‘Ghost in the Shell’ Trailer is Just as Racist as Everything Else This Week

by Dominic Mah | Originally posted on YOMYOMF

Wow, where to start with this trailer. It OPENS on a person in stylized Japanese esoteric garb to tell us how much we’re in that place Japan where things are weird. Who is this person? Don’t know, don’t care at all.

Then we get a pretty faithful live-action recreation of the original Ghost in the Shell’s elegant opening action sequence, pretty much nailing the point home that the only reason you aren’t aware of this seminal science-fiction already is because it didn’t have Scarlett Johannson in it, and now we fixed that for you.

ScarJo then basically repeats her character’s problem in Lost in Translation (another radically racist movie) which is she feels disconnected as she walks through the streets of Tokyo — cos she’s a robot — or wait maybe it’s cos she’s an insecure white girl who needs to relive a colonial fantasy to discover herself!

(Caveats: I don’t mean to imply that the Major in GitS was definitively Japanese, nor that in the future if Japan starts making lifelike cyborgs they might not, in fact, look like ScarJo. But that doesn’t begin to excuse the Orientalist ornamentalism, the cultural appropriation, the erasure.)

Then there’s some woman-woman lips touching which MAY be crass titillation or MAY be the Major exploring her humanity but DEFINITELY doesn’t involve any Japanese person! Cos that would be just TOO MUCH, right?

Then there’s some more stuff recreated from the GitS anime, Takeshi Kitano shows up thank Gawd, and a Depeche Mode song.

I also saw The Arrival this weekend, which we’ll get into at YOMYOMF at some point, which, with all its trappings of an Oscar-bait film, was startlingly racist and sexist, as if somehow ALL THAT WERE JUST OKAY NOW.

I mean, the constant erasure is the most disheartening part. The ratio of cool-Japanese-stuff to Japanese people in the trailer is like 2000:1. There is nothing easier for Hollywood to do than disinclude the Asian faces, nothing. They have special research teams working on how to option the most Asian stories while committing to the least possible Asian people. Because they love our stories and want to have them, but they also don’t wanna ever have to see us, particularly the Asian males.

Just. Like. The rest. Of America. Today.

11822745_10152945633456576_6017195662879076835_nDominic Mah is a writer, filmmaker, and ex-professional gambler. Follow him on twitter: @dommah and/or @thorhulkcritic and elsewhere on the internet at Karaoke Rhapsody and You Offend Me You Offend My Family

19 thoughts on “‘Ghost in the Shell’ Trailer is Just as Racist as Everything Else This Week

  1. Yeah, I was gonna put this on my site to talk about why I wasn’t going to go see this. I reached peak ScarJo around the time of Lucy. She is everywhere. I can’t seem to escape her and its getting on my nerves. I don’t hate her, as she’s not a bad actress, but I’m damn tired of looking at her face.

    I’m a huge fan of the original Ghost in the Shell, which has no ScarJo in it, thank Gob. She’s working really hard to get on my shitlist too, at this point, as she has made a nasty habit of appropriating roles that could have gone to WoC, like Lucy and the movie you just named, which I also refused to see because I don’t wanna see any more White people’s adventures in Asia. (These seem to be the only kind of movie that Hollywood can make about anywhere in the Asian diaspora.)

    The day this movie comes out, I’m going to have a Classic Anime marathon with Spirited Away, Akira, and the original Ghost in the Shell, to take my mind off this.

  2. I haven’t been thrilled about this film since the first screen shots hit Twitter, but this… This is not Japan. Granted, I haven’t been in Japan since 2003, and I have not actually been to Tokyo (I was in the Kansai region). However, many dear friends lived in Japan for years since 2003 and some continue to do so, and this is not the country I have seen through their eyes either. Japan is a largely homogeneous society. Japanese people should be all over this movie!!! And what is with those Japanese flag faces? Really!? This trailer reads like some sexist gaijin fever dream. The way so many white men behave in Japan is beyond deplorable, and this movie was clearly made by those men.

    1. Indeed. The whole scene where she’s kissing the other woman is not even alluded to in the original, and there are few if any black red heads with freckles running around Japan. I don’t wanna play the “that’s unrealistic” card but c’mon people. That’s yet another role that could have gone to a Japanese actress.

      1. “The whole scene where she’s kissing the other woman is not even alluded to in the original”

        Maybe other woman = body of puppet master (blonde blue-eyed woman in original anime).

    2. Why do you assume it is meant to be Japan?

      The original anime took inspirations from Hong Kong & Chinese cities, the Hollywood film was shot in New Zealand.

      People criticizing this film for being “orientalist” and featuring white protagonists in a Japanese-inspired setting ignore that a similar racial hierarchy exists in the original anime; it features Japanese protagonists in a Chinese-inspired setting.

  3. About Arrival, here’s my views on the whole alien/human contact. An alien species significantly more advanced than us would not care what happens to us. If an alien species wanted to destroy us, they would do it and there’s nothing we could do to stop them.

    But I also am tired of the whole reboot, remake, re-something something darkside debacle. Hollywood has run out of ideas they’re taking perfectly good movies and twisting them around. What we need is new ideas instead of the old ways.

    1. In order to do that Hollywood would need to read and buy original Scifi books and stories, and they don’t seem particularly interested in doing that.

  4. I’ve been hearing about this. Super fucked. As someone who isn’t very familiar with Ghost In The Shell, this trailer is soooo cool – or would be, if I wasn’t aware of the whitewashing taking place. Bummer, because in 2016 (and in light of our crazy-ass political climate) there’s no way I can watch this and NOT think about that.

  5. Ever see the film “Lost in Translation” co-starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson (ironically enough)? What Scarjo and Hollywood are whitewashing is ok with the Japanese people because it seems to be their thing. Whitewashing seems to give many of them a sense of flattery and honor. Many have the eyelid surgery and dye their hair to assimilate more Western ideals of beauty (read White Western Ideals of Beauty.) I think they must embrace a certain amount of pejorative thinking. It’s too bad but yes it does beg the point, if they don’t care why should we?


    1. That’s bullshit. The idea that Japanese people aspire to American beauty ideals is a myth. To the extent that things like eyelid surgery are a thing (much more common in Korea than in Japan), they’re driven by Japanese beauty ideals.

      FWIW Lost in Translation was a flop in Japan.

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