Couple days ago, the media confirmed, that Scarlet Johansson will star as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of the cyberpunk classic Ghost in the Shell. This immediately caused a huge uproar, with posts accusing the creators of ‘white-washing’ springing up like mushrooms. There is even a petition that supports casting of an Asian actress in favor of Scarlett Johansson. To be honest, I was baffled when I found out about the backlash. But more about that later. The opponents of have two issues with Johansson’s. Firstly, that the creators chose a white female for the role of a Japanese woman. Secondly, that they refer to the character as ‘The Major’ to further obscure its Japanese background. Let’s take a look at the legitimacy of those claims. Motoko Kusanagi uses an artificial, robotic body. So her ethnicity has no impact on her looks. In the original movie she is pictured with blue eyes and distinctly Caucasian features. I would argue that casting a white female to the role is actually staying true to the original. You can see the picture below and decide for yourself. Does the Major strike you as ethically Japanese in the anime?
As for calling the character simply ‘The Major’. The complaints about this are even more unfounded. Throughout the original movie, Motoko Kusanagi is referred to as ‘Major’. In fact, there is only one character that calls her by her name, Batô. Therefore, it is only natural to call her the same way as in the anime.
In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with the casting of Scarlett Johansson as ‘The Major’. This is no case of ‘white-washing’, because the character is not supposed to look Asian in the first place. In fact, due to her resemblance to the anime version and proven athletic ability (Avengers, Captain America), she might be the ideal candidate. Case closed.