American Ultra screenwriter Max Landis is attempting to set the record straight on the racial controversy that Ghost in the Shell has become.
Based on a Japanese manga film franchise of the same name, Ghost tells the story of a cyborg policewoman as she brings down a hacker. Scarlett Johansson, an A-list actress of non-Asian decent, will fulfill the starring role of Kusanagi, an originally Japanese heroine.
While many have questioned this choice, deeming it blatant "whitewashing," or the casting of white actors in non-white roles, Landis sees the decision differently:
"The only reason to be upset about Scarlett Johansson being cast in Ghost in the Shell is if you don't know how the movie industry works," he said in a YouTube video posted Friday. "Now I'm not whitesplaining or mansplaining...but let me "professional-splain" something to you, because it's important and I think you're mad at the wrong people."
Landis goes on to say that the public should be mad about the decision, but for a different reason — that it wasn't a casting choice made due to racial bias but instead to ensure optimal financial gain: A-list celebrities bring in more money, and there simply aren't as many "A-list female Asian celebrities" to fill traditionally Asian roles.
What Landis describes is a cultural issue that has leaked into the entertainment industry. Castings like Johansson's in Ghost in the Shell, he says, aren't due to the studio's desire to see white people in starring roles, but are instead (sadly) reflections of whatever people will pay to see.
Since news broke that Johansson would be Kusanagi, several stars have spoken up in disfavor. Among those are Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actress Ming-Na Wen and RUNELOVEKILL comic book creator Jon Tsuei:
Landis' video also follows the controversial news that Ghost in the Shell producers considered using CGI, or computer manipulation, to make Johansson and her co-stars look "more Asian."
Ghost in the Shell will premiere in 2017.