This year marks the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of Ghost in the Shell, (and 26 years since the manga was first published).
There is no denying the influence this film has had on Hollywood. From James Cameron to Steven Spielberg, directors have praised writer Matsume Shirow and director Mamoru Oshii for their work on the series. Ghost In the Shell was a game changer as it introduced a true Japanese post-cyberpunk world to American audiences.
In a futuristic dystopia where man is slowly being replaced by machine, cyborg detectives Major Motoko Kusanagi and her partner Batou investigate an elusive hacker known only as the “Puppet Master.” After a string of hacked identities and the emergence of a “Project 2501,” the two chase the Puppet Master down to an abandoned warehouse where the Major learns about an illegal operation to hack the ‘ghosts’ of citizens.
The original film was followed up nearly a decade later by the sequel Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence.
In 2013, the franchise was rebooted in the prequel series Ghost in the Shell: Arise.
Not to be outdone, Hollywood is now making a live action WHITEWASHED, hot-mess film adaptation of Ghost In The Shell starring Scarlett Johansson.
Although, Johannson is playing the Major, this is not the first time the character has been replicated by a white woman. The popularity and characterization of Major Motoko Kunsanagi set a new standard for live action female heroines in action films. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and Hollywood does not hesitate to cross the line between homage and rip-off.
In the two decades since Ghost in the Shell premiered, female characters from blockbuster sci-fi films have striven to emulate its success. These characters all share common features to the Major — short dark hair, all black everything, a flat affect — but none of them are the Major.
1. TRINITY: THE MATRIX
Directors Lana and Andy have been vocal about the influence Ghost in the Shell had on The Matrix, and their film career overall. Trinity is probably the closest Hollywood has come to a live action Motoko Kunsanagi. Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G, the company that produces Ghost in the Shell, has talked about their movie served as inspiration for the Wachowskis.
2. SELENE: UNDERWORLD
Selene, the “death dealer,” with her short black hair, pale skin, and skin-tight outfit, slightly reminds me of the section 9 combat suits. Since the franchise has been dubbed, “The Matrix with Vampires,” it is no wonder I see a bit of the Major in the protagonist.
3. AEON FLUX
The animated Aeon Flux actually pre-dates the Ghost in the Shell movie, though the MTV series came two years after the GITS manga was first published in Japan. In the show, the character carries her own signature look, which is why I don’t understand the look they went with for Charlize Theron in the live action film. I mean this is not even trying to be discreet about ripping the entire look of the Major. All that’s missing is the purple hair.
4. ALICE: RESIDENT EVIL
Well, to be fair, Alice, has copied elements from many different sci-fi inspirations. However, somewhere between Resident Evil 3: Extinction and Resident Evil 4: After Life, the tone of the films completely changed. Alice went from being a self-sustained character to becoming just another Motoko/Trinity/ Selene/Aeon clone, complete with a skin-tight catsuit, short hair, and guns.
It’s obvious Ghost in the Shell continues to have a strong influence on Hollywood. As cyberpunk films continue to grow in popularity, the influence will be come more noticeable to fans. Most of the time, films tend to miss the mark when it comes to female protagonists, and since Major Motoko Kusanagi is a strong, smart, ass-kicking, special ops commander, whom is dubbed the world’s most experienced hacker, I guess now I can see why Hollywood wants to replicate that.