This is a piece about Ghost in the Shell but let me start off by talking about one of the best video games of 2016, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. This game is sure to be considered a Playstation classic but it’s also notable because it survived a race related controversy. There is a character called Nadine in the game, a kickass mercenary who happens to be a black woman from South Africa. Oh, the lady who voices Nadine is a very white American actress named Laura Bailey.
Yes there was outcry but the director of the game gave a robust and authentic response that squashed the controversy, even though critics had legitimate concerns about the casting decision.
Before I watched Ghost in the Shell I strongly felt that it was a clear cut case of whitewashing. I felt that it was unacceptable that Major, a cult Asian icon, was being played by a (fine ass) white woman. After watching the film and taking into account the story they tried to tell, I think we have an Uncharted 4 situation here.
It’s my view that Rupert Sanders and co should have copied The Departed and set the whole thing in America, but I really don’t think there was any real menace behind this casting decision. Major being white actually adds weight to the film. You can even read the story and the casting as a critique on how society views Asian folk.This decision should not be lumped in the same box as Matt Damon’s casting in The Great Wall.
It’s a shame because buried deep inside this film are very interesting ideas about our relationship with technology, class and our government’s relationship with multi-national companies. The film takes visual cues from James Cameron’s Terminator and The Matrix but ultimately it’s undone by its uneven pacing and poor direction – not casting.
But I’m a black man without a single drop of Asian blood in me, so I have no right to absolve the filmmakers of anything. The Departed and Uncharted 4 made big decisions that could have insulted a whole race of people – but they’re great pieces of work so audiences gave the authors a pass. Ghost in the Shell doesn’t get away with what I think is a lesser crime in comparison because its just an ok film. Nothing more.