The controversy surrounding Ghost In a Shell has been making the rounds as people and geeks around the web-sphere weigh in on what appears to be another incident of Hollywood whitewashing.

Actually, scratch that.

It doesn’t “appear” to be Hollywood whitewashing. It IS Hollywood whitewashing. It is Hollywood whitewashing at its most ignorant and bold. Two words that unfortunately have become very much jointly associated with Hollywood since…well… ever.

I believe I’d be preaching to the choir if I went through the layers of “screwed up” there are to a very white Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese female protagonist, so I won’t do that.

What I will do is take on the MYTHS associated with WHY a very white Scarlett Johansson is being allowed to take on this role of a Japanese female protagonist.

That MYTH is the idea that white actors in the lead is the main way for Hollywood to make it’s bottom line.

Whitewashing has nothing to do with the bottom Hollywood line.

It has nothing to do with how much money this movie could gross with a white actor as the lead.

You know why?

Because it’s been proven in plenty of studies that the “bottom line” excuse is a myth, and it is high time that we stop making apologies for Hollywood along the lines of “they’re just trying to make money” when we address the very real exclusion of people of color in significant representation.

Hollywood doesn’t cut you checks for spinning the truth for them, people.

You can stop now.

Like much of the rest of the system we live under, wealth and power seem to be in the hands of a few in Hollywood, with most large film and television companies in the same few hands. Those in power seem to still have very backwards views on race and diversity, in an ever-changing society which grows more racially diverse every year.

Although skeptics (and apologists) might argue that Hollywood is simply a money machine looking at the bottom line, and that their business practices are just exploiting the already racist sentiments to be found in society, various studies have actually shown that lack of diversity is NOT actually better for Hollywood business.

In a recent study titled “2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect” from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, it is suggested that movies and television shows with more diverse casts actually earn MORE at the box office, and score higher ratings, than productions with homogenous, predominantly WHITE, casts (imagine that… ).The study goes on to show that African Americans, Latinos, and Asians are greatly underrepresented in movies and television. Yet, when diversity of films and television shows moved towards up to 25 percent representation for those groups, profits were very high for those films globally, along with very high ratings for those television programs.

Well now…

So what does that mean for Hollywood big bosses who like to claim that diversity doesn’t sell?

In an interview with NPR News, the study’s lead author, Daniel Hunt, said, “It seems that people who have been in the industry for a long time, in high-risk situations, tend to surround themselves with people who make them feel comfortable, who are a lot like them.” Hunt went on to say, “It’s a vicious cycle. The industry likes to present itself as this bastion of liberal thought. But when it comes to diversity, it’s one of the worst industries in the country. The idea that the underrepresentation of minorities and women is all about economics has been taken off the table.”

Well there you have it. It isn’t about economics because recent studies have shown that movies and television with more diversity actually perform BETTER than white dominated ones. It also isn’t about the system, because these same studies prove that the human population actually responds well to diversity.

Score 1 for humanity, score minus 3,000 for Hollywood racism.

Scarlett Johansson being given the lead in this film is nothing but Hollywood wanting to stay in its very white cocoon of ignorance. Hiring Japanese actors, and more Asian representation both on and off screen would force those in power to work with others outside of their circle of comfort. They don’t want to do that. They’d rather actually go against the bottom line than allow people of color to climb the ranks and perhaps replace some of them in power.

No amount of spin can get you away from those facts.

So Ghost in a Shell, can go to hell, because it won’t be getting my money. And shame on Scarlett “my feminism seems to only include white women” Johansson for agreeing to take on a role clearly meant for a woman of color. She’s part of the problem, she is NOT an innocent bystander. We all have choices. She made hers, and I’m making mine in not supporting this film.

May it flop as Gods of Egypt did.

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MsChaunceyK
Author/Activist. Student of the universe. Words are powerful. They can be your greatest ally or your worst enemy, and that is truly the fun of it.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The way you quoted that study is very misleading. Some of the 25 films included in the “21%-30% more diverse cast” group listed in the study were Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Rise of the Planet of The Apes, The Green Hornet, and The Hangover: Part 2. ALL of those movies have predominately white leads. So when you say more diverse movies sell better, it’s STILL movies with white leads and it’s hard to discern if the more diverse cast actually helped the movie financially, especially considering half of the movies given are sequels to already popular properties.

    I agree with you that the system is racist. The idea that you need a particular star in the lead to sell a movie is a provable flawed way of thinking, but that’s the black and white logic a hollywood executive will probably use. It wasn’t too long ago they said an R-rated superhero movie will not sell. It wasn’t too long ago that ANY superhero movie will not sell. Only using that handful of stars for every role unfairly blocks not only minority actors, but ALL actors potentially having popular careers. But they aren’t acting out of hate, they’re acting out of fear and ignorance.

    None of the information you provided gives credence to the idea that any one entity in that system is intentionally making these decisions for racist purposes. It’s all speculation, and I find it irresponsible to sling accusations around that don’t lead to a solution to the problem.

    • I don’t think my use of actual DATA and STATISTICS was misleading at all. I said that casts that hold more diversity do better. Just because the lead actor in the movie may or may not be white doesn’t DISPROVE the fact that in many of these movies a good amount of actors of color are nothing more than glorified extras IF they are present at all.
      Further, I don’t dive into this “ALL” actors argument because my focus is the very obvious and very disproportionate oppression and exclusion that actors of COLOR receive. Which far out weighs what “ALL” actors receive (and by all, let’s just be real, this is you wanting to be inclusive of whites- as though they need any more inclusion than they already get under this system) and I won’t apologize for that. For example, if I were to say “black women, under this system are greatly oppressed and earn less to the dollar than white men AND white women” and then you come at me with “But ALL women earn less than men”…UM? That’s correct, but my main argument is on the oppression of BLACK women. People of color are ALLOWED to speak on their oppression without needing to make sure that they highlight how “rough” some white people might have it. Sorry, not sorry.
      And plenty of my information gives credence to the fact that there are people in power who make these decisions, claim it is the bottom line they worry about, even though they have plenty of evidence to the contrary. And if you don’t like my stats on diverse cast in general, allow me to give evidence of blockbusters that have done well with people of color in the lead as of recently: CREED, STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON, THE PERFECT GUY, and others- not to mention the mega hit tv shows in the last 2 years that have showed that diversity sells. So yes, when facts such as that are starring in the face of execs and they STILL choose to green light all white productions time and time again, even to the point where they take away roles for people of color to cast white people, one has every right to question their intentions.
      Also, intention alone doesn’t make anything less detrimental. Even if I believed that some of this racism wasn’t “intentional” it doesn’t make it less racist or prejudice.

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