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3:07PM on 04/05/2017
Good rant, Steve. I think one place that is SLIGHTLY unfair to Mr. Davies is the fanboy term. I completely agree it's an outdated phrase as more and more women are out and vocal flying their fandom flags, but I also don't feel like it ever got publicly retired like some gender-specific terms, and Davies wasn't the only one who never got the memo. I mostly bring this up because JoBlo.com is not the most progressive movie news site on the net, even though it is moving in the right direction.
Good rant, Steve. I think one place that is SLIGHTLY unfair to Mr. Davies is the fanboy term. I completely agree it's an outdated phrase as more and more women are out and vocal flying their fandom flags, but I also don't feel like it ever got publicly retired like some gender-specific terms, and Davies wasn't the only one who never got the memo. I mostly bring this up because JoBlo.com is not the most progressive movie news site on the net, even though it is moving in the right direction. Otherwise, Ghost in the Shell is just another example of not understanding what people want to see, or that Ghost in the Shell is not just anime, but a particularly beloved anime property, and sometimes the wrong thing to do is cast one of the most famous faces in Hollywood in something that's already supposed to have a built-in fandom.
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2:57PM on 04/05/2017
They gonna make the same mistake with AKIRA one day
They gonna make the same mistake with AKIRA one day
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2:56PM on 04/05/2017

No S***

I don't even need to mention the other dozen films that flopped because of the same thing.
I don't even need to mention the other dozen films that flopped because of the same thing.
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