‘Doctor Strange’ & ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Casting Controversy

I would’ve thought that after all the controvery surrounding #OscarsSoWhite that Hollywood would begin taking steps to fix the problem. Chris Rock went onstage and gave it good to both the Academy and to studio exectuives about “opportunity”. He might have just been referring to African-Americans in Hollywood, but the diversity issue goes beyond just one race. Last week’s reactions to the marketing of a few big-budget adaptations was proof.

First, there was Marvel’s Doctor Strange trailer, which features actress Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, a character that in the comics is from Tibet. It wasn’t the first time marvel whitewashed an Asian character (The Manadarin), and this time the die hard fans were not having it.

The second casting controversy came when the first image debuted for Ghost in the Shell. The image showed Scarlett Johnasson playing what is a Japanese character in the magna. I looked up images of the story’s main character, Major Motoko Kusanagi (Johansson) and I can see the filmmakers tried their best in getting as close to the character’s physical look as possible without the ethnicity. Still, nothing compares to a true adaptation.

I’ve spent a couple hours reading and listening to different editors, indie comic book writers, and movie pundits give their opinions on the matter. All their arguments in one way or another are justifiable. There are plenty of Asian actors/actresses who easily could’ve filled these roles (i.e. Rinko Kikuchi from Pacific Rim for Ghost in the Shell).

In regards to Ghost in the Shell, one comic writer named Jon Tsuei went on to say, “This casting is not only the erasure of Asian faces, but a removal of the story from its core themes”. Agent’s of Shield star Ming-Na Wen also expressed her displeasure with the Doctor Strange casting.

Marvel had good intentions behind the casting of The Ancient One for Doctor Strange. They made the character female in hopes of fan’s forgiving the whitewash casting. But as I stated earlier, this now the second time Marvel has done this. I find it hard to believe they couldn’t find an Asian actor to play the role. One writer from THR says “The Doctor Strange movie doesn’t need its Ancient One to look like Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China, but there are creative ways to interpret the character without yet again erasing an Asian person from an inherently Asian narrative”.

I mean we’re talking about Marvel here, a studio that blossoms the careers of small-time/unknown actors. Yes, the argument can be made that an adaptation doesn’t have to be faithful to the source material. However, I hope you hadn’t yet considered the diversity issue in Hollywood before making or thinking of that statement. Marvel (like Lucasfilm) is in a position of power to do great things for Hollywood’s diversity problems.

As for Ghost in the Shell, a story I have not had the chance to read, I have mixed feelings. Who do you cast instead of Johansson in the lead role? Rinko Kikuchi from Pacific Rim is the go to option for many fans making their agrument. Its a good choice no doubt, but then how would you market the film? Not many people are even aware of the property, so you can’t go off the name alone. And unfortunately, Kikuchi is not a star in Hollywood, at least one who could put butts into seats.  These are questions and concerns that studios are thinking about. They don’t care about being faithful to the source, if it doesn’t mean making a profit.

Truth be told, there are zero A-list Asian actors/actresses in Hollywood, and hardly not as many A-list stars today in comparison to the early 2000’s. I’ve already talked about studios focusing on the big-budget franchises and well known properties (i.e Warner Bros and their DC properties), because those are the safer bets for higher returns for their investments. I wouldn’t call Ghost in the Shell a known property, buts its one with potential to make money for the studio. And their best chance at maximizing profit lies in Scarlett Johansson. Its a shitty system, but one we should all be too familiar with. Again, I understand the backlash on the casting, but its the way the industry is right now.

How do you feel about these casting controversies?

IMAGES from MovieNewsPlus & MoviePilot

Follow Me on Twitter – @GioRamos24

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