Wow, it’s been getting pretty close to being an entire year since I wrote anything on this blog. (I feel like I don’t have much time for writing these days, even when I should technically be making a career out of it) I did something this weekend that made me want to type.
See, I watched Ghost in the Shell over the weekend. We’re not talking the classic 1995 anime that we all hold dearly, but the new Live action jaunt starring Scarlett Johansson. Truth to be told, I was morbidly curious to see it, because of the chatter of how bad it is.
I get that way you know, wanting to see what all the fuss is about.
So I asked my friend to come with me, (cause I don’t like watching movies alone.) and I was prepared to be very disappointed.
But in the end, I actually enjoyed it.
This is the part where I would talk about why I enjoyed it in much more detail, but for the sake of argument I suppose I should add a disclaimer:
I am a caucasian male, so if you already think my opinion on the matter is going to be moot, then I suppose we’re at an impasse and you’re free to go. But I encourage continuing to read, because I feel like subject matters like this have become too black and white (hah, fitting… but not exactly the theme). Because the major issue (hah again) at hand here is that the Major has been whitewashed and that’s kind of racist, because a lot of the characters aren’t Japanese. You know, In a source material that is totally Japanese.
It’s not up to me to dictate what’s racist and what isn’t, because we’re all well aware of the diversity problem that Hollywood continues to have, but it’s important to me to have critical thought. Especially since things could always be a lot more complicated than they seem to be perceived.
First I want to say that they actually wrote something good. They definitely took their liberties, but they used enough of the source material to make something that resembles what Ghost in the Shell is (even if they use the word ‘Ghost’ a little too much). I feel like a lot of the set pieces and visual representation is spot on. Dirty slums being bathed in gaudy ads and distractions, in a world where man and machine are slowly becoming one in the same.
They pull together a plot, hitting the right kind of notes that you’d expect, but in the end it tells a different kind of story. Is it much of a story? There’s a different kind of closure for the Major. Maybe you can actually bring both movies to a film studies class and share the differences between Japanese and American film making.
Personally, I feel like the original 1995 film did roughly the same amount of exposition, but spent a little more than enough time on it’s set pieces that it was so happy to put together. But, I don’t remember much of it these days, so I’ll have to go back to it.
At it’s core though, the 2017 live-action adaptation, is an Americanized version of a beloved franchise that takes place in Japan. Which is a red flag right there for anybody I guess, but given the amount of white people already obsessed with Japanese culture and/or already live there, I mean… I don’t need to finish that thought.
And without really giving any plot away, who the major is… makes sense? In the context of the company involved and the fact that she is what she is. Major Kusanagi as a character could virtually be any race. I’m not in defense of whitey here, they really could have went for it if they were going to choose a different race.
Let’s not forget though that it could have also ACTUALLY been racist.
When it comes to things like this, I often don’t really care. Most of the time they’re laughably bad. Sooooo laughably bad. I really just like being entertained by these movies. It doesn’t matter the country of origin in which these films are being made. China, America, or even Japan themselves. They want to do a thing and I’m accepting of it, because I know it doesn’t do anything to the original material (unless of course you’re like… re-dubbing Akira).
I think the thing that irks me the most is, despite the fact that Hollywood has a diversity problem (yes), people think the American film industry has to be responsible for it’s actions. It’s not up to film from any country to be 100% accurate to the source material, UNLESS it’s the will of the director.
There’s only a niche crowd that cares about that. (It’s a loud crowd, but it’s still niche.)
Hell! How many people are upset at the Netflix adaptation of Death Note in the works, When there’s already, what? Three live-action Death Notes made in Japan already? Japan has apparently already done enough damage doing live-action versions of favourite animes, and everyone in them is Japanese. Like… I’ve never really seen anyone talk about them in a positive light either.
But I mean, that’s neither here nor there.
Art, no matter who is at the wheel, should spark more art. American films could be a soulless cog in the machine, sure… But it doesn’t mean Hollywood is the only thing out there for making American film. Instead of inciting outrage, we should be promoting creativity. No matter what, there will always be many chances to interpret a franchise you love, even if they’re all asian, all white or all black. Film, stage, comic book or otherwise.
But at least it’s not racist… at least not on purpose… unless it almost could be.